GETTING THERE: We flew from Washington to Mexico City on United Airlines, which has a daily nonstop service from Dulles. Round-trip tickets in November start at about $350, with restrictions.

GETTING AROUND: We rented a compact car from Alamo at the Mexico City airport, which we reserved through Expedia. The cost for a week was $171. Be aware that compacts in Mexico are often smaller than in the States. We spent about $45 in tolls.

WHERE TO STAY:

* In Patzcuaro: Hacienda Mariposas (at Kilometer 3 on the Patzcuaro-Santa Clara del Cobre road, 800-573-2386, www.haciendamariposas.com) is a collection of upscale rustic bungalows with gorgeous tiled bathrooms and fireplaces, set on 18 wooded acres just outside Patzcuaro. A double with breakfast costs about $135 per night. The hotel requires reservations 30 days in advance. Posada de Don Vasco (Ave. Lazaro Cardenas 450, 800-780-7234, www.bestwestern.com ) is a Best Western hotel decorated in Spanish colonial style. The city property offers 77 rooms, a pool and lots of activities for kids. A double is about $110.

* In Ixtapa: Las Brisas Ixtapa (Playa Vista Hermosa, 888-559- 4329) was designed by Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta, famed for his use of large geometric forms and bright colors. The hotel has 423 ocean-front rooms with terraces, a lovely and quiet beach, several pools and lush gardens. We got a double room through Orbitz for $118 a night; prices are higher in winter. Near Ixtapa in the town of Zihuatanejo, Villas del Sol (Playa La Ropa, 888-389-2645, www.hotelvilladelsol.net) features elegant adobe villas set amid gardens facing a white-sand Pacific beach. Rates for a double start at $250 in the summer, $330 in winter. There are 35 rooms and 35 suites.

WHERE TO EAT: In Patzcuaro, El Patio (Plaza Vasco de Quiroga 19) serves the local white fish al mojo de ajo -- in garlic sauce. Dinner for two was about $30, including a glass of wine and a soda. Near Ixtapa, La Casa Que Canta (on the Camino Escenico a Playa La Ropa -- that is, the Scenic Road to La Ropa Beach) is an exquisite boutique hotel that opens its restaurant in the evening to non-guests, who dine on the terrace while watching the sun set over the bay of Zihuatanejo. It features dishes combining Mexican and continental cuisines, with excellent seafood. It's a bit tricky to find; from Ixtapa, you might want to take a cab. Dinner for two with wine was about $100.

INFORMATION: Mexico Tourism Board, 800-446-3942, www.visitmexico.com. Michoacan, the state where Patzcuaro is located, has a Web site: www.michoacan-travel.com; click on Patzcuaro Region.

-- Mary Beth Sheridan