Manzanillo Mexico Travel Guide: A Cancun Alternative

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Located in the Mexican state of Colima, Manzanillo is one of the west coast’s best vacation spots. Overlooking the beautiful waters of the Pacific Ocean, Manzanillo Mexico is one of the sunniest cities in the country.

The tropical weather is complemented perfectly by the white sand beaches of the long and spectacular coastline that stretches endlessly away from the city in either direction.

You can spend your days lounging on the shorefront, enjoying the touristy trappings of the resorts or experiencing a great many things to do in Manzanillo.

Enjoy the relaxed coastal lifestyle of west coast Mexico at Manzanillo, or escape the city to find even more chilled out villages and beach communities nearby.

Hit the water to snorkel or dive or simply sit back in a cafe or bar with a coffee or cold beer, sample the local seafood and watch the world go by.

Manzanillo is one of Mexico’s best Pacific coast travel destinations, and here’s our guide to the city and to the surrounding area, to help you to make the most of your getaway here.

Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Mexico (Travel Guide)

Manzanillo Mexico

Where is Manzanillo Mexico?

The city of Manzanillo is found on the west coast of Mexico, around 800 kilometers to the west of Mexico City, or 200 kilometers south of Guadalajara.

The city is one of Mexico’s biggest and busiest Pacific Coast seaports, but despite this, it is still surrounded by pristine beaches and scenery.

Manzanillo Mexico

How to Travel to Manzanillo Mexico

Manzanillo is an incredibly popular coastal escape for tourists in Mexico, and as such, is a reasonably easy city to travel to.

Being the largest seaport in the country, one way of arriving here is of course by boat. The busy harbor will see cruise ships docking amongst the container ships throughout the year, while independent travelers will be seen arriving on yachts or other water-borne vehicles too.

The local airport is the biggest in the state of Colima and is found 30 kilometers away along the coastline to the northwest of the city center.

The airport though is still small by international standards, despite being the gateway to Colima, and while there are many domestic flights to other Mexican cities such as Guadalajara or Mexico City, there are just a few international services mainly serving the west coast of the United States and the occasional Canadian city in peak season.

Bus services from the airport to the city are limited, so many travelers will choose to take a taxi to their final destination once arriving.

Manzanillo is well connected by overland routes to other large cities in the state and further afield, with long-distance buses providing routes to most major Mexican cities.

There are also train lines running from Guadalajara and Mexico City, although these are not nearly as frequent as the bus routes.

Getting around Manzanillo can be unfortunately challenging, as the best stretches of coastline are found away from the city center, as are the majority of the hotels, and the public transport is limited.

With your own vehicle, or if you don’t mind taking taxis, Manzanillo can be a great place to explore.

Check out Priceline and Skyscanner offer great deals to Mexico.

Manzanillo Mexico

Best Time to Visit Manzanillo

By many accounts, Manzanillo is one of the sunniest cities in Mexico, with an almost unrivaled number of sunny, clear days throughout the year.

That makes it a great place to visit at any time, with a climate that varies very little from one season to the next, particularly when it comes to the warm, tropical temperatures.

There is a rainy season, which usually falls between May and September. Actual rainfall during this time is always brief and short, so this shouldn’t deter you from visiting in these months.

We visited in September and while we did experience some rain, it was short-lived as mentioned above. The weather was quite hot with plenty of sunshine. You really can’t go wrong in Mexico, to be honest. 


Things to do in Manzanillo

Manzanillo Mexico

Santiago Bay

The broad Santiago Bay is found on the northern side of the city and is divided from the southern stretch of coastline by the Santiago Peninsula.

This is the most happening area in Manzanillo, with a lively shorefront that’s home to some of the best stretches of sand in the city alongside some of the best bars and restaurants too.

One of the best beaches here is Playa Miramar, where you can relax on the soft sands or cool down in the shallow, calm waters of the bay.

Old town Manzanillo Mexico

The Old Town

Manzanillo might be a large city today, but you away from the beaches and the modern, built-up areas, you can find the city of old still.

Manzanillo’s Old Town is found along the central strip of coast and is the site of plenty of historic streets and buildings dating back to the early years of the city’s development.

You will find local eateries, markets stalls, and a laid-back atmosphere.

Pena Blanca - Manzanillo Mexico

Pena Blanca

Located outside the downtown area of Manzanillo, Mexico is the natural area called Pena Blanca. Closed down to public access, you can book a tour that will take you through beautiful lush jungle areas before ultimately arriving at the coast. 

The beach at the end of the trip is wild and stunning, meeting an impressive force from the Pacific ocean. The best part is that you’ll likely be the only group there. 

During our visit, we had free time to walk the beach and play at the edge of the ocean. Swimming isn’t advised as the waves are big and the currents are strong here. 

Turtle Center - Manzanillo Mexico

 

Centro Ecologico de Cuyutlan el Tortugaro

Another little gem in Manzanillo is the Turtle Center at Cuyutlan. This turtle rehabilitation and release center oversee the beach where hundreds of sea turtles come to lay their eggs. Providing a controlled area, they ensure that many of the eggs are able to hatch.

They are closely monitored to ensure survival before being released to enter the sea. If you’re lucky, there will be babies to release during your visit. 

Other than learning about the turtles and possibly having the opportunity to release some babies, you can take boat trips through the mangrove forest. This a neat experience to see wildlife and get a closer look at the wild side of Manzanillo. 

Manzanillo Mexico - Colima

Colima

Colima is the capital city of the state of the same name, and it makes for an interesting day trip from Manzanillo. Found inland, just an hour and a half’s drive away from the coast, Colima is a bit of an off the beaten track destination.

In comparison to the coastal locations visited by most tourists, Colima sees fewer visitors. There are no beaches of course, but this is an intriguing look at life in a busy Mexican city, with many colorful cathedrals, informative museums and bright, green public gardens waiting to be explored.

Our top recommended tours of Colima:

Comala Manzanillo Mexico

Comala

Comala is one of the state’s most popular tourist getaways, aside from Manzanillo. The town is found inland, just a short drive away from the city of Colima, and it’s somewhat of an attraction because of the many white-walled buildings that are found in the streets.

Known as the White Town, this is a vibrant and ever-interesting place to spend the day exploring.

Barra de Navidad

Barra de Navidad is a charming coastal community that’s found an hour away to the north of Manzanillo. The beaches here are beautiful, better even than the ones to be found in Manzanillo itself, and it’s well worth spending the day exploring here.

Lounge on the sands, then enjoy the lively markets of the small town that is spread along the lagoon here.

Melaque

Melaque is another wonderful coastal community, found further along the shore from Barra de Navidad. The beaches are again beautiful, while the bay offers breathtaking vistas over the Pacific.

The small town is absolutely charming, with quaint, cobbled streets to walk and lots of local eateries to try out.


Las Hadas - Manzanillo Mexico

Where to stay in Manzanillo Mexico

Manzanillo has a great selection of hotels and resorts for visitors to stay. The city sprawls along the shorefront, and most of the tourist accommodation is found overlooking the main, long beach along the main highway.

This can sometimes feel a little busy, and more hotels are popping up to the north, on the quieter Santiago Peninsula, which is located away from the main hustle and bustle of Manzanillo.

You can get some great deals in Manzanillo, as while the city is very touristy, it is nowhere near as popular as other better-known destinations in Mexico such as Cancun, and prices can be a considerably lower and much better value. 

During our visit to Manzanillo, Mexico we were based at the Best Western Plus Luna Del Mar. This hotel is located right on the beach and in close proximity to several nice restaurants. It has spacious rooms and a nice outdoor pool. 

We also had the pleasure of having breakfast at and touring the stunning Las Hadas By Brisas. If you’re looking for a true vacation experience, this is the place you want to be in Manzanillo. The property is huge, with several pools and gorgeous rooms. 

Ceviche in Manzanillo, Mexico

Best Restaurants in Manzanillo Mexico

While many of the resorts and hotels offer guests an onsite restaurant and all-inclusive rates, you may want to get out and about to experience the best of the city’s local restaurants too during your stay in Manzanillo.

  • Mariscos Carlos: Hidden away on the backstreets of Manzanillo, this local eatery is one of the best places in the city to find cheap, but delicious seafood. It might not look like much from the outside, but this restaurant has an ever-growing reputation amongst locals and visitors alike for the quality of the food and for the local atmosphere.
  • Blueberry Cafe: The Blueberry Bistro Cafe is a surprising addition to the culinary space in Manzanillo. This charming eatery serves up great breakfasts, brunches, and lunches, with a heavy emphasis on coffee and cakes to be picked from on the menu.
  • Oasis Ocean Club: The Oasis Beach Club is one of the most enjoyable establishments in Manzanillo. While you can spend your day here relaxing under the parasols on the sandy beach at the northern end of the city’s coastline, you can also try their delicious selection of seafood, burgers, salads, and steaks that put most of the rest of Manzanillo’s restaurants to shame.

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About Lina Stock

Lina is an award-winning photographer and writer that has been exploring the world since 2001. She has traveled to 100 countries on all 7 continents. Member: SATW, NATJA, ATTA, ITWA



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