Revisiting Ixtapa & Zihuatanejo


Americans have been traveling to Mexico’s beach resorts for years, and in that time the destination has certainly evolved – a lot.  At one time, the concept of a luxury hotel in Mexico was a disconnect; today there are a number of 5-star resorts, including familiar luxury brands like Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, Capella, Viceroy, Fairmont, Banyan Tree and others.

This year alone, six upscale resorts are opening in Cabo alone. Certainly Cabo has benefitted being in Sothern California’s backyard.  At the same time, the destination has quickly lost a lot of its Mexican flavor. Puerta Vallarta is further down the coast, and there, too, luxury properties like Grand Velas in Nuevo Vallarta and Four Seasons and Westin in Punta Mita have changed the landscape of this once somewhat sleepy yet touristy town.

Cancun  and the Riviera Maya, south of Cancun, is the most popular and largest tourism area, and the choices of accommodation there are staggering. It is, however, a longer flight to get there.

If you want nightlife and the hubbub that mass tourism generates, then any of the above are good options.

So what about the resort of Ixtapa and sleepy Zihuatanejo?  I went down on a recent weekend to revisit, and specifically check out two of the luxury resorts popular with our clients.  While Ixtapa has plenty of touristy fare in the city’s main shopping area, once you get into the hotel zone the properties are more spread out along the coast.  Club Med is a longtime resident here, and upgraded its popular resort a few years back; for families it’s hard to beat for the value. 

Capella Ixtapa is a boutique hotel with just 59 units, each with its own mostly private pool, most of them infinity pools overlooking the scenic rocky coast. There are three buildings making up the property built on a rocky hillside, with two funiculars to transport guests from the two pools up seven levels to the main lobby and upper rooms. In addition to spacious plunge pools and large patios with outdoor seating, all rooms have a king bed, and spacious double-sink bathrooms with closet/dressing area and a separate shower.  Stone floors throughout.

Food has become such an integral part of the travel experience, and here Capella may shine with its new executive chef from Argentina, and whose experience includes working in Asian kitchens.  Emilio is introducing new dishes, and his preparations are largely excellent or at least very good.  In the fine dining venue, A Mares, the chilled cucumber soup with shrimp was far from bland, and a surprise with its near gravy thickness and spices.  The bread was served hot and it impossible to resist, especially when accompanied by some salt and chipotle butter. The grilled scallop with caviar and avocado foam was a delightful morsel. The surf and turf was unusual as it featured smoked pork belly sourced from a Sonoran farm, along with scallop and shrimp.  The pork belly was exceptionally well done, but I would have better enjoyed some grilled fish by its side.  The churros here are a hands-down recommendation for dessert, served, I believe, with a goat cheese sauce and caramel sauce.

The breakfast menu at Las Rocas was equally creative. The eggs benedict here, served on a home made English muffin, included guacamole and chipotle hollandaise over the poached eggs.  There were several intriguing breakfast menu items, and not enough time to try them all. 

The second night we ate at the outdoor Seafood Market.  At night you can see the fisherman out at sea in their lit boas, fishing through the night.  You can then dine at Seafood Market on some of the catch they brought back. We had ceviche and a wonderful mixed grille that included marlin, red snapper, tuna, octopus, shrimps and more. Sides of potatoes mashed with truffle oil, Mexican rice and  grilled vegetables. 

The Terrace Bar is a delightful indoor and outdoor area, with a tequila room under lock and key featuring some special blends.  We took the tequilla class with Miguel, which was educational and fun, followed by a mean margarita.

There is not much to do at the resort, which is mostly the idea. There is a spa and a fitness room For those that require a beach, Capella doesn't have on. There are bicycles available, and I enjoyed about a 10-mile ride through the nearby ecological park.

Quite a contrast was the Viceroy, on the beach in Zihautanejo.  Also a boutique property with just 49 rooms presently, the rooms here are luxurious and spacious, and also feature plunge pools though smaller than the plunge pools at Capella.  However, there's the wide expanse of beach steps away from your room. 

The Viceroy also has two tennis courts, unique for resorts here, as well as a spa and two restaurants.  We dined on a luscious avocado soup, fresh lobster and steak, and stuffed chile peppers accompanied by a hibiscus and mango beverage. 

If you're looking for a getaway to a Mexico less touristy and congested than major resort areas, you'll find peace and solitude at either of these choice resorts. At both properties we offer our Signature amenities, enriching your visit with added benefits.

Dan Ilves