Rent For US$200 Per Month In This Sunny Coastal City, Zihuatanejo, Mexico

Budget Travel inc - Travel News & Tips | Zihuatanejo, Mexico

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By Robert Knight | November 25, 2020


As I lay in my hammock watching the sunset paint the sky behind the green hills that surround the fishing village of Zihuatanejo, I am reminded, as I am every day, just how lucky I am to be living in this tropical gem. 

The movie “The Shawshank Redemption” put this small village on Mexico’s Pacific coast on America’s radar. The funny thing is that they only used the name Zihuatanejo (pronounced zeewhataneighho). 

The scenes of the place were actually filmed in St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

A line in the film says, “Zihuatanejo, that’s where I want to live the rest of my life, a warm place with no memory.” 

Since the film was released in 1994, hundreds of expats from the United States, Canada, and Europe have come to do just that. 

Today it has grown but retains its small fishing village charm. The fishermen go out to sea every evening and return at 6 a.m. with their hauls to sell on the beach. The still-flapping red snapper, dorado, tuna, and grouper are displayed on tarps thrown on the sand for the early-morning shoppers. 

You can linger at a coffee shop in front sipping your morning coffee while surveying the catch to select your fresh fish for lunch. The waves gently lapping on the shore induce a languid feeling that could put you to sleep if it weren’t for the good coffee.

Later in the day walk over to La Ropa beach, arguably the nicest of the half-dozen beaches within walking distance of the center of town. It’s a 2-kilometer stretch of white sand along crystal clear water. A large rock outcropping at one end with a Mexican flag planted on top is a great spot for novice snorkelers. It’s full of colorful parrot fish, puffer fish, and blue tang, and often you will see a large sea turtle nipping at the coral. 

Along the beach are many “palapas,” as they’re called, where you can rest on a chaise lounge, beneath an umbrella, sipping an ice-cold Corona and enjoying the tropical sun. 

One of my favorites is Paty’s, because the sun lounges and umbrellas are free if you order something to eat, and prices are reasonable. 

None of these places are expensive, though. You can have a good lunch and a couple of beers in any of them for less than US$10. I guess the thing that cinched the deal for me at Paty’s is that they bring your beers to you in a small bucket of ice that keeps them ice cold for a long time on the hot beach. Sometimes it’s those little things that make the difference.

Other favorites include La Arena, where a large tribe of iguanas gathers at feeding time, which is anytime the chef gets a new shipment of lettuce. He tosses the ends up on the rooftop of the kitchen, and an incredible number of iguanas hustle to feed. These animals look like dragons. I’m thankful they are dedicated vegetarians. 

Next door to La Arena is El Manglar. As the name suggests it’s nestled in a mangrove and provides welcome shade for a lunchtime meal. The same iguanas that flock next door to feed fill the mangrove trees that overhang the estuary. Sometimes a crocodile or two can be spotted in the fresh lagoon water next to the restaurant. 

Everyone knows that Mexico is an inexpensive place to live compared with many other parts of the world. Zihuatanejo (or Zihua, as the locals call it) is particularly cheap. I live in a fully furnished two-bedroom apartment, just an eight-minute walk from the beach. My rent, which includes all utilities as well as high-speed internet, is only US$200 per month. 

I have friends who rent long term and pay US$400 per month for a two-bedroom with a spectacular view of the entire bay and only steps from the beach. 

Restaurants abound. You can find Greek, Italian, seafood, steak, oriental and, of course, Mexican food everywhere. I found the best pizza I’ve eaten anywhere only a short walk from my apartment at a place called D’Maria. The other night, we had a pear salad to start and ordered the house special with oven-roasted vegetables, prosciutto, oodles of great cheese, and baby spinach. We ordered the medium, but it was so huge that we couldn’t finish it and took home the leftovers for the next day. The whole meal, including two glasses of wine and tip, came to less than US$25.

Another great advantage of Zihua is that you can walk everywhere. A motor scooter might come in handy if you want to go outside town, but the public transportation is plentiful and very reasonable (about fifty cents for a bus or US$2 for a cab). We usually walk to the supermarket and take a cab home with the week’s groceries. 

Shopping at the local mercado can greatly reduce your food bill and is an adventure in itself. It extends over some 10 or more square blocks in the center of town. You can find everything there from souvenirs to cow’s heads and chicken feet. Fresh avocados, mangos, pineapples, and bananas are everywhere, along with small restaurants serving local Mexican dishes. The inviting aroma of corn tortillas cooking on grills draws you in. It smells so good, it surely must taste good, too, right? Indeed, it does.

The government health service (IMMSS) is available to all residents, and the cost is extremely low. A Canadian friend of mine, Mike, 69 years old, pays about US$600 annually for complete coverage. Mike had a kidney removed at the regional hospital in Acapulco, and his cost, including all tests, the operation, hospital stay, and medication, was zero. I accompanied Mike for his operation and found the hospital to be clean and modern.

Many of the expats who live here have traveled all over the world, including in Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, South America, and Mexico. They have selected Zihuatanejo as the place to settle for the same reasons I have. 

Zihuatanejo weaves a magical spell around you from the first time you experience it. 

I asked my friend Gabi why she decided to settle in Zihua. Her answer was, “As soon as I saw the place, I knew this was where I wanted to be.” Gabi has lived here for the last 15 years.

“I have always felt safe here, even as a single woman,” she says.

Another friend, Ron, came here after seeing the film and never left. He now owns three bars. He has married a local woman and is raising a family. Ron says, “I don’t think I would ever go back to the States.”

“The Shawshank Redemption” may not have been filmed here, but the peace, tranquility, and tropical magic the protagonists sought are definitely present in Zihuatanejo.

Once you’ve experienced it, it’s impossible to resist.