These directions are a compilation, courtesy of Gunnar and Barbara Erickson, Barry Devine and Tom Heslin . Distances are from the Comer Glorieta in SMA. They were updated in December 2016 to include the new Cuitzeo to Patzcuaro cuota road.
Both distances and times are approximate. Yours may vary.
1. Take the road from SMA south towards Celaya.
2. Entering Celaya at 26 miles from the Glorieta, there is a Pemex on the right, about 30 minutes from the Glorieta. Get ready to turn right at the entry to Highway 45 which is .7 miles past the Pemex. You will turn onto the entry ramp just before the road into Celaya goes under the large white underpass which carries Highway 45. The sign says Salamanca/ Leon cuota.
3. Stay on Highway 45 which is four lane divided highway for approx 20 – 30 minutes. You continue past the Villagran exit. Then you see a hill off ahead to the right that has a ridge dipping towards the highway. Roughly where the ridge drops down is the turn. There are three exits within a mile. Ignore the first and second. The first leads north, the second is an abandoned ramp. The third is a right exit just after you go under the underpass. It is roughly 47 miles from SMA and is marked Morelia, Ixtapa. There is a toll booth as you enter. After the toll, you go south towards Morelia on Mex 43D.
4. You now are on Highway 43D which is a new two lane road wide enough for passing. In four miles, you go through a toll booth labeled Entronque Valtierrilla but you do not pay a toll. Instead you pick up a ticket. At 79 miles there is an exit for Morelia libre. Do not take it. Stay on Morelia cuota. This is good road and you should make good speed on it. At 87 miles, you hit a tollbooth where you turn in your ticket and pay . By now you are about 1 hour 30 minutes from San Miguel. You continue towards Morelia, crossing Lake Cuitzeo on a long causeway.
5. At the south end of the lake, the first exit is to San Augustin. Ignore it. You take the second exit as you go uphill. It is Mex 15 and marked to Guadalajara/ Patzcuaro. In 3 miles there is an exit for the brand new Autopista Cuitzeo/Patzcuaro. It shaves 30 minutes off the drive time. If you take it, you immediately pay a toll. The road then goes up hill and wanders through open country. You will pay two more tolls. At one point, the road forks and a branch goes to Morelia. Don’t take it. Stay towards Patzcuaro. As you get close to Patzcuaro, there is another split with one marked towards Morelia and the other to Uruapan. Go towards Uruapan and you will bypass Patzcuaro on the backside. If you need gas, there is a Pemex on the Tucambaro / Patzcuaro exit on the backside.
6. If for some reason, you want to go through Morelia, stay on 43D after you cross the big lake. At 113 miles you enter Morelia and it becomes more populated. There are two routes through; direct and via the periferico. To take the direct route, just aim ahead, you will wind through town and end up on the far side where the big box stores are located. You then go straight towards Patzcuaro and Highway 14.To take the periferico, you enter Morelia from the north and when you see a large green auditorium building on your left, get into your right lane. You will pass the Del Sol Hotel and the exit you want is just after this hotel, You take a right to get up on the periferico towards Quiroga/Patzcuaro/Highway 14 and proceed around Morelia for about 15- 25 minutes depending on traffic. The exit for the periferico – Patzcauro turn is easy to miss. If you pass the Costco you have gone too far. It is right before the road goes under an underpass and taxis park on the corner where you turn. Once you cross the railroad tracks on the periferico, the turn off for Highway 14 is about one mile farther, near the top of a hill. At 121 miles you take the right exit to Patzcuaro, which is Highway 14. Once you are out of Morelia, this turns into good highway.
7. If you go through Morelia, at 148 miles or about 15 minutes after you get on Highway 14, there is a salida to the left from Highway 14 for the same bypass around Patzcuaro that you hit if you take the Autopista Cuitzeo/Patzcuaro.
8. However you get there, after circumambulating Patzcuaro, you stay on the road to Uruapan, you hit a toll at 156 miles- Zirahuen. Then another at Zurumicuaro: 173 miles.
9. At 177 miles, you get off Highway 14 and exit south towards Lazaro Cardenas on Highway 37. This is a long open road towards the coast with two very wide lanes that allow you to pass. There is usually little traffic on it. At 182 miles there is a toll at Taretan. There is another at 201 miles at Santa Casilida/Lombardia. A few miles past this toll, there is a new Pemex open on the northbound side of the road just before the exit for Neuva Italia. At 224 miles, about 4 hours from SMA, you cross the first of six bridges. The second is at mile 231. At 254 you pay a toll at Arteaga. Bridge 3 is at 260. Bridge 4 at 262. Bridge 5 at 263. The Infernillo hydro electric plant is at mile 268 and the final bridge is at mile 274. The end of the highway and the toll booth is at mile 297, about 20 minutes from the hydro plant.
Make sure you take the booth on the far right for Zihuatanejo. Total driving time on Highway 37 is about 1 hour 40 minutes.
10. After coming down the ramp after the toll booth, you take a complicated left/south onto Mex 200. The road has been much improved in the last couple of years. Along Mex 200 you will pass through a string of small villages, most well fortified with topes. At La Union, there is a Pemex.
You pass the Troncones turnoff at mile 317. There is now a bypass that takes you around Ixtapa that comes out on divided road just up the hill from Zihuatanejo. You continue straight on Mex 200 through Zihuatanejo, you will go up a hill and then down a divided road with palms in the median towards Acapulco and the airport. At this point you can choose one of two routes If you go towards the airport, you will take an obscure right hand turn just before you get to it. That is the beginning of the beach road that extends the length of Playa Blanca. It is not fully paved, and depending on the season and when the grader last scraped it, it can range from smooth to black diamond moguls.
11. If you chose to go the fully paved route, instead of going towards the airport, you have to turn left towards Acapulco at mile 339 from a left turn lane. It is easy to miss the sign. If you do miss it and go straight, you go to the Zihuat airport and can loop back around. After making the turn, you still are on Mex 200 and soon pass through the small town of Coacoalyul At mile 342 there is a Pemex on the right and another road towards the airport, but you continue straight. At mile 345, you cross a small bridge at Los Achotes. There is a tope on the south side. Just after it, you turn right into the village; this road is narrow and easy to miss. There is a sign for Barra de Potosi one block farther down Mex 200, if you take it you will need to take a couple of turns to get back to the first street. Mex 200 is the most variable leg of the trip;. The driving time on it from the end of Highway 37 to the Los Achotes turnoff usually ranges from 45 minutes to 1 hour.
12. Wind through Los Achotes and continue for 4.3 miles until the road dead ends into the beach road. The village of Barra de Potosi is one mile to the left.
Total driving time excluding stops was just under 6 hours on the Cuitzeo Patzcuaro cuota. Going through Morelia adds about 30 minutes. From the end of Highway 37 to Barra was about 1 hour 45 minutes.
Some notes on the reverse route from Barra to San Miguel;
The new autopista can be confusing on the northern route. Here are some tips.
You get on the autopista in Patzcuaro by going left and ignoring the old free road to Morelia. Three miles in you pay a toll at Plaza de Cobro Chapultepec. About 12 miles farther and the road splits. You want the branch to Copandoro/Quiroga— not Morelia.
As you come down the hill and see the lake, you will want the branch towards Mexico— not Guadalajara. You pay a toll at the bottom before you get on Mex 15. Then you take the exit marked Morelia/Salamanca. It goes up hill and merges with the road from the lake to Morelia. Immediately after the merge, you exit right where marked Salamanca. This is confusing but it will twist you around until you are heading north on the road across the lake.