There are things to love about the beaches in and around Zihuatanejo, Mexico. I have not gone to all of them, but I’ve gone to many.
I’ll cover four beaches in the city on Zihua’s bay (Playas Principal, Madera, la Ropa, las Gatas), and then four beaches outside Zihua proper (Playas Larga, Barra de Potosi, el Palmar, Linda).
Beaches on Zihuatanejo’s bay (Google map with all bay beaches here)
1. Playa Principal (or Playa Municipal)
What’s to love:
People watching and meeting, and the views of the bay. Go early in the morning and see the fishermen come in with boatloads of fish to sell right there on one end of this beach. Go in the afternoon and have a drink at one of the cafes lining the malecon (waterfront walkway). Go in evening to see the sunset colors wash the bay and buildings in oranges, pinks and yellows.
Zihuatanejo Centro. This area also has the famous basketball court, which basically acts as the “town square.” Playa Municpal also has the large dock from which you can hire fishing boats, tour boats, or ferries over to other beaches, restaurants and shops, visitor centers and more.
2. Playa la Madera
What’s to love:
Easy to get to on a nice walk along the malecon. Go anytime – the view is similar to Playa Municipal. This is a small beach with a few restaurants.
Take the malecon on a five-minute walk from Playa Principal. You’ll see the malecon railing along the rocks if you look
down the beach. Go that way – away from the fishing boats, to the left of the basketball court.
3. Playa la Ropa
What’s to love:
This is the longest white sand beach on Zihuatanejo’s bay, and it’s easy to get to. It feels like it’s a little less polluted than the town beaches Municipal and Madera, but I’m only basing that on visuals. There are many massage tables for tourists, if you feel the need for extra relaxation. Many restaurants offer refreshments and chair and umbrella rentals along the beach, and the views are great. Looking out straight from the beach you see the bay’s opening to the ocean. Looking to the right, you see Zihua, and to the left, Playa las Gatas.
There also is a crocodile pen between a few restaurants. The businesses keep the crocs well-fed so there are no problems with hungry predators, and there is a foot bridge over the water where they hang out. I’ve never been so close to a croc. A bit unsettling, but an interesting thing to see, for sure.
Take a colectivo from the main street in town across from the market. The colectivos are blue and will say ‘Playa la Ropa.’ The cost is 8.5 pesos, or $.46 at the time of this writing. You can also walk. Take the malecon until you see a small road on the left. Take the road, turn right, up over the hill, and turn right again to get to the beach.
4. Playa Las Gatas
What’s to love:
This beach is narrow and long, and the snorkeling is said to be great here during winter, or high season. We went during low season, the rainy season, so the water was kind of churned up and not that clear. However, Tedly lucked out and saw a giant turtle while snorkeling – so it’s always worth a try – even in low season.
Also, the water is much calmer here (not that anywhere on the bay is especially rough) and the water is shallow inside a rock reef. A good beach for any level swimmer or snorkeler.
Get there by a ferry from the tour dock in town where the malecon starts for 50 pesos per person, round trip, or $2.73 USD at the time of this writing. Or, walk from Playa la Ropa. There is no malecon between the two beaches, but there is a path and there are two spots where you have to walk over rocks. Clutzes, like me, should wear sneakers.
Beaches near Zihuatanejo
5. Playa Larga (Google map here)
What’s to love:
This is the largest, longest white sand beach in the area that I saw. It’s beautiful, but it’s not a casual swimming beach. It’s about eight miles long and it faces the ocean, so the water can be rough with rip currents. There are several restaurants on the north end. The southern end has a rural feel with not much development and no public services. The southern end is actually called Playa Blanca.
Our gracious Airbnb host took us here one day in his car. If we were to go by colectivo, we’d take the bus to Coacuyul, and tell the driver to let us off at the turn off for Playa Larga. On the side of the road, in a small turn-off, there are colectivos to take people to the beach. These colectivos are pickup trucks with benches bolted into the the back, unlike the colectivos in Zihuatanejo, which are passenger vans.
6. Barra de Potosi (Google map here)
What’s to love:
A beautiful beach that has what looks like a large island in front of it. Sand piles up in a channel that connects the earth mound to the beach, but the sand is washed away in rainy season, creating a water channel to the inlet. The current was strong when we were there, but I still enjoyed the waves just off to the side. This is not a beach for a novice swimmer.
There are several restaurants here. The closer you get to the inlet, the more rustic they become, and some people love that kinda thing.
It took us nearly 90 minutes to get there on public transportation, despite being about 12 – 15 miles from where we started in Zihua. First, we took a bus headed for Petetlan for about a dollar each. We asked the driver to drop us off at Los Achotes, which is a small village that has colectivos to go to Barra de Potosi. We ended up waiting nearly half an hour for enough people to fill the colectivo to make it worth the driver’s effort to go.
When we arrived at the beach, I asked the driver about the return, and he said a colectivo comes every half hour. Just be aware that though they may come every half hour, they may not leave every half hour. The last one back is 6:00 p.m. (at least in low season, when we went).
It’s a beautiful ride to the beach, and it costs about a dollar per person. These are pickup trucks with seats bolted into the back. Try to get the seat over the back of the truck’s cab for wind-in-your-face views of jungle and palm trees, and eventually, the ocean.
7. Playa el Palmar (Google map here)
What’s to love:
This is a beautiful, white, fluffy sand beach. It has a lot of activity because there are many tourists at the Ixtapa resorts and hotels that line this beach. There are a few public restaurants on the north end, past the hotels, before the condos. Otherwise, the facilities are for the tourists at their all-inclusive hotels.
This is a “blue flag” beach – meaning it’s well-kept and clean and tested to meet international standards. (There are many of these in Mexico. A full list in English can be found here.)
Get on a bus from Zihua Centro that says “Marina”. Go to the second Oxxo (a Mexican convenience store chain like 7-11), just beyond the Park Royale hotel. You will see small road on the other side of the street. Go down that road to reach the public entrance. This is the north entrance. There are public bathrooms here, and changing rooms, for a small fee. Beyond those, as soon as you hit the beach, there are a couple of restaurants not tied to a hotel that anyone can visit.
There is a other public entrance is at the first Oxxo the bus will pass. This one does not have any public restaurants, but there are chairs and tables you can rent if you bring your own goods. This entrance is also down a small road, across the street from the convenience store.
The bus ride costs 12 pesos, or about $.66 USD, and takes about 20 – 25 minutes, depending on how long it takes the bus to get out of Zihua Centro (downtown Zihuatanejo).
8. Playa Linda (Google map here)
What’s to love:
This one is my favorite, perhaps because it’s easy to get to by bus from downtown Zihuatanejo (just one bus and it’s cheap), and once you walk past a few beach restaurants you’ll find basically nothing. That’s my kinda place. Yet, it’s close enough to services, if needed.
It’s quiet and peaceful and I went here several days alone and felt totally safe despite being basically the only one on the beach. I went in low season, and it’s a different story in high season when more restaurants open huts on the beach and surfers come to town. But when I was there, I had it all to myself. One time Tedly came with me, and we went skinny dipping, which we hardly ever do in Mexico because it’s impolite on public beaches (except in designated nudist beaches like Zipolite).
Kids and kids at heart will get a kick out of the crocodile pen just outside the ‘entrance’ to the area with the tourist shops. There is a deck platform that allows for croc watchin’. There is even a “crocodile whisperer” who is sometimes there. He’s nuts. He gets into the pen and poses for pictures with the crocs while feeding them fish carcasses.
Get a bus from Zihua Centro that says “Playa Linda.” It costs 14 pesos at the time of this writing, or about .$77 USD. It’s roughly a 45 minute ride, or longer, depending on how many stops the bus makes.
I’ve taken this ride a number of times, and I was always the only gringa on the bus. If that kind of thing bothers you, take a cab. They’ll charge you anywhere from $6 to $11 dollars, each way.
(Playa Quieta is the stop right before Playa Linda. It’s a small beach on the south side of the dock to Isla Ixtapa, and you can easily walk there from Playa Linda. Also, you can get a ferry to Isla Ixtapa from the dock between Playa Linda and Playa Quieta, but I haven’t gone over there yet.)
A final note about all beaches
What’s not to love on Zihua’s bay beaches: the water is polluted. Just like so many beaches around the world.
While I’ve been here, in rainy season, it’s always been safe for swimming – officials never closed it down for too much bacteria from sewage as they had some years ago. However, there is an awful lot of trash in the water. People do swim at all of the bay’s beaches, but I only went in the water at la Ropa and las Gatas.
One day on Playa la Ropa, Tedly collected trash from all over one spot on the beach, and he even pulled trash from the water at that spot. Plastic bottles, plastic bags, plastic bottle caps, plastic utensils, plastic toothbrushes. One time as I came out of the water, my foot brushed a plastic coated diaper. Ugh. It had been in the water awhile. The bay ‘catches’ the ocean trash. The open ocean beaches – Playas Linda, Larga, Barra de Potosi, Palmar, have much less trash wash ashore. (I hate plastic trash. I see plastic over our travels, not just Zihua, and not just Mexico.)
Still, all beaches in this write-up have something special to love about them. The beaches in Zihuatanejo have incredible scenic views, and there also are great beaches in the surrounding area of Guerrero.
Pick a beach, and chose your own adventure.
(*Side note, all pictures in this entry were taken by Tedly.)
(*Correction, 10/7/17: the previous picture of Playa las Gatas was incorrect. The photo was changed.)
Other beach guides:
- Four Tulums: which one is the real one?
- Mazatlan is the bomb – seriously – what a great place
- Huatulco – land of many beaches
- Forget Phuket – Krabi is incredible