A guide to choosing your specific Hotel in Ixtapa or Zihuatanejo, Mexico
OK, so you’ve seen my article on choosing a location “Best Hotel Location – Ixtapa Or Zihuatanejo?” (if you haven’t, perhaps you should do so now!). You’ve settled on a general area, perhaps even have your plane tickets in hand, now how in the heck to decide which Hotel is “right” for your specific desires?
How much effort and time do you want to invest? This is the single most important factor in determining how well your hotel choice “fits” you. Obviously, the more (productive) time spent researching hotel choices, the better off you will be to make an educated choice.
NOTE: In the previous paragraph I said “productive time spent”, not just “time spent”. Especially while doing research on the Internet, there are a vast number of “time-traps”… sites that are aimed towards making booking at any cost, with very little factual, unbiased information. The goal of EVERY booking site is to MAKE BOOKINGS! Sure, they may have reviews (*see note below*) and pretty pictures, but what they really want is your money. They do not care how they make it.
OK, back to the topic. In increasing order of time spent, your choices are basically these:
Individual hotel or chain sites.
On-line reservation sites.
Individual Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo sites and forums.
NOTE: If you came here looking for links to recommended travel, hotel or booking sites, you will be disappointed. I do not include links to any sites, although I may write about some that I (personally) like. The idea is not to promote one site over another, the idea is to describe techniques and “food-for-thought”. Who is to say that WhoopeeBookings is better or worse than WhizBang Bookings?
Travel Agencies Simple right? Walk in, pick up a glossy brochure and peer at the 2 inch pictures. Choices? Let’s see (I am actually looking at one as I write this). 8 choices in Ixtapa and 3 in Zihuatanejo. Not bad you say? There exist hundreds of hotels, bungalows, villas, condos etc. In the Ixtapa Zihuatanejo area!
Why these specific hotels? I am not saying there aren’t any good ones in the list but the one and only criteria for being featured in a travel agency or package vacation company brochure is the following:
These are the hotels that do business with the agency. Period.
You can form your own conclusions. I am not in any way against travel agents or package tour companies — in fact you can often get a great deal from them, and if you happen to know an agent well and he or she has actually been to Ixtapa or Zihuatanejo, even better.
Hotel Web Sites
Obviously, you can’t expect a hotel’s website to give you complete unbiased reviews of their properties, but they do have one big advantage:
You are in direct contact with the hotel.
Calling their phone number or sending an email will put you in contact with the Hotel (or chain) directly. This can very often result in:
Cheaper rates — they don’t have to pay a commission to someone else.
Last-minute cancellation deals — who knows better than the front-desk or reservations clerks?
More room choices. Especially with package deals, you choices may be few. For example, the rooms with the nicest view may not be available in a package deal as it would “break” their $999 package price.
NOTE: you can tell if a telephone number is within the Ixtapa Zihuatanejo area very easily — the area code is “755” as in 755-555-1212 and the country code is “52” as in 011-52-755-555-1212.
On-line Reservation Sites There are dozens, even hundreds. Why? Easy… it is a very financially rewarding market to be in. Think about it, no inventory, no physical product to deliver, just charge commissions.
More and more there is very little difference between the big sites. The price differences are minimal between say Expedia and Travelocity (no endorsement implied!). By all means, use them, just bear in mind the following:
Know who you are dealing with. The big boys are well established, but some of the little guys… who really knows. Save yourself some trouble and do a little checking. As a hotel owner in Zihuatanejo, I can say from past experience that not all reservation services are the same. There are times when I haven’t been paid, or it has taken months to receive payment. Meanwhile of course, the guests have come and gone, they have paid and had every expectation of receiving what they paid for, and justifiably so.
Ignore the stars!. Well, up to a limit. Bear in mind that star ratings are entirely subjective. Especially in small towns like Ixtapa or Zihuatanejo — indeed most of Mexico, there is no, repeat no “star rating authority”. I have seen hotels that have one star on a particular site and 3 stars on another!
If the site boasts reviews or user-comments, read them. Read the reviews or comments with a grain of salt to start. If a hotel only has one comment… well, obviously it can’t be the consensus view can it? Also, depending on which site, the user comments can be a little dodgy too. Not on the big sites, but the smaller ones. It is painfully easy to “seed” positive comments about your own hotel.
Not all hotels are available online. The biggies in Ixtapa of course, but the majority of smaller ones, especially in Zihuatanejo, are not. Nor will you find apartments, bungalows, private villas etc. Look to the local sites to find them.
Ixtapa Zihuatanejo Sites and Forums
These are not reservation services per se, although they all have advertising. I am now going to suspend my rule about not giving a site a recommendation, but if you haven’t already been to the site, you should: TripAdvisor. They have user-forums for both Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo.
Try it out. By far and away the majority of users are honest and helpful and the site makes it very hard to engage in self-publicity.
Lonely Planet can be useful as well, but they just don’t have the volume. There are also forums on some of the local sites but they are generally populated with two types of people — those seeking information and locals trying to promote their own interest. Not useless by any stretch, but again, take it with a grain of salt.
In summary, the more homework you do, the better chance you will have of being content with your choice.