Watersports & Boat Trips
Probably the most popular boat trip is to Isla Ixtapa for snorkeling and lunch at the El Marlin restaurant, one of several on the island. You can book this outing as a tour through local travel agencies, or go on your own by taking a boat from Playa Linda. Boats leave for Isla Ixtapa every 10 minutes between 9am and 5pm, so you can depart and return as you like. The round trip is 55 pesos. You'll pass dramatic rock formations and see distant Los Morros de Los Pericos islands, where a great variety of birds nest on the rocky points jutting out into the Pacific. On Isla Ixtapa, you'll find good snorkeling, diving, and other watersports. Gear is available for rent on the island. Be sure to catch the last water taxi back at 5pm, and double-check that time upon arrival on the island.
Local travel agencies can usually arrange day trips to Los Morros de Los Pericos islands for birding, though it's less expensive to rent a boat with a guide at Playa Linda. The islands are offshore from Ixtapa's main beach.
Sunset cruises on the sailboat Picante, arranged through Yates del Sol (tel. 755/554-2694, -8270; www.picantecruises.com), depart from the Zihuatanejo town marina at Puerto Mío. The evening cruises last 2 1/2 hours, cost $52 per person, and include an open bar and hors d'oeuvres. There's also a "Sail and Snorkel Adventure" day trip to Playa Manzanillo on the very comfortable, rarely crowded sailboat. The 4 1/2-hour trip begins at 10am, costs $74 per person, and includes an open bar and lunch (snorkeling gear $7 extra).
You can arrange fishing trips with the boat cooperative (tel. 755/554-2056) at the Zihuatanejo town pier. They cost $210 to $450, depending on boat size, number of people, trip length, and so on. Most trips last about 7 hours. The cooperative accepts only cash; no credit cards. The price includes soft drinks, beer, bait, and fishing gear, but not lunch. You'll pay more for a trip arranged through a local travel agency. The least expensive trips are on small launches called pangas; most have shade. Both small-game and deep-sea fishing are offered. The fishing is adequate, though not on par with that of Mazatlán or Baja. Other trips combine fishing with a visit to the near-deserted ocean beaches that extend for miles along the coast. Sam Lushinsky at Ixtapa Sportfishing Charters, 19 Depue Lane, Stroudsburg, PA 18360 (tel. 570/688-9466; fax 570/688-9554; www.ixtapasportfishing.com), is a noted outfitter. Prices range from $210 to $445 per day, for 8 to 13m (26-43 ft.) custom cruisers, fully equipped. They accept MasterCard and Visa.
Boating and fishing expeditions from the new Marina Ixtapa, a bit north of the Ixtapa Hotel Zone, can also be arranged. As a rule, everything available in or through the marina is more expensive and more Americanized.
Sailboats, sailboards, and other watersports equipment are usually available at stands on Playa La Ropa, Playa las Gatas, Isla Ixtapa, and Playa Palmar in Ixtapa. There's parasailing at La Ropa and Palmar. Kayaks are available for rent at hotels in Ixtapa and some watersports operations on Playa La Ropa. The Tides has a beach club in front of the hotel on La Ropa with sailboat, sailboard, and kayak rentals.
The PADI-certified Carlo Scuba, on Playa Las Gatas (tel. 755/554-6003; www.carloscuba.com), arranges scuba-diving trips. Fees start at $65 for a one-tank dive, or $90 for two dives, including all equipment and a drink. This shop has been around since 1962 and is very knowledgeable about the area, which has nearly 30 different dive sites, including walls and caves. Diving takes place year-round, though the water is clearest July to August and November to February, when visibility is 30m (98 ft.) or better. The nearest decompression chamber is in Ixtapa Marina. Advance reservations for dives are advised during Christmas and Easter.
Surfing is particularly good at Petacalco Beach, north of Ixtapa. Swimming with dolphins is possible at Delfiniti Ixtapa (www.delfiniti.com), arranged through any of the hotels or travel agents in town.
Golf, Tennis & Horseback Riding
In Ixtapa, the Club de Golf Ixtapa Palma Real (tel. 755/553-1062, -1163), in front of the Barceló Hotel, has an 18-hole course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. The greens fee is $85 for 18 holes, $65 for 9 holes; caddies cost $25 for 18 holes, $20 for 9 holes; electric carts are $35; and club rental is $30. Tee times begin at 7am. The Marina Ixtapa Golf Course (tel. 755/553-1410; fax 755/553-0825), designed by Robert von Hagge, has 18 challenging holes. The greens fee is $90, carts cost $35, caddies cost $20, and club rental is $35. Discounted rates are available after 1:30pm. The first tee time is 7am. Call for reservations 24 hours in advance. Both courses accept American Express, MasterCard, and Visa. Most hotels offer discounts to the golf courses.
In Ixtapa, the Club de Golf Ixtapa Palma Real (tel. 755/553-1062, -1163) has lighted public tennis courts. Fees are $8.50 an hour during the day, $14 at night. Call for reservations. In Zihuatanejo, the Tides (tel. 755/555-5500) has lit tennis courts open for $30 an hour; private lessons cost $70 an hour.
For horseback riding, the largest local stable is on Playa Linda (no phone), offering guided trail rides from the Playa Linda beach (about 13km/8 miles north of Ixtapa). It's just next to the pier where the water taxis debark to Isla Ixtapa. Groups of three or more riders can arrange their own tour, which is especially nice around sunset (though you'll need mosquito repellent). Riders can choose to trace the beach to the mouth of the river and back through coconut plantations, or hug the beach for the entire ride (which usually lasts 1-1 1/2 hr.). The fee is around $40, cash only. Travel agencies in either town can arrange your trip but will charge a bit more for transportation. Reservations are suggested in high season. Another good place to ride is in Playa Larga. There is a ranch on the first exit coming from Zihuatanejo (no phone, but you can't miss it -- it is the first corral to the right as you drive toward the beach). The horses are in excellent shape. The fee is about $45 for 1 1/2 hours, and includes transportation to and from your hotel as well as a drink.