Zihua Trip Report

19Jun07
Arrived on Sunday, June 10, 2007 for our first time to Zihuatanejo.

Got off the plane and it was the easiest trip through customs I’ve ever had. I think it took 2 minutes.
Based on advice from the msg board we started looking for the taxis outside the gates of the airport. Along the way, a man stopped us and asked it we were with RCI. (we are) He then asked us where we were staying (Villa Vera Puerto Mio we told him) and he told us he was there to take us to our hotel. We were like wow this is new. My husband told him no one from RCI had ever met us before to which is he replied it was a new service. I looked at him and said really thinking to myself since when does RCI do anything but be a pain in your ass? Of course, he was there to “get us” to our hotel for $32! I said, no thanks. I can go right over there and catch a cab for less. He tried to convince me that was not possible and that the information I had was incorrect. I told him I was willing to take my chances and that if in fact I could not get a taxi outside the gate for less then I would come back and give him $32. He looked defeated. Point: me J
We walked the short distance past the entrance which is just a tiny gate, like at a toll booth, and we didn’t get two steps beyond it before a taxi swooped up to take us to our hotel. $20 was our quote. Not bad, hmm? It only cost us $16 on the trip back to the airport from our hotel so maybe we got overpriced but not a big deal.
I admit my husband and I were both a bit worried as we drove into the city and up to our hotel. We’ve been to many parts of Mexico but Zihua was looking pretty rough around the edges. This will probably (no, I’m sure of it knowing they way some tend to respond on the board) will cry foul but here me out…I’m only trying to give a realistic review here for first timers especially. DON’T worry. It’s really not as bad as it seems upon first glance. The city itself is really nice and clean and the people are wonderful. It does smell when you go past that little inner marina which is so strange to find. It’s like, where did that come from and where do the boats go? It seems surrounded by trees. We felt completely safe walking around even at night. So, no worries, ok? It gets better, I promise.
We stayed at the Villa Vera Puerto Mio b/c we have a time share and we have to exchange through RCI so our options were really limited. There are many better places to stay so unless you have to, I would not stay here. If you have no other choice or if you’ve already booked, please don’t worry too much – it wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t great either. Lots of people on the board really threw up red flags about this hotel’s location. Everybody has there own opinion and everybody thinks their favorite’s the best but seriously so you always have to keep that in mind when doing your research. The location was actually good. Yes, there are a lot of steps but unless you are physically handicapped or elderly, it’s not a big deal. The path is found by the pool where a set of stairs lead you to a street. Head to your left and you’ll come to a gate that takes you down to the footbridge. Cross that to town and to the pier. It’s an easy walk. It’s the heat/humidity that will get you before the walk does. Just before the bridge, there is a little restaurant on your left that serves great michiladas. This makes a nice place to cool down. Funny story: the building says specializing in Michiladas. On one particularly hot walk, we decided to stop for a Michi…turns out the place that “specializes in Michiladas” was upstairs!! But the ones we had were no disappointment. Again, easy (maybe) 5 minute walk down. VERY convenient to downtown. You can take a cab back up or down to/from hotel from 3-3.50US (depending on the taxi).


The hotel: It’s a nice looking hotel. Huge, beautiful wooden doors at the entrance. Friendly staff including Antonio, the concierge, was helpful. Our first room (yes, the first) was 502. It was on the top floor with the most interesting spiral stone staircase (about 10? Steps) up to the room. This room would not be good for people with trouble with health, etc. as it’s a tight stair climb – you don’t want to be drunk on these steps either!! A likely tumble is in your future. The room had tall ceilings and exposed beams with a really deep window seat above the king size bed. The beds were the best thing about this hotel. Very comfy. Nice size shower/jucuzzi tub and small balcony. We changed rooms b/c the smell was unbelievable. When we walked in I looked at the guy w/ our bags and said “do you smell that”…now again, I’ve been to mexico before and I know that sometimes you get that smell but this was overwhelming. He sniffed the air and shook his head no and said he didn’t smell anything. My husband thought he smelled cleaning solution so I decided to just go with it and not make a fuss. We’re happy to finally be in our room (which took forever due to the very late check in) and sit down for a second. The view was fantastic.

We went into town for dinner at Kau Kan which was just great with some of the prettiest views of the bay, fantastic service and great food. We enjoyed the sunset and sunk into our chairs and enjoyed our first night in Zihua. Coincidentally, we ran into friends at the restaurant. We all headed back to the Villa Vera hoping to sit at the bar and stare at the nice ocean view at the restaurant level. The restaurant/bar was closed (closed even at 10pm which sucked) so we took them up to show them our room and grab some beers from the mini fridge. I had warned them about the smell and they said their bathroom smelled a little at times (Villas de Morro?? Again coincidence – they were about 100 yards walking distance from our hotel) but when they walked in they made it clear it wasn’t the normal smell. There was a serious problem and it was happening in the shower area. They definitely said it was bad and this time even my husbang agreed it smelled worse than when we arrived. We walked down w/ our beers to sit in the empty restaurant and I decided to say something to the night reception. He looked at us as if we were from another planet and it wasn’t because he didn’t speak or understand English. He wouldn’t even respond to our questions. Seriously, he was the weirdest person so needless to say he never offered to check the room. We told the guest relations person in the morning and she was very apologetic and said she would get us a new room. The room she was moving us to needed to be cleaned and readied which took I swear at least 5 hours. We lucked out and got room 302 with a HUGE balcony. I’m talking enormous. Two couches, coffee table, even a sink. So we felt like we scored by sleeping through the smell. The room was basically very similar – same huge, comfy bed, separate shower and bath and huge Jacuzzi tub. The AC was only in the bedroom and took a long time to cool the room since there were gaps in the windows and no ceiling fans (unlike 502 which had a ceiling fan over the bed and in the bathroom). Once the room finally cooled…no complaints until the first and every time the staff came in to clean. They would turn the AC off when they left so when we got back in the evening or afternoon we’d come into a really hot room. I understand saving electricity but w/ the poor insulation it came off more and being cheap than conservative. I would rather conserve elsewhere like less changing out of towels. During our stay, the cleaning staff never cleaned the bath tub and there was a little spill of something that sat on a counter the entire seven days without being cleaned. Just minor details that should have been taken care of especially with the extra $25 cleaning service charge added onto by the hotel. They did leave beautiful floral designs on the bed everyday. We did have another issue with the AC – it wouldn’t cool, fan would work so that had to be fixed. The morning we got up to leave we woke up to a bad leak in the bathroom coming from the ceiling. Unfortunately we had sat our suitcase in that exact spot so it got wet. Perhaps it was b/c we were checking out that day but they didn’t seem in a hurry to repair the leak. So even as we left for our noon departure it still was raining in the bath area. They never offered to accommodate us for our troubles (other than the room change) which would have been welcomed. Something as simple as a complimentary drink from the bar…anything would have been welcomed especially when we were asked to wait such a lengthy time for a second room.

One night when we got in late from out on the town we arrived to locked doors and no one in the reception. We literally had to break in to get into the hotel. We banged profusely for about 10 minutes before my husband resorted to breaking and entering. He even tried ringing the phone from the darkened security post hoping someone somewhere would hear it in the reception but again silence. Thank goodness we found a way in through an open window (well, a window w/ no glass) but my husband had to crawl across a tile roof to get to it…fun, eh? We asked the next morning if there was a curfew we should have been told about and they said no and seemed shocked that nobody was there as there should have been someone at both the reception & the security post. Nice.
So, overall…good things about the Villa Vera Puerto Mio:
– convenient to town
– beautiful views
– Hugo, in the restaurant, was great
– The tiritas here were the best we had probably in all of Zih, I know weird.
– Antonio, the concierge
– Great, huge king beds, super comfortable
– Small property, not a big, artificial resort
The bad:
– smelly room and obvious sewer/drainage problems
– the water from the sink in the bath was always hot even from the cold side
– unresponsive staff on certain occasions
– the air conditioning issues during an extremely hot stay in June and the fact they would not leave it on in the room
– no free internet service. They charge you to use their internet and there is no way to print from the computer which would be really helpful when checking in online/printing boarding passes and such. Finding out on the last day of a week’s stay that they had wireless connection available the entire time for a weekly charge…what?!?
– The fact that they would come into your room even when you had a Do Not Disturb sign on the door (thus turning off the AC).
– A charge each time you dial out even using a phone card.
Overall, it wasn’t terrible and I’m sure could have been worse but I’ve definitely had better, more thoughtful service with better facilities at other Mexican hotels.

Restaurants, Cafes & Bars:
Kau Kan: La Ropa area
Fantastic sunset views and service, really awesome food. Small, intimate restaurant. Be sure to order the sushi like tuna stuffed w/ sea bass appetizer. We ordered the black bean soup upon suggestion – it was good but spicy and rich.

Café Zihuatanejo: Downtown Zihua near the craft market
My favorite place for breakfast and coffee in Zih (La Casa Café was closed so couldn’t compare at time of visit). The same guy was working each of our 3 visits except our last. It’s best when he does the preparation. Fantastic juevos rancheros served with even better black beans. The juevos mexicana was really good too. Wonderful cappuccinos and the frapp (cold coffee) are both excellent. It’s hot, get the frapp. The menu is slightly confusing especially if your Spanish isn’t so hot and they don’t speak any English here so stick with what’s recognizable J Hot cakes were really good too (on the day the guy wasn’t there, a woman instead she served it with honey and not syrup. I couldn’t communicate for syrup as I didn’t know the Spanish word. Is this normal to serve pancakes with honey?) It was still good if not a bit strange. My husband had a hamburguesa one morning. I don’t think he knew he was getting an actual hamburger at breakfast but it was still good. You’d be surprised what comes out of this absolutely tiny kitchen. Kinda hard to find..it’s on a pedestrian only street and note there is another Café Zihuatanejo that serves on the coffee beans and not the other. Cost for two with breakfast, coffees, water $17-19 US.

Salvador’s: over on Calle Adelita.
We went here one day after walking over to specifically go to La Casa Café which was closed. We were not disappointed. Salvador’s is really just a few tables outside. Friendly, quick service. Amazingly cheap! Really good food. Best cheap breakfast in Zihua. We tried the juevos rancheros and juevos mexicana plus coffee and water for $6.50! Yeah, buddy! What a steal.

De Donde Eres: on Calle Adelita.
My favorite restaurant in Zih. You can’t ask for a more unique and welcoming experience. Sabrina is the highlight of the visit (well, besides the food)…she’s Italian so if there is something on the menu for the night that is an Italian dish, get it as it is bound to be delicious. Three dishes served a night depending on what’s fresh. Be sure to get dessert and coffee as it is true Italian style coffee even though she admits its Mexican coffee. You get a little appetizer on the house. Only open Tuesday – Friday for dinner. We had two entrees, alcoholic drinks, water, dessert and coffee for $33 US. A must go-to place.

Caprichios: Downtown Zihua.
Elegant eclectic was especially beautiful by candlelight. If I went back to this restaurant, I’d probably only go for drinks and hit the De Donde Eres twice J. It does have a cool courtyard patio but if I had to do it over, I would sit at the front of the restaurant just for the amazing ambiance and to avoid the ants in the courtyard. All depends on your cup of tea. The service was good but not exceptional as it is one of the pricier places in town. The food is good. We tried the carparchio style fish appetizer which was really good. A mixed salad with apples and goat cheese was great. My pasta dish was excellent – had a spicy yet light sauce. My husband and friend’s boyfriend both had steak and both said they were overcooked. We had some sort of banana flambé – it was ok, if not a bit on the burnt side – probably something better on the menu. Fantastic frozen margaritas: Not too sweet, not too sour. Just right. Expensive – $140US for 4 people.

La Gula: on Calle Adelita
Wonderful meal for our last night in town. Beautiful, charming restaurant. Superb service and a very interesting menu with crazy good presentation.
What we had: For appetizer: the empanada (I think called a pasta turnover) filled with fish topped w/ a cold dressing was very good. The palm salad – wow. Served in a huge martini glass. Very fresh, dill dressing, awesome. The gula salad – good too, very different, it was a fish salad.
The mignon w/ the coffee sauce – best freaking steak our entire trip. Cooked to perfection. Really unique cold potato salad like side w/ a thin zucchini slice wrap, a nice light side to the steak. Steak Burritos were fantastic too. Big portions. Bread is served with dinner with a great flavored butter. Great dessert was a chocolate cake. With drinks and waters: $62 US for two people. If you have to throw down some cash to feel like you are on vacation, go to La Gula.

Bandidos: downtown Zih
Only had drinks and chips & salsa here. My husband went nuts over the salsas. They were good. A bit pricier than some places but a good place for people watching. Live music some nights we passed by.

Splash: downtown Zih
This places make me crack up. It’s a karaoke bar. Pretty cool on the inside with its blue walls and crazy paintings. Two floors with scattered tables. We sat at the bar and I felt sorry for the huge fish stuck in the tiny aquarium (the one actually built into the bar) and we had fun listening to the locals sing random songs in Spanish and we’d chime in if only to laugh at ourselves. You get teased with fun American top 40 music on random occasion b/t karaoke sets.

Barracuda: downtown Zih
Loved this little outdoor bar with its lighted sea shells dancing on the bar.

Elvira’s: on La Ropa beach
The locals were hanging out here so we thought this would be a good place. Spicy pico de gallo, fresh guacamole, cold beers and really friendly service. They have a few caged parrots and one for sure will say “hola” to you. They had a small wade pool w/ slide for kids. Special treat: getting an up close look at the baby sea turtle awaiting release.

Il Mare: La Ropa area
Beautiful views perched above the rocks. Italian fare. This is a really cute place unfortunately they spoil the views with cheesy Italian music played at an obnoxious volume that forces people to shout at each other to be heard and drowns the sound of waves crashing against the rocks. The service wasn’t as attentive here as other places at the price level. Dinner was ok but I feel like I have had the same sauce from a jar from the grocery store and the caprese salad was overshadowed by spices. Expensive.

Villa Vera Puerto Mio restaurant: at the hotel
I can’t remember the restaurant name but we ate here twice, once for an afternoon snack and once for breakfast. Unfortunately, I couldn’t enjoy the breakfast as we’d had dinner at Il Mare the night before and something in the food made me sick to my stomach. I think there was garlic in something I ate (I’m allergic) –no problem with freshness of food. Anyway, we had the tiritas here which was the best and most affordable in town – even better/cheaper than on La Barra which shocked me. We also had some of the best guacamole and pico de gallo we had the entire trip. Good service – ask for Hugo. Not too expensive. Our friends ate here for dinner and said it was great. Beautiful ocean view.

Villa Del Sol: bar beside the beach
Beautiful property with gorgeous views. $11US for two michiladas.

Beaches:
Las Gatas: $3.50US rt/pp
Loved it here…very relaxing and quiet, beautiful sand (but partially rocky bottoms) and plenty of places to choose from. You can snorkel out by the rocks here.
We sat at Otilia’s (if you are looking at the beach it’s to your right close to the end.
And our waiter was great. They have hammocks too in addition to loungers. If you order a pina colada, specify in the glass ($5) otherwise they automatically bring you the one in the pineapple which is beautiful don’t get me wrong but it’s also $10. Again, kind of our staple lunch in Mexico – fantastic guac, pico and corn tortillas and fish tacos $10US.

La Ropa: a completely different view of the bay. The only beach you can see the open water. Sandy beach; sandy bottoms; Lots of activities; Busy beach.

La Madera: the one by town. Nice pathway to walk along at night. Several restaurants located on this beach.

La Barra de Potosi: a 45 minute local bus ride ($1.40 pp plus $1 on a flat bed truck to get you down to beach). An interesting, safe and fun experience. The beach was nearly deserted when we arrived. You’ll find soft brown sand, no rocks anywhere. It’s not really a swimming beach due to the break but fun to get in and cool down. We sat at emerada La Condesa where other locals joined us. Good service, great food, really good pina coladas. Cheap – we had quite a bit of food and drink for $20-25US. Unless you really want to get away from it all, I suggest going to Las Gatas for a similar experience that’s quiet and a lot closer in.

Zihua was a beautiful and friendly place to visit. We’ll definitely be back.

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