Ixtapa is smallish, purpose-built resort town - a glorified suburb of Zihuatanejo really – boasting the best beaches in the state of Guerrero’s Costa Grande region… and some of the best beaches in all of Mexico.
Playa El Palmar
Palmar is Ixtapa’s main attraction, its raison d'etre, and a world-class beach by any measure. It’s so spacious that despite all the tourists that come during the holidays, it never feels overly crowded. During non-peak times, visitors can practically enjoy the privacy of their own 3-kilometer long stretch of golden sandy beach.
Playa Palmar is an excellent spot for eating, drinking, relaxing, taking long walks, parasailing, body boarding, boating, and riding the banana (if you don’t know what that one is I’ll leave it to your imagination), but it’s not such a great place for swimming. The waves at Palmar come in from the open ocean and they can be rough. You can wade in a bit, joust with the waves, but don’t go too far out or the ocean might just carry you away. Lifeguards in red and white gear are stationed every… kilometer or so.
There are plenty of message tables where one can get an hour-long message for as little as $200 pesos, which is about $16 USD as of this writing. Try finding a deal like that in Vallarta or Cancún.
The unusual and rather beautiful rock formations just off the coast give the beach a distinct personality. So too does its less than natural assortment of hotels, resorts, beach restaurants, and condos. In fact, Playa Palmar’s real estate is so well populated that the beach is not even visible from Ixtapa’s main boulevard. If you’re not staying at one of the hotels or condos that monopolize access to the beach, you might wonder how you get in.
In fact, there are only two pretty discreet public access points about a kilometer and a half apart, both, not so coincidentally, located near the two OXXOs that reside along the main boulevard Ixtapa.
If you're looking for a slightly better landmark, they are located just northwest of the Park Royal Hotel and southeast of the Presidente InterContinental.
If you're into surfing, check out Las Escolleras which is located at the northern end of Playa Palmar near the entrance to the marina. You'll notice perhaps a dozen or more surfers bobbing up and down waiting to catch the next wave while others loung around the beach waiting to catch the next splif.
Playa Vista Hermosa
Vista Hermosa is a small beach, which, due to the topography of the area, is accessible only to guests at the Las Brisas Hotel or interlopers arriving by boat. Since all beaches in Mexico are public by law, many luxury hotels look for a spot where they can leverage the geography in order to “capture” the beach by building all around it and thereby make it "private" insofar as the public has no way to access it without passing through private property. Playa Vista Hermosa is one of those situations... but not to worry, with so many other fantastic options you won't miss it.
Playa Quieta is a small stretch of beach located along the northwest side of Punta Ixtapa where they’re planning to create a second major hotel zone. It's current best know for the Club Med situated here.
Playa Linda is a long stretch of palm lines beach north of Punta Ixtapa. Linda means beautiful in Spanish, but this beach really isn't as beautiful as some of the other offerings in and around Ixtapa though it’s very popular with locals and beach vendors.
If the resort panorama at Playa El Palmar doesn’t float your boat or if you’re just looking for a serious bit of tropical goodness, Isla Ixtapa (also called Isla Grande) offers a chance at full tropical immersion on rustic island retreat. Accessible by water-taxi for $40 pesos round trip from the nearby pier at Playa Linda, Isla Ixtapa is a must-do for anyone coming to town. There you’ll find your typical cabana seafood restaurants and plenty of cold beer as well as three small, quaint and beautiful beaches.
Playa Cuachalalata, Playa Varadero, and Playa Coral
Small beaches all and a bit crowded during peak times, yet all three beaches offer amazing tropical views and calm tides perfect for a bit of swimming among the gentle ocean waves. The three beaches are connected by a series of dirt paths so you can easily check them all out while doing a bit of exploring.
Playa Cuachalalata is closest to shore and where the water-taxis drop you off, most of the time. It’s a beautiful beach with a stellar view of the palm lined Playa Linda. Playa Varadero is similarly oriented, if a bit more relaxed. Both have quite a few message tables at the ready with prices so good that you’d be hard pressed to find better rates anywhere else. Playa Coral, as its name suggests, is rife with rocks and coral and probably the least populated of the three. It also has quite a different view – a stunning seascape of the open ocean.
You can get to Isla Ixtapa (as well as Playas Linda and Quieta) by hopping a bus (anywhere you find one) that has the words "Isla" printed on the windshield. The fair is 9 pesos. The place where you need to get off to get to Isla Ixtapa is hard to miss, it's the end of the line. They can be caught in Zihuatanejo or Ixtapa. A good spot to catch one in Ixtapa is in front of the Ixtapa Palace Hotel.
You’ll need to come relatively early as the last boats back to shore depart around 5:00 pm.
Beaches Up the Coast from Ixtapa
A rustic stretch of beach 17 miles (27 km) north of Ixtapa. There’s little here but great waves for surfers and miles and miles of unspoiled Pacific Beach. A great location for photography with its misty ocean breeze and protruding rocks. This is a place to really get away from it all, no beach vendors, very few restaurants spread over 3 miles of unspoiled beach. Be prepared to make your own fun, you might be one of the only folks out there. This is a prime spot for surfers, many sizable breaks and very few surfers. Surfing lessons and available.
Playa Majahua & Playa Manzanillo
Two beaeches north of Troncones also within the gravitational sphere of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo. These are rustic beach destinations popular with surfers and those that want to get way off the beaten track located northwest of Troncones - just up the coast.