This tiny fishing port set on a stunning natural bay boasts some of the best beaches on Mexico's Pacific Coast. What makes Zihuatanejo’s beaches so special is that the Sierra Madre Mountains surround the beaches and protect them in a cascade of green vegetation like some tropical dreamscape.
Zihua (as locals call it) is, happily, too small to be a commercial port. In fact, not even cruise ships can dock here but rather anchor in the bay. It's the flare of the tropical scenery and the serene intimacy of the calm waters that make the beaches of Zihuatanejo something truly special.
Playa Principal (also known as Playa Municipal) is Zihuatanejo's main beach located on the edge of downtown. It’s here where the pangas (tiny fishing boats) and fisherman congregate and good starting point to find many of Zihuatanejo’s most popular bars and restaurants.
At the north end of the beach is El Muelle Municipal (Municipal Pier), one of the town’s most distinctive landmarks. Near the entrance one can find the El Museo Arqueológico de la Costa Grande, a tiny museum. The pier is where you can catch a boat to Playa Las Gatas (or where you can find your way to and from your cruise ship).
El Andador del Pescador is the short malecón (seaside stroll) that runs between downtown and the beach where you’ll find a good selection of shops, bars, and restaurants.
Keep south and you’ll find a little bridge that passes over the drainage canal, this is the way to Playa Madera.
Playa Principal isn’t the best choice for swimming or lounging due to all boats and fisherman and assorted comings and goings, not to mention the fact that it’s at the mouth of the canal where rainwater (and God knows what else) goes running off into the bay.
The beach is reasonably attractive, and certainly interesting, not to mention being part of what gives downtown Zihuatanejo its special, laid back appeal.
Playa La Madera
A short walk from Playa Principal is Playa La Madera, which means “Wood Beach” in English. The 2 km long beach is popular mainly because it’s so close to downtown and nearby residential areas, but truth be told it isn’t nearly as attractive and appealing as La Ropa or Las Gatas for more typical beach activities. For one, the sand here tends to be hard and wet and it's very rocky in places. What it is great for is admiring the ocean and the bay from the seaside walkway which is pretty spectacular. The beach itself is a great place to play or bodyboard in the bay's roughest, yet safe waves. The break can be pretty strong. The beach area is a bit rustic, at times stunning, and at other other times just a bit dumpy. As a place to loung and enjoy the sun, sand, and sea, it mainly appeals to locals. While most of the things one finds on other beaches are represented such restaurants, messages, etc., you can certainly do better elsewhere. If you're looking for a spot for an exotic, and often romantic, stroll Playa La Madera is a great place for it. Otherwise, try La Ropa or Las Gatas.
Playa La Ropa
One of our favorite beaches in all of Mexico. This beautiful, wide, sandy beach has a great assortment of little restaurants where you can lounge around eating ceviche and drink a Michelada while admiring a view that simply exudes tropical tranquility.
Playa La Ropa in English means “Clothes Beach”. Ledged has it that the beach got its name when a Spanish Galleon carrying silk wear wrecked nearby and its precious cargo began washing up on shore.
Though right next door to Playa Madera, the 1 km walk that takes you to Playa La Ropa takes you up some very steep hills along Zihuatanejo’s Scenic Highway and it’s not always pedestrian friendly.
Playa La Ropa is a great spot for swimming, parasailing, fishing, sailing, jogging, doing sports or just taking long romantic walks and enjoying the scenery. This beach is wide, stunningly beautiful, and very inviting.
Playa Las Gatas
Another of our favorite spots, Playa Las Gatas is a great place for swimming and snorkeling and lounging in the sun. It’s one of the few spots on the Pacific Coast that boasts the gorgeous turquoise water most often seen around the Caribbean. The view is beautiful and such requirements for a proper day at a Mexican beach such as seafood, beer, and even messages, are available.
Though possible to hike to Las Gatas, to arrive you generally need to catch a water-taxi at the Municipal Pier.
This small, rocky, secluded beach often flies under the radar given the competition. It’s a great place to snorkel and get away from it all, but don’t expect sand, think smooth water-warn rocks and pebbles. It’s a bit remote, so much so that the best way to get there is by boat, though its possible to arrive by land.
Beaches Down the Coast from Zihuatanejo
This attractive, off the beaten track beach the lies between Zihuatanejo Bay and Playa Larga and is best accessed by boat (though it’s possible to trek there by land… if you’re in good shape). Playa Manzanillo is a little piece of pristine beauty where you can relax, do a bit of snorkeling, and especially enjoy the luxury of unspoiled nature. Developers have their eye on this little beach so if you’re going to be in town long, you want to make a visit before it’s no longer recognizable.
Playa Larga, Playa Blanca & Barra de Potosí
The three are mentioned together because they are basically the same 8 miles long stretch of beach.
Just a few miles southeast of Zihuatanejo Bay (and west of the little town of El Coacoyul), you’ll find Playa Larga (Long Beach). You can get there by taking the Carretera Nacional.
The southern half of the 8 miles stretch of beach is known as Playa Blanca (White Beach). The dirt road access is near the International Airport.
Barra de Potosí
At the very southern end is Barra de Potosí which boasts a little fishing village set on a tropical lagoon – a great ecotourism spot.
All three spots boast thatched roof restaurants, hammocks, and everything you’ll need to spend the day lounging around on the beach.