Heading to Mexico this winter? Why not make a stop in Manzanillo, Mexico! Located on the Pacific Coast of the Mexican Riviera, this port town is only a 5 hour flight from Vancouver, BC.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Manzanillo often since I was young, and I’ve always stayed at a beautiful house on Santiago Beach. So many memories come to mind when I think of Manzanillo, including the delicious food and floating in the warm water with the gold-flecked and black tar streaked sand at bay.
Although Manzanillo is a small town with fewer tourists than Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, the people are great, the food is delicious and there is plenty to do! Read on to discover what to do in Manzanillo. It’s one of my favourite places; maybe it’ll become one of yours too!
Top water activities in Manzanillo
With endless beaches and warm water everywhere you go there’s no shortage of water activities in Manzanillo. I highly recommend trying some of these!
Banana boats are long yellow inflatable boats that are towed behind a power boat. They’re found in all tourist areas of the beach and cost no more than 100 pesos (around $7 CAD per person).
Hop on with your friends to bounce along the waves. Don’t forget to plug your nose at the very end!
If you’re not up for board surfing, body surfing is the next best thing. Ride the waves on Santiago beach and let the water do the work. Body surfing is great for people of all ages and experience levels, so grab your board and get ready for a face full of water and sand!
Horseback riding on the beach
Ride along Miramar beach starting with the lagoon and continuing along Santiago Bay. Afterwards, stop for lunch or dinner and take a dip in the ocean. The ride is 2 hours, but the tour is 5 hours in total.
If you’re staying on Santiago beach, you might be lucky enough to see horses walking up and down the beach. If the tour guide doesn’t stop and ask you if you want to ride, flag them down and they’ll be happy to take you on the tour! Prices start at $55 per person.
Snorkeling or scuba diving
There are lots of good places to swim with tropical fish in Manzanillo. Check out the Fisherman’s Memorial, Elephant Rock and the San Luciano Ship Wreck. Whether you like to go snorkeling or scuba diving, there’s a tour for you.
Discover Manzanillo’s lagoons up close and personal, and keep an eye out for the different birds as you kayak along the beautiful water. Want to do more than just kayaking? Why not take a tour to combine kayaking with snorkelling and lunch! Bonus: you can even bring your dog along for the ride if they’re small enough!
Since Manzanillo is known as ‘the Sailfish Capital of the World’, why not try some fishing? With opportunities to catch sailfish, marlin, dorado, rooster fish and tuna, you’ll probably come back from sea with a fresh and delicious dinner in hand! All tours offer beginner and advanced deep sea fishing options. Check out Ocean Pacific Adventures or Manzanillo Adventure Tours to book your tour. The best time to fish is mid-October to March.
Take day trips to explore nearby towns in Manzanillo
Take a break from the beach and explore nearby towns for the day. They offer beautiful hikes, history lessons and more!
Take a boat ride to the town of Barra de Navidad
This beach town (located about 40 minutes north of Manzanillo airport) is one of my favourites to visit, and it’s surrounded by the ocean and a lagoon, very much like an island! The drive is beautiful with tons of palm tree fields and quiet roads.
Grand Isla Navidad Resort is a site to see with incredible views, great food and fun activities. If you’re staying with a big group of people, consider staying in one of the beautiful suites, and make sure to catch the boat to town!
Tip: Take the boat to Restaurante lidia for a delicious meal. I highly recommend the grilled shrimp and tacos!
Learn about Colima’s history in Colima City
Colima City, 107 km from Manzanillo, is located in the central-western capital of Colima state. Despite its small size, it’s voted one of the safest and most liveable cities in Mexico. Colima is situated between two volcanoes, Volcan de Fuego (active) and Volcan Nevado de Colima (dormant).
Learn about Colima’s state history while walking around to see the beautiful architecture, such as the Regional History Museum, the Catholic Cathedral, or the Federal Palace. Want to enjoy nature? Tour the volcanoes, swim in El Salto Waterfall or relax on the beach.
Visit the turtle sanctuary in Cuyutlan
A quaint seaside town located about an hour Southeast from Manzanillo, Cuyutlan is known for its black sand beaches, La Ola Verde (the green wave), and the Museo de la Sal (Salt Museum). Make sure to visit the turtle sanctuary, El Tortugugario!
Book a tee time at a local golf course
Interested in doing something on land? Go golfing for the day! Make sure to check out these top golf courses:
Grand Isla Navidad Resort’s Golf Course
Located in the small state of Jalisco, this beautiful 27-hole golf course has received many awards. With views of the mountain and five ocean front holes, Grand Isla Navidad Resort is a favourite among even the best of golfers.
El Tamarindo Beach & Golf Resort
El Tamarindo is also located in Jalisco, about a ½ hour north of Barra de Navidad. This 18-hole golf course is situated on a peninsula that overlooks the bay and cliffs. The tropical rainforest is a beautiful backdrop that might remind you of Jurassic Park!
Shop for local food and art
The shopping options in Manzanillo may surprise you, especially near Santiago Beach. Be sure to check out the Mercado de Artesanias for a unique assortment of fun tourist finds. My favourite things to look for? Silver jewelry and pottery!
You can also find great deals on food. Check out the grocery store, Commercial Mexicana in Plaza Manzanillo, to buy your favourite Mexican staple. I always buy granola and Jamaica (pronounced ha-may-ka); also known as Hibiscus powder. If you’re a fan of tequila you’ll probably want to stock up, as the good tequila is much cheaper than in Canada!
Tip: Buy the biggest bottle of Vanilla extract that you can find. It’s usually made in Mexico (so it tastes delicious), and will be SO much cheaper than buying it at home.
Feed your appetite with Manzanillo’s best dishes
Mexico is known for its delicious food, and for good reason! Whether you’re a taco lover, seafood fanatic, or avocado obsessed like me, there’s something for everyone. Make sure to bring your appetite when trying these dishes:
Don’t think of tex-mex tacos here, because tacos gobernador’s are made from small corn tortillas and filled with shrimp and cheese. They’re then grilled to perfection and topped with green or red salsa and fresh avocado. These tacos are definitely one of my favourites!
A traditional Mexican dish that consists of lightly fried corn tortillas that are cut into quarters. Pulled chicken is usually mixed in with green or red salsa or mole poured on top. Make sure to garnish it with shredded queso fresco (fresh cheese), raw onions, avocado and sour cream! Serve with beans or eggs (scrambled or fried) for a delicious taste explosion in your mouth!
This delicious dish is a stuffed roasted poblano pepper (a mild chili pepper). It’s typically stuffed with melted cheese and some form of protein like shrimp or chicken. It’s then covered in an egg batter and pan fried or deep fried. Serve with rice and topped with the sauce of your choice for an extremely satisfying meal.
A traditional Mexican dish, sope is a thin, shallow shell of fried masa formed into a circle, which resembles a thick tortilla. It’s then topped with refried beans, crumbled cheese, lettuce, onions, red or green salsa and sour cream. Shredded chicken and beef can also be added if you want some protein. Top with avocado for a fresh twist!
Dorado is a popular and delicious white fish in Manzanillo. It’s light with a mild and smooth flavour that pairs perfectly with any sauce. Serve over rice or pasta and with veggies for a healthy, yummy meal.
Tips for planning a trip to Manzanillo
Manzanillo is more populated during its winter (December through February) when the temperatures are between 20- 30 degrees Celsius (70-80 degrees Fahrenheit). There are more flight options during this time, allowing you to arrive in one day.
The off-season is from March to November, Manzanillo’s summer months. Humidity rises, drawing mosquitoes and heat, but the beaches are emptier and the foliage is lush and green. Due to limited flights, you’ll most likely have to layover in LA or Mexico City for the night. If you take this route, I recommend exploring Santa Monica, hiking to the Hollywood sign or visiting Disneyland if in LA. Staying in Mexico City? Check out Frida Kahlo’s museum or eat at the delicious restaurant, Hacienda de Los Morales.
Another option is to fly into Puerto Vallarta and drive about 4.5 hours to Manzanillo. Take an extra day to explore this cute beach town known for its beaches, nightlife and historic cobblestoned center.
Is Manzanillo safe?
Crime rates in Manzanillo
Despite high crime rates in Mexico, Manzanillo and the state of Colima is one of the safest places in Mexico. You can easily walk around town or drive to other nearby cities. As always in a foreign city, be aware of your belongings and your surroundings. Crime and scams can happen anywhere, even if a city is known to be safe. Try these 8 international travel safety tips to ensure you’re a smart traveller no matter where you are.
Tip: Although Guadalajara is only about 5 hours away, the drive isn’t the safest (many Mexicans don’t even do the drive). With so many other great places to go, I would avoid this city until the crime decreases.
Hurricane season in Mexico extends from June to the end of November. The Government of Canada recently issued a regional advisory for Mexico related to Hurricane Newton, which affected areas around Cabo San Lazaro and Mulege, and between Guaymas and Puerto Libertad. Luckily for Manzanillo, most hurricanes pass the area and end up in Mazatlán, meaning that there’s usually little to no damage in Manzanillo.
Zika Warning for Mexico
Since Mexico is one of the countries affected by the Zika virus, the Public Health Agency of Canada has issued a travel health notice for pregnant women and women planning on becoming pregnant to avoid all travel to Mexico.
Other travellers should take extra health precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites such as using bug spray with DEET, and wearing long pants and sleeves in the evening.
Travel insurance for Mexico
Before you leave for your trip, don’t forget your travel insurance. With the water activities and high temperatures (it’s always around 30 degrees Celsius), it’s better to be prepared. If you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort, read our blog post about Holiday Heart Syndrome. Road tripping to get the most out of your trip? Don’t forget your rental car insurance!
Where are your favourite places to travel in Mexico? Comment below or tweet us at @tugoinsurance.