A Little Guide to Manzanillo, Mexico
A week in Manzanillo, Mexico, and I swear this is the easiest guide I’ve ever written. It was an uncomplicated kind of vacay, and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. But there’s a part of that owing to the fact that a) tequila makes everything fun, and b) I speak Spanish, and c) we had very low expectations of our holiday.
Anyways, let’s dive into a bit more detail and you can decide for yourself whether it’s worth it to you.
Photos by Andy Nichols
Where not to stay
I made the mistake initially of booking our stay in Manzanillo centro. And then upon doing more research and a lot of staring at Google Maps, realized my error and promptly cancelled and rebooked in La Audiencia.
You do NOT want to stay in the little port town of Manzanillo. There is not much to see or do there outside of a few hours meandering the port, and you are away from the good beaches. You’ll spend more time in taxis - and money on taxi fare - than you want to.
Where to stay
Better to stay somewhere along the stretch of the peninsula that hosts all the actual beaches. We stayed in La Audiencia, which felt kind of perfect. We were close to several beaches on foot (or a short taxi ride if you’re not up for a walk), and could still get to the farther flung beaches AND access the centre, and find restaurants, all pretty easily.
What to do
Honestly, Manzanillo is a sleepy little place. There’s not too much to do besides take up residence under a beach umbrella and drink away the day to the sounds of the ocean crashing!
I exaggerate a little, but only a little. While it’s certainly a beach vacay kind of place, there are a number of excursions you can find to nearby pueblos, ATV tours, volcano sightseeing, and fishing, scuba diving, and snorkelling. Tours seemed to run from about $50-85 USD depending on the activity and duration.
Which beaches to check out
While the beaches are technically public almost everywhere, they are kind of “claimed” by hotels and establishments along most stretches. These establishments put out umbrellas, chairs, and tables and then charge you to use them. Some will include the chairs for free if you eat/drink - but not all. Best to inquire ahead of time if you’re unsure.
Playa Santiago - Santiago Club - Oasis Beach Resort
No charge for the umbrellas and chairs as long as you’re eating and/or drinking. Prices were substantially higher for everything, but it is a nice stretch of beach and the service was impeccable. Very “gringo” geared... And just a heads up, they will reinforce the eating/drinking thing if you want to even pass through the hotel to get to that section of the beach.
Playa Olas Altas - Hostal Olas Altas
No charge for the umbrellas and chairs as long as you’re eating and/or drinking. These were the best margaritas we had the whole time. Huge, great, and definitely your money’s worth in booze and flavour. The snacks seemed decent but we didn’t eat much, and the clientele were a mix of Mexican and foreign, with a low key beach vibe overall.
Playa La Audiencia - Olvin (tiny beachside setup)
They did charge for the chairs and umbrellas but as it’s a local spot I feel they might have been unclear about just HOW MUCH we would drink 😳. Either way, they did let me negotiate the price down a little and I liked that we were supporting a little, local family (literally a young couple and their 4 month old baby). The snacks were great, the prices great, and the vibe was relaxed. The water came up very high here and we had fun wondering if at some point our table would get swept away (hint: it didn’t 🙃).
Where to eat
To be frank, we weren’t stressing about where we ate. But that didn’t stop us from finding some decently yummy food.
For breakfasts, we shopped at the local Kiosko (like a 7-11 and just as prevalent) for fresh corn tortillas (look for them in a little mini fridge), eggs, cheese, salsa, and even avocados and tomatoes. If you have a BnB or a little kitchen wherever you stay, I can’t imagine why you’d bother heading out first thing in the morning hunting for food and coffee! Seems like a waste of effort and money as far as I’m concerned.
Lunches were generally on the beach, at whatever spot we’d found for the day (see note above about beaches) and usually consisted of guacamole and ceviche.
If you’re staying in La Audiencia, there is a little pizza places we really liked. Pizzeria Rito’s is literally in a house and there’s no signage. But it was so delicious; it’s run by a German woman out of her home where she’s converted the front room into an industrial kitchen with a pizza oven. She also cultivates veggies for a really fresh salad, and had homemade cheesecake for dinner. And did I mention that the porch where she seats guests looks out over the valley? It was pretty great. Pricey compared to the norm, but not crazily so, and definitely worth it.
We also had pizza one night at Sim’s, the easiest spot to access from up on the hill in La Audiencia, and it was decent too with good service and good prices. We also tried a number of street side taco spots and always had mediocre to excellent food at bargain basement prices (think less than $2 for a taco!).
Taxi from the airport to La Audiencia - 590 pesos
Taxi from La Audiencia to centro - 80 pesos
Taxi from La Audiencia to Oasis beach resort - 80 pesos
Beer at a beachside spot - 30 pesos
Margarita at a beachside spot - 70 pesos
Umbrella, table and chairs rental for the day - free to 150 pesos
Streetside tacos/quesadilla - 23-80 pesos each
Tortillas at El Kiosko - 9 pesos
Safety in Manzanillo
We had read mixed reports on the safety aspect here, varying from it being one of the safest places in Mexico, to people feeling like there were shootings at too-regular intervals. In the end, we felt completely safe the entire time. But it’s not like we were stumbling around drunk in the middle of the night or taking any particular risks, you know?
I tend to think most safety in travelling is how you do it (be smart!) but I think even my more cautious travelling partner would agree that it felt pretty sleepy overall.
Would I recommend Manzanillo?
The million dollar question - and one I got asked by each of my coworkers! It’s a valid question. And here’s my wishy-washy answer:
If you’re looking for an unexciting, cheap, low-key beach vacation and you’re not a fussy sort - then for the price, ya, I would definitely recommend Manzanillo. We intentionally went there to do very little but sit by the water or sit on a balcony staring at the water...and that’s exactly what we got.
However if you’re fussy, nervous, like a bit of upper crustiness in your holiday, or are looking for things to do and see, then this probably isn’t the place for you. Puerto Vallarta is not much more expensive and has more variety and things to do!