¡Hola compañeros aventureros! ¡Bienvenidos a mi primer viaje de 2023! (Welcome to my first trip of 2023!) This was the sidekick’s trip, so I guess that makes me the sidekick on this one! The trip was a volleyball vacation trip organized by South of the Border Volleyball Vacations.
Ixtapa is small resort town very close to the larger town of Zihuatanejo, located on the Southwest Pacific coast of Mexico. Ixtapa and Cancun were the two first government planned tourist resorts that sprung up on Mexican beaches beginning in the late 1960s. To access Ixtapa one must catch a flight to the Zihuatanejo airport. From the US the options are limited and some are seasonal. It appeared during this trip that the options were Alaska Airlines out of L.A. and United out of Houston. The flight from Houston took about 2.5 hours and takes you over some very remote parts of the country. Upon arriving in Zihuatanejo, Ixtapa is about a 20 minute cab ride up the coast. The pin on the screenshot below shows the location of Ixtapa.
Zihuatanejo looks pretty much like the stereotypical Mexican town: poor quality roads, questionable infrastructure, and very shoddy looking buildings in various stages of “ongoing construction” (apparently this is a tax getaround?). As you approach Ixtapa the road goes up a hill and on the downslope you can see the gorgeous area that houses Ixtapa open up in front. Ixtapa itself is the jewel of the area, and yet, is still very dated. Compared to Zihuatanejo, it seems first world. However, as we found out later on, Ixtapa is somewhat of a failed U.S. tourist town. Earlier, I mentioned that Ixtapa, along with Cancun, was the first of many government planned beach resort towns in Mexico. These were planned with American tourism and American dollars in mind. Ixtapa is pretty far off the beaten path. The flights there are very few and only a few carriers offer year round service, with a few more offering seasonal service. Add to the fact that it is very easy to get to other resort towns (Cancun and Cozumel for example) and Ixtapa has transformed into more of a Mexican national’s vacation spot. What was planned to bring in hundreds of dollars per day now cannot because the Mexican tourists simply cannot afford that. Also, while there were certainly plenty of employees who speak English pretty well, I would say about half of the staff speaks very little English, so this was definitely a spot where you should brush up on your Spanish!
The resort we stayed in, Park Royal, is pretty bare. The room had a slow toilet that didn’t always work properly. There was neither fridge nor microwave. Outlets were sparse. The resort was all inclusive for food and drinks (yay!) but honestly, the food was mainly buffet style and not great. The resort is right on the beach and does have a dance bar, a big pool, including a swim-up bar, and the rooms have pretty killer views of the beach! That being said…the normal rate for this place is over $200 US per night…so it’s pretty pricey for lower quality amenities.
The environment here is pretty stunning. Huge blue waves crashes incessantly on the shore. They were large enough that it was the best decision to just walk into the wash up. The sand here is super clean with no trash to be found anywhere. In the near distance are these very distinctive rock islands. I would have loved the opportunity to explore those a bit but there was a noticeable lack of boating out on the water, other than some parasailing outfits, so I am not even sure if that is an offering.
We went into Zihuatanejo one day for a very fun boating excursion. A group of about 100 of us loaded up onto an all you could eat and drink catamaran to depart the bay in Zihuatanejo and head a few miles down the coast for some nice Pacific Ocean snorkeling. The water was super clear and a very comfortable temperature. We wrapped up at a local beach restaurant called La Perla with some very tasty Mexican food!
The reason for the trip was volleyball, and ball was awesome to watch and participate in! I did not do a lot of playing, although I did get in a clinic game with pro players Geena Urango and Kelly Reeves! Good times and good learning opportunity! Other pros there included Billy Allen (super nice and cool guy!), Ty Tramblie, and Andy Benesh, among others. It was pretty cool being able to interact, chat, and party with these amazing ball players!
It was a short trip for me, just a Saturday through Tuesday excursion, (the sidekick did a full week) but a super fun trip. I am not sure I would go back to Ixtapa again, other than for another one of these volleyball vacations, but it was super great experience for my first every trip to a place where English was not the language!
Overall Impressions: The Ixtapa beach is beautiful and well worth a visit! The accommodations are a bit dated despite being expensive. It is also bit pricey to get here and flights potentially require some schedule finagling. One knock is that there did not seem to be a large variety of activities. At least none that were easily accessible, or available. But if hanging on a really pretty beach and relaxing for several days is your thing, Ixtapa accomplishes that!
The Adventurer’s Rating: 4 Stars!