By Freda Rumford from the October 2013 Edition
Just what can be said about Manzanillo, Colima that cannot be found in the Guide Books and on-line under many different headings?
Yes, it is in a beautiful, serene city of Mexico on the part of the Pacific coast known as Le Costa Alegre (The Happy Coast). Yes it is easy to drive or fly there and in the winter the weather is absolutely superb. The summer too for the most part but then the humidity can be a bit much for some people.
The ocean is almost always calm in the mornings, ideal for swimming as it is warm water and there are no sharks. In the afternoon it can be a little windy and the waves can be more than the average person wants to handle. The beaches are mostly devoid of crowds and it is nothing to sit on the beach for several hours and only speak to one or two passers by. Yes people do speak and say “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” and sometimes stop for a little longer chat. The beach pedlars pass by, the same ones are seen every day and quickly become friends. The nice part about them is that are not pushy or overly aggressive and will take a “Not today thank you.” without argument. Of course they always suggest that perhaps tomorrow you would like to see what they have. They are courteous and are pleased when they receive the same courtesy in return.
Do be aware that there are no lifeguards on the beaches except on certain occasions. It is best never to swim alone and never allow your children to go there without someone responsible. Disaster can happen in a flash and water can be treacherous and unforgiving. There are Tourist Police who drive by from time to time, but not in a regular pattern and if on a lonely beach, that is what you are, alone!
Most of the beaches have houses or condominiums near by but residents are not always welcoming if too much raucous noise is made or people expect to ask to use their bathrooms. This is the same in every tourist area and few people would consider asking someone at home to use their facilities. Believe me, it has been done. Some of the beach entrances have public facilities but they are few and far between. If you are suffering from too many margaritas, it is best to stay home.
The people of Manzanillo are perhaps the nicest, kindest and welcoming people we have found anywhere, except perhaps on Fiji. They are really pretty honest despite all that has been said about dishonesty in Mexico. We have had people give us back money whilst telling us we have given too much, as well as hearing of taxi drivers going out of their way to deliver an item to a rider that was left in their cab. Naturally there are always exceptions so don’t be too lax in your guard of possessions.
The above statement also applies to the foreign community who live in Manzanillo. It seems that when they get off the plane or arrive at the top of the hill overlooking Manzanillo’s port, a sense of calm overtakes them and they take their nice and relaxed pill. There are several organisations that have made it their business to be available to help travellers on a sojourn into Mexico.
There are dining out nights with Manzamigos called Thirsty Thursday. Mujeres Amigas have a luncheon every first Wednesday of the month as well as other organisations to help orphans or to train young people in trades sufficiently to be able to make a better living. They are always looking for volunteers and a list of these organisations can be found on the Manzanillo Sun website as well as other websites concerning the whole area.
Despite the fact that Manzanillo is not in a Tourist area, there is much to do. There is diving and snorkelling with dive shops with trained dive masters who will pick you up and take you back to your hotel, as well as great restaurants serving great margaritas and tasty meals right on the beach. Generally there is a charge for using the umbrellas. And there are plenty of people who will only too pleased to tell you of the attractions and shops and bazaars around town. Realise, that if you ask a Mexican person where to find something, they may not know but will tell you something anyway, just so that you will be happy.
If you are a shopper, be warned that generally shops may not open until 10 a.m., there is a lunch hour that stretches into two hours from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. (or thereabouts) every day. But the shops do re-open from 4 p.m. till possible 7 or 8 p.m. If you find that your shopping has to be halted for a while, that is just perfect. During this time, you could find a nice restaurant to serve you a delicious meal while you wait for them to re-open.
This happens to be a problem sometimes in Colima as the downtown shopping almost completely closes down at 2 p.m. An ideal time to then go out to the mall, Zentralia, which doesn’t open until 11 a.m. and closes at 7 p.m. For that trip it is as well to have a car as there were no buses when we were there and it was impossible to get a taxi.
One really good thing about shopping in the town of Colima is that taxis are generally available and very cheap. It can be disconcerting if the driver also picks up other passengers at the same time, especially from the mall but hey! He’s only charging 15 pesos for a 10 minute drive, so two people help pay for the gas!
There are many places to go for a day’s outing : Barra de Navidad and Melaque are only an hour drive; the quaint town of La Manzanilla with it’s caiman crocodiles and world class beach restaurants; the small restaurant village of Colimilla just over the lagoon by water taxi from Barra de Navidad; and the black sand beach of Cuyutlan. Further afield: there is beautiful Comala and the Mariachi bands that frequent the town square and serenade the diner; Nogueres near Comala has a great museum and an old Franciscan church as well as a budding garden with native plants.
Inland from Manzanillo there is the mining town of Minatitlan that can be reached by winding roads around the mountains and past the pools and water park of El Salto.
Then there is always Puerto Vallarta, just a three and a half hour drive into a completely different world and high class shopping, a great place to go for a weekend. Guadalajara is also the same distance in a different direction with great shopping and the museums and churches and the wonderful shopping at Tlaquepaque and Tonala where all of the Mexican treasures can be found for a fraction of the price in the Manzanillo tiangis.
I could go on and on. Perhaps I’ll do this again! When you are retired, there just isn’t enough time in the day!