Gringos Guide To Driving Mexico, Central America & Costa Rica
Puerto Vallarta - Ixtapa & Zihuatanejo

Puerto Vallarta – Ixtapa & Zihuatanejo

DRIVING TIME: 11.45 hours
MILES: 531
HWY: CA 200

Puerto Vallarta to Ixtapa

This portion of the trip is the most beautiful and dangerous and entails the longest and most demanding driving of the entire trip. Dangerous because you are traveling through the mountains of Michoacan, and the roads wind, twist and turn for most of the trip. You can expect your average speed to be between 40 and 50 miles per hour for the entire journey. There are animals, potholes, and speed bumps galore. Nevertheless, you will see some of the most awe-inspiring coastlines of the entire voyage. The beaches are radiant, powerful, and peaceful. The surfing along this stretch is magnificent.

This trip took me 12 hours, with stops to use the bathroom and fill my gas tank only. I drove the last three hours of the trip in the dark. Dangerous curves and extremely deep potholes sneak up on you at night. If you have to drive at night, proceed with great caution.

Zihuatanejo is a relaxing coastal town with pleasant people, smiling faces, and good food. Find a hotel with night security and good visibility. Enjoy the town and the beautiful bay. You deserve a break after the long drive from PV. Ixtapa is an expensive resort town located about 2 km north of Zihuatanejo, and it’s worth the hike or taxi ride to check out the beaches and nightlife.

About 1 km outside of Ixtapa, you will encounter a separation between Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo. If you are a high roller, take the road to the right into Ixtapa. Budget travelers should continue south along the main route another 5 km into Zihuatanejo. At some point, when you enter the town, you will need to exit the main throughway that runs through Zihuatanejo. Turn right and follow one of the several side roads down the hill, which will take you to the beach.

If you encounter a small traffic circle, veer right at the second exit, which takes you directly to the coast. There is an assortment of hotels situated near the ocean at economical prices.

Hotel & Eats

Long drives like these need you to take some time to rest. When you do, find the Hotel Zar Manzanillo at Teniente Azueta 3 in Manzanillo. It is a great place to meet locals while staying at a laid-back hotel. The only downside is that its beachfront location accounts for its lack of accessibility to restaurants and shops, but you can always use your car to go around town.

Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo is brimming with traditional towns and exciting nightlife that tourists and locals enjoy. There are a lot of modern places to grab some food, but if you want to experience genuine Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo cuisine, opt for the quaint ma and pa’s eateries. Kindly ask if they serve pozole, a corn and pork soup, or caldo de cuatete and guintatan, which is blue catfish soup and dried fish slow-cooked in coconut milk.

Learned Lessons

This is an extremely long trip, but Zihuatanejo is an exquisitely beautiful town and a great place to hang out for a few days. If you plan to make the long trip, get an early start and fill your gas tank at every possible location. The city of Tecoman has several forks on the road. Take the road to Playa Azul—not Pascuales. If you find yourself in Pascuales, you have made a wrong turn in Tecoman. Go back to Tecoman and find your way to Playa Azul. Surfers will want to stay in Pascuales.

Special Directions

The road is confusing after the first toll road. Stay on the road to Colima and exit the toll road at Tecoman. Always use the CA 200 sign as a reference and guide. Follow the cities and signs with the CA 200 reference, and you won’t get lost. In Tecoman, take the road to Playa Azul, not Pascuales.

Next Section of Drive

 Ixtapa & Zihuatanejo – Acapulco

Ixtapa & Zihuatanejo – Acapulco