Zihuatanejo Mexico: Your Ultimate Travel Guide (2024)

Thinking of traveling to Zihuatanejo Guerrero?

You’ll want to read this Zihuatanejo travel guide I created after spending two weeks in the area.

It includes everything you need to know, including the best time to visit Zihuatanejo, what to do, where to stay, and where to eat with links to my in depth articles about each topic.

I’ve also included a short section about whether you should stay in Ixtapa or Zihuatanejo Mexico in case you still haven’t decided. (The answer is, it depends!)

So let’s dive in to explore this coastal destination!

Scenic view of the bay in Zihuatanejo Mexico with its calm waters, rocky shoreline, and lush hillsides dotted with buildings. The walkway, paseo del pescador, snakes along the oceanfront below.

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Where is Zihuatanejo Mexico?

Zihuatanejo is located along the Pacific Coast of Mexico in the state of Guerrero in an area known as La Costa Grande. It’s 145 miles (235 km) northwest of Acapulco and 373 miles (600 km) southwest of Mexico City.

What is the nickname for Zihuatanejo?

Zihuatanejo is often referred to as Zihua for short. It’s an affectionate nickname used by both locals and visitors that reflects the friendly, laid-back atmosphere of the town​.

Fun Fact – One belief is that the origin of the name Zihuatanejo comes from Nahuatl and loosely translates to “the place of women.”

What is Zihuatanejo Known For?

A couple wearing bathing suits walk along the waterline at Playa La Ropa in Zihuatanejo Mexico. The beach has a line of palm trees, colorful umbrellas, and several sailboats. In the background are several hotels and resorts.

Zihuatanejo is known for its beautiful beaches, tall coconut palm trees, and laid back vibes. While it was once a sleepy fishing village on the coast of Guerrero Mexico, Zihuatanejo has been discovered as one of the top beach towns in Mexico.

Zihuatanejo was made famous in the movie The Shawshank Redemption. The main character escapes prison and travels to Zihuatanejo, his dream destination.

Fun Fact – The Shawshank Redemption was not filmed in Zihuatanejo. Most of the filming took place in Ohio, with several beach scenes shot on the Caribbean island of Saint Croix in the US Virgin Islands.

What to Do in Zihuatanejo

A man rides his bicycle along the Paseo del Pescador, one of Zihuatanejo's safest areas. Behind him, palm trees are silhouetted by the sun rising over the ocean.

There are many things to do other than going to the beach if you know where to look. If you’re planning to visit Zihuatanejo, you should read my full guide about what to do in Zihuatanejo and the surrounding area.

Highlights of what to do in Zihuatanejo:

  • Go snorkeling at Playa Las Gatas
  • Release sea turtles on Playa Blanca
  • Visit the small fishing village of Barra de Potosí
  • Tour El Refugio animal sanctuary and marvel at the sperm whale skeleton
  • Take a day trip to Isla Ixtapa
  • Tour the archeological ruin, Xihuacan

Where to Stay in Zihuatanejo

A quiet street scene in La Madera Zihuatanejo Mexico depicts a bright orange VW Beatle parked on the side of the shady street.

There are three main areas to stay in Zihuatanejo – downtown, La Madera, and La Ropa. And all of them can be easily accessed by taxis or public transportation called combis.

I chose to stay in La Madera since it’s close to beaches, restaurants, and downtown. La Ropa is great for groups and families or those that want to be closest to the best beaches. Downtown may be best for budget travelers, although you can find a range of accommodations in each location.

I’ve listed a the top Zihuatanejo hotels below for every budget.

La Casa Que Canta ($$$$) – Gorgeous oceanfront property near La Ropa Beach with multiple swimming pools surrounded by lush plants.
Thompson Beach Resort ($$$) – Modern resort located on Playa La Ropa with swimming pool, restaurant, and spa.
Zihua Mia Hotel ($$) – Modern one bedroom apartments in downtown Zihuatanejo with a shared pool and terrace.
Hotel Casa Mandarine ($) – Private rooms in downtown Zihuatanejo with shared rooftop terrace, high speed internet, and air conditioning.

Where to Eat in Zihuatanejo

An inviting outdoor seating arrangement at a beachfront restaurant in Zihuatanejo, overlooking the scenic bay with tables set for a high end dining experience at one of the best restaurants in Zihuatanejo.

Places to eat in Zihuatanejo range from fine dining restaurants that feature fresh seafood to small local restaurants serving pozole verde to beach bars and even a couple of vegan places.

If you’re traveling to Zihuatanejo, you should read my full restaurant guide, although I’ve listed a few of my top picks below.

  • La Gula A fine dining restaurant in La Madera featuring seafood, steaks, and wine.
  • Carmelitas Café A top place for breakfast in a shady garden patio.
  • Cenaduría Ricomar Local restaurant that specializes in pozole, a Thursday specialty in Guerrero.
  • Fonda Doña Licha An affordable place to eat in Zihuatanejo downtown.
  • Tritón One of the best places to eat in La Ropa.

Is Zihuatanejo Worth Visiting?

Vibrant downtown Zihuatanejo street decorated with papel picado. Pedestrians enjoying the safety of Zihuatanejo along a walking street.

Yes, Zihuatanejo is absolutely worth visiting! Zihuatanejo is a fun Mexican beach town located on the Pacific Coast of Guerrero. If you enjoy beaches, snorkeling, and fresh seafood, you’ll love traveling to Zihuatanejo Mexico.

Even if lounging at the beach every day isn’t your idea of a vacation, you should visit Zihuatanejo. There are many things to do away from the sun, salt, and sand thanks to the cultural richness of the area.

Ixtapa vs Zihuatanejo

At this point, you may be wondering, is it better to stay in stay in Ixtapa or Zihuatanejo? The answer is, it depends!

While I had a feeling I would prefer Zihuatanejo, I spent time in both Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo to get a feel for each of them.

Colorful letters are stacked vertically spelling out Ixtapa. Behind is a palm tree and the main street in Ixtapa Zihuatanejo.

If you like to a well planned resort area with wide sidewalks and all inclusive hotels, Ixtapa will appeal to you more.

If you want to visit a small Mexican town turned tourist destination with all its quirky charms, then you should visit Zihuatanejo.

No matter which one you choose, you can visit both as they are only about 5 miles (8.5 km) apart. It takes roughly 20 min to drive from the center of one to the center of the other. And you can choose to take a taxi, combi, or even bike.

Best Time to Visit Zihuatanejo

Most people will agree the best time to visit Zihuatanejo is December through March when the heat and humidity subside a bit.

Naturally, the winter months are when most people travel to Zihuatanejo, so you can expect higher prices and more people during that time.

A tropical mural in Zihuatanejo Mexico painted on the side of a building depicts a woman's face with the background of a jaguar mask surrounded by tropical plants.

Zihuatanejo Weather

Zihuatanejo is hot and humid. I’m talking sweat rolling down your back before 9 am type of humidity, even in the shade. When I visited in mid November, the heat was still lingering and it made doing much of anything in the middle of the day unbearable.

Fortunately, the weather in Zihuatanejo simmers down by December with average high temps in the upper 80s and significantly less humidity. That being said, it’s possible you’ll travel to Zihuatanejo when the heat and humidity is increased. You can check the averages on Weatherspark.

How to Get to Zihuatanejo Guerrero

There are international flights to Zihuatanejo from cities such as Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, Vancouver, and Montreal. Although you may find it’s best to make a connection in Mexico City or Guadalajara due to limited flight times.

If you’re wondering about getting to Zihuatanejo from other places in Mexico, it’s likely best to take an internal flight since it takes 8+ hours to drive from Guadalajara or Mexico City to Zihuatanejo Guerrero.

Since I was in Michoacán for Day of the Dead prior to my visit, I traveled to Zihuatanejo from Uruapan via a bus which took about 5 hours.

Large street art on the side of a building in La Madera Zihuatanejo Guerrero depicts a blue whale with monarch butterfly wings, fish, and bubbles.

Is it Safe to Travel to Zihuatanejo?

Yes, for the majority of travelers it is safe to travel to Zihuatanejo Mexico. You will want to take normal travel precautions, check weather conditions, and follow beach guidelines during your visit.

If you’re concerned and want to learn more, read my guide to Zihuatanejo safety.

Final Thoughts: Traveling to Zihuatanejo Mexico

While this Pacific coast destination in the state of Guerrero is no longer the a sleepy fishing village, it offers a lot to travelers.

From beautiful beaches to delicious restaurants and plenty of things to do nearby, traveling to Zihuatanejo was a highlight for me. It will remain one of my favorite Mexican beach towns.

Questions About Zihuatanejo Guerrero

Why is Visit Zihuatanejo?

Zihuatanejo is a small fishing village turned tourist destination that is known for beautiful beaches and fresh seafood. In addition, there are some cultural activities in the area.

Why is Zihuatanejo famous?

Zihuatanejo was featured in the movie The Shawshank Redemption when the main character, Red, escaped prison and dreamed of traveling to Zihuatanejo Mexico. It is depicted in the movie as a kind of paradise or dream destination, which aligns with its reputation as a serene and beautiful beach town​.

Is the Mexican town in Shawshank Redemption real?

Yes, the Mexican town of Zihuatanejo mentioned in “The Shawshank Redemption” is real. While none of the movie scenes were actually filmed there, the script references this beach town located in Guerrero state.

What food is Zihuatanejo known for?

Zihuatanejo is known for fresh seafood, owing to its coastal location. Notable dishes include pozole, a meat (and sometimes seafood) stew traditionally served every Thursday. Another popular dish is tiritas de pescado, a dish made with fish strips marinated in lime juice.

Is Zihuatanejo a party town?

Nightlife in Zihuatanejo dies down relatively early. The area is more renowned for its relaxed Mexican atmosphere rather than being a party town. It offers a tranquil environment with a focus on enjoying its beautiful beaches, cultural experiences, and local cuisine. While there are opportunities for nightlife, it’s not primarily known as a party destination like some other Mexican beach towns.