The twin cities of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo (sometimes the two are referred to as Ixta-Zihua) are anything but identical. If your idea of vacation heaven is a round of golf on a lush, green course followed by a leisurely lunch of lobster bisque and champagne, Ixtapa (pronounced eeks-TAH-pa) is calling your name.

However, if you'd rather poke through an outdoor Mexican market and then amble over to the beach where fisherfolk are mending their nets, it's only 4 mi/6 km down the coast to Zihuatanejo (zee-wha-tah-NEH-ho). The lobster there might be in your tacos (washed down with plenty of cold cerveza).

Mexico's tourism-development agency dreamed up Ixtapa when trying to create a Pacific-coast Mexican resort area. Zihuatanejo, on the other hand, is a traditional Mexico fishing village that has been around for centuries. Whatever Mexican beach vacation you prefer, one of these towns should suit you.

Both towns attract more Mexicans than international visitors, especially families, who savor the tranquil settings. Ixtapa tends to have more high-rise luxury and mid-priced hotels while Zihuatanejo has more old family-style inns and bungalows with a few romantic, ultradeluxe hotels geared to honeymooners.

Driving at night on the highway between the resorts and Mexico City is not recommended for safety reasons.

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