Wondering what to do in Zihuatanejo Mexico?
When you first think about this coastal destination, you probably imagine that everything revolves around the sun, sea, and sand. But there are many fun things to do in Zihuatanejo off the beach if you know where to look.
I spent two weeks in the area to explore everything you need to know. Activities in Zihuatanejo range from snorkeling at the beach to historic tourist attractions.
I’ve also included day trips from Zihuatanejo for those that want to explore the surrounding area. And of course, this list of the top things to do include the beach because that’s probably what drew you here in the first place.
Continue reading to discover the best things to do in Zihuatanejo, including some unique activities you won’t find elsewhere.
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1. Snorkel at Playa Las Gatas
Playa las Gatas has some of the best snorkeling in Zihuatanejo without getting on a boat. It’s also one of my favorite beaches in the area to spend the day.
Located across the bay from town, the waters here are calm thanks to the rock jetty that shields the beach and coral reef from the waves. You can opt to go to Las Gatas on your own and rent gear from one of the restaurants.
Or book this Las Gatas snorkeling tour which starts with a short kayak paddle from Playa La Ropa. Your guide will also show you where to find the sunken bronze Christ statue
2. Go Parasailing Over Zihuatanejo Bay
Water activities, whether it’s standup paddle boarding, kayaking, or parasailing, are some of the most fun things to do in Zihuatanejo.
And Playa La Ropa is the place to catch a boat to go parasailing. You’ll fly high in the sky above the bay with incredible mountain and ocean views. You can ask about parasailing adventures directly at the beach when you arrive.
3. Splurge on a Day Pass at a Resort
Even if you aren’t staying at one of the resorts in Zihuatanejo, you can play for the day.
To spend the day at one of the nicest resorts, purchase a day pass to Thompson, a beach resort located on Playa La Ropa. The property features loungers on the beach and multiple pools, including an adults-only pool with a swim up bar.
Plus you can enjoy poolside service from restaurant Hao without lifting a finger. The menu at Hao features fresh seafood, wood-fired delicacies, and craft cocktails (not included).
You can also book a massage at their highly rated spa. With amenities like these, you may decide to book a room at Thompson resort instead.
4. Relax with a Massage
Getting a massage on vacation is always a top thing to do in my mind. But a relaxing beach vacation, such as visiting Zihuatanejo, particularly warrants a massage.
There are several places that offer massages in Zihuatanejo. I had a fabulous massage from Beny at La Perla Spa on Playa la Ropa. I also met someone who said the therapists at Playa Madera are great.
Prices start at 300 pesos per hour. And as a third choice, you can book a massage at Thompson resort if you prefer a more luxurious experience.
5. Ride Horses on the Beach
One of the other most unique activities in Zihuatanejo is to ride horses on the beach of Playa Larga. This long stretch of beach just south of town is the perfect spot to ride horses.
When you book this horse riding experience on the beach, you’ll explore a coconut farm by horseback as well. It also includes transportation from your hotel.
6. Turtle Release in Zihuatanejo
Releasing turtles in Zihuatanejo has become one of the top activities in the evenings, plus gets you out to watch the sunset over the ocean. It’s also a fun thing to do in Zihuatanejo with kids.
I recommend finding a responsible organization to support. There is a sea turtle release on Playa La Ropa but I witnessed some questionable practices by the guide. Plus it was more of a bulk release than a hands-on learning experience.
Campamento Tortuguero Ayotlcalli releases turtles most evenings from July through March at their location on Playa Blanca. You can participate with a 200 peso donation which helps support their mission. The event is posted on Facebook that morning, which does make planning difficult.
How to Get to the Turtle Release on Playa Blanca
You can arrive by public transportation (1st combi to the airport, 2nd to Playa Blanca). Although catching the combi back proved to be difficult. I waited a while for the return and ended up catching a ride in the back of a pickup with a friendly local resident.
If you prefer a more concrete way to travel there, you should book this Zihuatanejo turtle release experience with an English speaking guide. It includes round trip transportation and an explanation. They will also know where the turtle release is happening that day.
7. Take an Ocean Walk Along Paseo del Pescador
One of my favorite free things to do is to take a walk along the ocean in the mornings.
You may be familiar with the oceanfront boardwalk in many Mexican beach towns, called the Malecon. This is similar, but gets you even closer to the sea .
The Paseo del Pescador is a well maintained walkway that hugs the coastline from Playa Principal to the far end of Playa Madera.
You’ll find families walking together and people fishing from the pier. There isn’t much shade, so I recommend going in the early morning or late afternoon.
8. Visit the Costa Grande Archeological Museum
This small archeological museum is a must do when you’re passing by on the Paseo del Pescador.
Six rooms take you on a journey through different time periods of life in the Costa Grande region which spans the Pacific Coast from Acapulco to the area north of Troncones.
There are quite a few interesting archeological pieces on display here. Keep in mind, the signage is in Spanish so you may need to use a translation app that utilizes your camera, such as Google Translate.
Costa Grande Museum Details
📍 Map Location
⌚ Tuesdays – Sundays, 10 am to 6 pm
💵 15 pesos
9. Explore the City Market and Farmer’s Market
I always recommend visiting the local market when traveling in Mexico whether it’s your first time or 100th. It’s a great place to find inexpensive food to eat and to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.
In Zihuatanejo, the main Mercado is located in the center of town. Behind the market you’ll find various fruterías (fruit and vegetable stores) that stay open into the evening.
And behind those I was surprised to find yet another market called Mercado Municipal Campesino, or Farmer’s Market (map). This is the place to shop for fresh veggies, seafood, and meat directly from the farmers.
If you prefer to explore the Zihuatanejo market with a local guide, book this 3 hour food tasting and walking tour with explanations of everything you’re seeing and tasting.
Bonus Market – On Saturdays from 9 am – 1 pm, there is an organic market in Zihuatanejo located behind the museum (map). It’s a small market where you can find healthy food options including vegan baked goods as well as unique artisan crafts.
10. Take a Cooking Class in Zihuatanejo
If you love Mexican food, you should book this cooking class in Zihuatanejo to learn how to make Mexican dishes at home. It starts with an exploration of the market with your local guide leading the way.
You have a choice of learning how to make tamales, mole, or chile rellenos from Elsa who holds a knowledge of pre-Hispanic and contemporary Mexican cuisine. This hands-on experience is a fun thing to do in Zihuatanejo to remember your travels.
11. Eat Pozole on Thursdays
Thursday is Día de Pozole in the state of Guerrero. Many restaurants in Zihuatanejo offer pozole as a special on Thursdays while others keep it on their menu all the time.
Whether you time it for Thursday or not, I recommend trying pozole. This hearty soup is made with your choice of pork, chicken, or seafood along the coast. It features large corn kernels and a green, red, or white broth. The herbaceous green broth is a specialty of Guerrero.
I recommend trying the local spot Cenaduría Ricomar, located downtown about a block from the water.
12. Drink a Fresh Coconut
One of my favorite things about visiting the beaches in Mexico is fresh green coconuts.
I like to drink one every day to stay hydrated. And there’s no better place to continue this habit than along the coast of Guerrero which has a long history of coconut farming.
So where can you find fresh coconuts? One of my favorites is the truck that sits at the corner between downtown Zihuatanejo and La Madera (map).
If you’re in centro, there’s an appropriately named store, Miscelanea Los Cocos (map) that sells fresh coconuts. You can also order them at beach bars either natural or loco which adds your choice of rum or tequila.
Pro Tip – after you drink the coconut water, ask them to open the coconut so that you can scoop out and eat the meat. You’ll likely be given the option to add lime and hot sauce.
13. Buy Fresh Seafood at the Fish Market
If you want to cook your own seafood, one of the best places to buy fresh fish in Zihuatanejo is from the fishermen along the Paseo del Pescador. I spotted the makeshift fish market one morning while on my way to take a boat to Playa Las Gatas.
On the north edge of Playa Principal, look for the fish market in front of the ocean where the fishermen bring their boats in for the day. You’ll see several tables set up with coolers and a hanging scale. It doesn’t get fresher than that!
Is Zihuatanejo Safe? If you’ve asked yourself this question, read my guide to Zihuatanejo safety.
14. Go Whale Watching in Zihuatanejo
If you’re visiting during the winter months from mid-December to mid-March, there is an opportunity to see humpback whales in Zihuatanejo. During this time, they travel to the warm waters of the Pacific to breed and give birth.
It’s possible to see these magnificent creatures from the shore, but there’s nothing like (respectfully) getting closer to see them from a boat.
I recommend booking an experienced Zihuatanejo whale watching tour that respects marine life. Always keep in mind, mother nature is unpredictable and seeing humpback whales will partially rely on luck. You will likely see dolphins as well.
15. Go Scuba Diving at Los Morros de Potosí
This cluster of white granite rocks is one of the most interesting places to dive on the Mexican Pacific coast.
Located across from Barra de Potosí, this Zihuatanejo diving spot features vertical walls, caves, canals, and tunnels at varying depths.
Due to strong currents, Los Morros de Potosí is recommended for advanced divers, although there are some areas suitable for beginners.
16. Experience a Temazcal Ceremony
Best described as a sweat lodge, a temazcal ceremony is one of my favorite things to do in Mexico. I often seek one out whether I’m traveling or at my home in Oaxaca.
It can be an intense and spiritual experience. But I find the heat of the temazcal is usually less intense than a steam sauna.
The timing didn’t work for me to experience the temazcal near Zihuatanejo but I’ve experienced enough of them (at least 20!) to know this one looks legit. You can contact them via Facebook.
There are a few things to keep in mind as this Zihuatanejo activity won’t be for everyone. It’s also likely that the organizers only speak Spanish.
- Make sure you hydrate the day before. (remember that coconut water?)
- It’s best not to drink any alcohol the day or two before.
- Eat a light meal before the temazcal, such as fruit.
- Bring a bathing suit, towel, and a change of clothes.
- If there are songs or music inside, chant or hum along even if you don’t know the words. It helps to take your mind of the heat and feel more connected.
18. Free Sunday Cultural Event
Sundays are for families in Mexico and Zihuatanejo is no different. Every Sunday evening, the city hosts a free cultural performance at the basketball court near Playa Principal (map).
This is a great event for families. I recommend making a night of it, street food included!
There are a handful of food stalls set up one block behind the performance stage (walk away from the water). You will be able to buy elotes and esquites, sopes, quesadillas, and other Mexican foods.
Arrive at least an hour early if you want to eat first. This gives you time to check out all the stands and try lots of different Mexican snacks. Then make your way to the seating at the basketball court 15-30 minutes before the show starts.
Top Day Trips From Zihuatanejo
If you’re looking for things to do near Zihuatanejo, these day trips are what you’re looking for. They highlight the best of the surrounding area, blending history with nature and beaches of course.
19. Spend the Day on Ixtapa Island
One of my favorite things to do is to visit Ixtapa Island. It’s a relaxing day trip from Zihuatanejo. I recommend going in the morning and timing your visit for a weekday if possible.
To get to Ixtapa island you can take a boat from the pier at Playa Linda on the north side of Ixtapa. They leave every 10 minutes or when full beginning at 8:30 am.
Or you can book this snorkeling tour to take you to the island and show you the spots to snorkel. It includes round trip transportation from your hotel.
You can also visit the crocodile sanctuary located near the pier. Most tours include a quick guided visit as well.
20. Surfing at Troncones
If you’re into surfing, you’ll want to take a day trip from Zihuatanejo to Troncones which is located about 40 minutes north of Ixtapa.
There are several beaches near Troncones (and further north) to surf. Keep in mind, the current can be strong at these beaches so it’s best for experienced surfers.
You can also book this guided excursion to Troncones which includes snorkeling off shore and round trip transportation. You’ll have an opportunity to visit the other beaches in the area as well.
21. Visit Barra de Potosí on a Day Trip
Traveling the other direction from Zihua is the small fishing village of Barra de Potosí. Its coastline winds along the ocean to the large lagoon that’s home to a variety of bird species.
Its relatively calm waters draw visitors from surrounding villages, especially on the weekends. There are lots of beachside restaurants, called enramadas, that serve fresh fish and other dishes.
The town itself is quite small, with just a few dirt roads that wind past houses and the occasional business. If you’re interested in the birds of the area, I recommend booking this birdwatching and horseback riding experience that includes lunch and roundtrip transportation.
Otherwise you can get to Barra de Potosí by taking two combis. The first takes you to the airport. From there you’ll wait at the corner on the right for the second combi to Barra de Potosí.
22. El Refugio de Potosí
If you’re visiting Barra de Potosí during the weekend, consider stopping at El Refugio on the way. The feature of this animal refuge is the giant sperm whale skeleton that they rescued from the sea and then painstakingly reconstructed.
But there are lots of other highlights to discover as well. The rescued animals vary based on who needs rehabilitation and who they’ve been able to release back to the wild.
On my visit we watched a small pig enjoy an apple for breakfast, visited with a rambunctious baby coati, and hung out with some impressive native birds and large iguanas.
The roughly 1 hour tour is led by university students that are interning at El Refugio. And it seems as though there is always someone on site that speaks English.
At the end of the tour, you’ll have an opportunity to climb the viewing platform which has stunning 360 degree views from the top.
This is another great thing to do on Zihuatanejo with kids, although adults will thoroughly enjoy visiting El Refugio de Potosí as well.
El Refugio de Potosí Information
📍 Map Location
⌚ Saturdays and Sundays, 9 am to 1 pm (only mid November – mid March)
💵 100 pesos for a guided tour
50% discount for Mexican nationals
80% discount for locals to the area
23. Xihuacan Archeological Site
Xihuacan is a unique archeological site that was discovered in the middle of the 20th century and opened to the public in 2009.
It features the second longest ball court of the archeological sites in Mexico. But perhaps its most unique feature is the fact that the ball game was played at night with a rubber ball lit on fire.
Archeologists have only uncovered 2 acres of Xihuacan, so there aren’t a lot of structures to see. But the museum has a lot of unique figurines on display as well as more than one ball goal.
It’s a bit difficult to get to Xihuacan via public transportation. Plus, you need to drive between the museum and the archeological site itself. So I recommend booking this tour to Xihuacan with an English speaking guide.
24. Visit Petatlán to Buy Silver and Gold Jewelry
If you’re interested in buying gold or silver jewelry from the pueblo magico of Taxco Mexico, you should take the hour drive to Petatlán.
There’s not a lot to explore in this small town which is a popular pilgrimage site for those residing in the area. It’s known for a 17th-century image of Christ reputed to have performed religious miracles.
But it’s also known for its silver and gold market where you can find stall after stall of quality crafted jewelry.
Quick Note – I read that Petatlán is a colonial city. But when it struck me as newer, I asked my tour guide. He said, no it’s a campesino (farmer) town. The church is relatively new and there’s not a lot to see, so I’d only make a trip here if you’re interested in buying jewelry.
25. Museo del Coco
Located on a large coconut farm in the town of Coayual, the Museo del Coco gives visitors an opportunity to learn about coconut production which once dominated the area.
You’ll get the most out of your visit on a Sunday morning when they lead guided tours at 10 am (Spanish only). On the tour you’ll learn about the coconut trees and the process to make various products.
If you don’t visit on a Sunday or prearrange a group tour, there is an opportunity to buy various products made from coconuts. But other than a really cool mural and a few archeological artifacts displayed in a dusty case, there isn’t much to see.
Museo de Coco Information
📍 Map Location
⌚ Tuesdays – Sundays 8 am – 4 pm
Spanish guided tours on Sundays at 10 am (4 person minimum)
💵 Free to visit, 100 pesos per person for the tour
Final Thoughts about What to Do in Zihuatanejo Mexico
It’s known as the land of sun, sea, and sand but as you can see, there are more things to do in Zihuatanejo than those that revolve around the ocean. Of course, the beach activities play a large role as well.
I hope this gives you inspiration to get off your comfy lounge on the beach and explore different attractions in the area.
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.