First off-- thx to Peddler, TravelJudy, Dorado and all the other TA posters who provided accurate info. making our trip to Zihua most excellent. I hadn't been to Z for 20 years but am glad to see development hasn't ruined a beautiful place. We stayed at Casa Medina (private home) just across from the entrance to La Perla on La Ropa beach. La Ropa was very clean despite being peak-peak season. Nary a rock nor trash, clean ocean water with a perfect temperature in the mid-80's. Good mix of 80% Mexican nationals and 20% Norteamericanos/Europeos.
We had dinner at a real find up the road overlooking La Ropa-- La Escollera. To be honest, the food at dinner was not that great-- but they have a beautiful 50-ft. infinity pool perched on the south end of La Ropa. You can show up at Noon to swim or lounge by the pool and they open for lunch at 1 pm. The lunch food was much better and the service was excellent. Our group spent three afternoons at La Escollera and never saw more than 15 people around the pool. We had the outstanding view of the entire bay all to ourselves! They also have three rooms for rent.
Of course we had to get some food and drink at the very crowded La Perla restaurant out on the sand. And yes, the service was slooooooow (45 minutes to get drinks and then another hour to get guac & chips.) Fortunately we took advantage of the wait by renting waverunners at 350 pesos per half hour. Great fun and worth it to circle the bay and get a sense of the environs.
To avoid the New Year's crowds and get better service we paid 200 pesos for a boat over and back to Las Gatas beach. Restaurante Otilia's Franco and Scott provided us with fast service and an excellent Mexican platter and many drinks over the two afternoons we visited. Decent snorkeling at Las Gatas and near the big rocks at the north end of La Ropa beach near the Tides.
Probably the best value meal we had on La Ropa was dinner at Elvira's. We had delicious Rib Eye and Shrimp Mojo de ajo for 150 pesos ($12) each. Not bad for dining by candlelight on a gorgeous beach! We also ate dinner our first night at Dona Prudencia in the Villa Mexicana hotel. Very nice setting but Elvira's had it beat IMHO.
If you want to go high end-- we had a tremendous New Year's dinner at Casa que Canta. Amazingly beautiful hotel, accommodated by the extremely classy Teresa who enabled our friend's small dog to dine with us on an important night. It wasn't cheap but at 980 pesos ($75) a head, the five-course meal was simply outstanding. Stuffed mushroom cap appetizer was delectable, followed by wonderful crab/spinach ravioli in a garlicy broth to die for. My wife raved about the duck with mango chutney and the other entree choice-- shrimp adobo in creamy risotto. Definitely the best of these dishes she ever tasted. Followed by a diverse cheese tray and guayaba sorbet-- this meal was actually a tremendous bargain when you factor in the location and great service.
We also visited Lety's-- which was at the other end of the spectrum: Funky place on the waterfront across the bridge from downtown's El Mirador complete with plastic furniture and tatooed waitress. Everyone was friendly and Lety (we assumed it was her) recommended the relleno stuffed with seafood. We also had the famous coconut shrimp-- butterflied, filled with a ricotta-like cheese and fried in a heavy coconut batter with coconut milk sauce on the side. Everything was very fresh and what a great deal for six to eat their fill with beer and drinks for a total of $60 bucks. The coconut shrimp are a little heavy for lunch so make sure you can take a siesta and mention to the cab driver that it's across the footbridge from El Mirador because ours had a hard time finding it.
We took a cab to Petatlan (400 pesos RT) because we didn't have a lot of time. If we had more time taking the bus would have been a better experience and much cheaper. Petatlan is a nice, pretty average rural Mexican town with a really good gold market near the church. Many different stalls selling a wide variety of gold and silver jewelry.
Got some excellent cuban cigars at Casa Tequila in downtown Zihua but found the outlet in Ixtapa has a better variety. We also had some tasty wood-fired thin-crust pizza at Emilio's in Ixtapa. The caesar salad was very good but the large-enough-for-two Greek salad was among the best I ever had. We did the Delfiniti dolphin swim in Ixtapa as well. Spendy for about 30 minutes of swim time but it was a great experience to touch and play with these amazing mammals. They quoted us $90 U.S. each over the phone but then charged us a total of 1,800 pesos for two. That works out to a little less than $70/person at the 13/1 exchange rate we got at banks and casa de cambios. You'll find that many people will accept your dollars at only a 10/1 rate so I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you get money from an ATM or convert your dollars to pesos at the bank or Casa de cambio before going out on the town.
Saw the crocodiles at Play Linda near Ixtapa (the playa really isn't muy linda) We saw the coatimundis at Villa de la Selva in Ixtapa (good meal but expensive with another killer view).
We also had a great Italian meal, and another outstanding view and excellent service at Il Mare on the north end of La Perla beach. Bandido's downtown= very good table-side salsa made by Nadia, nice big screens to watch the game, but over-priced touristy food for the most part.
Forgive my long windedness, but we loved Zihua and I hope our experiences are as useful to others as the suggestions we received from Trip Advisor prior to our vacation. Que les vayan bienes!