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Manzanillo has long been known as a resort town with wide, curving beaches, legendary sportfishing, and a highly praised diversity of dive sites. Golf is also an attraction here, with two popular courses in the area.
One reason for its popularity could be Manzanillo's enticing tropical geography -- vast groves of tall palms, abundant mango trees, and successive coves graced with smooth sand beaches. To the north, mountains blanketed with palms rise alongside the shoreline. And over it all lies the veneer of perfect weather, with balmy temperatures and year-round sea breezes. Even the approach by plane into Manzanillo showcases the promise -- you fly in over the beach and golf course. Once on the ground, you exit the airport through a palm grove.
Manzanillo is a dichotomous place -- it is both Mexico's busiest commercial seaport and a tranquil, traditional town of multicolor houses cascading down the hillsides to meet the central commercial area of simple seafood restaurants, shell shops, and a few salsa clubs. The activity in Manzanillo divides neatly into two zones: the downtown commercial port and the luxury Santiago Peninsula resort zone to the north. The busy harbor and rail connections to Mexico's interior dominate the downtown zone. A visit to the town's waterfront zócalo provides a glimpse into local life. The exclusive Santiago Peninsula, home to the resorts and golf course, separates Manzanillo's two golden sand bays.
256km (160 miles) SE of Puerto Vallarta; 267km (167 miles) SW of Guadalajara; 64km (40 miles) SE of Barra de Navidad There are two main lagoons. Laguna de Cuyutlán, almost behind the city, stretches south for miles, paralleling the coast. Laguna de San Pedrito, north of the city, parallels the Costera Miguel de la Madrid; it's behind Playa Las Brisas beach. Both are good birding sites. There are also two bays. Manzanillo Bay encompasses the harbor, town, and beaches. The Santiago Peninsula separates it from the second bay, Santiago. Between downtown and the Santiago Peninsula is Las Brisas, a flat peninsula with a long stretch of sandy golden beach, a lineup of inexpensive but run-down hotels, and a few good restaurants.
Coast of Mexico shares the same latitude as Hawaii, and thus has a similar climate. From November through April, the weather is very pleasant; you can expect warm days and cool nights. In May, the climate starts to change--becoming more hot and humid, and building up to the beginning of rainy season, which generally runs June through November. It normally rains every three or four days, usually in the late afternoon or evening, cooling everything off. Also, the close proximity to the Sierra Madres, plus two bays provide better wind currents to keep the area fresh and cool. The higher altitudes in the surrounding hills are cooler with stronger breezes and more rain. Along the beach, there is generally a cooling afternoon sea breeze.
Dining in Manzanillo is a wonderful experience. Each Manzanillo Restaurant is unique and offering a variety of cuisine.
Seafood, International – Daily from 6pm to 2 am – Boulevar Miguel de la Madris, 3177, reservations required – phone: 314-333-2515 – Main courses at $8 to $17; one of Manzanillo's most popular restaurants, located on the beach in Las Brisas. It's homey, casual, and small, so reservations are highly recommended. The exquisite cuisine belies the atmosphere, with starters that include escargot and salmon carpaccio. Among the grilled specialties are shrimp imperial wrapped in bacon, red snapper tarragon, dorado basil, sea bass with mango and ginger, and tender fresh lobsters (four to a serving). Live music frequently sets the scene.
International, open on high season, daily 7 to 11:30pm – Located at the Brisas Las Hadas hotel, Santiago Peninsula, Santiago; phone:314-331-0101. Main courses $8.50 to $16 this is a top choice in Manzanillo for sheer elegance, gracious service, and outstanding food. The candlelit tables are set with silver and flowers. Enormous bell-shaped windows on two sides show off the sparkling bay below. The sophisticated menu includes prosciutto with melon marinated in port wine, crayfish bisque, broiled salmon, roast duck, lobster, veal, and flaming desserts from crepes to Irish coffee.
Roca del Mar
Mexican, International, daily 7am to 10:30pm – Located across from the plaza, downtown – 21 de Marzo 204 – phone: 314-332-0302 – Main courses from $3 to $12. Join the locals at this informal cafe facing the plaza. The large menu includes club sandwiches, hamburgers, carne asada a la tampiqueña (thin grilled steak served with rice, poblano pepper, an enchilada, and refried beans), fajitas, fish, shrimp, and vegetable salads. A specialty is its paella (served on Sun and Tues), and the economical pibil tacos are outstanding. This cafe is very clean and offers sidewalk dining.
HERNAN CORTES and his minions, in search of Chinese treasure in the Pacific, were among the first to visit the area now known as Manzanillo. In 1522, Gonzalo de Sandoval, under orders from Cortes, dropped anchor in the Bay of Salagua (north of Manzanillo Bay), looking for safe harbors and good shipbuilding sites. In the year before he left, Sandoval granted an audience to local Indian chieftains in a small cove, which today carries the name Playa de La Audiencia. A great part of his fleet, which left to conquer the Philippines, was constructed in Salagua. MANZANILLO BAY was discovered in 1527 by navigator Alvaro de Saavedra, naming it Santiago de la Buena Esperanza, or Santiago's Bay of Good Hope. It became a departure point for important expeditions. Cortes visited the bay twice to protect his galleons from Portuguese pirates. Over the next 300 years, the Pacific Coast’s history is filled with accounts of pirates from Portugal, England, France and even Spain assaulting, looting and burning ships for their rich cargos.
IN 1825 the port of Manzanillo opened, so named because of the abundant groves of manzanillo trees that were used extensively in the early days of shipbuilding. It was raised to the status of a city on June 15, 1873. The railroad to Colima was completed in 1889, and other amenities, such as electricity and potable water soon followed. In 1908, President Porfirio Dias inaugurated the railway linkage with Guadalajara, and designated Manzanillo as an official port of entry. It was the state capital from February 20 to March 1, 1915, while Pancho Villa’s troops were threatening to capture the city of Colima.
IN RECENT TIMES, the harbor was modernized and deepened, allowing access to all major shipping lines around the world. As the largest port on the western coast of Mexico, it can admit ships of more than 30,000 tons. The federal government has built a coal-fueled power generating plant, which supplies electricity to a 5-state area (although the city of Manzanillo has its own separate power plant).
Here is a fact that might surprise you: Mexico is the number two worldwide golf destination for U.S. golfers, right behind Hawaii. The Mexican Government Department of Tourism wants to change that ranking. That's right -they are determined to become number one, and at the rate they are going it shouldn't take too long to achieve that goal.
Mexico is an amazingly diverse country blessed with gorgeous locations that rival any in the world, from the stark beauty of Baja California hard against the Sea of Cortez to the new jungle courses in Puerto Vallarta.
The 18-hole La Mantarraya Golf Course (tel. 314/331-0101) is open to no guests. At one time, La Mantarraya was among the top 100 courses in the world, but newer entries have passed it. Still, the compact, challenging 18-hole course designed by Roy and Pete Dye is a beauty, with banana trees, blooming bougainvillea, and coconut palms at every turn. A lush and verdant place (12 of the 18 holes are played over water), it remains a favored of Mexico's 125 courses. When the course was under construction, workers dug up pre-Hispanic ceramic figurines, idols, and beads where the 14th hole now lies. It is believed to have been an important ancient burial site. The course culminates with its signature 18th hole, with a drive to the island green off El Tesoro (the treasure) beach. Local lore says this beach still may hold buried treasure from Spanish galleons, whose crews were the first to recognize the perfection of this natural harbor, and who used it during the 16th century as their starting point for voyages to the Pacific Rim. Greens fees are $122 for 18 holes, $73 for 9 holes; cart rental costs $50.
The fabulous 27-hole golf course associated with the Grand Bay Hotel in Barra de Navidad, an easy distance from Manzanillo, is also open to the public. The Robert Von Hagge design is long and lovely, with each hole amid rolling, tropical landscapes. It is wide open, with big fairways and big greens, and features plenty of water (2 lagoon holes, 13 lakeside holes, and 8 holes along the Pacific). The greens fees are $166 for 18 holes, $192 for 27 holes for hotel guests, $216 and $240, respectively, for non guests, including a motorized cart. Barra is about a 1- to 1 1/2-hour drive north of Manzanillo on Highway 200.
El Tamarindo Golf Resort - Is located midway between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo on the Costa Careyes (also commonly referred to as Costa Alegre). The Resort is about 31 miles north of the Manzanillo International Airport and about 132 miles south of Puerto Vallarta. The stunning 18-hole championship-style golf course at El Tamarindo is set amidst a 2,040-acre natural reserve, making it one of the most spectacular courses in the entire world. The fairways are beautifully lined with scores of Mojote and Cuba palms, as well as breathtaking views of the rocky, untouched coastline that meets the crystal blue Pacific.
Vista Vallarta Twin Course - Within minutes of the CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort are two professional courses that will test your skills and please your senses. At Vista Vallarta, legends Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf designed the twin 18-hole courses around the breathtaking views of the Bahia de Banderas, Puerto Vallarta, and magnificent Sierra Madre mountains. The Jack Nicklaus course hosted the EMC World Cup Championship in 2002.
Marina Vallarta Club de Golf - The 18-hole, par-72 Marina Vallarta Club de Golf. Designed by Joe Finger, this course features natural lagoons, relaxing water fountains, and the unusual challenge of shooting around palm trees and tropical shrubs. Twice the site of the Governor’s Cup Pro/Am Tournament, the facilities include a driving range and chipping putting green, golf shop, and a full-service clubhouse.
Playa de Oro International Airport is 40km (25 miles; 45 min.) northwest of town. Alaska Airlines (tel. 800/426-0333 in the U.S. or-314/334-2211) offers service from Los Angeles; America West (tel. 800/235-9292 in the U.S.) flies from Phoenix; and Aero California (tel. 800/237-6225 in the U.S. and Canada, or 314/334-1414) has flights from Los Angeles. Also, there is another option, the airport of Colima (CLQ) located approximately 39 miles (63 km) east of Manzanillo in Colima, Mexico.
Approximate flight times:
Houston, Los Angeles, San Diego, Tuucson – 2 to 2 ½ hours.
San Francisco, Dallas, Denver from 3 to 3 ½ hours.
Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis, Portland, Miami from 4 to 4 ½ hours.
Washington, New York, Seattle about 5 hours.
Documents for Arrival at Manzanillo Airport
A valid U.S. Passport is necessary to pass through customs at the Airport.
Your passport will also be used to acquire a tourist card, which must be obtained in order to enter Mexico.
Manzanillo Airport Transfers
Colectivo (minivan) airport service is available from the airport. Make reservations for return trips 1 day in advance. The colectivo fare is based on zones and runs $8 to $10 for most villas. Private taxi service between the airport and downtown area is around $25. Budget (tel. 800/527-0700 in the U.S., or 314/333-1445) and AutoRentas (tel. 314/333-2580) have counters in the airport open during flight arrivals; they will also deliver a car to your villa. Daily rates run $58 to $78. You need a car only if you plan to explore surrounding cities and the Manzanillo beaches.
Manzanillo Departure Tax
Airport Departure tax is currently $11.50 but is always subject to change.
Area Code-- The telephone area code is 314.
Internet Access-- Digital Center, Blvd. Miguel de la Madrid 96-B (tel. 314/333-9191), is located in the hotel zone. It charges $2 per hour, and also has printers and copiers. It's open Monday through Friday from 9am to 8pm, Saturday from 9am to 2pm. They also have computer repair services available.
Manzanillo Villas will come with their own phones.
This number will be given to you prior to your trip.
Long distance calls using any major credit card will usually be possible from these house phones.
Phones with international roaming may work in Manzanillo, but it is always advisable to check with your cell phone provider before you depart. Should you need a cell phone while in Manzanillo, cell phone rentals are widely available in the town and can even be reserved in advance.
Electrical current is the same as in the United States, 110 volts. May we suggest that, if you have 220 volt appliances, bring a converter, or please ask if your villa manager/owner can provide one for you.
Pesos are the standard currency. Major credit cards are acceptable in most places. Personnel checks are not accepted anywhere and traveler’s checks are recommended.
Nightlife in Manzanillo is much more exuberant than you might expect, but then Manzanillo is not only a resort town -- it's a thriving commercial center. Clubs and bars tend to change from year to year, so check with your concierge for current hot spots. Some area clubs have a dress code prohibiting shorts or sandals, principally applying to men.
El Bar de Félix (tel. 314/333-1875), is open Tuesday through Sunday from 2pm to midnight, and has an $8 minimum consumption charge. Music ranges from salsa and ranchero to rock and house -- it's the most consistently lively place in town.
Vog Disco (tel. 314/333-1875), Bulevar Costera Miguel de la Madrid Km 9.2, features alternative music in a cavernous setting; it's Manzanillo's current late-night hot spot, open until 5am, but only on Friday and Saturday. The cover charge for women is $10, for men $15.
Club Maeva Hotel & Resort (tel. 01-800/523-8450), on the inland side of the main highway, north of the Santiago Peninsula. Its open Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 11pm to 2am. Couples are given preferential entrance. No guests are welcome but must pay an entrance fee, after which all drinks are included. Note that when Club Maeva is fully booked, entrance to no guests may be difficult or impossible -- ask your villa concierge if they can secure a pass for you. The fee varies depending on the night of the week and the time of year.
Many major car rental companies have offices in the Manzanillo International Airport and area. Costa Careyes car rentals can be easily arranged for you by the Villas Caribe concierge service. A valid United States driver’s license is all the documentation needed in order to rent a car in Mexico.
Taxis or limousines are available in Manzanillo upon request; however it is recommended that visitors rent a car (Hertz, Avis, Budget and National service the area).
Driving is on the right side in Manzanillo.
Getting Around Manzanillo
By Taxi -- Taxis in Manzanillo are plentiful. Fares are fixed by zones; rates for trips within town and to more distant points should be posted at your hotel. Daily rates can be negotiated for longer drives outside the Manzanillo area.
By Bus -- The local buses (camionetas) make a circuit from downtown in front of the train station, along the Bay of Manzanillo, to the Santiago Peninsula and the Bay of Santiago to the north; the fare is 10¢. The ones marked LAS BRISAS go to the Las Brisas crossroads, to the Las Brisas Peninsula, and back to town; MIRAMAR, SANTIAGO, and SALAHUA buses go to outlying settlements along the bays and to most restaurants mentioned below. Buses marked LAS HADAS go to the Santiago Peninsula and pass the Las Hadas resort and the Sierra Manzanillo and Plaza Las Glorias hotels. This is an inexpensive way to see the coast as far as Santiago and to tour the Santiago Peninsula.
Manzanillo, Mexico is the perfect place to have your wedding. In addition to the beautiful views and predictable weather, Manzanillo has the facilities and experience necessary to host weddings of all sizes. Your guests will enjoy the tropical, exotic location and will have many things to do at the beaches during the day and at the fabulous restaurants and night clubs during the evenings. Manzanillo is also one of the most romantic and exciting destinations for honeymoons.
There are certain Mexican regulations that must be adhered to in order to make a Manzanillo wedding legal, so it is highly advisable to contact the office of the Mexican Registrar to get up to date information on all necessary paperwork and other requirements. The most important thing to note is that in order to be recognized as legal, a civil ceremony is required. Religious ceremonies are common and in many cases encouraged by Mexican officials, but will not be recognized as legal unions.
Stops along Highway 200, as it meanders between Puerto Vallarta to the north and Manzanillo to the south, can be an enjoyable day trip, but travelers usually make the drive en route to a destination along the coast.
The Mercado Municipal is a full city block of stands & stalls at the northern end of the upstream bridge over Río Cuale. You'll find bargains and plenty of authentic Mexican food and crafts in this market.
Puerto Vallarta also offers all modern shopping needs including film developing shops, department and grocery stores. A new Sam's Club has opened across from the Maritime Harbor. Hours are 7am-11pm.
Manzanillo has a selection of shops carrying Mexican crafts and clothing, mainly from nearby Guadalajara. Almost all are downtown on the streets near the central plaza. Shopping downtown is an experience - for example, you won't want to miss the shop bordering the plaza that sells a combination of shells, religious items (including shell-framed Virgin of Guadalupe nightlights), and orthopedic supplies. The Plaza Manzanillo is an American-style mall on the road to Santiago, and there's a traditional tianguis (outdoor) market in front of the entrance to Club Maeva, with touristy items from around Mexico. Most resort hotels also have boutiques or shopping arcades.
Barra de Navidad is one of the classic towns in Costa Alegre; it offers its visitors great tourist attractions as well as a gorgeous colonial architecture. Walk around its streets admiring this secluded and sensational Mexican village. Here, the wide variety of local stores, stands, shops and commercial establishments are concentrated on the Lopez Legazpi Avenue, which goes through the whole town; on the other side, Veracruz Avenue is the first street that welcomes the visitors to Barra de Navidad. If you walk along Lopez Legazpi Avenue, you will arrive until the sea wall, enjoying along the way, the colorful and attractive stores full of crafts and typical regional clothing that express the purest folklore of the local people. Find here some of the best Costa Alegre shops.