Are you looking for a getaway destination that is similar to Cancun but without quite the crowd density? Manzanillo, Mexico, is the place for you! The tropical weather, white sand beaches, and miles of palm trees make this a beautiful and relaxing coastal destination.
Below, we'll give you the detailed information you'll need before heading off to explore Manzanillo.
Best Time To Visit Manzanillo
Manzanillo is one of the sunniest locations in all of Mexico, with almost every day rising sunny and clear. Being close to the equator, the climate is warm and tropical nearly year-round. There is a rainy season between May and September, but don't think of it as days of the deluge! These are short showers with bright sun on either end. So, there really is no bad time to visit Manzanillo! Of course, crowds will be thickest between May and August.
Old Town Manzanillo
The area of Manzanillo nearest the coast may have become modern, but you can still find the old bones of the city. Old Town is found along the central strip of the coast, and there you can find a historic district with buildings and businesses dating back to the city's beginnings. This is the place to go to enjoy authentic food at local eateries, artisanal craftsmanship in market stalls, and an overall laid-back feel.
Centro Ecológico de Cuyutlán el Tortuguero
For wildlife lovers, the Turtle Center of Cuyutlan is a must-see. This center oversees the beach where hundreds of sea turtles come to lay their eggs. These eggs are closely monitored so that as many eggs as possible are able to hatch. The hatchlings are also protected until they are released into the sea. Hopefully, you can visit when a baby release is scheduled! The center also runs boat trips through the mangrove forest, letting tourists see a biome they might not ever see otherwise.
Another perfect stop for animal lovers is this private reptile sanctuary. Located near the center of Manzanillo, it is easily accessible via public transit. You'll get to see hundreds of iguanas in a natural environment. This wildlife sanctuary operates strictly on donations.
In November, the yearly International Sailfish Tournament takes place, making Manzanillo the Sailfish Capital of the world! To commemorate this distinction, a 25-meter tall, bright turquoise sailfish statue was built smack dab in the main plaza. While swordfish and sailfish are not quite the same things, many tourists have simply dubbed it "the swordfish statue." While it may be somewhat kitschy, it's a fun photo opportunity!
Santiago Bay, near the Peninsula de Santiago, is the most popular spot in Manzanillo, Mexico. Many of the best bars and restaurants in the whole city can be found along the shorefront here, as well as the best beach (Playa Miramar).
Best Things To Do
Take A Guided Tour
There are multiple tours running that allow you to see the highlights of Manzanillo and the surrounding landscape in a fun way! There are ATV tours, horseback tours, bike tours, and multiple bus tours. These are a great way to see much of the city without having to deal with the lack of reliable public ground transportation.
Tour Pena Blanca
Although Pena Blanca is closed to public access, you can book a tour! This natural area is a lush tropical jungle ending at a secluded coast. You'll enjoy the jungle landscape starting your tour, but the beach is the best part. You'll be the only group there, and time is scheduled for you to walk the exposed beaches.
Enjoy The Beaches
Of course, if you're coming to a coastal Mexican destination, you have to go to the beaches. Each beach has a slightly different feel; sometimes, the golden sands turn black due to volcanic activity!
Playa la Audiencia - This beach lines a cove on the west side of the Santiago peninsula. The water at Playa la Audiencia is calm, making it a popular spot for waterskiing.
Playa las Brisas -Although it once was a quiet stretch of coast, this long stretch of beach has rapidly become the site of restaurants and bars. However, what's better than enjoying a day at the beach and ending it with incredible seafood next to a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean?
Playa San Pedrito - Playa San Pedrito is the closest beach to Old Town Manzanillo. It's handy to be near the town center and enjoy the atmosphere of the historic district. The calm waters make this a great option for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
Playa la Boquita - This beach sits at the mouth of a lagoon. International fishing competitions are held on this beach, and you'll frequently see fishermen begin and end their days here. A shipwreck sits offshore and is fun for snorkelers to explore.
Playa Miramar - The best waves for surfing and bodysurfing are found along Playa Miramar. You can rent a surfboard and even get beginner lessons on the beach!
Playa Santiago - Part of the Santiago bay area of the Península de Santiago, this is one of the cleanest beaches in Manzanillo. You'll find warm waters for all many water sports here, particularly swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
Barra Navidad - Admittedly, the rocky shoreline of Barra Navidad makes for a different kind of beach than others on this list. However, parts of the beach are sandy, and the waves here are perfect for surfing.
Take A Day Trip
Manzanillo is enjoyable on its own, but if you'll be there for a few days, why not spend one exploring the sights nearby?
Colima - This is the state's capital, just an hour and a half away from Manzanillo. Despite being the capital, it's much less frequently visited than Manzanillo. You can explore museums, colorful cathedrals, a volcano (!!), and beautiful public gardens.
Comala - Just a short drive from Manzanillo is Comala, known as "White Town" because of the many white buildings lining the streets.
Barra de Navidad - This coastal town is an hour north of Manzanillo, with even more beautiful beaches than Manzanillo itself.
Melaque - This town is just a bit further up the coast than Barra de Navidad and is a picturesque coastal village, complete with cobblestone streets, spacious beaches, and uninterrupted views.
Buy A Day Pass At A Resort
Even if you don't choose to spend your nights at the seaside resorts, hotels, and villas, you can often buy a day pass to enjoy the amenities and attractions there. Many of these locations have a pool, golf courses, and private access beaches. Some locations to check out include Las Hadas By Brisas, Hotel La Posada, Hotel Villas Los Angeles, and Gran Festivall.
Enjoy Great Seafood
Manzanillo is a massively trafficked port area, with fresh fish delivered daily. It also boasts some of the best fishing in the world. What else would you expect from such a location but some absolutely stellar seafood? Ranging from locally owned and operated family eateries to Michelin-rated restaurants, lovers of seafood will be happily satisfied in Manzanillo. Check out Mariscos Carlos, the Blueberry Bistro Cafe, and the Oasis Ocean Club.
Where To Stay
There are a few spots you can choose from:
Manzanillo bay is a convenient spot to be, as you will find many restaurants, nightclubs, and shopping spots.
Las Brisas beach and the south end of Manzanillo Bay is a great spot for anyone who wants to be closer to downtown, and there are many restaurants nearby.
Santiago peninsula is the most popular area as there are many places to stay on the peninsula. From exquisite private homes to simple accommodations, this location has a ray of selections.
Where Is Manzanillo, Mexico Located?
Manzanillo is located in the Mexican state of Colima, about 800 kilometers west of Mexico City and 200 kilometers south of Guadalajara. It's an extremely popular and prominent Pacific Coast seaport and the largest in all of Mexico.
How To Get To Manzanillo, Mexico
Because Manzanillo is both a popular vacation destination and a seaside hub of commerce, it's relatively easy to travel to. Cruise ships frequent the large seaport, and many tourists enjoy Manzanillo as part of a larger cruise experience.
You'll fly into the local Playa de Oro airport to get to Manzanillo by air. Few internationals fly into this airport, other than a few from the west coast of the United States. Instead, you'll fly into Guadalajara or Mexico City and transfer there to a domestic flight into Manzanillo.
There are also bus routes and train lines running to Manzanillo from both Guadalajara and Mexico City. The bus fares are particularly affordable!
Transportation With In
Getting around Manzanillo can be somewhat difficult. From the airport, the only transit option is to hail a taxi. A lot of the Taxis near beachside towns and cities are not metered, be sure to agree on the price before you hop in.
You can grab a taxi from your hotel lobby, but they are typically slightly more expensive than the one you hail off the street.
There are many advantages to renting a car for your visit. It gives you more flexibility and offers you access to places that can be difficult to visit using public transportation.
While Manzanillo does have a public transit system, it sticks to the area around the city center. The beaches, as well as many other popular destinations, are all outside the city center, so the only way to reach them is via taxi or by driving your own vehicle.
Things To Know Before You Go
Do Your Research Before Heading To A Beach
Manzanillo, Mexico, is the biggest and busiest port in Mexico. Tourism is important, but commerce from Pacific cargo takes the front seat. For this reason, the beaches are not as clean as those you might find in other locations. The cleanest beaches are those managed by nearby hotels and resorts, but you often have to pay to access them.
Bring Water Bottles
It's true what they say - if you're not from Mexico, don't trust the drinking water. Bring water bottles and fill them at designated stations for safe drinking water.
Bring Your Rain Gear Between May To October
The rainy season is from May to October. Rains tend to be fierce and brief in the late afternoon, leaving the evenings dry and cooled off.
Most hotels offer free WiFi, and you can also find free WiFi in some defined public spaces.