If you are looking for an easy Mexican beach holiday with kids, the quiet fishing village of Zihuatanejo, Mexico is a great choice. Here are all the things we loved for a family traveling with a baby, toddler, or kids of any age for that matter ! Watch our two minute youtube video on Zihuatanejo or just read on:
1. Jump in the Waves and Build a Sandcastle on Playa La Ropa
Named for the sunken merchant ship that left bolts of beautiful fabric all over the bay, Zihuatanejo’s Playa La Ropa is a gorgeous stretch of beach for kids to play on. It has the perfect balance of locals and tourists; active beach activities and quiet spots to read under a beach umbrella. After spending hours jumping in the waves each day, my kids would build a sandcastle (each day’s construction getting bigger than the last). This was also my favorite part of the day because it gave me the opportunity to sit back and enjoy a margarita from one of the beach front restaurants, while watching my kids play under the setting sun.
2. Get a Beach Front Massage on Playa La Ropa
Although not typically something I would do with my daughter at her age, the beach front massage services on Playa La Ropa are so inexpensive, that we decided to give it a try (200 pesos/$12 USD for 1 hour ! ). Although I was a little skeptical at first, I had the most amazing massage from a gentleman named Angel at Rosario’s Spa (right beside the Intrawest Resort). The service is so reasonably priced that I talked to a number of people who were treating themselves to a beach massage every day while on vacation.
3. Visit the Crocodiles and Iguanas at El Manglar Restaurant
At one end of Playa La Ropa there is a small fenced estuary that has an incredible amount of wildlife. From a table at the nearby El Manglar restaurant, you can see gorgeous birds in the trees, squirrels, large iguanas and even the occasional crocodile swimming by (don’t worry, they are well fed and do not bother people). My kids wanted to go back to this spot almost every day, which was fine with us since the restaurant makes quite a nice guacamole.
4. Visit Zihuatanejo’s Food Markets
If you catch a rare rainy day in Zihuatanejo, visiting the markets is a wonderful activity. Our kids loved wandering through the stalls of the fresh food market (although they were a little shocked to see where the chicken from their quesadilla was coming from). This can be followed up by some souvenir shopping at the Mercado des Artisania, where kids can hone their negotiating skills. “You mean the price isn’t actually the price mom?”.
5. Sample the Local Cuisine at Zihuatanejo’s Best Restaurants
Zihuatanejo has some wonderful restaurants both along Playa La Ropa and in the town. While a kids menu is rare outside of a hotel, almost every place can whip up a cheese quesadilla (which my children lived on). For amazing chicken mole and other regional fare (plus a great margarita), try family run Carmelita’s Cafe in town. Although a little pricey, we enjoyed the fish tacos from popular La Sirena Gorda, the pork tacos at Las Braseros (very inexpensive) and, although we didn’t get there, we heard that the tacos at La Papa Loca are also very good. Along Playa La Ropa, we found the fresh fish at Elvira’s to be excellent and the presentation of the banana flambé entirely mesmerizing for the kids.
Not all of the aforementioned restaurants offer high chairs but they all welcome children (there were many lap babies). That said, when we traveled with our children as babies, we found it useful to bring along a portable infant or baby high chair so that our options would not be limited.
The best margaritas we found on the trip were from the Viceroy on Playa La Ropa. Although pricier than some of the other beach bars, they use 100% agave tequila which makes for a much nicer cocktail. Go for happy hour (5-6pm) when all drinks are 2 for 1.
Note: Agave, a plant only grown in Mexico, is the key ingredient in tequila. A quality tequila should use 100% agave (some are mixto – a blend of agave and other sugars). This does not necessarily mean the tequila has to be expensive. See this article on inexpensive 100% agave tequilas from serious eats.
6. Attend a Festival in Zihuatanejo’s Town Square
Zihuatanejo’s main gathering spot is the waterfront square and basketball courts. At almost any time there is something interesting going on in this location, especially in the evenings. For instance, during our stay, the square was hosting its annual guitar festival, with nightly shows from artists around the world (March).
7. Watch the Fishing Boats Come In
At the heart of it, Zihuatanejo is still a fishing village. If you have a child who is an early riser, walk into town and watch the village come alive as the boats come in with the daily catch and the buying and selling begins.
8. Take a Day Trip to Playa Las Gatas
On Playa La Ropa, you can arrange a boat tour to various other beaches. One of the easiest to get to is Playa Las Gatas, which is just across the bay (you could technically walk there if you were so inclined). Several companies along Playa La Ropa offer a reasonably priced water taxi service, but in our case we chose to take a sail boat ride in the late afternoon (360 pesos for 6 people). Playa Las Gatas has some decent snorkeling and the beach is great for little ones as it is partially protected by a breakwater. There are also several places to rent beach toys and many restaurant options.
9. Parasailing for the Adrenalin Junkie
If you have older children who need a little more excitement, La Ropa beach has some adrenalin inducing water sport options including parasailing and jet ski rentals. The pricing is also quite reasonable in comparison to what you might find in the U.S.. For example, the price for 2 jet skis for 45 minutes was 500 pesos, or $33 USD with the exchange rate at the time of our visit.
10. Enjoy Awesome Gelato
Very quickly on our trip to Zihuatanejo, we developed an addiction to the gelato at Fragolino. Although they have more than one location, we would grab our daily scoops from the location across from the basketball court / town square, and then people watch in the shade while enjoying the ocean breeze.
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