La Familia LaJolla 2003 Zihuatanejo Trip Report



The LaJollas

4:00 a.m. came early on January first this year. After a New Year's Eve celebration (in which I didn't imbibe) we got to sleep about 1 a.m. To wake the troops, just a few hours later, was not a simple operation, but we needed to be at the airport by 5:30, to catch our Alaska Airline's flight to Zihuatanejo, via Los Angeles. Needless to say, I got everyone up, and out the door, in plenty of time to make the flight.

We were delayed for a few hours at LAX. We had actually boarded the plane and had to get back off, as they had determined the plane had some sort of engine problem. It took them about three hours to fix the problem, and then we were off to Zihuatanejo. For our inconvenience, they gave us $5.00 chits for the snack bars (where a burger costs $6.00), and 1000/each free miles. I suppose that certain things can't be helped, and I want them to assure that the plane is safe, so the delay didn't stress me too badly. It did put us into town 3 hours late though, and as such made us some of the last people to arrive at the hotel.

"South of the border, Down Mexico way. That's where I fell in love, as stars above, came out to play. And now as I wander, my thoughts ever stray, South of the border, down Mexico Way." (1)


Good to be back to those lousy sunsets.

Once we arrived in Zihua, it felt good to be sweating again. Somehow, we were way up front in the immigrations line and all went swiftly. A gentleman met us and procured a taxi to the Hotel Irma. Once at the hotel, we were escorted to our rooms, on (huff) the (puff) 6th (wheeze) floor (gasp). Really, it wasn't that bad. But what with the heat, humidity, no sleep, a few drinks, and way heavy luggage, it had its downside.

We stayed at the Hotel Irma this year, and I've done a separate report on the hotel, as I had a hard time finding out much about it, via the web, before we stayed there. Roberto! took some pictures for me, and gave me a report, when he was there in November, but other than that it was a shot in the dark. Suffice it to say here, that I liked the Irma very much, but I'm easy to please. Their restaurant was actually very good, and we ate there a few times. In my opinion, it has the best chilaquiles that I've tasted in Zihuatanejo (or anywhere else for that matter). Check out the report for more particulars.


The Hotel Irma, from the bay, and from the pool.

The Irma is situated above La Madera, and the view is fantastic. The steps down to the beach are not as many as at the Catalina, and they are easily navigated. La Madera is a wonderful little beach, and we found M.J.&Ritchie's to be quite the spot to eat, drink, and soak in the sun. Breakfast (more of a brunch really, as we always ate around 11:00 a.m.), coffee, enough beers to satisfy my thirst for a few hours, a drink or two for the ladies, and a few colas for my son came to roughly 250 pesos, or $25 US (including tip); all while utilizing their lounge chairs and palapas. We patronized MJ&R's 3 days on this trip. It's a great place to hang, since the Irma doesn't have its own palapa area.


"Laid back in an old saloon, with a peso in my hand, watchin' flies and children on the street, And I catch a glimpse of black-eyed girls who giggle when I smile, there's a little boy who wants to shine my feet." (2)


M.J.& Ritchie's, a great place to hang.

As I said La Madera qualifies as a great beach. Someone on Rob's message board was asking what was wrong with it, as they had been told that there were few people on it, while La Ropa was packed. I can't explain it, but it's not because of any shortcoming, regarding La Madera. What a great place to wade in the surf and do a little body surfing!

At the north end of La Madera, there is a walkway that winds around the rocks, right next to the surf, and all the way into town. The walk is easy, scenic, and it saves 20+ pesos, by not taking a cab. We took a taxi back to the Irma most nights, but we never took one into town. As the sun sets, this seems to be the place of choice for the local sweethearts to meet and show each other their affection. There were many young lovers to be found on the walk around the point. I mentioned to my wife, that I bet more than one Zihuatanejo parent had told their kids that day, "Don't you go out on the walkway tonight." It didn't seem that the kids listened.

La Madera beach is also host to The Bolero restaurant, and La Madera restaurant, neither of which we tried. We were going to try La Madera for breakfast one morning, but that was when we espied M.J. & Ritchie's. We never did get to it. Too bad, as I've heard it has great food.


The Bolero and La Madera Restaurants are also in La Madera Beach.

The places we did eat on this trip…? Let's see... there was Elvira's on La Ropa a couple of times, M. J. & Ritchie's, as I've said, Tamales y Atoles Any downtown (9 peso tamales to die for), a couple of nights at El Sanka Grill (my son's favorite), a couple of breakfasts and a dinner at Las Naranjas, the restaurant at the Hotel Irma, a breakfast at Banana's (very good), one night at Daniel's (others rate it very highly), and one night at Señor Frog's on our mandatory day in Ixtapa. One nice thing about a vacation in Zihua is that you don't seem to eat as much as you might somewhere else. I supposes it's the heat, or perhaps the hours that you keep, but whatever the reason, we seemed to stick to two meals a day, and some snacks now and then.

We bought some rolls and cheese from the mercado. Fresh rolls for one peso each, and some of the very best string cheese I've ever eaten, for 25 pesos a kilo (we only bought a half kilo), what a deal! I munched on these goodies throughout the week, and was often glad that they were there. I brought a coffee maker this year, and in the morning, before sunrise, I'd sit on the patio and enjoy my coffee with a bit of bread and cheese as I watched the sun come up and listened to Zihuatanejo come to life. It was a good way to start the day. I highly suggest that y'all hit the mercado when in town. We bought many little things for back at the room there, and enjoyed wandering the stalls, and observing all the commotion.

Other shopping sprees were at the artisan's mercado, and the shops downtown, where I pretty much just waited out my time. I'm not a real shopper, and if I have nothing in mind to buy, I am easily bored. The wife and kids were into it though, so I tried not to dampen the experience too much. Sometimes I'd wander through the shops and displays, and other times I'd wait out front. I like to people watch, so the waiting never bothered me, except one night when I was dog tired, and my feet had taken to swelling up, to the point that my kids started referring to me as "Fred" (Flintstone). We had a few laughs over that one, all at my expense of course. As usual, there were nifty things to be seen, and purchased at the markets. We brought back our fair share of Mexican folk art, and other trinkets.


At the Artisan's market..... Hey, wake up!

As I stated above, I brought a coffee maker, in my luggage, this trip. I bought it at a Rite-Aid drugstore for $7.00. I also took down a pound of coffee, some filters and a couple of plastic coffee mugs. The pound didn't make it through the week, so we bought some fresh ground at the mercado. The coffee from the mercado wasn't bad, but I'll bring two pounds from now on. I must say that this coffee maker thing is one of the better ideas I've had. All things considered, the whole setup cost me less than the two cups of coffee a day, that my wife and I would have purchased otherwise, and we could make and drink it whenever we wanted it. On the way home, I figured on possibly leaving the coffee maker, if I needed the room in my luggage for trinkets or whatever. At that point it would have certainly paid for itself. As it turns out, it made the trip back home and is all set for its next duty in Zihuatanejo. I might suggest this to all you coffee lovers out there that are staying in a motel that doesn't provide a coffee maker.

I never did run into Señor Gunnysack this year, but did keep a good supply of Sauza Commemorativo in the room, along with ice cold Tecates. We purchased a cooler on our first night in town, and it came in quite handy over the week (the cheese, limes, and leftovers, stayed there too). Each night we'd bring back a bag of ice, and it would last until the next night. I knew that Walt (from the message board) would be down to the Irma on the day that we were leaving, so I left the cooler at the desk, with instructions to pass it on to him when he arrived. I actually ran into him and told him to make sure he retrieved it, which he did. Hopefully, he passed it on to someone else, and the cooler will have a good, long life. I brought back two quarts (940 ml) of the Commemorativo this year. They costs me 225 pesos each ($22.50 US) and were an excellent deal, as the 750 ml bottles run $28.00 back home. The only thing that got my goat, was that I found them for 200 pesos, in the duty free shop, as we were leaving. But there you go. If I hadn't bought them in town, I'm sure that the duty free wouldn't have had them.


"Take another shot of courage, wonder why the right words never come, you just get numb. It's another tequila sunrise, and this old world still looks the same, another frame." (3)


We took the 30 peso round-trip boat ride out to Las Gatas this year, something that I had planned to do last year but didn't get around to. I will not miss it again. What a great little beach. The man made reef keeps the surf down and turns the shore into a lake like beach. We wandered down to the last place on the way out to the point; I think it was Amado's or something like that, where I ran into a great guy named Wenceslas. He worked his butt off to keep everyone happy and kept my bucket full of Coronas. I can certainly recommend him to anyone, and will remember him as one of my most colorful characters of Zihua. Suzie and the kids dragged their chairs down to the water and hung, half in - half out, all through the afternoon. Personally, I sat in the shade, and worked on that bucket of Coronas. It wouldn't do to let Wenceslas go idle. You absolutely must make the trip to Las Gatas. It's a nice little 15-minute ride out in the panga, a beautiful day on a great beach, and then another nice ride back.


The kids and Wenceslas, at Las Gatas.

The only other real trip we made was to Ixtapa. Suzie and I probably wouldn't have made that journey this year, but we wanted to let the kids see the city, its shops, and experience some of the resort type nightlife. I must say that I had a great time. A few things this year were better than last, due to the kids being along, and Ixtapa was one of them. We did a lot of walking, and sight seeing, and finally ate at Señor Frogs. The best sunset of the week was witnessed from the deck at Carlos and Charlie's, as we sipped on tropical drinks and just talked. Señor Frog's was loud and rowdy, just as it should be, and I think that everyone enjoyed it, I know I did. I think that this is where Fred Flintstone first reared his ugly head (feet) though. There was much walking involved, and the hooves just swelled up like basketballs. They never did hurt, but looked just ridiculous.


"Let's ride with the family down the street, through the courtesy of Fred's two feet. When you're with the Flintstones, have a yabba dabba doo time, a dabba doo time, we'll have a gay old time." (4)


Mike at Señor Frog's, and the best sunset of the week, from the deck of Carlos and Charlie's.

We stopped by Rob's, ever so briefly. I had brought down a tub of beef jerky for the boy, and needed to deliver it to him. We didn't stay long, as I knew that the kids were wanting to get along, and I planned on stopping back by before the week was out. But that was the last time I found him at work. I wish I'd of stayed longer and visited now, but the best laid plans… In retrospect, I should have just sent the family on their way, and caught up them later. Sorry Rob. Once again, I'd like to thank Rob for the message board, and his Zihuatanejo Website.

Rob doesn't do the Internet café thing anymore, as it cuts too much into his siest… uh, I mean website design and maintenance time. So in order to check emails, I had to find another place. I have no idea what the name of the bar is, but it's in the alleyway behind Rob's office, and they sell Coronitas for 7 pesos. Their connection speed is painfully slow, but after a couple of the Coronitas, you don't care. I suspect that they have 56k access that is shared by everyone in the room. The more people, the slower it is. There were 4 or 5 people using the computers when I was there. It seemed like a few gringos (ex-pats) gathered there to do their internetting. It might just have been the moment I was there (at those speeds, I only checked email once during the week). The bar has great air conditioning too. I can wholeheartedly recommend this place for everything except what it is intended for. But as I say, after a couple of cold beers, it doesn't seem to matter.

Sunday night found us at Daniel's for dinner, and then on to the basketball court for the big show. Make sure to be downtown for the show (6:00ish?), it is such a fine sight to see. It started off with a brass and drum band playing what I assume are traditional Mexican tunes, then rolled into some karaoke type singing. I must say that it was a hoot! Fun is what this show is all about. Someone sets up a P.A. and then different folks provide the entertainment. It appears to me, that it's a random sort of production, and that just about anyone can join in, but what the heck do I know? I can tell you this though… it's about fun. Townspeople coming together to share, laugh, and have a good time. We could use a little more of that in the good ole U.S.A. There are lessons to be learned in Zihua.


"Pack up the babies, grab the old ladies, everyone goes, everyone knows, Brother Love's show." (5)


Eventually, early mornings on the patio, relaxing days on the beach, and sumptuous meals and entertainment in the evening have to turn back into reality, and the trip home. I won't bore you with the details, as they were the low point of the trip (as always). It is good to eventually hit your own pillow, but it always seems to come just a tad too soon.

In summation, let me say that after this second trip to Zihuatanejo, I'm more ready than ever to return. Two weeks in two years, is not nearly enough time to get to know the area and its inhabitants. If I could figure out a way to move there today, and support my family, I would.

The weather is fantastic. I've been there in November, and now January, and both times the weather absolutely blew me away. It is so nice to get away from the cold and rain of the Pacific Northwet, to the sunny beaches of Zihuatanejo.

I've been to most of the other major vacation towns on the west coast of Mexico, and none compare to Zihua. It is by far the most relaxed city on the circuit. If that is not what you are looking for, then you should probably look elsewhere. But if you want a great place to kick back under the palapa, or hang out in the sun, while reading, or doing your crossword puzzle, this is the place to go. The hotels, restaurants, bars, shops, markets, and all, are outstanding. The friendliness and service provided by the local residents is excellent, and their desire to please is evident in all that they do.

Lord willing, we will be back.


"So kiss me and smile for me, tell me that you'll wait for me, hold me like you'll never let me go. Cause I'm leaving on a jet plane, don't know when I'll be back again, oh babe, I hate to go." (6)


(1) South of the Border - Michael Carr and Jimmy Kennedy (2) Mexicali Blues - Grateful Dead (3) Tequila Sunrise - The Eagles (4) The Flintstones - William Hanna / Joseph Barbera / Hoyt Curtin (5) Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show - Neil Diamond (6) Leaving on a Jet Plane - John Denver

Email me with questions.