A World of Firsts
Since late January we’ve been living in a world of firsts. That’s when we left Barra de Navidad to continue our journey down the Mexico coast. Barra was our southerly most port last season before we backtracked north to leave the boat in Puerto Vallarta for the hurricane season. All the places past Barra are new to us and we’ve had a whirlwind five weeks checking them out. There are several where we’d love to spend more time but we have to keep moving or we may never make it out of Mexico.
Leaving Barra we made a couple of quick overnight stops on our way to Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo. Our first stop was a small cove called Ensenada Carrizal, which offered some good snorkeling and a short hike to stretch our legs. The guide books didn’t mention how the waves stack up on the rock beach in a straight west swell but we found out quickly and did our hike in soaking wet clothes after getting dumped from our kayak and paddleboard on landing – not the planned way to cool off but it worked.
Our second stopover was in Caleta de Campos, a pretty bay surrounded by a white sand beach and a small town crawling up the hill at one end. Unfortunately, due to the swell and rolly conditions, we didn’t leave the boat to go ashore.
Upon arriving in Ixtapa, as we were taking down our mainsail, a humpback whale paid us a surprise visit. Neither of us noticed him until the HUGE splash as he breached just 20 yards off our port side! Needless to say, we did not capture it on film. With a shot of adrenaline fresh in our blood from that encounter we anchored at Isla Grande, a small island just off the coast of Ixtapa. During the day the water around the island is a lively scene with pangas ferrying day-trip passengers from the mainland and old ski boats pulling water weenies with screaming beach-goers. Ashore tourists hang out at the colorful palapa restaurants feasting on fresh seafood and cervezas and snorkel in the crystal clear water of the cove on the south side of the island. By nightfall, the anchorage returns to peace and quiet.
The next day we sailed the short distance to Zihuatanejo, or “Zihua,” where we spent the next three weeks. A city of about 100,000 people, Zihua still manages to retain a laid-back, fishing village charm, especially in the Centro and beach areas surrounding the bay, which is very popular with sailors and fishermen.
Each year in mid-February a week-long festival called Sailfest is held to raise money for local education initiatives, including new schools and scholarship programs. For a small donation, folks can participate in a variety of activities, such as auctions, dinners and parties throughout the week. One of the most popular fundraising activities is the opportunity to ride aboard one of the sailboats, for a daysail or a sunset cruise, or during the “Rally ‘Round the Rock” race or the final day parade of boats to Ixtapa and back. We participated in the race (taking 1st in our class!) and hosted Canadians Denise and Krys onboard for the parade. We’d heard of Sailfest for a long time – it’s been going for 15 years! – so it was neat to be a part of it this year.
After Sailfest, we rented a car and drove to the nearby towns of Troncones and Playa Saladita to check out the surf. We loved the area and mentally added it to our “return someday” list.
Wrapping up our time in Zihua we had a visit from our good friends, the Grabans. We had only one day with them but we wrung the life out of it with a daysail, swimming, snorkeling, sunset, and dinner at a local favorite taco joint. It was the perfect end to an awesome stay in Zihua Bay.
After an overnight sail from Zihua we arrived in Acapulco. We had heard mixed reviews about Acapulco. The city has been battling serious drug-related crime for the last several years and it’s sad to see the impact of severely decreased tourism as a result – empty beaches, shuttered businesses, fishing charters without customers, never-finished high rises. Looking past that, though, we quickly discovered a wonderful city with beautiful beaches, clear water, friendly people and tons of stuff to see and do. We saw the world famous cliff divers – honestly, we’ve both been waiting for this since seeing them on “The Love Boat” in the 70s.
We visited the Fort of San Diego, which includes a wonderful (and air conditioned) museum. We strolled around Old Town and dined on the beach at Caleta.
We’re hopeful that the situation in the city will continue to improve and the crowds will return. Acapulco deserves another chance.
Our time in Mexico is nearing its end but we still have many more firsts in the future so stay tuned!