Though run-down and ramshackle, MANZANILLO, 75km up the coast from Playa Las Coloradas, still possesses some charm. Now a fairly pedestrian coastal fishing village, it was established around the harbour at the end of the eighteenth century and for a time enjoyed a brisk trade in contraband goods. Sugar trade replaced smuggling as the primary business hereabouts in the nineteenth century, but the town’s heyday had passed and it never grew much bigger.
Manzanillo’s sole attraction these days is its fantastic Moorish architecture, dating from the 1910s and 1920s. The sensual buildings, all crescents, curves and brilliant tiles, are best seen in the town’s central Parque Céspedes. Most eye-catching is the richly decorated gazebo presiding over the park, giving an air of bohemian elegance well suited to the sphinx statues in each corner and the melee of benches, palm trees and faux-nineteenth-century streetlamps. Opposite the park, the pink Edificio Quirch is no less splendid, although its crescent arches and tight lattice design are rather wasted on the couple of convertible-peso shops it houses.