Zihuatanejo (affectionately called “Z Town” amongst cruisers) is a beautiful bay between Manzanillo and Acapulco. It is the southernmost port we will have visited in Mexico.
When entering the bay, there are two anchorages to choose from. The northern anchorage, Playa Principal, is on the left is where the fishing fleet of pangas moor full-time. This is also where 80% of the pleasure boats anchor and can get crowded. When we were there, the bay was unprotected from the swell so it got very rolly. With so many boats, putting out a stern anchor was not an option.
A good thing about this anchorage is that we were only a 3 minute dinghy ride to the preferred dinghy landing at Playa Principal by the municipal pier. There was often an entrepreneurial local or two waiting at the surf to help us land our dinghy ashore. We would tip them 10 to 20 pesos and they would agree to keep our dinghy “safe” while we were in town. The port captain is less than a block away from the landing and made checking in a breeze.
The main part of town is at Playa Principal and is where most of the local artisans, restaurants, tiendas and services are located. Zihuatanejo is definitely a haven for artists and I couldn’t believe how many local art galleries there were. It was not uncommon to see the locals painting the very goods they were selling that day, such as plates, ceramics, boxes and such.
While I was walking through the artists market, luck had it that I met a Huichol artist. The Huichol are an indigenous group who live in the Sierra Madre mountains and have preserved their shamanistic traditions in vibrant, beautiful yarn paintings and beaded animal statues. The artist who I met created beaded statues and he showed me how they were made. He would start with a carved statue (the one he demonstrated was a cat). He then covered the statue in beeswax. Then, with a needle, he would lay each individual bead on it’s side so that it stuck halfway in the beeswax. I asked him if he drew out the pattern on the statue first, and he said that he didn’t – that it was essentially freeform. Each symbol drawn with beads has a very particular meaning. The cat statue he was decorating was meant to be for protection, so he deliberately beaded symbols that would invoke it’s intention. It is an art form that requires much patience and I am grateful for seeing it in the making.
Another entrepreneur I met was a man who owns a clothing shop that specializes in Mexican cotton wares. His wife was a designer and they manufactured all of the clothing they sell. He didn’t speak much English and I didn’t speak much Spanish but we managed to talk for almost 2 hours in his shop. He was very interested in hearing about our traveling life on the boat and had many questions. I learned just how bad tourism had gotten. They used to get several cruise ships there a week and now they are down to one or two a month. This has caused many artisans to close shops. In my opinion, the US media is painting a picture of Mexico that is way overblown and it is hurting the local industry.
Our friend Dennis came to stay with us on our second day in Z-Town. After spending a night rolling around in the Playa Principal anchorage, we moved over to Playa la Ropa where we could set a stern anchor and be right by the main beach. The next couple days were spent lounging and swimming at the beach. The water temperature was in the 80s and perfect for swimming. Dennis spent his last two nights here in a small resort called Villa Mexicana, and we all got to partake in the pool and beach chairs. If you are thinking of coming to Mexico, we all highly recommend Villa Mexicana. The rooms were around $100-200 per night which is a great value for the location, room quality and charm.
I can see why Zihuatanejo is a favorite and I hope that travelers will be able to see through the fear tactics of media and visit this lovely gem of a place.