After a week in Ixtapa, Mexico with kids and nary a bandito sighting, I have come to appreciate the real dangers of travel south of the U.S. border: the sun, stinging water fauna and the ocean. Runners up include the weirdly hard mattresses and elevator doors that close speedy-quick.
All of our encounters with danger occured within 48 hours of our arrival, and may have had something to do with our margarita- and cerveza-clouded parenting judement. But no matter. Here’s what went down:
Our son got a sunburn on his shoulders on Day 1, as for some reason I dressed him in a wife-beater tank-top that day and forgot to apply sunscreen to his shoulders. On Day 2 he got stung by a jellyfish, the pain of which eased when a local “healer” rubbed sand on it (good thing too, as my husband declared he’d been about to pee on Bennett’s arm!). A couple hours later Bennett was knocked off his feet by a huge wave and I had to recall my high school lifeguard training and rescue him by sacrificing my back on the offshore rocks. And finally, he ran into our hotel elevator and the doors closed behind him before we could get on. The elevator then went up to the 21st floor, Bennett got off — totally non-plussed (I was freaking out!) — and some random senora delivered him back to us. Ay yi yi!
But when we weren’t being radiated by the sun, dodging jellies, fleeing from rogue waves and playing elevator hide-and-seek, we discovered the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo area has a ton of activities and excursions to occupy a young family. Here are the top five:
1. Isla Ixtapa
It’s a short taxi ride to Playa Linda and then a five-minute boat ride to Isla Ixtapa. The island’s beaches are more protected than the main beach in Ixtapa, so the waves aren’t as crazy and the snorkeling is supposed to be good when it’s calm. You can walk between the beaches and take shelter at one of many restaurants for cervezas and snacks. Our kids liked collecting snails and sea glass, swimming and digging in the sand.
2. Croc watching
There’s a crocodile farm at Playa Linda where you can spot crocs sunning or swimming, and see iguanas and tropical birds. There are also crocodiles at the south end of Ixtapa beach where the river empties into the ocean.
One of the items on my husband’s bucket list was parasailing. When he found out it was $40 for a tandem parasail — there are parasail guys spaced regularly along the beach — he quickly amended his list to include parasailing with Avery. She loved it (though I have to admit, this mommy was a wee bit nervous watching them float high above the waves).
4. The beach
Our kids couldn’t get enough of the beach. The sand, running from the monster waves, all of it. I think they would have been happy to play out there all day, every day.
Zihuatanejo was once a sleepy fishing village, but I think its starring role in The Shawshank Redemption — as the place Andy Dufresne ran off to after he escaped the prison — helped turn it into an uber-trendy little town, complete with tony shops and taquerias. It’s definitely worth a visit. Located on a lovely bay, the waves are quite gentle. And the souvenir shopping is great, too. Gracias Ixtapa-Zihua! Hasta luego.
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Glad to see you had a great time with the family. I have traveled to Mexico multiple times, but we are looking to take the kids and my parents down for spring break.
Any other recommendations you might have for older kids (12, 10, 7)?
We love the Puerto Vallarta area, especially if you go north to Sayulita. It’s a little surf town that would be perfect for kids your age. I’ve also heard great things about the Playa del Carmen area as a family destination (I have been there, but not with kids); specifically, exploring the cenotes and Mayan ruins. And of course the gorgeous beaches. Have fun!
Oh, I totally forgot about chichen itza. I loved it there, and Playa del Carmen is awesome (such blue water). Great suggestion, thanks!