Far-flung destinations out of your honeymoon budget? Make a run for the border.
There’s a reason Hawaii and Paris are the popular honeymoon destinations: The former is hot, tropical and gorgeous, and the latter is, well, it’s Paris. But with airline fares higher than the price of your wedding dress and the still pretty weak US dollar (there’s nothing romantic about a $7 café au lait), it’s time to rethink where you spend your postnuptial vacation. The charming, sleepy beachside town of Zihuatanejo is a far cry from the Señor Frog–riddled spring break locales of Cancún and Cabo, and what’s more, the margaritas and seafood are cheap and the airfare is reasonable.
The inexpensive eats and tickets will free up cash to spend on your hotel, and for this, you should splurge. It’s your honeymoon, for chrissakes—you don’t want to be doing the first horizontal mambo of your married lives on anything but embarrassingly high-thread-count sheets. The Tides Zihuatanejo (866-905-9560; rooms start at $450), located on the best beach in the area, Playa La Ropa, delivers on that front and then some. Unlike the towering megaresorts in nearby Ixtapa, the Tides stays true to Mexican architecture with sunset-hued, adobe-inspired casitas that rise no higher than the resort’s many palm trees. And with only 75 guest rooms and suites spread out over six acres, you never feel like just a number, nor will the three swimming pools brim with screaming rug rats (children are quietly discouraged). Opt for one of the oceanfront suites, which feature a private open-air sitting area, a separate bedroom with four-poster bed draped with gauzy white netting and, off the bedroom, sliding glass doors leading to your own private infinity pool overlooking the bay (careful, lovebirds—people on the beach can see you if you decide to jump in the pool in your birthday suits).
The Tides occupies 600 feet of beach on the mile-long, crescent-shaped Playa La Ropa, home to several other resorts, beachside restaurants and a public beach where locals frolic on the weekends. The picturesque stretch makes for a nice walk, but chances are you’ll want to chill on the hotel’s personal patch of sand, which is decked out with wooden lounge chairs topped with white linen cushions and giant beds suspended from a thatched hut open on all four sides. “Beach Butlers” are at your beck and call, whether you want fresh towels, a snack or a drink (we dig their michelada—half fresh lime juice, half Pacifico beer)—hell, they’d probably slather lotion on your new spouse’s back if you asked them nicely.
Though the Tides has two great restaurants on the property, it’s well worth venturing to downtown Zihuantanejo for cheaper drinks and food. Stroll along the city beach, where fishermen drag in the day’s catch that area chefs will soon buy and cook up for that night’s dinner. Get a taste of that fresh seafood action at La Sirena Gorda (“the fat mermaid”) on Paseo del Pescador. The al pastor de pescado tacos (spice-rubbed fish cooked on a spit; $6.50) pair beautifully with a ginger margarita ($5.50), which cools your throat and bites your tongue at the same time.
If you’re craving a more local, less touristy experience, head five blocks away from the beach to Avenida Benito Juarez and pull up a chair at one of the countless counters at the Mercado del Pueblo (“central market”), which serve up tamales, tacos and fruit shakes alongside stand after stand of fresh fruits and vegetables—and pig, cow and fish parts in all states of butchering.
For a nightcap, the local hipsters flock to La Jungla (“the jungle”) on Barra Cruda, a dive rivaling Cal’s where you have to step over a snoozing dog to get inside. Shoes are apparently optional for the pierced and tatted-up patrons, not to mention the bartender, who will bring you a cold $2 Corona as you chill on the worn wooden furniture to the tunes of Bob Marley. A honeymoon beer that’s half the price of one at a Chicago bar? Now that’s a love that will last.
Two nights, two people
Flight + Hotel $1,979*
+ Meals $200
* Travelocity.com offers packages that includes airfare and a stay at The Tides Zihuatanejo starting at $1,979.