Travel north from Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo on Mexico’s Pacific coast – to the central coastal area of the country- and you’ll discover the Mexican Riviera.
Miles upon miles of palm trees line the land just inside the coastal shores. Jungle covered mountains plunge into the Pacific coast, or fall short to reveal golden sand beaches, waiting to be discovered and walked upon by tired feet.
This area along the coast of the Mexican Riviera is host to 3 main costal resort towns – Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan – as well as the exclusive and luxurious resorts along the Costalegre between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo.
Today, this region is extremely accessible – by air and by road – and has become a favorite holiday destination for foreigners and Mexicans alike… read on and discover why.
The port town of Manzanillo is situated on the Pacific coast of Mexico, and has two parts: the resort area on the Santiago Peninsula, and the busy commercial area downtown and to the south. Although Manzanillo is a busy and important port town on Mexico’s west coast, it still retains a tranquil, laid back, feel and authentic Mexican atmosphere.
Downtown, near the main plaza (Zocalo) you’ll find typical scenes with colonial style houses and little streets that meander away and take you on a tour around this very Mexican town.
The center of Manzanillo and the dock areas have recently undergone major renovation works: at the center of the redevelopment is a new giant turquoise statue of a Marlin – Manzanillo’s ‘official fish’.
Alongside the Playa Azul, and Playa Las Brisas you’ll find a selection of nice seafood restaurants in the open air, next to the Pacific Ocean. You can enjoy great seafood here while watching and listening to the sound of the mighty Pacific, as it delivers huge waves onto an exposed beach just a couple of dozen yards away.
The resort peninsula hosts a range of family, mid range, and luxury hotels and resorts, with their own beaches, tucked into coves away from the onslaught of the Pacific waves, making it safe to swim and play water sports. They are self-contained holiday centers: you don’t need to leave the resort if you don’t want to and just chill-out, relax and enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the local environment.
There is plenty to offer in this area for those who want to explore. Sea fishing is a popular pastime, and golf, too, is a major attraction, with Manzanillo hosting no less than two of Mexico’s most important golf courses. Diving and bird-watching are two of the other main pastimes here.
Manzanillo is in Mexico’s state of Colima, right next door the State of Jalisco – which is home to the second largest city in Mexico – Guadalajara. Guadalajara gave to Mexico such things as the Mariachi, The Mexican Sombrero and Tequila. A day-trip to Guadalajara is very convenient from Manzanillo and is a worthwhile way to experience some of Mexico’s great inland destinations.
Manzanillo is a favorite location for family holidays. The town is relaxed, the beaches are good and there’s plenty to see and do for everyone. If you’re looking for a resort town that doesn’t have the over-commercialized feel of a resort town, then Manzanillo is good place to touch down for a week, maybe two.
Manzanillo has lots of beaches to choose from; although not all are safe for a swim, as they face the open Pacific ocean (exposed beaches), and in the latter, the combination of waves and undertow make the sea one to watch, not one to interact with.
Surfing is a very popular pastime in Manzanillo, especially on Playa Miramar. Some of the beaches have been ‘taken over’ by the hotels and resorts that reside next to them; but there are still many public beaches that may be enjoyed by all, so if you’re looking for some local life, Playa San Pedrito and Playa Audiencia will be good places to explore.
If you’re staying at a resort, you’ll have direct access to the beach outside your hotel as well; technically, all beaches are open to the public in Mexico. The beaches here are golden in color with medium-fine (not soft) sand.
SCUBA divers will love Manzanillo – there are lots places to have a good underwater diving experience without the need to boat out anywhere. Local firms cater for all skill and experience levels, and if you want some proper classes as a foundation to getting certified, you can do this as well. See Also: Watersports in Mexico
Local Boat Tours are a great way to see remote places otherwise not accessible or difficult to get to. Your tour can include stops at good places for swimming, snorkeling and diving, give you access to remote and secluded beaches, or if you just want to relax, you can take a sunset cruise and watch the sun melt into the Pacific Ocean in style.
Sports Fishing is big here – with year-round trips available. Around the third week in November, the International Sailfish competition takes place in Manzanillo. It’s recommended that you book in advance as the fishing trips are extremely popular and you are likely to be disappointed if you don’t. Also See: Mexperience guide to Sports Fishing in Mexico.
Away from the Water
Manzanillo is quite spread out. Unlike a lot of resorts, where all local attractions can be accessed on foot, if you want to see local points of interest you’re going to need to rent a car (see Getting Around, below), take a cab, or arrange a guided tour. Local tours can include a guided tour of Manzanillo itself, as well a colonial tour of Colima (the coastal town about 60 miles south of here – it also has a Volcano)…
Eco Tours from Manzanillo
There are several lagoons along the coast which are excellent places to go bird watching and a number of fine eco and adventure tours may be undertaken from Manzanillo – including adventure travel tours to the volcano in nearby Colima. Ask locally for details and tours.
See Also: Nature and Adventure in Mexico
Golf in Manzanillo
Manzanillo’s claim to fame in the golf world: it boasts two of Mexico’s most important golf courses. Manzanillo is quickly becoming one of the top golfing locations in Mexico; the most sought-after course is situated at the fabulous Karmina Palace Hotel and Resort.
Local Tours & Activities
Mexperience offers access to local tours and activities at and around Mexico’s beach locations. Tours and activities are organized and run by well-established, professional and fully-insured operators. You can search for tours by location or category and make reservations online or by telephone. Buying tours in advance is more convenient and secure, and your spaces on the tour are guaranteed.
By Air – You can fly to Manzanillo from the United States and and other points in Mexico including Mazatlan and Mexico City. The airport resides about 25 miles (40 km) away from Manzanillo on the north side, and there is plenty of ground transportation to get you into the ‘hotel zones’. Your return trip to the airport may be booked with your hotel in advance. For detailed information about flights and flying, see the Mexperience guide to Air Travel in Mexico.
By Bus – You can travel to Manzanillo on a luxury bus from Mexico City – but note that the trip will take around 20 hours. These buses are also available from Guadalajara, which is a more sensible road journey taking just over 4 hours. Flying is the most sensible way to get to Manzanillo, unless you are on a budget, and don’t mind the wait (and want to see the sights along the way!). For detailed information about bus transportation read the Mexperience guide to Bus Travel in Mexico.
By Car – The road journey to Manzanillo from inland Mexico (e.g. Guadalajara, Mexico City, Chihuahua, et al) is mountainous in places, but not as challenging as the road to Puerto Vallarta (assuming you go over the mountains, not along Highway 200). Expect it to take longer that you may anticipate; especially if you have not driven the route before. Traveling out of Manzanillo by road north on Highway 200 will take you along the Costalegre to Puerto Vallarta; the road south leads to Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo and Acapulco. See additional information on Mexperience about Driving in Mexico and Mexico’s Toll Roads.
Car Rental – To explore Mexico’s provincial towns and cities — including its beach locations and the scenery and attractions near them — consider renting a car for your visit. Having your own car will give you more flexibility than using public transport options and, in some cases, offer you access to places which are otherwise difficult to visit without the use of a car. Read our guide to Car Rental in Mexico to learn what you need to know about car rental in Mexico and connect to the Mexperience Travel Center to reserve your Rental Car.
Taxis – Taxis in most of Mexico’s beachside towns and cities are not metered, so agree your price before you get in. Taxi travel is very affordable in Mexico, in comparison to the USA, Canada and Europe, and so provides a viable means of public transportation in Mexico. Your hotel can arrange taxis for you; some post their rates on a board in the lobby; taxi hotel rates are usually higher than cabs you hail off the street. If you speak Spanish, you will have a distinct advantage and be able to negotiate a price with the driver. For detailed information, read the Mexperience guide to Taxi Travel in Mexico.
During February, in even-numbered years, a boat race takes place as part of the Regatta Marina del Rey (near San Diego, USA) and finishes in Puerto Vallarta (south of Manzanillo). On odd numbered years, the same tournament takes place but starts in Puerto Vallarta and ends in San Diego. The end of the race is marked with parties and festivities at the Las Hadas resort here in Manzanillo.
November – The largest international fishing tournament is held in Manzanillo around the third week in November. A smaller tournament (National) is held in February.
Telephone: Connect to the Communications in Mexico page on Mexperience for detailed information about keeping in touch and the latest table of national dialing codes.
Exchanging Currency: ATM machines can be found at main banks in downtown Manzanillo; many of the hotels now have ATMs as well. During business hours, banks and the Casas de Cambio will buy traveler’s checks and cash from you as well. For detailed information about exchanging and managing your money, read the Mexperience guide to Money in Mexico.
Military Checkpoints and Patrols: You may find military checkpoints and/or patrols on Highway 200. Don’t feel alarmed, they are there to provide a deterrent against illegal contraband. If you are stopped, your car may be checked over and you may be asked to open the trunk. See the guide to Driving in Mexico for more details.
Travel Insurance: We recommend that you are adequately covered with travel medical insurance and/or travel assistance insurance when you are visiting Mexico. Read the Mexperience guide to Travel Insurance in Mexico for full details and links to specialist insurance suppliers.
Internet Access: Internet cafes can be easily found in towns and cities across Mexico and WiFi is increasingly commonplace–from cafes, shops, hotels, and some cities even offer free WiFi in some defined public spaces.
Browsing Manzanillo, and looking around, you would think that nightlife is something that doesn’t exist here… but you would be wrong… Manzanillo’s night life is alive and well, and although the “trendy” places change frequently, there’s always something for everyone after the sun goes to bed.
Locally Hosted Parties – Many of the Hotels host their own parties which include dinner, dancing, a show and all drinks for a fixed fee. Ask at your hotel to find out what is happening locally.
Nightclub Scene – Manzanillo provides excellent and varied night life for visitors. As with most night clubs on Mexico’s coasts, they don’t stop till the sun comes up! Some night clubs charge an all inclusive cover fee; some a smaller cover and drinks on top. Drinks are served all night – don’t even consider going to a nightclub before 11pm. Nightclubs keep going all morning and most people will start to leave between 5 and 7 am.
Beach Clubs – Some hotels provide night-club facilities in areas that lead out onto the beach… so does the music, dancing and drinks!
Night Bars / Restaurants – Manzanillo has a plentiful selection of night bars and restaurants to suit most tastes.
By no means is Manzanillo a ‘shopping mecca’ on the Pacific, but if you’re looking for some traditional Mexican art or craft work, you’ll be able to find it locally in downtown Manzanillo. Check in the shops in and around the main plaza.
For items you forgot to bring, like a floating body-board, beach sandals, or sunglasses, all of the resort centers have on-site shops, which charge slightly higher prices than you’d pay elsewhere (for the convenience), but are not extortionate.
Manzanillo offers you year-round warmth. The rainy season is May to October, but as with most monsoon areas, rains tend to be fierce and brief in the late afternoon, leaving the evenings dry and cooled off. September brings the highest levels of humidity and sees the heaviest of the rains.
Weather & Climates in Mexico
Learn more about the weather and climates through the seasons and regions by connecting to the Mexperience guide about Weather and Climates in Mexico