Planning a Trip
Getting There & Departing
By Plane -- Alaska Airlines (tel. 800/252-7522 in the U.S., or 314/334-2211) offers service from Los Angeles; Mexicana (tel. 800/531-7921 in the U.S.) connects to U.S. destinations via Mexico City; US Airways (tel. 800/428-4322 in the U.S.) flies from Phoenix. Ask a travel agent about the numerous charters from the States in the winter.
The Playa de Oro International Airport is 40km (25 miles) northwest of town. Colectivo (minivan) airport service is available from the airport; hotels arrange returns. Make reservations for return trips 1 day in advance. The colectivo fare is based on zones and runs $15 to $20 for most hotels. Private taxi service between the airport and downtown area is around $35. Budget (tel. 800/472-3325 in the U.S., or 314/333-1445), Hertz (tel. 314/333-3191), and Alamo (tel. 314/334-0124) have counters in the airport open during flight arrivals; they will also deliver a car to your hotel. Daily rates run $60 to $80. You need a car only if you plan to explore surrounding cities and the Costa Alegre beaches.
By Car -- Coastal Hwy. 200 leads from Acapulco (south) and Puerto Vallarta (north). From Guadalajara, take Hwy. 54 through Colima into Manzanillo. Outside Colima you can switch to a toll road, which is faster but less scenic.
By Bus -- Buses run to Barra de Navidad (1 1/2 hr. north), Puerto Vallarta (5 hr. north), Colima (1 1/2 hr. east), and Guadalajara (4 1/2 hr. north), with deluxe service and numerous daily departures. ETN (www.etn.com.mx) is the main bus company. Manzanillo's Central Camionera (bus station; tel. 314/336-4785) sits about 12 long blocks east of town.
The tourism office (tel. 314/333-2277; www.gomanzanillo.com) is on the Costera Miguel de la Madrid 875-A, Km 8.5. It's open Monday through Friday from 9am to 7pm, and Saturday from 9am to 2pm.
The town lies at one end of an 11km-long (6 3/4-mile) beach facing Manzanillo Bay and its commercial harbor. The beach has four sections -- Playa Las Brisas, Playa Azul, Playa Salahua, and Playa Las Hadas. At the other end of the beaches is the high, rocky Santiago Peninsula. Santiago lies 11km (6 3/4 miles) from downtown; it's the site of many beautiful homes and the best hotel in the area, Las Hadas, as well as the hotel's Mantarraya Golf Course. The peninsula juts into the bay, separating Manzanillo Bay from Santiago Bay. Playa Las Hadas sits on the south side, facing Manzanillo Bay, and Playa Audiencia is on the north side, facing Santiago Bay. The inland town of Santiago extends opposite the turnoff to Las Hadas.
Activity in downtown Manzanillo centers on the zócalo, officially known as the Jardín Alvaro Obregón. A railroad, shipyards, and a basketball court with constant pickup games separate it from the waterfront. The plaza has flowering trees, a fountain, twin kiosks, and a view of the bay. It's a staple of local life, where people congregate on park benches to swap gossip and throw handfuls of rice to the ever-present palomas (doves -- really just pigeons). Avenida México, the street leading out from the plaza's central gazebo, is the town's principal commercial thoroughfare.
Once you leave downtown, the Costera Miguel de la Madrid highway (or just Costera Madrid) runs through the neighborhoods of Las Brisas, Salahua, and Santiago to the hotel zones on the Santiago Peninsula and at Miramar.
There are two main lagoons. Laguna de Cuyutlán stretches south for miles, paralleling the coast. Laguna de San Pedrito, north of the city, parallels the Costera Miguel de la Madrid. Both are good birding sites. There are also two bays. Manzanillo Bay encompasses the harbor, town, and beaches. The Santiago Peninsula separates it from the second bay, Santiago. Between downtown and the Santiago Peninsula lies Las Brisas, a flat peninsula with a long stretch of sandy golden beach, a lineup of inexpensive but run-down hotels, and a few good restaurants.
By Taxi -- Taxis in Manzanillo are plentiful. Fares are fixed by zones; rates for trips in town and to more distant points should be posted at your hotel. Daily rates can be negotiated for longer drives outside the Manzanillo area.
By Bus -- The camionetas (local buses) make a circuit from downtown in front of the train station, along the Bay of Manzanillo, to the Santiago Peninsula and the Bay of Santiago to the north; the fare is 50¢. The ones marked LAS BRISAS go to the Las Brisas crossroads, to the Las Brisas Peninsula, and back to town; MIRAMAR, SANTIAGO, and SALAHUA buses go to outlying settlements along the bays and to most restaurants mentioned. Buses marked LAS HADAS go to the Santiago Peninsula and pass the Las Hadas resort and the Tesoro Manzanillo and Plaza Las Glorias hotels. This is an inexpensive way to see the coast as far as Santiago and to tour the Santiago Peninsula.