Longing for "Old Mexico"
Many of the Pacific coastal cities in Mexico have experienced commercialization and immigration to the extent that they now feel touristy, as if they've lost a part of their culture. You hear people refer to "old Mexico" for this very reason, often with a hint of sadness in their voice. Fortunately, Manzanillo has escaped this fate, thanks in part to its comparatively slower growth.
Manzanillo is located in the state of Colima, a small state that shares a border Jalisco to the north and east, and Michoacan to the south. To the west, Colima borders the Pacific Ocean. In addition to the capital city of Colima, the state's main cities include Manzanillo and Tecoman. The state has an area of 5,455 square km, with an estimated population in 2004 of about 571,000 people.
Located just three hours southwest of Guadalajara, Manzanillo lies in the center of what has been historically called "The Gold Coast" of Mexico. This centrally located area of Mexico includes world-famous destinations like Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco, which have long attracted visitors because of their temperate climate and mountainous seaside settings.
Manzanillo has been an important seaport for hundreds of years. In 1908, a new railroad line connected Manzanillo to Guadalajara, and Manzanillo was made the official port of entry for the region. It's still an important seaport to this day, as evidenced by the hustle and bustle of the downtown area.
In general terms, you could divide Manzanillo into two zones. There's the downtown area, which is a busy commercial area that includes one of Mexico's largest seaports. A few miles up the coast is where you'll find the resorts and vacation homes.
According to Si-Mexico.com, a hotel and resort travel guide: "For many visitors Manzanillo's slow paced expansion is a blessing. Miles of untouched beach are easily accessed from the area's resorts, and outside of the bustle of downtown, the pace is slow and casual." Manzanillo's pristine beaches have even been featured in "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous."
Sure, lots of places claim to have pristine beaches. But Manzanillo gets Hollywood's vote. Remember the movie "10" back in the 1980's, starring Bo Derek and Dudley Moore? Remember the classic scene where they were running toward each other across a white sand beach, with Dudley Moore comically clad in his gray sweat suit? That was Manzanillo. In more recent times, the horror sequel "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer" was filmed in Manzanillo, as was the remake of "McHale's Navy."
Manzanillo is the self-proclaimed sailfish capital of the world, and it hosts an annual international fishing tournament. A vibrant city of culture and charm, Manzanillo has escaped the rapid commercialization of other cities in the region. Visitors to Manzanillo have described it as an "old seaside village where the sunsets last forever."
If you like authentic Mexican food and fresh seafood and produce, Manzanillo has a Mercado (market) that's right up your alley. Local wisdom recommends you get there early though, preferably between 8:00 and 10:00 in the morning. The good stuff goes quick!
Manzanillo has a safe and surprisingly simple bus system. The buses go south, and the buses go north. That's about the gist of it. Look at the sign in the window. If it says "centro," it's going downtown. Keep pesos on hand, because U.S. dollars won't get you very far. If you've lived or traveled in Mexico before, you'll also know that the buses are a great way to mingle with the locals and learn about the culture!
Manzanillo also has taxis in abundance. Most are reasonably priced and can take you anywhere in or around the city. But be sure to ask about the price in advance. In fact, you can apply this advice to taxi travel anywhere in the world. Also be aware that some taxis, such as those that sit in front of the hotels, will charge more than others.
Manzanillo has retained its old-world charm while attracting modern resorts and real estate. It has avoided the over-commercialization and "touristy" nature of other cities in the region, but it still offers luxury and amenities to its residents. In short, Manzanillo has a little bit of everything, but not too much of anything.