This article originally appeared in Delta Air Lines’ 2012 Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America Travel Guide. It has been extracted from its original format. To read the full travel guide, visit the digital edition.

Just a few minutes apart, the neighboring towns of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo on Mexico’s Pacific coastline in the state of Guerrero, reveal sparkling beaches and bays amid a background of rolling hills and miles of green, courtesy of the Sierra Madre Mountains.

They may sit side-by-side, but each town has a distinctive personality. Ixtapa is the more developed of the two, a former coconut plantation tagged in 1974 by Mexico’s National Trust Fund for Tourism Development to become a hot resort destination. And that it did, with top resorts—including the beautiful Club Med Ixtapa—and sparkling beaches beckoning families of all types and a lively nightlife for adults. At the modern Ixtapa Marina, visitors can sign up for sailing lessons or book a yacht for a stylish day at sea. Beaches are the main event, of course, with La Ropa, Linda and Quieta beaches topping the list. Surfers often head to Escolleras Beach.

Zihuatanejo, meanwhile, is more laid-back and quiet, still staying closer to its fishing-village roots even as it’s grown. The lively Paseo del Pescador—which stretches along its waterfront—is lined with seafood restaurants and souvenir stores and markets, but most head to the Mercado de Artesanias for hours of leisurely shopping. Zihuatanejo is a favorite among fishing aficionados, swimmers and snorkelers. Here, too, are plenty of enticing hotel options, including the multiple award winner La Casa que Canta, which looks out to Zihuatanejo Bay. Most hotels and resorts can arrange for a variety of watersports, including parasailing, or a hiking excursion into the nearby jungle.

While the sister towns are popular year-round, many plan their visits around one of their annual events, including the charming Zihuatanejo International Guitar Festival, which this year takes place March 4-10 and welcomes local and international musicians.


  • Best time to go: 
    Year-round; it might get chillier during the winter months, especially in Mexico City and Monterrey, but it’s nothing a jacket won’t fix
  • Fun fact:
    Mariachi music and traditional Mexican cuisine now form part of UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
  • Getting there:
    Delta flies from Atlanta to Acapulco, Cancun, Cozumel, Guadalajara, Mexico City, Monterrey, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos; Delta flies from New York (JFK) to Mexico City and Puerto Vallarta; Delta flies from Minneapolis to Cancun, Cozumel, Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, Los Cabos, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta; Delta flies from Detroit to Cancun, Cozumel, Los Cabos, Monterrey and Puerto Vallarta; Delta flies from Los Angeles to Cancun, Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta; Delta flies from Salt Lake City to Cancun, Guadalajara, Los Cabos, Mexico City and Puerto Vallarta; Delta flies from 12 additional gateways to Cancun
  • Entry documents:
    Valid passport
  • Currency:
    Mexican peso
  • Must-try local food:
    A few of the hundreds of varieties of thick moles; on the Pacific side, pescado zarandeado (grilled fish in a tangy tomato sauce); in Monterrey, try the cabrito a las brasas, barbecued kid goat
  • Best buys:
    Silver, indigenous original artwork, tequila—some of the best brands are not sold in the U.S.
  • Information please:
    Mexico Tourism Board’s website—visitmexico.com