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Last year, Thompson Hotels — which has outposts in Playa del Carmen and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico — added to its offerings by taking over the former Viceroy Zihuatanejo.
The 56-suite Thompson Zihuatanejo, a Beach Resort, opened in early 2019 and is located on Playa La Ropa, a private cove that’s just minutes from two 18-hole golf courses designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Robert von Hagge.
The expansive resort includes a penthouse with cathedral ceilings and an outdoor granite bathroom, in addition to a namesake two-bedroom suite with an infinity plunge pool. It was styled by local designer Andres Saavedra, with handcrafted furnishings by Studio Casa. Design inspiration came from the area’s rugged natural beauty and coastal elements.
Upon arrival in the lobby, I was struck by dramatic black stone walls, Oaxacan-made barro negro (black clay) pottery by local artists and black pebble floors that form a walkway to the suites. No two guestrooms are alike, but each features handmade crafts such as woven rugs, wall tapestries, wood totems and mosaic tiles.
When I arrived in my guestroom, I was treated to a welcome trio of ceviche from Hao, the resort’s all-day restaurant. It was the perfect snack to enjoy on the ample lounging patio next to the pool right outside my room. In this part of the resort, there are 11 suites in a crescent shape all around a pool. The setup is ideal for a small-group booking.
Beyond the pool, I could see the beach palapas and lounge chairs overlooking the sea, where I planned to spend a lot of time watching kayakers, paddleboarders and windsurfers.
The tiny town of Zihuatanejo used to be an off-the-beaten-path fishing village where musicians, surfers and artists (most notably Andy Warhol) hung out — and it still retains that feel even with several top hotel brands opening in the area. As I waded out in the ocean for the first time, I saw a familiar woman with spiky red hair dressed in a white baby-doll dress carrying bags of fabric. She was wearing a lot of silver jewelry and had a unique style. It finally dawned on me that it was designer Betsey Johnson, who has a shop and home in the area. Clearly, it was a sign that “Zihua,” as it’s known, has kept its cool.
Foodie FunOne of the highlights of my stay was a cooking class with award-winning chef Miguel Baltazar, who oversees the resort’s three seafood-centric beach restaurants. He also takes guests out for shopping excursions at the local farmers market, then teaches them how to use the ingredients back at the hotel. Although Baltazar sources many products from his on-site organic garden, roaming the crowded farmers market stalls with him — surrounded by the colorful array of chiles and fruits — made our experience truly immersive. We even took time out to chat with local farmers and fishermen.
Back at Thompson, we made “fisherman’s ceviche” using a squeeze bottle filled with ocean water, guacamole with pomegranate, salt and the resort’s home-grown cilantro crushed with a mortar and pestle.
“All you need is lime, chile and salt to create a great meal,” Baltazar said.
After a wine and mezcal tasting at the beach bar — near a striking mural of a woman emerging from a pool by San Diego-based artist Celeste Byers — the evening flowed back down to Cenzia, the waterfront eatery. Here, diners can enjoy a massive barbecue that employs a giant metal roasting cage over a fire pit. The meal includes a bounty from the garden and the sea, including octopus and caramelized bone marrow, a specialty of the chef.
That night, I also dined on rich foie gras and a classic Caesar salad with a twist of preserved oyster instead of anchovy. Other memorable dishes included tamales with banana leaf husks seasoned with ash for a smoky flavor, and a mole with ginger, cinnamon and tamarind, which is used like a curry paste for fish, chicken or meat.
After dinner, I wandered across the street to Loot. Like the hotel, this art gallery, bar and boutique celebrating high-end surf culture was also designed by Saavedra. By day, visitors can shop for cool clothes or sit on the patio with a coffee. In the evening, the upstairs level has music and is a great spot for mingling with locals.
While I didn’t see Betsey Johnson there, I could just imagine Andy Warhol hanging out and enjoying Zihua’s eclectic vibe.
The DetailsThompson Zihuatanejo, a Beach Resortwww.thompsonhotels.com