Family Vacations to Ixtapa, Mexico

Ixtapa, Mexico
Relax on one of Ixtapa's many perfect beaches (courtesy, Mexico Tourism/Nadine Markova)

Ixtapa Family Travel Tips

  • Snorkel the calm, clear waters of Las Gatas Beach.
  • Kiss a dolphin at Ixtapa's dolphin program.
  • Bike through Ixtapa's ecological park.
  • Take a boat to Ixtapa Island and hang out on the beach.
  • Kayak through the peaceful, bird-filled lagoon of Barra de Potosi.

Blessed with almost perpetual sunshine, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo offers tourists two distinct experiences. Zihuatanejo is an authentic Mexican city boasting miles of exquisite beaches. High-end shops and funky markets lining the central plaza are juxtaposed with a working beach, where fishermen clean and sell their catch. Ixtapa, meanwhile, is purely a tourism-focused resort, its broad arc of beach lined with modern high-rise hotels, shops, and restaurants. Just four miles apart, both spots are family-oriented—you won't find rowdy spring breakers—and cater to international visitors and vacationing Mexican families.

Las Gatas Beach, accessible by a short water taxi ride from Zihuatanejo's pier, is a haven for families with young children because of its shallow, calm waters; day-trippers can rent snorkel equipment beachside and dine at dozens of restaurants. For a meal with a view, go to Las Gatas Beach Club on the point.

Ixtapa's dolphin program, located at the Delfiniti Hotel, offers children three variations of dolphin education. Delfiniti Kids offers a 30-minute session for ages three to seven and includes some educational information and a kiss from a resident dolphin; Encounter with Dolphins for ages eight and up features a similar package; the hour-long Swim with Dolphins, for ages eight and up, encourages participants to interact with the friendly critters in the water.

If it's not too hot, explore the region by bike. In Ixtapa, a six- to ten-mile route goes up steep hills, so many tours are limited to ages 12 and older. Along the way, pedal through the lush, shady ecological park where iguanas dart along the path and elegant cranes pose in the marshes.

Head to the Archaeological Museum of the Costa Grande, on Zihuatanejo's Paseo del Pescador, or "Fisherman's Walk," for some insight into the area's cultural evolution. The museum interprets the Olmec, Teotihuacan, Tarascan, and Mexica influences and has pamphlets in English.

Boats leave regularly from the Playa Linda pier for the ten-minute crossing to Ixtapa Island. Check out the island's four beaches, of which Cuachalalate is the most popular, and Morro Colorado, an area on the northern side of the island with outstanding snorkeling. Make it a quick trip or a full-day excursion—just be sure to ask what time the last boat leaves for the mainland.

The tiny village of Barra de Potosi sits by a large, tranquil lagoon ten miles south of Zihuatanejo. The draw here is the nature sanctuary harboring a rich variety of wildlife, especially birds, including pelicans, roseate spoonbills, kingfishers, and herons. Opt for an ecological kayak tour or board one of the small boats for sightseeing tours.'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 26 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 7 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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