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Sitting along the Pacific coast roughly 200 miles (322 km) southwest of Mexico City, Ixtapa is a stunning resort destination in the Mexican state of Guerrero. Near the main beach of El Palmar, you'll find high-rise hotels, a variety of restaurants, and world-class golf courses. Just southeast of Ixtapa lies the city of Zihuatanejo, famous for its many beaches that line the scalloped coves of the bay. Together, these 2 towns offer visitors a laidback escape, with plenty of options for relaxation and watersports. Whether you want to go swimming with the dolphins, enjoy a round or 2 of golf, or set off on a day trip to an offshore island, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo is the perfect place when you want to get away.
Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo is a destination known for its beaches-some sandy and ideal for sunbathing, while others are rocky and made for snorkeling.
Playa El Palmar - Lying along Boulevard Paseo Ixtapa-essentially Ixtapa's only main street-Playa El Palmar is a 2-mile (3-km) stretch of white-sand beach lined with restaurants, hotels, and shopping options. At each end of the street, you can find one of city's sprawling golf courses, while the marina on the north end is where boats depart daily for fishing charters. Though the spot is ideal for sunbathing, beach volleyball, and building sandcastles, swimming is not the best due to the way the small waves break close to the shore.
Playa Contramar - Travel south along the jagged coast to reach Playa Contramar, a beach sitting on the northwest side of Zihuatanejo Bay. Instead of soft sand, the beach is made up of surf-polished rocks, however the water here is a beautiful place for snorkeling thanks to generous coral and rock formations to be found beneath the surface.
Playa Principal - To the east of Contramar is Playa Principal, a quarter-mile-long (400 m) beach that lies in front of downtown Zihuatanejo. A short ride across the bay can bring you to the spectacular beaches of La Ropas and Las Gatas, which are ideal for swimming. Along Paseo del Pescador- Fisherman's Walk-plenty of great restaurants serve up fresh seafood.
Playa La Madera - Continue east along Fisherman's Walk past picturesque coves until you reach Playa La Madera. Here, enjoy a selection of delightful eateries, the shade of the palapa huts, and the music of the passing troubadours. Because you can wade out a good distance into the water before reaching the breaking waves, this beach is also one of the best spots for bodysurfing in the area.
Playa La Ropa -South around the bend of the bay is Playa La Ropa, where mild waves make the beach the prime spot for swimming and watersports. Find hotels and vacation rentals scattered along the coast, as well as restaurants with decks overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Playa Las Gatas - Located on the southwest edge of the bay, Playa Las Gatas is accessible either by footpath from the end of Playa La Ropa or by boat from the marina at Playa Principal. A snorkeler's paradise, an offshore reef forms a protective barrier which makes for a calm haven for tropical fish. Though there aren't many hotels in the area, there are at least a dozen eateries along the beach which offer breathtaking views of the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains.
Playa Manzanillo - Looping down out of the bay and east along the coast, Playa Manzanillo is a fairytale location of turquoise waters and lush rainforests. The beach is the perfect place for snorkeling or simply enjoying the unspoiled beauty of the landscape.
Playa Larga, Playa Blanca, and Barra de Potosí - At more than 8 miles (13 km) long, this stretch of beach is the longest expanse of sand in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo. The beach is broken up into 3 sections-Playa Larga, Playa Blanca, and Barra de Potosí, each with a handful of hotels and restaurants. At the southernmost point is the fishing village of Barra de Potosí, where you can find inexpensive boats to take you out to go swimming around the towering rocks that sit off the coast.
Scope out artifacts dating back thousands of years with a visit to the Archaeological Museum of the Costa Grande. Located on the east end of Fisherman's Walk at Playa Principal, this museum features 6 rooms full of relics from the history of the Costa Grande, a region which runs for roughly 220 miles (350 km) along the coast of Guerrero. Take a break from the sun to see a range of ceramics, statues, tools, and weapons from the Olmec, Teotihuacan, Aztec, and Purépecha people.
Explore all of the sights from the city to the country on a morning tour from Ixtapa to the village of Barra de Potosí. Travel through centuries-old towns, see local artisans at work, and walk beneath the fruit-filled fronds of a palm tree plantation. Your tour concludes in the quiet village of Barra de Potosí, where you're treated to a yummy lunch of fresh fish and handmade tortillas.
Once back in town, see the more modern side of Ixtapa with a visit to the Delfiniti dolphinarium. Watch these playful creatures swim, jump, and perform flips and tricks, and then go swimming with the friendly marine mammals yourself. Be literally immersed in the world of dolphins as you step into the pool, lead them in a dance, and even lean in for a gentle kiss.
For a truly dazzling getaway, head off the coast for a day trip to nearby Ixtapa Island. After a short cruise to the island, you arrive at Playa Coral, where the rest of the day is yours to do with as you please. Relax on the golden sand, go parasailing above the sea, or set off on a hiking adventure among dense forests and rocky cliffs. After a delicious lunch in the shade of a palapa, trek across the isthmus to laze in a hammock on Playa Varadero before sailing back to Ixtapa.