The Mexican resort town of Ixtapa sizzles as thousands play in the sparkling Pacific on a 2½-mile crescent of sand lined with hotels and condos. Turquoise seas lap the picture-postcard beach at Playa del Palmar against a backdrop of palm-fringed cliffs. This sleek, manicured beach resort,, where sunshine pours down 340 days a year, is actually a government-created confection: Like its Caribbean sister resort Cancun, Ixtapa was transformed in the 1970s from an undeveloped strand of golden Mexican sand into a high-rise haven for sun worshippers.

Things to Do

Ixtapa is all about sun, sand, and shimmering seas Head by water taxi to Isla Ixtapa, where you can snorkel in calm, blue-green water at Coral Beach and sip icy cerveza at beachside cafes. Take a whale-watching cruise aboard the catamaran Picante in Zihuatanejo Bay to glimpse California grey and humpback whales—then dive into the sea to listen to whale songs. Or visit Ixtapa’s neighbor, Zihuatanejo, a vintage fishing village that has managed to retain its small-time beachy charm.

Nightlife and entertainment

Ixtapa’s nightlife caters to every taste. Dance to techno disco inside a mock cave at Alebrije. Or join the locals at Christine’s for more go-go disco. For a friendly sports-bar vibe and killer fish tacos, head to Franks Bar and Grill. For high romance, take a sunset cruise aboard the catamaran Picante in Zihuatanejo Bay past the caves at Majahua and the army of high-rise hotels along Playa del Palmar.

Restaurants and dining

The restaurants in Ixtapa have a global reach—but you’ll be well rewarded if you dine at traditional local spots. Head to the ultra-casual Chili Beans for such regional specialties as lobster al ajillo. Authentic Mexican is also the draw at the open-air Mauricio’s, where a tequila-shot welcome fires up the evening.. For a romantic evening, Villa de la Selva serves Mediterranean/Mexican dishes in a magical setting on a candlelit terrace with fiery sunset views.

Active Pursuits

The surf is definitely up in the state of Guerrero; look for sizeable, surf-able swells at Playa Escolleras. Snorkeling and kayaking are excellent on little Isla Ixtapa. Or troll the crystalline Pacific for sailfish, marlin, dorado, tuna, and wahoo on a deep-sea-fishing expedition. Ixtapa also has two splendid golf courses, the championship 18-hole Palma Real, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., and the Marina Ixtapa links course close to the lighthouse.