Tag Archives: Ixtapa with kids

Family fun in Ixtapa

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.

I love this photo -- the kids are oblivious as to the "peligro" that lurks below.

3. Parasailing

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).

Getting ready for a parasail.

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.

Avery buries Bennett. Finally, his fists and kicky feet can do her no harm!

5. Zihuatanejo

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.

Souvenir shopping is always more fun when you try things on. Don't the kids look serious? Don't mess with me, I'm wearing a Hello Kitty T-shirt!

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On our decision to take the kids to Mexico

Poor Mexico. It’s been getting a lot of bad press lately, what with the escalating violence caused by its ongoing internal war on drugs. People have been killed in Acapulco (once a tourist Mecca), a Canadian woman was badly beaten in Mazatlan earlier this year and a freak explosion at a Cancun resort in 2010 killed five Canadians. Out of the above headlines, only the first is related to the country’s drug war problem. The latter two were bad timing and luck.

Still, the country’s violence has been enough for the Government of Canada to issue a warning about travel to Mexico, urging Canadians to exercise a “high degree of caution” when visiting Mexico, formerly known for its welcoming people, tasty food and deliciously dangerous margaritas. I mean, if you need an argument for visiting Mexico, the national cocktail is a really good reason.

Sip on a margarita and forget all about your -- and Mexico's -- problems.

So, keeping all this in mind, we decided that, for the average Canadian family visiting a safe tourist destination (Ixtapa) and mostly staying put at an all-inclusive resort, the risk of something happening to us while away seemed remote. (I think driving down Deerfoot Trail after a spring snow storm poses more danger.) And yet, you’d think we were taking the kids on holiday to Afghanistan for all the shock and awe surrounding this decision.

We were planning a spring break trip with some friends of ours and they let it be known that Mexico was off the table — they couldn’t believe we’d take our kids there. Even my mom, who joined us last year in Puerto Vallarta, said: “If you decide to go to Mexico, I don’t want to know.” Please don’t read this, Mom.

Here I am with Bennett at the beach in Puerto Vallarta last year, with nary a drug lord -- or souvenir salesperson -- in sight.

It’s a hot topic in the travel blogosphere, where writers are weighing in on whether taking the kids to Mexico is a good idea and offering tips if you decide to head south of the U.S. border. Namely:

  1. Lock up valuables and passports in your room safe, and only carry enough cash for the day’s excursion.
  2. Book excursions through the hotel.
  3. Don’t leave the compound at night.
  4. Beware buying an ugly gold embroidered Aztec-design rug from a beach vendor after drinking five margaritas.
  5. If you eat too many spicy street tacos, make sure there’s a bano nearby.
  6. Never, ever sit through the resort’s evening entertainment/song-and-dance routine or the bad performance will haunt you forever.

That about covers it. So, wish us a a safe trip down to Ixtapa. We’ll try and come back with a bottle of Casa Herradura tequila and only one gold Aztec rug.

Would you bring your kids to Mexico?