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Ixtapa Zihuatanejo history


Ixtapa is a word of Náhuatl origin that comes from the Iztal roots meaning “salt (sal)” or “white(blanco)” and “pa” that means “in”. This way you can translate it as the place that “has white in”; this colour used to cover the cliffs of the region due to the local sea bird´s excrements that abounded in the surroundings.

The touristic urban development of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo began with the financing obtained from the World Bank in the year 1972. Officially the urbanistic, equipment and head works started in 1974. In 1976 the international airport was built, located just 10 minutes away from the city through the Zihuatanejo-Acapulco National Highway. In Ixtapa the magnificent 18-hole golf field Palma Real was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr.

Inicially, there was a designated surface of 4,225 Has. In order to develop Zihuatanejo´s urban centre and the touristic area in Ixtapa, that surface was subdivided in two polygons, and therefore the touristic area was briefed to FONATUR with a 2,016 Has. Area. The remaining Has. were set under responsibility of the FIBAZI (Fideicomiso de Zihuatanejo, after the abbreviations in Spanish, which means Trustfund of Zihuatanejo).

Ixtapa ZIhuatanejo is the second tourist centre impelled through touristic real estate projects. This condition has placed it as one of the main beach destinations, favourite of the national tourism as well as an important lodging offer as a second home, that´s why it maintains a significant captive market. That´s not only for Ixtapa, but for the beautiful Zihuatanejo Bay as well, specially with the foreign market coming from U.S.A. and Canada.

The Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo touristic project was the first one of its type to be financed by the World Bank, whose capital supported the construction of the International Airport as well as roads that connect with that development, hydraulic works such as the construction of jetties, a channel that connects the sea with the Ixtapa Lagoon, drainage and sewage systems including water treatment plants and in general works of touristic and urban infrastructure.


The name Zihuatanejo comes from the Náhuatl word “Zihuatlan” which means “land of women”. The Spaniards modified it by “Cihuatan” and added the disdainful suffix “ejo”. The region formed part of the antique province of Cuitlatecapan.

The Cuitlatecans or Cuitlatecos extended all over the Great Coast of the State of Guerrero and their capital city was Zihuatlan. The Cuitlatecans flourished between the XIV and the XV century and stood out for being an important agricultural town that produced cotton, cocoa and corn. Nevertheless, as a result of the VASALLAJE imposed by the Mexica Emporium, eventually its gradual disappearance began.

History goes that Zihuatanejo was a relatively important port during the first years of the Colony. One of the historic events that stands out is the trip between America and The Philippines made in 1572 by the fleet commanded by Álvaro de Saavedra y Cerón. This expedition, which is said to be responsible for the discovery of the Molucas Islands, was very risky; among other things, Captain Saavedra y Cerón died. This was the second marine trip that went all the way through Philippines and that left from America with boats manufactured in the coasts of New Spain.

During The Colony, the Zihuatanejo Bay was practically vacated, however, some pirates that roamed the coasts of the region on the lookout of the Manila Galleon eventually used them as shelter, whereas other boats used them as refuge to protect themselves from strong storms.

The fine wood shipments embarked in one of the bay´s beaches, coming from Agua de Correa towards different parts of the world, reason for which it answers to the name La Madera (The Wood).

In some occasion a galleon coming from Philipines shipwrecked in front of the Zihuatanejo Bay and the shipments composed of fine oriental silks were dragged by the tide up to one of the beaches that from that day on is known by the name of playa La Ropa (Clothes Beach).

Las Gatas beach (The beach of the Cats), on the other hand, owes its name to the abundance of cat sharks (an inoffensive squalus that has a moustache and no teeth) that used to live in nearby waters.

Towards the end of XIX century, the former president of the Republic, Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada, boarded in the port of Zihuatanejo; he took the ship that would later take him to exile in the U.S.A.

The municipality or city hall of José Azueta was founded on November the 30th, 1953 by decree of the Honourable Congress of the State of Guerrero. This action secreted it from the Union territory, designing as head of City Hall the small town of Zihuatanejo, located on the bay of the same name. The municipality is found on La Costa Grande de Guerrero (the big coast of Guerrero), 240 kilometres northwest from the Acapulco Bay. Its territory extends from the Pacific Coast to the great edge of the Sierra Madre, occupying a surface of 1921,5 km.

The region displays a pleasant subhumid tropical climate, with rains in summer and principles of fall. The annual average temperature is approximately 28 °C, whereas the annual average precipitation fluctuates between 1.100 and 1.355 mm. The coastal zone of the municipality is one long plain territory covered by extensive manglares and palmares between their cliffs of almost 50 km

Small beaches of golden, fine sands have formed from the small coast. The lomerios dating from the mountains spurs are covered by dense forests of encino.

Source: Conventions and Visitors Bureau of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo (OCVIZ)

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