Old Mexico lives on in Manzanillo

By:Lisa Coleman

   I have often heard people who frequently visit the booming tourist destinations in Mexico comment that they miss "old Mexico." By that I have to assume they mean they miss the tradition and charm that lives in the laid back Mexican "beach towns" that have yet to turn the corner to becoming "resort cities." Not to say that these familiar named resort destinations aren’t beautiful and wonderful vacation spots (because they most certainly are!), but I know that some travelers prefer places that are still just a bit off the beaten path. Well, if "old Mexico" is what you are looking for then you better plan your next trip to Manzanillo. 
   Manzanillo is located on the Pacific Coast in the Mexican State of Colima. It can be found on a map south of Puerto Vallarta, a well-known neighbor only 3 ½ hours away by car. But Manzanillo is unlike most seaside resort towns. Historically important as a seaport even before the Conquest, it was first settled by the Europeans in 1522 and was used as a departure point for Spanish expeditions to Baja and Northern Mexico. Today, it is primarily a bustling commercial port that happens to have two gorgeous bays and miles of untouched shorelines available to cultivate the slow-paced, yet steady growth of tourism. This makes for an interesting paradox in the lay of the land. 
   The town is essentially split between a quaint downtown area adjacent to the port, and a resort zone located along the scenic shores of the Bahias (bays). Of the two bays, Bahia de Manzanillo (Manzanillo Bay) is the most developed area, while further up the coast the Bahia de Santiago (Santiago Bay) is for the most part unpopulated stretches of golden sand. In between these two picturesque inlets lies the Santiago Peninsula, home to the area’s most significant resort developments. Though understated, Manzanillo offers some of the finest resorts on the Pacific. This special place has the unique ability to maintain Old World style while still providing a full range of amenities for the discerning traveler. Accommodations run the full gamut from ultra-high class luxury to All Inclusive family retreats.
   Water sports and golf are also big draws for the area. Known as the "Sailfish Capital of the World", Manzanillo is proud to host several national and international tournaments each year. Charters are easily organized and generally depart from the centrally located marina at the Las Hadas hotel. And if golf is your fancy, this may very well be one of the best choices in Mexico. The region plays host to a total of 72 holes of golf, including a stunning 27-hole Robert Von Hagge designed championship course at Isla Navidad and an 18-hole masterpiece at Las Hadas designed by Roy and Pete Dye. 
   Overall, Manzanillo is just beginning to evolve into a premier tourist destination. And though it continues to grow, the state of Colima where Manzanillo is located continues to have the lowest crime rate in the entire country. The pace here remains slow and the shopping, dining and nightlife are somewhat low-key when compared to other Mexican Riviera destinations. This is still "old Mexico." Manzanillo is the Mexico for travelers who want to experience the rustic charm of a place where you can feel the heritage and take in unspoiled beauty.


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