Angie and I recently took a trip to Zihuatanejo, a lovely beach town on a bay in Guerrero, Mexico. My friends Darrell and Todd & Kathy had been there before and provided recommendations, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I was already a bit emotionally attached to the place before ever going there, through the references in Shawshank Redemption.

TL;DR version of this: Zihuatanejo is awesome, and you should go there. Oh, and there’s pictures of food below, so there’s that.

Some of the photos below were taken by me on a Nokia Lumia 920. The best photos were taken by Angie with some real photography equipment.

Viceroy Hotel

We spent eight days in Zihua, bunking at The Tides The Viceroy. Which is an excellent place to stay, and as long as you take their cheap room, is an excellent value as well. It’s not cheap by Mexican hotel standards, but it’s not anywhere close to the cost of typical resort hotel (you know, the “all-inclusive” types that ensure you never leave the place).

Panaroma of the beachfront at The Viceroy.

The Viceroy is smack in the middle of Playa La Ropa, the main tourist beach on the bay. It is within a short stroll of several restaurants on the beach. If you’re into this sort of thing, you can rent jet skis, kayaks, sailboats, and harness up to a parasail right there on the beach. We did none of that stuff, but there were plenty of others doing just that.

This hotel has a long stretch of beachfront, with dozens of palapas with beds and lounge chairs in a de-militarized zone between the hotel buildings and the public beach. Being sectioned off was important, as there are many vendors on the beach who want to sell you stuff you don’t need at yankee prices. It’s great to pick up some local arts and crafts and support the community, but I want to do it on my own terms.

We often got lost in reading books under a palapa, listening to the waves, and enjoying a steady stream of Coronas being served by the super-attentive-but-not-overbearing waitstaff. Juan was our bartender on most nights … a wonderfully-friendly fellow, with excellent English, and strong tolerance for my terrible Spanish.

Some of our best days went like this: read books, beer, guacamole, read/beer, beer/read, sunset, dinner. Really, just perfect stuff.

Did I mention that this was all on the beach?

And then there was this: the most unexpectedly-awesome part of the hotel was the coffee service. By 7:30 a.m. every day we had an insulated pot of hot coffee and a few pastries waiting on our semi-private patio outside our room. It was sooooo nice to be able to wake up slowly, and enjoy coffee and chat a bit at our room. So wonderful.

Our room rate came with a daily restaurant credit, which we took advantage of. Typically covered cost of lunch and a few drinks during the day, which was a nice thing to count on.

Dinner at the hotel was fairly expensive, but the food was great and the setting was absolutely perfect. I mean really, can you top this?

View from dinner at The Viceroy at sunset.

Well, maybe you can. After dark, the dining area looks like this:

Dinner at The Viceroy, after dark.

Food & drink

Speaking of beer, we treated it like water. Had a lot. Needed to, as the weather was quite warm and humid. There’s really just something awesome about a cold lager beer in hot weather. And, it was roughly the same price as water. The hotel charged a lot more than other places (captive customer, you know), but that’s to be expected.

Darrell had recommended a few places for us to try, and we did, as well as hitting up some other spots. All the below are highly recommended.

Tamales y Atoles Any

Tamales y Atoles Any is a tamal and pozole joint on a busy intersection in el centro de Zihuatanejo. We went there twice for lunch. Angie got red and green pork tamales for 25 pesos each, and I got a medium-sized serving of pozole (yes, on Thursday!) for 90 pesos. By medium-sized, I mean giant, massive, took me an hour to eat it all -sized. Ohmygoodnesss this was tasty.

As you can see, it was a rather warm day.

Really just a great restaurant, with good simple choices and good prices.

Seeing the state police pull up outside with their automatic weapons and set up a defensive perimeter while one of their crew went to the ATM across the street was a nice bit of cultural immersion, too.

Los Braseros

Just a couple doors down from the tamal place was Los Braseros. Ordered the alambres de pastor — a new dish to me. Sort of a beautiful love child of fajitas and Philly cheese steak. Tasty!

Alambre dish.


Famous for their coconut shrimp, and for good reason. Shrimp stuffed with cream cheese and breaded & fried. Go light on the coconut dipping sauce, it’s basically straight sugar with a dash of coconut milk. Lety’s is located just over the footbridge just west of el centro, along the harbor inlet.

Coconut shrimp at Lety’s.

We also tried the chile relleno at Lety’s, which was just OK. Basically, too rich and too much going on. Would have preferred a simpler dish. No picture of that one :).

Paty’s Marimar

Paty’s is a beachfront restaurant just north of the Viceroy, and has a moderately-priced menu. Definitely tourist prices, but not hotel prices. Shrimp tacos were 90 pesos, whole garlic-fried red snapper was 150 pesos. Both were wonderful.

Shrimp tacos at Paty’s.

Sights & sounds

If you do nothing but relax on the beach, you have won. That said, we ventured out a bit. Walked into town a few times (30 minutes or so each way), which included a stroll up and down some steep roads.

Downhill to the beach.

El centro is lively and buzzing with activity. Near the waterfront you have to deal with vendors trying to sell you stuff at every turn. Head away one block, and you are in town, and free to move. Which we did. A lot. Found a nice tequila shop and bought a small bottle of Chamucos reposado tequila for less than 100 pesos. It was nice to sip that on the beach later on.

Wall mural

This tree, near Playa Principal, seems rather resourceful.

Might be undermining the foundation’s strength.

The emotional highlight of the trip was being by ourselves on the beach late at night under the full moon, and watching a mama turtle come out of the waves, build a nest just a few feet away from us, and lay her eggs. All told, it took her about 30 minutes to dig, lay, cover. The light from the photo was the ambient light from a walkway light on the beach at the hotel behind us.

La tortuga madre

We ended up seeing four turtles lay eggs while we were there. On one occasion, a local conservation official collected the eggs as the turtle was laying them, and took them to a breeding facility on the south end of the beach. 81 eggs in all!

So, what happens to the turtle eggs? I’m told a couple months later, they start popping out of the sand and make a run for the beach. We were lucky to see that too, obviously from a two-month-old nest:

Turtles coming out of the nest.
Making a run for the ocean. We helped this one along.

On the south end of the bay is Playa Las Gatas. How should I say this? How about: don’t go there. Really. Complete and total tourist trap, lined end to end with restaurants trying to get your business. It’s kinda isolated, and most people take a water taxi to get there. We walked. The views are nice, but it’s just not fun. Too cramped, too many vendors. If you don’t have a hotel on the beach, maybe this is an OK place to visit, but we really didn’t like it.

Panorama from the pier at las gatas.
Playa Las Gatas, looking south-east

You can rent snorkel gear and check out the little bay at las gatas, but the water looked very murky. Can’t imagine that the snorkeling would be any good there.

Supposedly you can walk further west past the beach, around the point, and see the lighthouse. Read about that afterwards, would have attempted that if we had known.

Then again, the giant iguana was kinda cool …

I said, this is my beach.

OK, so it was just somebody’s pet. But still cool!


Zihua is a great place. Go there, eat well, and live well.



A visit to the Antipodes

I just returned from a business trip to Sydney, Australia, and Auckland, New Zealand. My second time in Australia, my first in New Zealand. I had a great time visiting with clients, colleagues, and seeing the sights. Below are some highlights of my trip.


In Sydney, I stayed in a hotel right by Circular Quay, which made it ultra-convenient to hang out at The Rocks, get to the ferries, and get great views of the opera house and the harbor bridge every day. The weather was fantastic. Roughly 80 degrees Fahrenheit every day, blue sky, and light wind. Since I planned to be outside pretty much every chance I could get, I couldn’t have hoped for better weather.

The Rocks

No tourist visit is complete without spending some time at The Rocks, which is history, tourism, pubs, food, and shopping all in one place. I spent time at Phillip’s Foote (grill your own slab of meat), The Australian Hotel (wide beer selection, awesome pizza), and saw a bizarre-but-good U2 cover band at The Orient Hotel while enjoying a $7 Guinness, the cheapest beer I found on my trip. We ‘mericans are spoiled by good beer that is relatively cheap.

I also stumbled across some artwork that basically blamed the colonial revolt by the Americans in 1776 as the reason why Australia became a dumping ground for convicts in the early 19th century. England needed to find another home for them after their convenient offshore prison across the pond was no longer available. I had never made this historical connection before. Is it valid?

Hyde Park

A large park adjacent to Elizabeth Street, and right next to our office there. There was a large protest there the prior weekend, not a good time to be there for a tourist. Fortunately, the immediate turmoil had died down by the time I was there, and there was a neat photography art exhibit on display. Lots of families out enjoying a lovely spring equinox. As it should be.

Opera House

Everybody knows the opera house, and it’s quite impressive in person. It’s hard to avoid filling up your camera with photos of this thing from every angle. I did take the guided tour inside, which was interesting, but not necessarily awesome. Much of the history can be learned on your own, and probably the best way to experience the interior (which has several theaters / performance halls) is to just get tickets for a performance. There are over 1000 performances there each year!

Another view, close-up. The tiles are really interesting.

Harbor Bridge

I went for a jog each morning, and one of the days took me over the bridge to North Sydney and back. Pretty fun, in spite of the lungs full of diesel exhaust from the morning commuters. The bridge opened in 1932, and is absolutely massive. You can climb up the top of the bridge or walk up the stairs inside the southeast pylon. Both are commercial operations, and cost money. I didn’t do either. Simply being on the bridge a zillion meters from the water was cool enough for me.

Royal Botanical Gardens

The gardens are awesome. If you like a huge diversity of trees, plants, flowers, and birds … well, this place is amazing. A morning jog through this would be a great way to start every day, so you Sydneysiders are quite lucky to have this in your backyard. As for the bats? Well, I never found them. I guess the campaign to get rid of them is working.

NRL Preliminary Final

My colleagues and I were lucky to get tickets to the National Rugby League semifinal match between South Sydney and Canterbury at ANZ Stadium (the olympic stadium from 2000). Not knowing either club — or the sport itself, really — I bought myself a Rabbitohs hat and cheered for the underdogs. Who got crushed 32-8, after owning an 8-4 lead early and having all of the momentum.

I was one of about 12 Rabbitohs supporters in the crowd of 70000. That was kind of fun.

Oh Rabbitohs, you ruined my day!

My kids like the hat, though.

Bondi Beach

Love or hate the big city, having a beach like Bondi so close to town is pretty awesome. I spent a good part of the day there. The sand was a fine powder, great feel. Walked through the farmers market, bought a baked treat, enjoyed the heck out of it. Ate lunch with Scott (my colleague) at The Bucket List, outside and overlooking the water. Lovely way to spend a day.

Took a cab (spendy) there, walked to the train station on the way back and returned to the city via train. I think I liked the cab better.

Manly, and Sydney Harbor National Park

I went to Manly twice. Once, on a Friday evening, and had drinks at 4 Pines Brewing (awesome!) and pizza at Hugo’s (double-awesome). It was dark, and I didn’t get to see the town or the beach. So I returned on Sunday. Along with all of Sydney, I think. The place was crawling with people that day. But, as I carved my way through the crowds, I was able to see enough of the town to get a feel for the place. Lunch at BenBry Burgers took all of the pain of the crowds away.

I walked along the beach and found Shelly Beach tucked away from the hustle and bustle. That looked like a good place to spend a day. However, my goal was beyond Shelly Beach — Sydney Harbor National Park, which has a trail system that begins just above the beach. I walked all over these trails throughout the day, and made it to the headlands overlooking the cliffs before turning back and taking the trails back down the hill to the Manly town center.

Another trip to 4 Pines Brewing capped off the day. The special Märzen was a winner. It’s possible I may have ordered a second pint.

Manly is a 40-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay, or take a bus or cab. Take the ferry. Cheap and easy.

Oh, and I saw an echidna!


In Auckland, my hotel was on the water — literally. Built on a pier jutting into the harbor. Oddly, also right next to the ferry terminal, as in Sydney. The weather was not quite so nice … maybe high 50s, overcast, and occasional drizzle. Just like home!

My schedule was much tighter in Auckland than in Sydney, so I saw less. But I still had a great time, and my colleagues there helped me make the most of my visit. A couple of evening jogs got me out on the harbor, which was very pretty.

I ate at Tyler Street Garage (hipster hangout, great pizza and beer), Degree (low key, diverse menu and beer), L’Assiette (only got as far as coffee and pastry), and Mexico (lamb & mint quesadillas … yum).


My colleague Tim took me to Piha, and we hiked to Kitekite Falls. Very cool. I really enjoy hiking, and this was a great little walk with a nice waterfall reward at the end. Learned about the native plants and trees, in particular the silver fern — which I recognized to be the symbol used by the All Blacks.

Rangitoto Island

A young volcano in the middle of the harbor? I’m there. My colleage Serge recommended this (as did others), and I enjoyed the heck out of this. My schedule was a bit tight, and I hoped to be able to hike to the top and back in the 3-hour window between ferry visits. The literature suggested this might not be possible, but I tried it anyway. I power-walked and ran up it in 45 minutes. 🙂 Left me plenty of time to take in the vista, and leisurely stroll down. Didn’t get a chance to visit the lava caves, which probably didn’t matter since I didn’t have a flashlight.



Thanks to Sarge for the geographical reference.

Sadly, in Sydney, I was unable to locate 42 Wallaby Way, and no indication that P. Sherman lives or works there. I blame the iOS 6 maps app.

Where to drink in San Diego

My friend Andy and I were in San Diego this week for a business trip. We both like beer, and it’s always fun to see what another town has to offer. Portland has such a good beer community that I’m always expecting something inferior everywhere else.

We happened to be in town during San Diego Beer Week. A nice coincidence, for sure. We ended up going to three places:

  • Blind Lady Ale House, in Normal Heights
  • Small Bar, in University Heights
  • Toronado Bar, in North Park

I have to say that all three were equally awesome, and completely different from each other. Blind Lady felt like it could have been the Lucky Lab or similar in Portland, so it felt the most at home. Small Bar had a classic college pub feel, and Toronado had a great dive bar feel. All three had excellent beer selections. At least a couple dozen choices at each.

Google for their locations. Good times await.