The best beaches in Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa feature bays of golden sand lined with coconut trees.
Waves slowly lap on shore which is protected from the cliffs that turn a rich green during the summer rainy months. And to top it off, my favorite Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo beaches have mountain views from the ocean.
Whether you want to be active with water sports or spend the day lounging in the shade in front of clear turquoise waters, there’s a beach for you.
Use this guide to the beaches in Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo to discover your favorite. Or if you’re like me, you’ll visit each beach to enjoy their unique characteristics.
I’ve separated this list into two categories – Zihuatanejo beaches and Ixtapa beaches, starting with my favorite beaches in each. Continue reading to the end to discover some bonus beaches near Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa.
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Beaches in Zihuatanejo
Zihuatanejo Bay is an oblong shaped cove that contains five beaches within it.
You can visit them all but some are more ideal for swimming. And ultimately your favorite Zihuatanejo beach will depend on your preferences.
I’ve started with the best beaches in Zihuatanejo for swimming and spending the day. And if you prefer wide open beaches, you won’t want to miss Playa Larga and Playa Blanca south of Zihuatanejo.
1. Playa La Ropa
Many people consider La Ropa to be the best beach in Zihuatanejo. And I generally agree because of its long beach and accessibility.
Because it faces west, Playa La Ropa features beautiful sunsets and a steady breeze. It’s also one of the busiest Zihuatanejo beaches, although it never felt too crowded when I was there.
The beach has a several restaurants and resorts, though not as dense as the beaches in Ixtapa.
Playa La Ropa is also the beach to go to if you want to do water activities such as sailing, kayaking, and parasailing, one of the best things to do in Zihuatanejo.
How to Get to La Ropa Beach
If you’re not staying at one of the hotels near La Ropa, you can take a taxi, combi, or walk from other parts of town.
With the heat and humidity, my preference is to take a combi. Look for one that says Playa La Ropa across the front windshield.
You can catch it in downtown Zihua near the Mercado or in La Madera on the road that goes to La Ropa beach. It takes passengers all the way to the beach, turning around near the La Ropa letters.
2. Playa Las Gatas
Playa Las Gatas is located past La Ropa on the far end of the point. It became my favorite beach in Zihuatanejo because of its seclusion and calm turquoise water.
The man made rock jetty protects the beach, allowing the waves to gently roll to shore. It and the coral creates one of the best places for snorkeling in Zihuatanejo.
Like most beaches, Las Gatas beach is lined with restaurants. For less people, I recommend choosing a restaurant in the center of the beach, away from the dock.
At the far end, there is a small stretch of beach without restaurants. In the morning it’s shaded by a grove of coconut palms. On this part of the beach I felt encapsulated by the trees which were lush from the rains.
I did notice this end of the bay tends to keep more of the plant debris which increased as the day went on.
Keep in mind the beach at Las Gatas does have some small rocks. I wore my water hiking shoes to explore the area. I found them not necessary for the water, but others may feel differently.
How to get to Las Gatas Beach
Las Gatas is located almost directly across from the center of Zihuatanejo on the bay. If you want to go snorkeling, I recommend booking this kayaking and snorkeling tour of Las Gatas.
If you prefer to go on your own, the easiest way to get there is to take a boat from the dock in Zihuatanejo. They take visitors to Playa Las Gatas everyday from 8 am to 5 pm for 80 pesos round trip.
You can also get to Las Gatas beach by walking from Playa La Ropa. The dirt path starts next to the La Ropa letters. Keep in mind, the end of the path requires some rock hopping, so it’s not for everyone.
Did you know? Las Gatas Beach is named after the mostly harmless nurse sharks that used to inhabit these waters. The species is known to live near coral reefs.
3. La Madera Beach
Playa la Madera is a low key beach located near centro. It’s also the location of some of my favorite restaurants in Zihuatanejo.
The main beach is relatively calm with waves that break far from shore and slowly come in like a shelf. It’s easy to access via the Paseo del Pescador which always made me wonder why this beach wasn’t busier when I visited.
If you’re looking for a beach with less people located close to town, La Madera is a good contender. The area is also my favorite places to stay in Zihuatanejo.
4. Playa Principal
Based on location, this is the main beach in Zihuatanejo Bay. It’s located along the pathway built between Playa Principal and Playa La Madera.
There are a few restaurants along this beach. In many instances the restaurant is located across the pathway with a covered seating area close to the beach.
Typically I avoid the main beach because it’s full of boat traffic. But once the fishermen were done in the mornings, I noticed that a lot of the boats stayed on the other side of the pier.
5. Playa Contramar
This cove with a small rocky beach is best for snorkeling. Playa Contramar is located just outside of centro on the northwest side of the bay. And if you’re looking for quiet, it’s a nice area to stay in Zihuatanejo.
Keep in mind there are no restaurants at Playa Contramar. You’ll want to bring any snacks and drinks that you need and keep your valuables at home.
Traveling to Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa? You may be wondering, is Zihuatanejo safe?
6. Playa Larga and Playa Blanca
Looking for long sandy beaches with amazing sunsets? You should visit Playa Larga and Playa Blanca located near the airport.
The waves are stronger on these Zihuatanejo beaches since they face the open ocean. They should be okay for confident swimmers but I always recommend watching the sea before you jump in.
You should also pay attention to any red flag warnings and look to see where others are swimming. Keep in mind ocean conditions can change throughout the day.
There are a few restaurants along these beaches, mostly concentrated in Playa Larga. Many include access to a swimming pool since the ocean can be too rough for swimming.
Want to release turtles in Zihuatanejo? From July to March Tortuguero Ayotlcalli hosts a sea turtle release in the evenings on Playa Blanca . For a small donation, which helps support the organization, you can release your own turtle. The announcement is made on the morning of, via Facebook.
Alternatively, you can book this sea turtle release tour at Playa Blanca which includes transportation.
Ixtapa Zihuatanejo Beaches
Ixtapa beaches are more spread out than those tucked into Zihuatanejo’s bay. However, it’s easy to get to them via taxi or combi.
If you’re staying at one of the resorts in Ixtapa, you may be inclined to only visit the beach in which your resort is located. But I encourage you to get out and explore others.
Similar to the list of Zihuatanejo beaches, I’ve started with my favorite beaches in Ixtapa.
7. Isla Ixtapa Beaches
I loved this island so much I wrote an entire guide to visiting Ixtapa Island. I’ll do a brief summary here.
There are three beaches on Ixtapa Island, all of which are within a 10 min walk. To get to Isla Ixtapa, you can either take a boat from Playa Linda or book this snorkeling tour to Ixtapa Island which includes transportation.
Playa Varadero is the first beach you’ll arrive at when you get off the boat.
While it sounds like that would be the beach to avoid, Playa Varadero was my favorite beach on Ixtapa Island. I enjoyed the mountain view past the sealine and that it was more protected from the elements.
Playa Coral is the most popular beach for snorkeling in Ixtapa.
The waves can get strong on Playa Coral which can make timing your exit among its shallow coral slightly tricky. I found the sun to be a bit intense on Playa Coral which was the other reason I chose Varadero Beach.
Playa Cuachalalate is the calmest of the beaches in Ixtapa Island. It faces away from the open ocean, towards the hotel zone. This is a great beach for families with kids. This is another place to snorkel in Ixtapa Zihuatanejo.
8. Playa Quieta
The bay at Playa Quieta is lined with bright green palms and palapa huts. It’s located along the second hotel zone which means it’s less densely populated. The beautiful landscape is further enhanced by distant mountain views on the north end, towards Playa Linda.
The water is calm, hence the name which translates to Calm Beach. The darker golden sand results in water that is not as clear as others, although I wouldn’t let that prevent you from visiting. I consider this to be one of the best beaches in Ixtapa for its laid back vibe and calm waves.
With fewer people than Playa El Palmar, swimming at Playa Quieta during sunset was a highlight for me.
Staying in Ixtapa Zihuatanejo? Discover the best restaurants in Ixtapa to eat.
9. Playa El Palmar
Located along the hotel zone, El Palmar is the main beach in Ixtapa. This long stretch of oceanfront is lined with resorts, thus drawing a lot of people to play in its waves. However, I found it to be spread out enough to still enjoy the beach, even on a Saturday afternoon.
The Ixtapa resorts in this area draw lots of Mexican tourists during the weekend and holidays. I lost count of the number of weddings I saw on a Saturday afternoon. If you prefer less people, visit Palmar Beach during the week or opt for one of the other Ixtapa beaches.
Keep in Mind Unless you’ve booked a room at one of the resorts in Ixtapa located along El Palmar, you can only access the beach via two public access points. Access to El Palmar II is on the far north end and access to El Palmar I is on the south end.
So what’s the difference between the two? You can walk from one end to the other so you don’t really need to choose, but it’s nice to know what access point you prefer.
El Palmar I is more densely populated with resorts and people. There are no beach bars since it’s lined with hotels.
El Palmar II is less populated, especially along the north side (near the access point). You’ll find several beach bars and massage huts. However, the waves are also bigger and not always recommended for swimming.
10. Playa Linda
Playa Linda is a wide stretch of beach on the north side of Ixtapa. I love the dense coconut trees that line its northern edge, providing a more natural, rustic landscape.
If you order food and drinks from one of the beach restaurants, you can use their tables, chairs, shade, and sometimes a hammock if you order food and drinks.
Note – There is a crocodile sanctuary next to Playa Linda where you can spot crocodiles and large iguanas. I found it slightly underwhelming but I can see how it would be exciting for families with young kids. I wouldn’t make a special trip to see it. But you should check out the viewing platform located at the entrance to Playa Linda whether you come for the beach or to take a boat to Ixtapa Island.
Bonus: Two Beaches Near Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa
There are several beaches near Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa that are worth exploring, especially if you have an interest in surfing or birdwatching.
11. Troncones Beaches Near Ixtapa Zihuatanejo
If you’re into surfing, you’ll want to go to the beaches near Troncones. This small beach town is located about 45 minutes north of Ixtapa. In addition to Troncones beach, there is La Majahua and Playa La Saladita both further north.
Keep in mind, these beaches have strong waves and an undertow since they face the open ocean. For swimming, it’s best to stay in the protected cove beaches of Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa.
How to Get to Troncones Beach
If you want to make a day of it and visit all three beaches in the area, I recommend booking this tour which includes snorkeling off shore. It includes transport between the beaches which would be hard to do on your own.
Otherwise, it is possible to take a combi to Troncones. You’ll first need to take one that will drop you along the highway at the road leading to Troncones. Then wait for another (or a taxi) to take you down the road to the town. There is a shaded bus stop area to wait for the second combi.
12. Barra de Potosí Lagoon and Beach Near Zihuatanejo
South of Zihuatanejo is Barra de Potosí, a small beach town situated between a mangrove lagoon and the ocean. The lagoon is a haven for for the more than 200 species of birds that call this area home.
The beach at Barra de Potosí curves around from the open ocean towards the lagoon, becoming calmer as it enters the protected lagoon. It’s a wide beach lined with restaurants, called enramadas.
If birds is your main reason for visiting Barra de Potosí, I recommend arriving in the morning to take a boat tour of the mangroves. Or book this bird watching and horseback riding experience which combines the lagoon and beach at Playa Larga.
Pro Tip – Most beaches are busy on the weekends and it’s no different for Barra de Potosí. On Sundays, loads of tour buses bring visitors to Barra de Potosí from the nearby mountain towns. As a solo traveler, I sometimes seek out these family affairs in Mexico, but it did make for a busy beach.
How to Get to Barra de Potosí
You need to take two combis to get to Barra de Potosí from Zihuatanejo. Although it’s a frequently used route so you shouldn’t have any issues. Look for a combi that says aeropuerto. You’ll take that all the way to the airport and get out where it turns around. Then walk to the right and wait for a second combi to Barra de Potosí. It will take you past Playa Blanca and all the way to the town.
Final Thoughts on Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo Beaches
What strikes me most about the beaches in Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa are the beautiful coconut palm trees blended with mountain landscapes. I enjoyed the cove beaches like Las Gatas and Isla Ixtapa most because of their turquoise waters with calm waves.
But for everyday, there are more convenient beaches that are still good for swimming. That’s especially true of the Zihuatanejo beaches whose large cove protects them from the open ocean.
Which ones you decide to be the best beaches in Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo will depend on your priorities. Why not take the time to visit them all?
FAQ About the Beaches in Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo
Can you swim in the ocean in Zihuatanejo?
Yes, you can swim in the ocean in Zihuatanejo. The waters are generally calm at the beaches in Zihuatanejo, especially in the main bay. However, it’s always a good idea to watch the ocean before you jump in, observe where others are swimming, and heed any flag warnings. Conditions can change daily and with the season.
How are the beaches in Zihuatanejo Mexico?
The beaches in Zihuatanejo are renowned for their natural beauty and tranquility. The beaches feature golden sand lined with coconut trees and mountain views with stunning sunsets. Many Zihuatanejo beaches are in a protective cove, with a few facing the open ocean and thus less suitable for swimming.
Which is better Ixtapa or Zihuatanejo?
The choice between Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo depends on individual preferences. Ixtapa is a modern resort destination with a developed, commercialized atmosphere. It provides a relaxing, all inclusive type vacation. Zihuatanejo, in contrast, offers a more traditional, small town charm with a laid-back vibe of being at the beach.
How many beaches are in Zihuatanejo?
There are five beaches within the heart of Zihuatanejo Bay – Playa La Ropa, Playa Principal, Playa Madera, Playa Las Gatas, and Playa Contramar which is a rocky beach good for snorkeling. There are several other beaches near Zihuatanejo, most of which have stronger waves since they face the open ocean. Each beach has its unique character, offering diverse experiences for visitors.
Does Ixtapa have nice beaches?
Yes, there are beautiful beaches in Ixtapa. The most stunning are the three beaches tucked into the coves on Isla Ixtapa, a short boat ride from the mainland. Other top Ixtapa beaches include Playa Palmar, Playa Linda, and Playa Quieta.
Is the water clear in Ixtapa?
The clearest water is at the beaches in Ixtapa Island, a 10 minute boat ride from Ixtapa mainland. The island has three beaches with turquoise water and calm waves.
Where can I see crocodiles in Zihuatanejo?
You can observe crocodiles in the sanctuary near Playa Linda in Ixtapa. You will also see large iguanas living in the sanctuary. This is a nice stop on the way to the nearby beaches in Ixtapa.
About Julien Casanova
I’m happy you found me. I’m a solo female traveler and the creator of Cultures Traveled. I specialize in Mexico and Colombia travel with an emphasis on getting out of routine bucket list travel so you can immerse yourself in the local culture, make new friends, and experience different traditions.