zihuatanejo...or the place you thought shawshank was filmed

ANDY: Think you'll ever get out of here?

RED: Sure. When I got a long white beard and about three marbles left rolling around upstairs.

ANDY: Tell you where I'd go. Zihuatanejo.

RED: Zihuatanejo?

ANDY: Mexico. Little place right on the Pacific. You know what the Mexicans say about the Pacific? They say it has no memory. That's where I'd like to finish out my life, Red. A warm place with no memory. Open a little hotel right on the beach. Buy some worthless old boat and fix it up like new. Take my guests out charter fishing.....

.....That hotel and that boat... I don't think it's too much to want. To look at the stars just after sunset. Touch the sand. Wade in the water. Feel free.

RED: Goddamn it, Andy, stop! Don't do that to yourself! Talking shitty pipedreams! Mexico's down there, and you're in here, and that's the way it is!

ANDY: You're right. It's down there, and I'm in here. I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying. 

Zihuatanejo is probably best known for being the paradise where Stephen King's two characters are reunited.  In the final scene of the film, the camera pans out to show spectacular ocean, white sand and not a single person in sight.

Unfortunately, as we found out AFTER we got there, this scene was actually filmed nowhere near Mexico, but in the U.S Virgin Islands. Although some locals may tell you differently (and charge accordingly) you will not be visiting anywhere where Morgan Freeman set foot.  

And if If Andy DeFresne was still in the town, he'd probably be charging around $200 USD for his charter boat fishing tours. 

Great for: The town has a number of pleasant beaches and sea-based activities (parasailing banana boats, fishing tours) and a well set-up tourist area in the centre of town for weekenders and families to get souvenirs or find a restaurant. The quaint streets are lined with boutique stalls and stores selling fine silver jewellery and art, and make a lovely place for an evening stroll.

The best beach for swimming is Playa Las Gatas (which is not, as the name would suggest, teeming with cats - much to our disappointment!), a secluded beach across the bay from Zihuatenejo. Regular boats depart from the main pier throughout the day, with an average cost of $40 pesos for the round-trip.

Playa La Ropa is another very popular choice, and the large expanse of white sand is considered to be the most beautiful in town. Lined by many small seafood restaurants and sea-based activity companies, this is by far the most popular, and as such can get very busy during peak season.

Unfortunately, due to rising pollution levels, Playa Municipal has been declared unsafe for swimmers.

Avoid if: The Lonely Planet calls Zihuatenejo 'the real deal' and 'a Pacific paradise of beautiful beaches', and whilst this town has plenty of charm, if this is what you are really looking for, there are many better options on Mexico's coast. 

Although there is one good hostel, this is not a city that caters to backpackers. The tourist centre is teeming with tourist bars and restaurants, filled with vacationing families but with little emphasis on late-night drinking or catering for those looking for a party.

Our recommendation for a secluded beach paradise would be nearby Maruata. 

Must do: Every morning from 7am until around midday, the fishermen sell their catch in along Playa Municipal. Although quite small, this is a nice open-air market to wander and get yourself a bargain for that evening's meal. 

Getting there: As a main transport hub, the bus station has regular first and second class buses up and down the coast. We travelled from Acupulco to Zihuatenejo in a second-class bus for $310 pesos per person. 

The terminal is located approximately 5km out of the centre, so you will either need to take one of the many taxis lined up outside (around $35 pesos) or a collectivo. The collectivos pass on the road running parallel to the station, but you need to take the overpass to cross to the other side. Just jump on one marked 'centro'. They should cost $6 pesos, but you may be charged more if you have large luggage.

Budget-breaker or maker? Breaker. Budget accommodation is scarce and the beaches, whilst very nice, are nothing special in comparison to others we've visited in Mexico.