While other Mexican destinations have lost their rhythm, Zihuatanejo—a once swinging spot on the Pacific Coast—is getting its groove back but still holding on to its wave-chasing soul.
In the pantheon of Mexican vacation towns, Zihuatanejo is a hard one to categorize. I have visited it, and the nearby small Pacific Coast surf towns of Sayulita and Troncones, a handful of times over two decades. Change here is rare and slow. The fact that this area of Guerrero—closer to Guatemala than to the U.S.—isn’t easy to get to has surely played a role: Unlike Cancún, it requires at least one stopover. The terrain has also done its part. This swathe of the state is slammed up against the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains, with cliffs and ravines blanketed by mangrove, oak, and black olive, and tangled with subtropical shrubs, agaves, and snaking vines. None of this is conducive to the type of sprawling hotels you find in flatter spots of the country. Zihua (pronounced “zee-wha”), as it’s thankfully shortened to, is especially hemmed in by nature—by the scooped-out bay to the west, with its sliver of silt-fine beach and palm trees, and by hills in every other direction. The small stuccoed places to stay, covered in magenta and egg-yolk-yellow bougainvillea, and the thatched-roof private homes that do exist are daringly set on dramatic inclines.