Manzanillo Coast
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A trip we had been planning for some time was to head south to the Pacific Coast, to visit the beaches around Manzanillo.  We finally bit the bullet and decided to spend a long weekend down there in April, just after all the Semana Santa (Easter) crowds had left.

Volcan de Colima and Nevado de Colima

The highway goes straight past the twin volcanoes of Nevado de Colima and Volcán de Colima, at 4,340 meters (14,238 feet) and 3,860 meters (12,664 feet) respectively.  The Volcán was active earlier this year, but we only saw blue skies that day.

Andrew J. Wharton at Bungalows Calypso, La Manzanilla

We left early Friday morning and started off on the Libre (free road) for the first hour, then joined the Cuota (toll road) when we knew we'd be hitting towns and canyons where we'd be very grateful for the highway. 

The Colima coastline

After reaching the ocean and the humidity, we drove up the coast to our journey's farthest point - the cute beachside community of La Manzanilla, arriving early afternoon.

The three of us liked this place a lot.  Apparently it's a popular "snowbird" town, but being April it was quite quiet.  We stayed in a small motel room right on the beach.

This was the view a few steps from our room at Bungalows Calypso.  Very nice!

La Manzanilla beach, looking east

The water was a perfect temperature for swimming - about 26 degrees C (about 79 degrees F).  It was clear, safe, and not crowded. 

That evening we ate out at a local al-fresco restaurant and went for a walk along the beach.

The next morning Andrew went for a swim in still, clear waters, watching fish jump out of the water!

Barra de Navidad beach, looking north

We stayed at Hotel Sands, which is on the edge of the estuary.  It was very relaxing, with a great swimming pool, garden and bar area - all three were appreciated!  It was also largely empty, but still had a few expats there who do various hotel jobs in exchange for accommodation. 

Andrew used the pool a lot, and took Mela for a walk around the town.

Sunset over the beach at Barra de Navidad

On Sunday, we drove another half hour or so to Manzanillo, the main city on this stretch of the coast, with a large port industry.

After offloading our stuff in a hotel room, we hired a body board and drove to nearby Santiago Bay, the main swimming beach.  We'd been told it was safe to swim there, but we saw a number of small rips along the bay at the time.

Andrew J. Wharton bodyboarding the waves at Santiago Bay beach, Manzanillo

We had a lot of fun riding the waves on the board, and even riding the same wave in, then out, then in again. Catching the point where the waves coming in and the waves coming out collided was fun too.  Mela was tired after her exertions from the past two days and mainly just guarded our gear.

That evening we drove up the Santiago Peninsula separating the two main bays of Manzanillo.  There are a lot of upmarket apartments there, mostly holiday homes we assume, as well as a few small bays packed with people swimming there - much busier than the large, open beach where we swam.  There is some interesting architecture up there as well, like this lookout.

View from Bungalos Calypso, La Manzanilla

Mela was excited about the new smells and sensations on the beach.  We tried to get her to come to us swimming, but even the smallest waves swamped her and this confirmed her resolution to stay on land!  There were some oystercatcher birds that liked flying low across the shallows, and Mela chased them back and forth along the beach.  We'd never seen her run so far or so fast at one time.  The next day she was a tired pup!

Smooth La Manzanilla Bay in the morning

At midday on Saturday we packed up and headed back down the coast to our next stop, a town called Barra de Navidad.  The beach here is more open, and at the time was quite steep and rough.  Mela still loved the beach and even found a friend who almost followed us home!

El Gordito outdoor restaurant, Barra de Navidad

The town centre wasn't as pleasant as La Manzanilla, but we had a great find with El Gordito, a streetside restaurant with excellent meal choices for only 35 pesos each (~$USD 2.70), including drink!  Well recommended.

Of course, a seaside walk to see the sunset was in order, as was a sleep-in that befitted all the stresses of lounging at beautiful beaches.

View of Manzanillo Port from Las Hadas peninsula, Manzanillo

Staying clear of those, Andrew tried catching some of the big breaking waves out back.  He caught a couple, and got battered by others, and decided that he was too unfit for big surf! 

Dave realised that there were parallel sand bars nearer the shore, meaning that waves were rolling onshore, but then regrouping and rolling offshore again. 

Santiago Peninsula lookout, Manzanillo

We had a scary moment on the way back to our hotel where we paid the gas station attendant 100 pesos extra and drove off.  Thankfully when we realised and walked back, he gave us back the cash. On Monday morning, we awoke before dawn to drive back to Guadalajara.  We managed to find our way back to the highway (taking a dirt road one block from a multi-laned paved road!) and from there it was smooth sailing all the way back north.  Andrew had an English  class client at 12:30 so had to be back before then. 

For those thinking of visiting themselves, the Manzanillo coastal area certainly has very nice but high priced accommodation (think ~$USD 200 or more per night), but we paid 350 pesos (~$USD $27) per night for our hotel/motel rooms, all of which were basic, but were clean, had air conditioning and were either on the beach or a couple of blocks away.  In the winter months there are a lot of expatriates, especially Canadians, which is fun.  But going in the summer months can net good deals and quiet beaches, as we found. 

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