Zihuatanejo Trip Report

January 3rd through January 11th 2007


The wonderful Villa de la Roca


If I had to sum up this year’s trip to Zihuatanejo in one word, it would be “Interesting.”  That’s a word often used to describe something that doesn’t quite measure up to “good,” but in this case, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  It was interesting because it was so different than any Zihua excursion that I’ve made in the past.  This year I found myself in the lap of luxury, with my wife and ten of my best friends.  I was sick for a number of days and as a result, tired and reserved for most of the rest.  While Zihuatanejo is a much better place to be ill than home in Oregon, it made for some missed opportunities, as well as a few assumed connections that weren’t made.  All very “Interesting.”  Details follow.


Las Gatas from the Villa's deck



A Few Notes First


  • I usually travel on the cheap… not so much, this trip. 

  • If I mention prices, it will all be in U.S. dollars, unless I state otherwise. 

  • I and my friends like our drink.  We all do so responsibly.

  • My report this time reads more like a Villa de la Roca report than a trip report.


Livin' la Villa de la Roca



Seed of an Idea:  In November of 2005, my friends Arthur and Kimo got married in Zihuatanejo.  For their wedding party, they had rented the Villa de la Roca for a week.  Suzie and I attended the rehearsal dinner there, as well as visited a few times.  We liked it very much and commented to each other on what a great place it would be to gather a few of our close friends for a week.  Once we arrived home, we mentioned the idea to our friends and they all agreed that it would be fun.  Then we all promptly forgot about it.


Germination:  Fast forward to May of 2006.  Our friends Hugo and Lulu had just celebrated their 100th birthday party (they both turned 50 within a couple of weeks of each other).  A few of us had the good sense to spend the night at their house, rather than try to drive home.  Around Bloody Marys the next morning, someone (and I don’t think it was me) brought up that good idea of all of us renting the Villa in Zihuatanejo.  Within days, a 40% payment had been made to hold the Villa de la Roca.


Fruit:  So, 4:00 a.m., January 3rd,  found ten of us waiting to board an Alaska Airlines flight to ZIH, via LAX.  One member of the party went down a day early and one went down a day late, which makes for an even dozen in all.



The pool at the Villa

(Note the waterfall that isn't on at the moment)



Villa de la Roca


The Villa de la Roca is a five bedroom B&B that sits plumb in the middle of the Casa Que Canta properties on the north end of Playa La Ropa.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out why CQC hasn’t bought the place, but there must be a story there somewhere. 


The Villa de la Roca (in white)


I discovered somewhere along the way that the owner of the Villa, a Ms Gordon who lives in Salt Lake City, Utah (and is the other end of the phone number on the Villa’s website) has a room that she keeps for herself.  Since there were twelve of us who wanted to make the trip, I asked if she might rent that room to us as well.  I don’t know if she does it regularly, but she did it for us and for that, I thank her.


A typical guest room at the Villa de la Roca


Being a B&B, breakfast is included with the room.  Dinner is available to the guests, and also to the general public, on a nightly basis.  The cost is $25.00 for guests and double that for non-guests.  If you rent the entire Villa for your party, they tell me that it is then a closed venue and no outsiders can come to dinner.  Let me say that the food is out of this world.  Emmy, the main cook and La Patrona of the Villa, is truly amazing with her culinary skills.  We ate at the Villa each morning and also had four dinners over the course of the week.  All the meals were amazing and ended with a round of applause for the cooks.  Your choices for both breakfast and dinner are discussed a day or two before the meal and they’re open to cooking up whatever your little heart desires.


Did someone say, "Dinner?"


The rest of the staff is equally delightful.  Efrain speaks wonderful English, and as a result, not being able to speak Spanish is of little consequence, though I always take any opportunity to practice my limited Spanish speaking abilities.  Efrain seems to enjoy helping out with the difficult words and concepts.  Marta, who kept our room tidy on a daily basis, did a fantastic job and was dearly appreciated.  Carlos helped to keep the Villa in order, along with Efrain.  Believe me, though conscious of being good neighbors, our crowd helped to create a bit of a mess from time to time.  There is a lot of upkeep on a Villa that size, even if no one is staying there, and these ladies and gentlemen did a fine job of it.  Between all of the folks working there, the place was virtually spotless, all the time.  Amazing!


Marta, Emmy, Efrain and Carlos


Along with how many dinners you’ll want to be eating during your stay, one of the choices to make at the Villa regards beverages.  You can just do for yourself, buying at the mercado, or for $5.00 a day all the water and pop you need is provided.  Now get this…  For $12.50 a day, they throw in all the adult beverages too.  WHAT?  Yes, you heard me correctly (or is that read me correctly?).  All the water, pop, beer and spirits you can drink for $12.50 a day.  What a deal!  There was little thought involved with that decision.  And rest assured that the quality of the beer and harder stuff is high.  I’m somewhat of a tequila snob and the choices at the Villa met with my approval.  While all were mixtos, they all were very good mixtos.  If you want something out of the ordinary, you are welcome to provide it for yourself, but most of your regular liquor choices are there waiting for you, along with mixers, limes and other fruit, blender, ice… everything you need to create a satisfying, tasty, beverage.


The well never runs dry!


So, there we were, twelve close friends with our own fantastic Villa to play in, located at the top of one of the nicest beaches known to mankind, all the food and drink you could want, a beautiful view of Zihuatanejo (and all that encompasses), and what do I do?  I get sick of course.


I had come down with a flu the week before we left for the trip.  It had developed into a cold, the remnants of which I brought down to Zihuatanejo with me.  I didn’t feel too poorly when we got there, but obviously my immune system was at a low.  Add to that a couple of nights of drinking and carrying on, and something had to give.  The result was that I picked up that danged flu again.  Basically I spent about thirty-six hours trying to come back and when I did, I realized that my “party hearty” time should be limited, as not to get sick again.


On my first trip to Mexico, I learned to stay hydrated.  I take acidophilus to help with any food related bacteria that I might pick up, and have never gotten anything that you could refer to as Montezuma’s Revenge.  No one else in my party got sick like I did.  Some had a day or two where they were a tad out of sorts, but a simple over the counter anti-diarrhea treatment or antacid would take care of them.  As a result, I am quite sure that what I had was a reoccurrence of my previous flu bug, not anything that could be attributed to where I was or what I had eaten.


I will say this.  If a guy has to be sick on vacation, the Villa de la Roca is the place to do it.  I like to get out and around when I'm in Zihuatanejo, but really you could go to the Villa and never have to leave, until it was time to catch the taxi back to the airport.  It made being ill almost tolerable.  For those times when I was feeling most like being alone, I hung in my room, which was a most pleasant place.  If I felt like getting a bit-o-sun, I hit the deck and let the warm rays roll over me like a heating pad for the entire body.  If I got to feeling feverish, I took a dip in the pool.  If I did want to try to eat a little something, it was right there waiting for me.  Water and 7up were mine for the asking.  My wife and friends would check in on me from time to time and provide me with anything I needed.


Eventually, I got to the point to where I could start enjoying myself in ways more suited to being on vacation.  About four days into the trip I was back on my game and with just a little caution, could go anywhere and do anything I pleased.  It was a much more preferable way to enjoy the Villa.

A few views from the Villa




At the Villa de la Roca, as I indicated above, it’s quite easy to fall into a rut of just staying put.  It’s that nice there.  With the great view of just about everything, a nice pool and (fully stocked) bar, along with breakfast, dinner and snacks, why would you go anywhere else?  I mustered the energy to leave now and again, but more than once I found myself wanting to head back to the Villa sooner than I might have if I were staying at a hotel.


A few pictures of the Villa, itself








I’ll let the pictures of the Villa speak for themselves, as far as the setting goes, but some of the advantages of all of us staying in one place, without other guests, stem from the fact that we like to party together.  I suppose that’s why we planned the trip in the first place, eh?


Many of us are musicians, and those that aren’t are either married to musicians or have musicians for best friends, so just about any get together eventually turns into a “pickin’ party.”  It would be hard to do that at a hotel.  It was easy to do it at the Villa.  Most every night ended with playing and singing until the wee hours of the morning.  I only hope that we didn’t make too much noise for Emmy and Carlos.  If we did, they were gracious and never mentioned it.


Gettin' down in the Villa


It was also quite pleasant to come up from your room and find your best friends hanging out at the bar… in the pool… on the deck… at the breakfast table… wherever it was that you happened to be heading at the moment.  There was almost always a lively conversation going on somewhere.  The Villa would be a wonderful lodging to stay as a couple, obviously, but having so many good friends along allowed it to be a very special place.


Again, the grounds are so big and the rooms so nice that “alone time” was no problem.  I spent a lot of time in my room, while being sick, and not only did I not see anyone, I don’t remember even hearing them.  Of course, I watched all eighty-seven hours of “Lonesome Dove” on my portable DVD player, so maybe they were louder than I think.


Another nice side effect of having so many people along on a trip is the varied abilities, desires, ideas, etc. that are available.  My friend Jay is an accomplished sailor.  I had never sailed in my life, but I did in Zihuatanejo.  Jay took me out on one of the catamarans down on La Ropa.  I’m not much of a mixologist, but there were a couple of people along who could whip up a great fruity, frothy beverage in the blender (though I think sometimes I may not have wanted to know what was in it).   Another friend has property in La Barra de Potosi, so he and his better half rented a car to get back and forth.  I rode down with him to their property.  I had been down to La Barra before, but he took some of the back roads and came back along the beach.  I had never seen these places before.  Another friend is a licensed massage therapist.  When a cramp or ache came along, she knew just where and how to apply the needed pressure, in order to take care of the situation.  And on it goes.  We all brought different things to the table and as a result, our vacation time was enhanced.


My lawyer and my massage therapist!


Jay takes me sailing



After a great week at the Villa de la Roca, six of us headed over to the Catalina Beach Resort for a few extra days.  The others headed home.


The Catalina is like an old comfortable shoe, it just feels good.  It’s a bit like coming home I suppose, but home to paradise.  It’s always great to see Eva, Celso, Javier and the others.  The pool is absolutely one of my favorite places on earth.  Another is the Catalina's beach palapa area.  Between the two, you pretty much know where to find me during the day.  The rooms are a delight, the restaurant great (especially for breakfast) and the location is spectacular.


I have done other reports on trips when I’ve stayed at the Catalina and even a Catalina Beach Resort report, so I shan’t go into much of anything here, except to say that the Resort is constantly being updated and freshened up.  Currently they are adding a larger, more convenient office up by the new rooms.  Eva told me that she has plans to turn the old office space into a store, offering the necessities that her guests might need.  It sounds like a great idea to me.


Back at the Catalina pool...

"You comin' in?"


Again, what with eating so many meals at the Villa de la Roca, and getting sick this year, I didn’t get out to eat as much as I usually do.  I did try a few new places that I liked though. 


The first is La Casa Café over on Calle Adelita.  The food is great.  I had the banana pancakes and the puerco rico while in town.  Had we not been eating breakfast at the Villa most days, I could have seen this establishment becoming a morning tradition.  Quite nice surroundings and attitude too.


Another place that I finally made it to was Los Braseros on Ejido.  I was directed there my my good amigo Roberto!, in an effort to find a suitable replacement for the old El Sanka Grill.  I was quite pleased with the carne asada tacos for four pesos each, as well as the shrimp tacos, which came three for forty pesos, if I recall correctly.  The shrimp tacos may be some of the best food ever to cross my lips… seriously.  And the beer is about as cold as you’ll find in Zihuatanejo.  The first time I ventured in was the first day that I felt good enough to leave the Villa, on my way to getting over the flu.  My friend Keeter had gone in just ahead of us and already had a Corona sitting in front of him.  As I sat down, I slid it over towards him, to allow for elbowroom.  It was so cold and sweaty; I just had to have one.  I knew right then and there that my illness was all but over.


The third new place that I ate this year was Casa Bahia.  It’s over on the other side of the marina canal in the Almacén section of town.  Man what a treat!  The food is fantastic.  I had a huge tuna steak, and it was wonderful.  But just as important as the food, is the location.  We ate on a deck overlooking the bay.  It was great to look back at La Ropa and Madera from the other side.  In all the trips I’ve made to Zihuatanejo, this is the first time that I’ve been on that side of town.  You can taxi there, but we walked from downtown and back again.  The night was balmy and the walk back was a good way to help settle a great meal.  Besides, I needed a bottle of tequila before we headed back to the Catalina.


The Barrel


Last year, as we were getting ready to board the plane to go home, I noticed a small keg in the liquor store at the airport.  The lady behind the counter said that she only had full ones, but that I could get them empty.  I made a mental note to find out where, on my next trip.  I had mentioned this to a friend who happened across the vendor, while out shopping.  She thought to get the card and gave it to me.


A couple of days before we left, I was downtown and tried to find the barrel shop.  The address on the card was an empty building, with no signs of ever having been the place that I was looking for.  However, there was a small cardboard sign in the window that simply stated something to the effect of “We have moved up the street.”  I went looking.


The name of the shop is Artequila and it is on Cuauhtémoc.  The card reads Cuauhtemoc 33-B, but as I said, that isn’t necessarily correct.  Look around and you’ll find it.  Upon looking around the shop, I found out that I could have it engraved with anything I wanted to have put on.  The barrel, including engraving, was $60.00.  It fit nicely into my suitcase for the trip home (I finally ditched the coffee maker this year, to make room for the barrel).


The Barrel

Once home, and after rinsing thoroughly and letting water sit in the barrel for a few days, I poured in two bottles of Sauza Hornitos and two bottles of Cuervo Tradtional.  Both tequilas are reposados, which means that they had already been aged (in oak presumably) for a minimum of three months.  They also are both 100% agave (a mixto shall never see the inside of my barrel).


My original plan was to let the tequila, which wasn’t too bad going in, to sit for six months and see what transpired.  I made it a month before the first check.  I had kept a few ounces out for a control group, and I’m glad I did, because it allowed me to check color and taste.  In only a month the tequila was much darker, had a much pronounced oak flavor and had mellowed considerably from what it was when it went into the barrel. 


This is a fun project.  I mostly bring it up to let y’all know of Artequila’s shop and to suggest that you too, might enjoy aging your own tequila… or not.


In closing this year’s report, let me thank, as always, Rob and his message board.  It is a fountain of information on the area and a place where a newbie or an old Zihuatanejo salt alike can go to find out what the latest buzz is around town.


Will I go back to Zihuatanejo for a sixth trip?  Probably.  There are no plans currently, but to the person, each of my friends that were along on this trip has asked when we’re going to do it again?


Until next time then, take care and may God bless you.




Los LaJollas


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