Julie and I have been to Mexico multiple times and have never complained about cheap all-inclusive resorts and even cheaper tequila, but this time we were looking for something more.
Years ago I had been to the greater Zihuatanejo area to the small surfing village named Troncones for a friend’s wedding at a beautiful yoga retreat. The area was a far cry from the yard glasses of Cabo and Cancun so when we when we discovered The Viceroy had a property on the beach right in the heart of Zihua, we booked it for our week off between Christmas and New Years.
Where we stayed: Viceroy Zihuatanejo
When we stepped into the Viceroy lobby, we were greeted by a gracious staff and an enormous evergreen tree that filled the lobby with the smell of Christmas. At first blush, this resort didn’t have the quintessential white facade or the eclectic design of most other Viceroys, there was something more familial and warm, a bit more Mexico.
Thanks to Julie calling ahead and telling the resort we missed a day due to cancelled flights, upon arrival we received a credit equal to the day we had paid for, which was lovely. From there, the service continued to impress. It’s hard to strike the right balance between service that is premium, yet casual enough to the local culture shine through, but this place did it. On our first night we were already getting hugs and high-fives from the servers, and we’d found our favorite spot to grab a drink.
The Viceroy Zihautanejo is a relatively small resort, situated on the best stretch of beach on Playa La Ropa. Because it was the busiest time of year, the public beaches to the right and left of us were packed with local families happy to enjoy this slice of paradise while elbow-to-elbow with their neighbors. But the Viceroy had beautifully maintained palapas that were perfectly spaced from one another, all with a handy flag to raise if you needed a refill or some fresh ceviche on the beach.
Our villa (28) was recently renovated a perfectly appointed with a private plunge pool and huge granite shower and bath. My favorite added bonus was the coffee and pastry delivery service every morning, left on your veranda to not disturb. We talked to many others who said not all the rooms were recently renovated, so clearly we lucked out.
What to do:
Massage: Walk in either direction down Playa La Ropa from the Viceroy and you’ll find an area of white tents where you can get a pretty good 60-minute massage for 200 pesos ($12). My massage was much better than Julie’s but for $12, it’s hard to complain. A bad massage is like bad pizza, it’s still good. The spa at the Viceroy offered massages for 2,200 pesos, so I’d suggest spending your pesos with these ladies instead.
Standup Paddleboard: The Viceroy was the perfect place to lounge, tan, drink, eat, nap and read by the beach or one of the three pools, but when you get antsy, look for Miguel on the beach (the skinny guy with long hair who runs everywhere) and he’ll rent you kayaks, paddleboards or sailboats right in front of the resort. For about $20 an hour per person, Julie and I spent a morning paddling through the bay and earned our mimosas at brunch.
LOOT: One of our favorite finds was less than a block from The Viceroy; the super eclectic, and well-curated surf store/art gallery/café/performance space called LOOT. Whether you are looking for a new surfboard, an iced coffee or some inspired local art, you must check out this place. Food was just OK, but everything else over delivered. This spot also ended up being our venue for NYE, which featured the super dancy, Latin-electronic group, Sotomayor and dancing until 4am.
Picante Sunset Cruise: The first excursion we signed up for through our resort was a Sunset Cruise on the Picante catamaran that sailed from a marina just outside of downtown Zihua. We paid $80 per person which included open bar and some snacks, which was a bit on the pricey side, but we had a great time and met some fun people. If you go, board early to get a seat and opt for the starboard (right) side to get the best views of the sunset and Ixtapa as you sail.
Fishing/Snorkeling: One of my favorite things about being in a new place is getting to know the locals, even if there is a language barrier. So when our Viceroy excursions concierge said he had some friends who would take us out on their private boat for some snorkeling and fishing, it sounded like our style. For $80 USD each, two young guys gave us an amazing tour of the local area by boat from 9am to 3pm. First they baited our hooks and we chased down some fresh tuna for our up-coming lunch (when the dolphins surrounding our boat stopped stealing our catch). Then we made a stop for snorkeling in Playa Manzanillo where they provided the gear and let us take us much time as we wanted. Lastly we went to Los Gatos beach where they helped us find a local restaurant who would grill up our fresh tuna for cheap. The day was a great way to see something new, catch a super fresh lunch, get an arm workout (who knew reeling in a fish could be so efffing hard?!) and chat with some locals who loved 90s hip hop as much as we did.
Tip Before You Go:
Keep in mind, cash is king when you are in Zihua as very few places accept credit cards and the only ATM we found that didn’t have a 40-person line was at the grocery store. Most places/vendors will accept USD, but I would suggest exchanging to pesos before you go to be safe.
Also, remember that many of the service staff you’ll meet while in Zihua make the majority of their income on tips, from just a few busy weeks a year. Meaning, don’t be afraid to tip. When handling foreign currency and paying only 25 pesos for a beer ($1.50 USD) it’s easy to feel like 500 pesos is an exorbitant amount of money, but chances are you won’t miss $20 USD and a tip of that amount can make a big difference in the lives of hard working locals.
Where to eat:
Casa Bahia: The evening after we had our sunset cruise on the Picante, we were a bit tipsy but still sharp enough to remember the restaurant our cabbie told us about on the way up. Just a short walk from the Picante dock sat Casa Bahia on the Zihua bay that faced back toward The Viceory. The open-air patio had stunning views, extremely welcoming service and best of all, foodie-approved dishes like my banana-leaf-wrapped local fish and Julie’s shrimp in mole sauce. The chef had just reopened in November 2015 and the care he paid to every detail of each dish was impressive (we had a view of the kitchen from our table too). The prices were extremely reasonable and they were so appreciative for our patronage. It’s that kind of true gratitude you rarely see in the US, and the spirit that will always keep us traveling.
Espuma: If you’re looking for an amazing place to watch the sunset and fusion food that is a step above the local guac and enchilada cuisine, make a reservation at Espuma at 6pm to catch the sunset perfectly. Our table was right on the cliff overlooking the bay and, for a girl who’s not super fond of heights, it was so dramatic that I made Julie take the outside seat. Because it was busy season, we had a set menu, but we were offered six delicious courses for $40 USD per person. The owner and chef are both from Italy, so if you order off menu, I highly reco any of the homemade pasta dishes. After three appetizers, a seafood pasta dish, seared tuna for an entrée and a dessert, we definitely didn’t go hungry.
La Sirena Gorda: Located in downtown Zihua where locals and tourists crowd the streets was a place that attracted us with its kitschy artwork of “fat mermaids”, the restaurant’s namesake. Cheap margaritas and tacos were the way to go here, I opted for blackened octopus and Julie had Cajun shrimp. Come here more for the people watching and the artwork, than a life-changing meal.
Mucho Gusto, Mexico!
Writing this blog is as much about sharing tips with others as it as about reflection. And it’s apropos to mention that Julie and I first chatted about the idea of She She Life when we took our first trip to Mexico together in the end of 2012. We were newly dating and genuinely interested in how a same-sex couple would be treated in Mexico. To up the ante, Julie and I pretended it was our honeymoon. After receiving both a no-judgment welcome and honeymoon freebies throughout our stay, we thought we just might test out “She She Honeymoons” everywhere went, and report back to the LGBT community on our experiences.
So now 3 years later when sharing stories and tips from our most recent to Mexico, there is something both surreal and wonderful when “Mrs & Mrs” Julie and Susan checked in as a legally married couple. We weren’t just testing out a She She Honeymoon, we were living a She She Life together forever.