Zihuatenejo lies northwest of Acapulco on the Costa Grande. Unsightly development sprawls outward from the city center, the tourism infrastructure is inadequate, and worrying levels of pollution have put its "fragile ecosystem under siege." On the rare occasion that it is not overwhelmed by cruise ship crowds, the Old Town "still feels like Mexico."
Here is a representative sampling of additional anonymous comments from the panelists. They are not necessarily the views of the National Geographic Society:
"It still feels like Mexico here and it's nice to be in a beach town where you can get to everything on foot. The town is obviously under pressure though, with the density overwhelming the infrastructure and the cruise ships disgorging more people than the town can really handle. Nearby reefs are in rough shape because of the constant stream of visitors who are not very careful."
"Like many travelers, I had been drawn to this place after its reference in the movie The Shawshank Redemption. I guess I got there 50 years too late! The sprawling town is a maze of tourist hotels and the center of town is entirely made up of tourist shops. Each day, several cruise ships dump hundreds of shoppers on the waterfront and they lap up the tacky goods. The town has no soul and I can imagine that the environment in the surrounding area is suffering. The marine environment also suffers due to the cruise ships and countless fishing trip operators in the area."
"Has become a touristy mess. Waterfront restaurants ruled by hawkers. Seedy town center. Dope dealers solicit even families. Loud sports bars. Some resorts have retained traditional Mexican charm, but it is fading fast. Cartel activity is higher than anyone wants to admit."
- Nat Geo Expeditions
"Fairly authentic Old Town center, especially given scale of surrounding touristic development."