This year when leaving San Miguel Allende after six weeks, we took the long way home – a very long way! We drove through Celaya and Morelia to Pátzcuaro, Michoacan. There is an island in the lake with a cemetery that has a Dia de los Muertos (day of the dead) celebration that is well known throughout Mexico. We stayed at the Best Western Posada de Don Vasco. It is a large hacienda style place with fabulous grounds, and you can see the island from one of the balconies.
Dining Patio Posa de Don Vasco
Isla Janitzio Lake Pátzcuaro
Next stop was Zihuatanejo, and we fell in love. We will definitely go back to this town. We drove over to Ixtapa as well, but it is “Zihua”, as the locals call it, that we really loved. While Ixtapa looks more like California or Florida, Zihuatanejo is Mexican and much more charming. The downtown is flat and the residential areas go up into the lushly vegetated hills. We found a fabulous hotel called Hotel Irma. It is in the Playa Madera area which is very close to town. The hotel is on a hillside with rooms, pools and patios on various levels above the beach. It has the most fabulous view of town and Zihuatanejo Bay but it doesn’t have the best beach. Our view was 180 degrees. The best beaches in town are La Ropa and Los Gatos. You can only get to Los Gatos by water taxi from the pier in town but there are hotels and restaurants and a nice beach at La Ropa.
Hotel Irma Restaurant view from our deck
Part of the view from our room at Hotel Irma
Not needing beach time, we wanted to be close enough to town to walk, and there is a beautiful walkway along the beach from our hotel to the canal that empties into the bay and a foot bridge across the canal that puts you right out on the Malecon. The Malecon includes a museum, shops, restaurants and public areas. There is a soccer arena right on the sand and a basketball court nearby. On down is the area for the pangas. Then there is a dock for all the water taxis and moorings for the yachts. Several blocks on 3 different streets are closed to traffic and have great restaurants, shops, plants and art.
Walkway La Madera to Malecon
One of the pedestrian only shopping streets
Statue along the walkway
Zihuatanejo scene from the Malecon
The real adventure began when we left Zihuatanjeo after having 3 wonderful days, a fabulous storm one night with heavy rain, lightning and thunder. The hotel lost power, only for about 15 seconds as they have stand-by generators. We loved the rain, such a welcome break from desert weather.
Although advised by several people that the road was dangerous, due to slides from a lot of rain, narrow with no shoulders, one lane each way in addition to being mountainous, and dangerous for bandits in the state of Guerrero, we decided that it was a once in a lifetime thing. So, we drove north from Zihuatanejo, on Highway 200. It was all of the above, except dangerous for bandits. Oh, we were attacked alright, by butterflies, millions of them in the vegetation all around the road and we were held up, by cattle crossing the road. The scenery was phenomenal and the highway department cleared up any problems quickly. You do have to drive carefully and not be in a hurry. The Sierra Madre del Sur Mountains come down to the shore so the road is very winding as well as going up and down. There isn’t much development or traffic from Zihua to Manzanillo.
We spent one night in Manzanillo at the Karmina Palace, now run by Barceló Hotels from Spain. It is a beautiful all-inclusive facility. Manzanillo is known as a commercial port and other than the Karmina Palace, it has one more very famous resort, Las Hadas. We didn’t find anything there to keep us, so we drove on to Puerto Vallarta. This stretch of Highway 200 had a little more traffic and a little more development along the way. We stopped in Barra de Navidad where Ramon (of Ramon’s Restaurants) is from. It is a very nice small town.
Entrance to Karmina Palace Manzanillo
A golf green at Karmina Palace on an island
Downtown Barra de Navidad
One of the views from Highway 200
Another view from Highway 200
Of course, we couldn’t capture the butterflies while driving and no place to pull over, but we did get a shot through the windshield of the cattle crossing the road in one of the few areas where there was a paved shoulder and a short straight stretch. One of the cows preferred the middle of the road and the guys had a hard time getting it over to the side.
Traffic on highway 200
another highway 200 view
Puerto Peñasco isn’t the only one to be tearing up their Malecon to make improvements. Puerto Vallarta is doing the same thing. They are sprucing up for the Pan-American Games. We stayed at the Sheraton Bugambilia. Again, we prefer to be within walking distance of town, in addition to being at a very nice hotel. However the nicest and newest hotels and resorts are in Marina Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta. They were also building a new beach volleyball facility close to the hotel. We had some great meals and shopping at the Mercado, along the Rio Cuale and the Malecon. Puerto Vallarta’s City Hall is across the street from the Malecon and has a beautiful plaza and gazebo beside it and from this plaza you have a great view of their cathedral which has a very intricate open work iron crown on the bell tower.
Sheraton Bugambilia massage on the beach
Puerto Vallarta Malecon Construction
Portion of Rio Cuale Marketplace
Puerto Vallarta Cathedral
After leaving Puerto Vallarta, and passing Punta Mita and Punta Sayulita again going North on highway 200, it turns inland after Rincon de Guayabitos and ends at Tepic, Nayarit.
We covered 3,500 miles and 8 states on this trip and not one problem anywhere. At a couple of the Federale stops they actually apologized for bothering us and all they did was ask us where we were coming from and where we were going. Tourism is down all over Mexico and in some stores and restaurants we were the only customers. Everyone was welcoming and helpful. So you know what comes next – get out and see Mexico. It is safe, welcoming, with a wonderful variety of places, food and entertainment…AND oh so much fun!