Tucked at an outer corner on the same side of Zihuatanejo Bay, lies another gem, petite Playa Las Gatas (“The Cats”). Accessible only by boat from Zihuatanejo pier, Playa Las Gatas, decorated by a sprinkling of palm-thatched seafood eateries, is heaven on earth: A beach for everyone, fine for kids, sunbathers, and beach snorkelers, with both an expert scuba shop and a good surfing spot, where the open ocean swells curl and break around a nearby rocky point.
Neighboring Ixtapa’s main beach, long, golden-white Playa del Palmar, is prime for a long, leisurely walk. Start in the morning, walking north along the beach, perhaps after breakfast at El Faro restaurant (at the summit end of the gondola cable ride at the south end of the beach). Sometimes called the “Billion-dollar Beach” for the investment money it attracted to Ixtapa, del Palmar’s broad strand stretches (a two hour stroll) to the north-end jetty at Playa Las Escolleras, known for its challenging surfing breaks.
Ixtapa’s hidden north-side beach gems begin at Playa Linda, a fifteen-minute ride north of Ixtapa. Here, the prime actors are a family of toothy crocodiles that bask in the sun beneath the end-of-the road bridge. Adding to the entertainment are freshwater turtles (some giant size), and a sprinkling of big birds, including luscious-pink roseate spoonbills, white herons, and great blue herons, who stalk, preen, and nest in the neighboring mangrove forest wetland.
The finale comes at Isla Grand (after the boat ride from the Playa Linda jetty). The fun centers at Playa Cuachalatate (koo-ah-cha-lah-TAH-tay), a petite playground of crystal sand, clear water, and gentle ripples, where families splash, swim, and picnic on fresh fish, shrimp, and clams cooked at the beachfront palapas.
For a lovely change of scene, stroll over the adjacent knoll to precious Playa Varadero and Playa Coral, on opposite flanks of an intimate little isthmus. Varadero’s yellow-white sand is narrow and tree shaded, its waters calm and clear. Behind it lies Playa Coral, a steep, white-coral-sand strand fronting a rocky blue bay, a magnet for beach lovers, snorkelers, and scuba divers. Local women offer massages ($25) to the soothing music of the waves.
Photo of Playa La Ropa © Bruce Whipperman