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Manzanillo a Perfect 10 – Tourism Article

Manzanillo: still a perfect 10
Despite its brush with fame, Manzanillo remains one of Mexico’s quieter resorts

Monica Zurowski
Calgary Herald

It took the budding and beautiful Bo Derek, cornrow braids flying behind her, to put Manzanillo on the map. The year was 1979. A romantic comedy called 10, starring Derek and Dudley Moore, became one of the year’s biggest movies. In the film, the middle-aged Moore becomes obsessed with Derek and follows her to a tropical paradise.

Fans flocked to the box office and then began flocking to the destination featured in the movie — Manzanillo.

Until then, visitors had arrived in Manzanillo in more of a trickle, many invited by a millionaire from Bolivia. Don Antenor Patino, who made his fortune in tin, built a dream house overlooking Manzanillo Bay in the 1960s.

He called the property Las Hadas, a historical name meaning “fairies.” The moniker was bestowed on the area decades earlier by navigators who saw the ocean sparkling with light during the night. The sparkles were caused by phosphorus in the water, but the effect was purely magical.

Patino began inviting friends to the area and commenced building Las Hadas into a world-class resort and recreation centre. In 1974, he opened the $33-million whitewashed, Moorish-influenced resort with 300 jet-setters from around the world arriving for one of the hottest parties of the year.

These days, most visitors to Manzanillo are Canadian, accounting for 60 per cent of tourists, while 20 per cent are American and the other 20 per cent largely from other parts of Mexico.

They come because Manzanillo offers a more relaxed holiday than other destinations in the country and because they can get a more authentic Mexican experience than in other resort towns that have seen tourism explode.

“I think Manzanillo is quieter than other places,” says the area’s most experienced tour guide, Tino Rojas of Tlaloc Tours. “Manzanillo is the place to come if you want to really relax.”

While resort cities like Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco have 35,000 and 45,000 hotel rooms, respectively, available for visitors, Manzanillo has a modest 5,000.

Tourism has grown in a more organic fashion in Manzanillo, as opposed to the military-like precision of developments seen in other parts of Mexico, like the Mayan Riviera.

Hotels have sprouted up between residential areas. Streets are often winding and paved with cobblestone.

“One of Manzanillo’s charms as a beach resort destination is its reluctance to super-size its attractions and development,” says Travel Agent magazine. “Manzanillo is a still-to-be- discovered destination, which still maintains its typical Mexican flavour and offers a wide range of activities.”

The fact that Manzanillo, the sailfishing capital of the world, is a real Mexican city explains another part of its charm.

It is Mexico’s biggest port, with one million containers being shipped here each year. Electronics arrive from Japan, plastics from China and canola from Canada.

The city is also home to the Mexican navy, whose members love to display their topiary skills in their free time by trimming dozens of trees to resemble a variety of shapes and animals.

But down the beach just a few kilometres from the main dock area, visitors find the tropical paradises of the hotel zone. Lush, palm-filled jungles cover hills that level out toward the ocean and turn into sandy beaches.

“One reason for its popularity could be Manzanillo’s enticing tropical geography — vast groves of tall palms, abundant mango trees, and successive coves graced with smooth sand beaches,” say the travel experts at “To the north, mountains blanketed with palms rise alongside the shoreline. And over it all lies the veneer of perfect weather, with balmy temperatures and year-round sea breezes.”

The area’s hotels are built to take advantage of those sea breezes and are largely centred around two bays, formed by a breathtaking peninsula that juts into the ocean.

The beaches in the area are unspoiled and seemingly endless — however, the sand is incredibly hot. (It must explain why the actors in the movie 10 were always running on the beach.)

Despite giving visitors a serious case of hot foot, the sand in Manzanillo is beautiful. Due to volcanic rock and the heavy mineralization of the area, black sand mixes with brown to form patterns that make any walk along the beach an esthetic delight.

One of the best beaches in the area is at Las Hadas, which also offers visitors all-inclusive golf packages at its quiet and pristine course. A highlight is the 18th hole that sits perched on a picturesque little island.

For visitors looking for a more modern resort, the all-inclusive Barcelo Karmina Palace has become one of the most popular hotels in the area. The views from the rooms are magical; the suites are spacious and the swimming area features six interconnected pools, including a family spot with a water slide and a quieter oasis for adults only.

The Karmina also features a not-to be-missed Mexican fiesta and show every Friday night. Some of the area’s top-rated singers and dancers showcase their homeland through a celebration of song and dance.

Tourists who want to explore the area have plenty of other options. The fishing, golfing and diving expeditions are numerous. Jungle tours, plantation visits and encounters at a turtle farm also rate high with visitors.

But one of the most interesting options is to take a day trip to the state capital of Colima. Not only are there museums and colonial architecture to take in, there’s also a chance to visit the nearby village of Comala and witness the authentic day-to-day life of Mexican people.

You’ll even get a chance to dine like the locals do. One interesting dish worth trying involves taking fresh watermelon and pineapple, squeezing lime over the fruit and then sprinkling it with salt and red pepper. Strange, yes, but when in Comala, why not do as the Comalans do?

A trip inland to Comala and Colima also offers the view of two volcanoes, including the active Volcan de Fuego (Fire Volcano) that spews smoke regularly. And, importantly, the journey takes you to La Campana Archaeological Zone, the largest and oldest such site in the state.

Ruins of an ancient city have been uncovered here and a variety of structures, pyramids and platforms have been restored.

The most well known pyramid, known as La Campana (The Bell) because of its bell-shaped appearance, allows visitors to look inside a tomb and see handmade figures and instruments buried there between AD 600 and 900.

It’s a wonderful testament to the history of the area — an area that welcomes visitors with open arms but never forgets its roots.

If You Go

  • General tourist information on Mexico is at
  • Direct flights to Manzanillo and hotel packages are available through Transat Holidays ( or 1-866-322-6649), or through travel agents.
  • For information on Las Hadas, go to; for more on the Barcelo Karmina Palace, check out

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