Just ninety minutes south from the Bahía de Navidad, Manzanillo is clearly a working port: tourism – although highly developed – very definitely takes second place to trade. Downtown, criss-crossed by railway tracks, rumbles with heavy traffic and is surrounded by a bewildering array of inner harbours and shallow lagoons that seem to cut the town off from the land. You can easily imagine that a couple of hundred years ago plague and pestilence made sailors fear to land here, and it’s not surprising to read in an 1884 guide to Mexico that “the climate of Manzanillo is unhealthy for Europeans, and the tourist is advised not to linger long in the vicinity.” While it may still exhibit some of the same coarse characteristics, much of the old town has been spruced up in recent years. This said, few tourists do stay – most head to the hotels and club resorts of the Península de Santiago around the bay to the east – even though Manzanillo is a lot more interesting than the sanitized resort area, and cheaper, too.Read More
While locals might go swimming from the tiny harbour beach of San Pedrito and in the Laguna de Cuyutlán behind the town, both are polluted. You’re far better off heading for the beaches around the bay, along the Zona Hotelera. The nearest of these, at Las Brisas, is closer to town than you would think – just across the entrance to the inner harbour – though it seems further away due to convoluted routes around the lagoon.
Better and more sheltered swimming can be found along the coast further round, where the bay is divided by the rocky Península de Santiago. Buses run all the way to the far side of the bay, past the settlements of Salahua and Santiago and a string of beaches.
If you’re prepared to walk a little way, you can reach the calm and tranquil waters of the beautiful cove of La Audiencia, on the west side of the Santiago peninsula, beneath the Gran Costa Resort. From here, if you’re feeling reasonably energetic and looking smart enough to get past the guards, you can climb over the hill to the pseudo-private beach of Las Hadas Golf Resort & Marina, which is worth seeing even if you can’t afford a drink at any of the bars.