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Side-by-side beach resorts, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo share geography, but they couldn't be more different in character. Ixtapa is a preplanned resort development, opened in 1971, with modern infrastructure, high-rise hotels, and tourist services, while Zihuatanejo (See-wah-tah-neh-hoh) -- "Zihua" to the locals -- is an authentic yet increasingly tourist-savvy Mexican beach town that has changed slowly with time. The pair offers the intriguing possibility of two vacations in one. Those looking for a package vacation or all-inclusive resort can opt for Ixtapa (Eex-tah-pah) and easily make the quick 6.5km (4-mile) trip to Zihuatanejo to sample the simple life in a pueblo by the sea. Those seeking a low-key retreat with Mexican personality should settle in Zihuatanejo, home to simple inns close to the beach as well as some ultraluxury boutique hotels.
The area, with the backdrop of the Sierra Madre and foreground of the Pacific Ocean, provides a broad range of outdoor activities and sun-drenched diversions. Scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, bay cruises to remote beaches, and golf are among the favorites. Nightlife in both towns borders on the subdued, although Ixtapa is livelier during holiday periods.
This dual destination appeals to the traveler looking for a little of everything, from resort-style indulgence to unpretentious simplicity. The two resorts are more welcoming to couples and adults than to families, with a number of places that are off-limits to children 15 and younger -- something of a rarity in Mexico.
Find American Airlines flights to Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo and discover one of the best-kept secrets in Mexico. From relaxing on great beaches to viewing dramatic sunsets, there are many beautiful things to do in Ixtapa.
Playing on the beach is one of the most fun activities in Ixtapa, located on the Pacific Coast. Ixtapa is a master-planned community, so it takes full advantage of its beachfront setting. Playa El Palmar is the main beach, where many of the city's resorts are located. It's a beach for surfing thanks to gentle swells and easy accessibility. The south end of the beach reaches into Zihuatanejo, where the water is calmer (much like the city itself). Playa Linda is truly beautiful, as its name implies, and also offers tranquil water that is ideal for swimming. You can even go on horseback rides through the jungle that's nearby. From here you could also take a 10-minute boat ride to Ixtapa Island, or Isla Ixtapa. It has four beaches that are great for snorkeling, diving or just relaxing. On the island, Playa Coral is your best bet for snorkeling because of its clear waters.
Scuba diving is also high on our list of things to do in Ixtapa. Because two different currents meet here, marine life is quite diverse. You can see up to 100 feet in the clear water, and with corals, underwater canyons and shipwrecks, there's many sites from which to choose for your dive.
But don't think that beachfront activities in Ixtapa are the only things here to hold your interest. Zihuatanejo is home to La Costa Grande Archaeological Museum, which features artifacts that go from prehistoric to pre-Hispanic periods. The utensils, stone carvings, jewelry and figurines you'll see here were found at more than 50 archaeological digs in the area. It's a cultural jewel not to be missed!
Other can't-miss things to do in Ixtapa include visiting the Dolphinarium, where you can see playful bottlenose dolphins and even swim with them. And if you enjoy golf, bring your clubs. There are two excellent 18-hole courses in Ixtapa, located at each end of Playa El Palmar. The Palma Real Golf Course is a Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design, while the Marina Ixtapa Golf Club was designed by Robert von Hagge. Ready to discover this wonderful Mexico resort destination? Fly to Ixtapa with American Airlines and experience the unique allure of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo. You might just find your new favorite escape!
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