Could it be six o'clock already? After a languorous day on the beach in Zihuatanejo, I realize that it's sunset time. A friend of mine who visits this sleepy Mexican fishing town every year told me to be sure not to miss the late-afternoon happy hour at one of the thatched-roofed restaurants along Playa la Ropa, but I've been in my swimsuit all day, my hair is looking rather like straw, and my makeup is nonexistent, so I'm tempted to head back to my room for a quick shower and a change of clothes. But then I remember that Zihua, as it's affectionately called, just isn't that kind of place. Soon enough, I'm perched atop a bar stool at La Perla, a laid-back spot that attracts a mix of locals and tourists who bond over ice-cold Coronas as mariachis play for a few pesos. As I sip my cerveza, I notice everyone else is still in their swimming togs as well. Within minutes, I'm chatting with a group from Texas and a couple from Michigan. I savor the conversation, the cool tropical breezes, and the magnificent sunset - and I'm more than happy to still be wearing the same thing come nine p.m.
Those who love Mexico will appreciate the low-key charms of Zihuatanejo, located 150 miles upcoast of Acapulco on the Pacific, but eons away in terms of attitude. Zihuatanejo (pronounced See-wah-tah-NEH-ho) hasn't changed much in decades. Restaurants are still family owned, craft shops line the town's narrow bricked lanes, and you won't find any high-rise resorts or raucous tequila-fueled clubs. Movie buffs will remember Zihua as the idyllic spot Tim Robbins' character flees to when he busts out of prison in The Shawshank Redemption. For many, this remote resort set around a crystalline bay with palm-fringed beaches comes pretty close to paradise.