Not only is Manzanillo a well-known resort destination, but Manzanillo port was the first shipping yard to open in Latin America in 1531 and today, it’s the most important commercial seaport in Mexico. Located along the central Pacific Coast of Mexico overlooking the twin bays of Manzanillo and Santiago, Manzanillo is situated in a region with diverse natural landscapes. It’s a favorite destination for beach activities, ecotourism and adventure sports. A scenic four hour drive (or first class bus trip) from Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo is a great weekend get-away.
Very similar to Puerto Vallarta, the weather in Manzanillo is pleasant year-round, and Manzanillo beach sees an average of 350 days of sunshine each year. Manzanillo’s close proximity to the Sierra Madre Mountains helps to keep temperatures slightly cooler than many of the other well-known resort destinations located up and down the Pacific Coast. The best time to visit Manzanillo is during the winter months from November to April. The summer rainy season lasts from June to October when afternoon rainstorms turn the entire region a lush, tropical shade of green.
The recently refurbished centro historico (historic center) of Manzanillo is a lovely place to explore, and pedestrian walkways make it easy to explore on foot. The main plaza overlooks the bay and is surrounded by local bars, restaurants and shops.
There are also some excellent seafood palapas (thatch roofed restaurants) lining the beach. Manzanillo’s zona hotelera (hotel zone), located five miles north of the downtown area, is where you’ll find some of the best beaches, luxury resorts and golf courses.
Manzanillo beach has been dubbed the “Sailfish Capital of the World,” and marlin, sailfish and other are abundant in the waters just offshore.
Each year the town hosts international fishing tournaments that attract sports fisherman from around the world. In addition to fishing, visitors to Manzanillo beach can partake in a variety of aquatic sports including swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving and surfing at the nearby beach in Cuyutlán. Manzanillo beach is also home to two world-class golf courses.
Manzanillo cuisine incorporates a variety of fresh local ingredients and seafood.
You’ll find several popular local dishes on the menus at Manzanillo restaurants, including the region’s signature dish, Colima ceviche. While in Manzanillo beach you’ll also have the opportunity to sample local sweets and drinks unique to this region of Mexico, including agua de tuba, a local specialty made from the juice of the coconut palms and tejuino, a fermented corn beverage.
There are numerous activities and attractions in the region surrounding Manzanillo.
Travel a short distance inland to visit the capital city of Colima for sightseeing in this historic and culturally rich city and get a taste of the local cuisine.
Nearby the magic town of Comala is home to one of the top attractions in the region, the Nogueras Hacienda and Alejandro Rangel Hidalgo Museum. Nature lovers interested in ecotourism can tour the nearby national park and biosphere reserve.
Things to Do
Isla Navidad Golf Course- A spectacular golf course set in sand dunes overlooking the
Cuyutlan Turtle Sanctuary – A worthwhile stop, not far from Manzanillo.
On the way out there, check out where they separate salt from the lagoon and the ocean and the banana and mango plantations.
Nevado de Colima – An active, snow-capped volcano well-worth a side trip.
Playa La Audiencia – While in Manzanillo, visit Playa La Audiencia. This is where Cortes had his lieutenant, Sandoval, the Conqueror of Colima construct brigantines for the Spanish to explore the Pacific.
Some 500 years later, Bo Derek ran down this beach in the movie, TEN, Las Hades being the swanky hotel of the time but with an inferior beach.
This was the birth of the popularity of cornrow hair braids!
La Campana – A 25,000-acre complex of stone pyramids on the northern edge of Colima.
The ruins at La Campana were discovered in 1995 when a team of construction workers started digging the foundation for a new shopping mall.
To date only about 40 percent of the archeological site has been uncovered. There are about 12 different structures (so far), including several Meso-american/pre-Columbian pyramids from about 500 AD.
Colima and Comala
Colima is the capital of the state of Colima. There are several museums and typical shopping. Surrounding the central square is a museum, the governor’s palace, and a large cathedral.
The “Pueblo Magico” of Comala is a small town with lots of Spanish colonial charm. Don’t miss Comala for brunch/lunch.
There are several ‘botaneros’ there that are geared to families, unlike most botaneros in Mexico.
For the price of beverages, even soft drinks, a friendly waitstaff will bring you plate after plate of antojitos (snacks) such as enchiladas, riblets, slices of pork loin, sopes, etc.
The food is wonderful and you can’t beat the price. As long as you’re drinking, they’ll keep bringing different small plates of snacks. Wonderful!
Where to Stay
By Joel Hansen
I arrived in Mazanillo back in July 2013 at the same time as Hurricane Erick. I was there to stay at Pepe’s Hideaway, a cluster of seven bungalows perched on the high on the cliffs splitting Mazanillo and Santiago Bays.
I had left my home in Puerto Vallarta on a warm sunny morning and drove south to the sleepy village of Tuito where I stopped at a roadside distillery for a Raicilla (the local moonshine). As I hit the road again I noticed that the sunny day had started to get a little overcast.
By the time I had reached Barra de Navidad it was a torrential downpour and by the time I had emerged on the beaches of Manzanillo it was a small (category one) huricane.
Checking my directions I pointed my car towards La Punta, the gated residential community nestled on the tip of Santiago peninsula that juts into the Pacific.
It is in this exclusive neighborhood, which is considered one of the most successful, planned luxury developments in Mexico, a community that Barbra Streisand and others celebrity’s call home while on holiday, where you will find Pepe’s Hideaway.
I arrived at the resort and was met by Speedy, the long time manager and right-hand man for Pepe.
Speedy met me at my car and lead me out of the storm and into the main thatched roof common area where he poured me a Don Julio to warm up from the rain. He told me that because it was the off-season I was fortunate enough to have the place to myself. Pepe was at his summer home in Colima City but would be arriving at the resort in the morning. After another Don Julio, a dinner of grilled prawns and the best guacamole I have ever eaten, Speedy lead me through the jungle, past the pool to the stairs that lead to the bungalows.
My bungalow was perched 100ft above the ocean and the sea was indeed angry as I witnessed first hand the power and spectacular fury of Mother Nature that first evening. The ocean crashed on the rocks below me, the wind howled, rain pounded the roof and the windows and the sky was lit up with lightning as Erick did his best to dislodge my bungalow from its footings.
When I woke the next morning I was greeted by the most spectacular sunrise I have ever witnessed and Erick was gone, having left hardly a trace in his wake. There was already a coffee service laid out on my patio and an invitation to breakfast in the common area.
I met Pepe for the first time, an incredibly spry man in his 70’s with a devilish twinkle in his eye as he joined me for breakfast and told me some of the history of Manzanillo and how he had carved out this slice of paradise from the jungle 40 years ago. During my stay with Pepe, I was invited to a number of dinner parties hosted at the resort and was introduced to a number of locals and friends.
Speedy cooked for us each night and it was a truly enjoyable experience.
As I was leaving at the end of my stay, I thanked Pepe for everything he had done for me, he smiled and told me he had done nothing special for me, it was how all guests are treated when they stay with him. That what makes Pepe’s Hideaway so special, the experience of staying with friends that you will continue to visit for years to come.
Pepe’s is unlike any place I have stayed in Mexico, it is an all-inclusive resort, but is personalized to your tastes; there are no buffets or screaming kids. The menu is prepared by Speedy and the other chefs after they visit the local markets each day and pick the freshest ingredients.
Because there are only seven bungalows the staff is able to completely take care of all your needs, and despite the rustic setting and construction of the bungalows, each unit is well equipped with a comfortable bed, stocked fridge and a luxury bathroom.
Double doors open up to a patio with a hammock and sitting area that is perfect for sunsets watching.
You will be invited to join Pepe for dinner (and a scotch) where he will entertain you with his stories from over 40 years of Mexico living. You will feel like a personal guest of old Tio Pepe, not like a client renting a room.
A side note: I am serious about the guacamole, when you stay here be sure to ask Speedy to make some for you and also ask Pepe if they are serving the lobster, it is an inside joke that he will love to explain.