“I have two weekdays off in early December,” my husband informed me. After making him
triple quadruple check this with multiple people, we decided to go to Ixtapa. Ixtapa is a beach destination that many expats and locals recommended. We decided that four days there would be enough time to get a good taste of the beach and would be worth the 5-6 hour drive.
“Wait, we leave for the US 4 days later,” I said to my husband. “That’s just crazy.”
“Let’s do it,” he said.
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A Quick Guide to Ixtapa
If you are looking for a relaxing vacation, yet one that still manages to tire out the kids, a beach destination like Ixtapa in Guerrero, Mexico is an excellent choice to unwind. For families, the resorts are incredibly well priced and there are many that are all-inclusive. Not worrying about meal planning, cooking, and cleaning make for a relaxing vacation for moms and dads, too.
If a lot of relaxation was the only good thing about Ixtapa, I’d recommend it, but there was more… you can also see baby sea turtles! Many of the hotels release them and guests can watch them make their way to the water.
This is a quick overview of the area. We stayed 3 nights/4 days. As it is a close beach destination for us, we plan to return again! In December, the temperature highs are in the mid-80s F and the lows are the low to mid-70s F. It was a lot warmer than where we live in Central Mexico!
While there, I met a couple from Wisconsin that was staying for two weeks. Of course, the biggest expense from the states are the flights. Once you’re there, the hotels are fairly inexpensive for a longer stay.
Additionally, on our flights home from the US, I met a couple of American women who were staying in Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo for a month. If you can swing a longer stay, you can do more exploring!
Where We Stayed
We stayed at Barcelo Ixtapa, an all-inclusive resort that is right on the beach. The resort is older, dated, and in need of cosmetic upgrades. However, it’s clean and everything seems properly maintained. The property has 4 pools (including a shallow one that just for kids) and has beach front access.
I chose an upgraded room. At this time of year, the price difference was pretty small. It had a bedroom with two Queen beds, a kitchenette (which included a sink, microwave, and small refrigerator). We were apparently upgraded to the best view available, so when I stepped out on our balcony, I could see the pacific. There was a roof partially obstructing the view, but I am still happy with it. I wasn’t there to stare at the ocean from my room.
Click to book at any Barcelo hotel in the world!
Since it was a holiday weekend in my state, many people I know visited Ixtapa at the same time. Other friends of ours stayed at Las Brisas. Our research indicates that the newest resorts in Ixtapa are already 30 years old, but Las Brisas was remodeled around a decade ago. Even though we really liked Barcelo Ixtapa, we plan to try Las Brisas out on our next trip to Ixtapa.
The resort’s food
Mexicans typically eat a large lunch starting around 2 pm. However, the resorts do start serving meals starting at times that are normal for Americans. We’d hit the buffets right when they opened and had the freshest options.
The food at Barcelo was only okay, though they did make a great ceviche surprisingly. Ceviche is a popular dish here in Mexico and contains seafood, lime, and it’s occasionally spicy as all get out. It’s a little different in every region, so it’s worth trying in multiple places.
Off resort: The Market
Across from the resorts (many are lined up next to each other, as is typically in resort towns), there is a strip mall and market. A lot of people speak English there, so you can’t get away with saying, “no hablo espanol,” if you’re introverted. You will find anything and everything there you can imagine. We bought a few souvenirs at a shop, turtle shaped magnets, for a whole 20 pesos each (at the time, this is just over $1 USD).
The disadvantage of the all-inclusive resort is that you don’t need to go try the local food. The only thing I tried off the resort in Ixtapa is ice cream.
On and Off resort activities
As usual, we did not pursue any on or off resort activities. Of course, there are many options. Friends of ours went fishing, with a fish fry on a beach somewhere. On the beach in front of our hotel, people could parasail. Ask at your resort for the activities that are available.
The friends who went fishing recommended to book day trips at the resort because they ended up not completely understanding their tour package and had to incur extra expense getting a taxi back to the hotel because they were dropped off somewhere several miles away.
Additionally, the resorts offer activities for kids. Barcelo had a playroom and activities scheduled each day. In the evening, they set up an outdoor screen and chairs in the grassy area and showed kids’ movies.
A note about ethical animal tourism
Animals are exploited all over the world for tourism purposes. I discovered the hard way that I made a mistake when I went diving with stingrays, so now I always try to research the things I want to do before doing them.
In my research, I’ve discovered that it’s important to avoid anything that includes “swimming with captive animals,” such as dolphins. First, dolphins are usually ripped violently from their pods and then underfed in order to perform.
Since many resorts release baby turtles, I came home and researched if this was ethical/sustainable. I believe if they offer minimal handling of the turtle babies and use gloves while handling, that they are being ethical (your mileage may vary).
Another thing you can do to support turtle conservation is to avoid buying anything that include turtle shells in the design, such as tortoise shell combs. If the vendor has turtle shell items in his or her inventory, tell the you won’t be supporting them and exactly why.
I’ll go again!
Ixtapa is a great, low cost, family-friendly destination. We spent a lot more time on the beach than we did during our Puerto Vallarta trip. It was cleaner. There wasn’t any debris washing up on shore. Early December is a slower season, so the resort and the beaches weren’t as busy. That’s also a plus!
Where is your favorite beach destination? Do you prefer glossy all-inclusives or an experience that involves more local exploring?
While I do believe that Ixtapa itself is a fairly safe resort town, the safety in the state Guerrero may be declining. At this time, I do not recommend that tourists drive there and instead opt to fly into Zihuatanejo.