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Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo (Photo:Julia Dorofeeva/Shutterstock)
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Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Jana Jones
Cruise Critic Contributor

Port of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo

The tranquil town of Zihuatanejo, located on the Mexican Riviera, was largely neglected after the Spanish Conquest. With its ancient roots as a matriarchal society (the original name, Cihuatlan, means "place governed by women"), Zihua -- as it's affectionately known by locals and frequent visitors -- remained a sleepy fishing village until fairly recently. Inhabited by a few families, visited only by intrepid fishermen who moored in its protected harbor in the evenings, Zihua's charm and beauty was mostly undiscovered until the Mexican government decided to create a tourist paradise out of a nearby spit of land known as Ixtapa.

About Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo


This peaceful island is a great place to spot whales and sea turtles


There isn't a lot to do here beyond beaches and a village market

Bottom Line

Blissfully serene Zihua is terrific for families and cruisers seeking a quiet beach escape

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No building, by city code, is allowed to top four stories in Zihua, in order to preserve the "village look." Ixtapa, in contrast, has plenty of high-rise hotels and trendy shops. Zihua is a city with a municipal government; Ixtapa, a "created resort," is actually "governed" by a resort management company which oversees everything from traffic lights to law enforcement. Together they provide "two vacations in one."

At certain times of the year, while sailing to or from Zihuatanejo Bay, you might be lucky enough to see humpback whales as they migrate to their breeding grounds. And at other times, you might be able to assist in the preservation of the Green Ridley sea turtles as they lay their eggs in the sand along the bay's beaches. The ecological programs of the region include building pens along the beach where the eggs are placed until they can mature.

The nicest thing about a stop in the area is that there isn't much to see or do here, except to enjoy the natural charms of the locale. Young, hip, active and muy Americano, Ixtapa is where you'll find most of the water-sports vendors, the ubiquitous Carlos'n Charlie's, Senor Frogs and the other shops and watering holes that cruisers have come to expect. Zihua, on the other hand, is home to fishermen, craftsmen, small waterfront bars and cafes, and a more relaxed atmosphere.

Top Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo Itineraries

Where You're Docked

Cruise ships anchor in Zihuatanejo Bay and tender to the small dock in Zihua; walking to the shops of Zihuatanejo is an easy three minutes; Ixtapa is approximately three miles away and is accessible by bus, taxi or shore excursion.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The Mexican peso is the official currency of Mexico, but the U.S. dollar is widely accepted. Note, though, that the symbol for the U.S. dollar ($) is also used for the peso, so make sure you know which currency you are being charged for goods and services. The peso is currently trading at about 10 to one U.S. dollar.

Zihuatanejo has a few banks with ATMs in its "downtown" area, about a 15-minute walk from the dock. Ixtapa has several. Credit and debit cards are accepted in most locations for purchases.


Spanish is the official language of Mexico. Most of the shopkeepers in Zihua and almost everyone in Ixtapa speaks and understands some English, so communication is not a major problem.


Local pottery is an exceptional buy, as are rugs and hand-woven hammocks. There is an open market just a few steps from the tender dock in Zihua, and there are many upscale shops and boutiques in Ixtapa.