An adventure-loving mother finds halcyon days with her children in unexpected places.
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Family looking in the tide pools along the beach in Zihuatanejo, Mexico
Credit: Marissa Hermer

Omicron came in like a comet and scuppered our European holiday travel plans, and so with two weeks already cleared in our schedule, we just needed to decide where to go. As a Henry David Thoreau disciple, I'm a big believer "you must make tracks into the Unknown," and adventuring to the remote is one of my besetting vices. So as Travel + Leisure named Mexico the 2022 Destination of the Year, and I'm a "Shawshank Redemption" superfan, Zihuatanejo seemed like the perfect escape. 

A quick internet search for available accommodation brought us to Casa Chulada in Troncones, a one-road fishing village and legendary Mexican surf spot just 45 minutes from Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo International Airport. Nestled on the end of Troncones Beach, this five-bedroom house is a gem. The rate is shockingly inexpensive for the dreamy experience that is, as Andy Dufresne daydreamed, "a warm place with no memory."

Terri, the owner, was a phone call away for all questions, Mariana, the local house manager, was on call for local suggestions, and Nathalie, the full-time chef, whizzed up chilaquiles for breakfast, ceviches for poolside lunches, and marinated meats and local catch for dinner, all made with palpable love and pride. She will also teach your children how to make guacamole — which they will make every day and you will devour every day, evidence that you can never have too much guacamole.   

Shopping

Mariana told us about the morning food truck in town, where the kids chose fruit and veg, displayed in the back of a pickup truck. They practiced their Spanish in conversation with the locals and their math, converting dollars to pesos (1 USD = 20 MXN) while I felt very sanctimonious for bringing Hermer Homeschool on holiday.

Family visit to EL Panaderia in Zihuatanejo, Mexico
Credit: Marissa Hermer

Eating

Indigo is run by a delightful Argentinian couple, Consuelo and Ramon, and I actually cannot believe this place exists at all, it is just so perfect. The ribeye is enormous and delicious, and the burger belongs in heaven's cafeteria. But most of all I need to write a love letter to the Panaderia. Ramon is the pastry chef of Panaderia El Buen Gusto, which is really just a shack with corrugated steel roofing. The morning baguettes, cinnamon rolls, and housemade jams are worth flying to Zihuatanejo for — and the shelves of lemon pie, cuernitos, and alfajores knocked me completely off my axis. I tend more savory than sweet, but every morning, I was panic-buying all the goodies, which we forked into all day, especially the lemon pie (which is one of life's great treats). If you plan it right (call ahead to set this up), Ramon will come to Casa Chulada for a bread-making class with your tots. El Panaderia bites deep. It is a dream place that isn't quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you've gone.

Cafe Pacifico's waffles helado (waffles with housemade ice cream on top) are not my standard breakfast as an Angeleno — but again, embodying Shawshank's "Get busy living or get busy dying," it was waffles and ice cream for breakfast. The morning binge is remedied by inventive salads, melted sandwiches, and fresh smoothies — served on tables under a bougainvillea tree. Upstairs is an alfresco bar, and while we didn't make it there, it is reason to go back for sunset margaritas.

Lo Sereno was a surprise to stumble upon. A five-minute beach walk from Casa Chulada, this boutique hotel marries Ibiza chill and Balinese escapism. We relaxed with sunset beachside cocktails set to music while the kidlets played in the waves.

Children on surfboard in the ocean in Zihuatanejo, Mexico
Credit: Marissa Hermer

Activities

After our sunset cocktails, we planned to walk back to Casa Chulada, but instead met some horses along the way for an easy surprise sunset horseback ride with Octavio Izazaga. I left my maternal safety checklist at home when I let the kids cowboy up without helmets, but these horses were extremely docile and perfect for a calm sunset ride.

The beach in front of Casa Chulada doesn't need anything at all but benefits from boogie boards (the waves are just perfect for tots) and also a bucket for catching crabs.

Young boy watches woman make tortillas. Young girl holds bowl of baby turtles. Both in Zihuatanejo, Mexico
Credit: Marissa Hermer

Turtle Ecotour's knowledgable Julio Espino drove us to Petatillo Beach where we met Mr. Felix and his wife, Señora Chucha, who have been operating a private turtle release project for 20 years. Without any financial support from the government, they rely on tourists to continue to support their turtle hatching farm. We dug for the baby turtles, carried them to the shore, and released them into the waves, where the turtles would start their swim to the Philippines. In 10 years' time, these Golfina turtles will return to this same beach. Mr. Felix cut us coconuts to drink, and Señora Chucha taught us how to make tortillas in her kitchen. 

Troncones is known for surf, and Mike Linn of Tsunami Surf and his crew teach surfing to beginners of all ages. They will take you and yours to secret lagoon breaks, Playa La Salidata, and other coves around Guerra. Call him for a leisurely afternoon of finding your zen state in the surf.

Mike's neighbor runs fishing trips (Mike has the number to book), so ask for an introduction to set up a morning fishing trip. Your kids will catch bonita galore and then you can bring it home for Natalie to fry up for dinner.

Young boy carrying bags of fresh fruit. Two young boys catch and inspect fish. Both in Zihuatanejo, Mexico
Credit: Marissa Hermer

La Playa Ropa is the Richard Scarry of beaches. Banana boating! Tubing! Parasailing! Massages on the beach! Coconuts in the sand! This beach has it all. It's an easy 30 minutes away from Troncones for a morning of activities.

In cities, time seems to be my enemy, as there is so much I want to do. In Troncones, time was our ally. The rhythm of the place is an invitation to get lost in order to find. For a young family, the opportunity to connect is priceless. I could lie to you and keep this place a secret, but then that would be cruel. Hopefully you go with people you love — because the most memorable trips are as much about who you are with as they are about where you go. There is little to do here, which usually means there is so much to uncover and just linger in. So c'mon you bold adventurer, go!

Marissa Hermer is co-founder of Boujis Group, which owns and operates The Draycott, Olivetta, and Issima restaurants in Los Angeles.