Coolin' off in Colima!

A visit to a Balneario,
Los Amiales

Swim, picnic, BBQ, hike, take some sun, have some fun!

by Susan Dearing

(Click to enlarge photos below)

"The Old Swimmin' Hole" that James Whitcomb Riley wrote about, lamenting it's passing into obscurity still exists in Colima.

The Náhuatl Indian word, amiales, means "spring," and perhaps these Indians of Colima were the first to bathe in these crystalline, natural, spring-fed pools. The word, balneario (pronounced bahl-knee-ah-rio) in Spanish, means "place to bathe," and hundreds of years ago, most people did just that.

Man-made bridge across the river

Today, a balneario is a natural water park, where families come to picnic and cool off in Mexico's version of "The Old Swimmin' Hole."

Colima has numerous rivers and creeks that have been turned in to balnearios, such as El Salto, Agua Fria, and Agua Caliente, but Los Amiales (Ah-me-al-lehs) is the first project amplified by the state working in conjunction with the municipality of Coquilmatlan (pronounced coh-keel-mat-lan).

An added benefit of the park is more jobs, and in a small town such as Coquilmatlan (pop. 18,000), there is always a need for additional income. 

(The meaning of Coquilmatlan: Place to hunt and trap doves and quail.)

Though numerous ramada-style restaurants line the banks, you can also bring your own picnic lunch and rent chairs, tables and a BBQ grill for only 30 pesos per table & 4 chairs. 

A bridge across bubbling waters
Mexican holiday brings crowds Yum, yum!
Watch the kids play Water under the bridge
The government has created numerous cordoned-off pools, natural-looking waterfalls, parking areas, walking paths along the river, and opened it up to a variety of enterprising vendors of everything from food, drinks, charcoal, ice, inner tube rental, and bathrooms.

Though numerous ramada-style restaurants line the banks, you can also bring your own picnic lunch and rent cairs, tables and a BBQ grill for only 30 pesos/table + 4 chairs. Entrance fee to the park is only 20 pesos/car.

If you don't like crowds, come during the week, but if you'd like to find out what Mexican families do for a good time, make your trek on Sunday, or a Mexican holiday.

Mexican men do bar-be-que! Mmmm! Tubin' down the river

Los Amiales is surrounded by lush, tropical foliage, rocky knolls, and is ensconced in a valley surrounded by the Los Libros hills. It is 5 minutes south of Coquilmatlan, following the railroad tracks.

Coquilmatlan's agriculture includes exportation of honey, coconut water, corn, limes, lime oil, and rice. Ranching of cattle, swine, and poultry, and the exportation of same, all the easier in the fertile, well-watered valley. There are also iron mines in the area, and some of the most beautiful iron work is made in the area. Another local talent is the fabrication of furniture from precious hardwoods, and a water purification and bottling plant is also located near the city.

Just havin' fun
From Coquilmatlan to Guadalara

In 1889 the building of the railroad helped Coquilmatlan take off as a town, but it wasn't until 1956-60 that the town gained electricity and provided potable water. Today, the town is as clean and  bright as it has ever been, with a beautiful central Jardin, and Colonial structures downtown.

To reach Coquilmatlan from Manzanillo, follow the signs to Colima. The "cuota" is about 25 minutes faster but costs $100 pesos. The "libre"  is the free road. 50% of it is 2-lane and very sinuous. 

As you are approaching the city of Colima, you will see a left-turn exit for Coquilmatlan. This road will take you to a "T", where you'll turn left, and continue on to the city. Follow the railroad tracks until you cross them, and continue along this road for 5-10 minutes, and on your left is Los Amiales. 

Another way to reach Los Amiales is to turn at the exit for Madrid, also left. Some say it is faster, and it is definitely more scenic. If you get lost, because there are several unmarked turnoffs, just ask for Los Amiales or Coquilmatlan.

If you have a group of 4 or more, a custom tour can be designed for you.

Author Susan Dearing is a 21-year resident of Mexico with 18 years in Manzanillo, Colima. 

Because of her love of the area, she has written more than 75 articles for her web site, as well as numerous stories in other publications, and has authored the tourist guidebook: "Manzanillo and the state of Colima, Facts, Tips and Day Trips." The Manzanillo guidebook has been in publication for more than 10 years.

The Old Swimmin' Hole

by James Whitcomb Riley

Oh! the old swimmin'-hole! whare the crick so still and deep
Looked like a baby-river that was laying half asleep,
And the gurgle of the worter round the drift jest below
Sounded like the laugh of something we onc't ust to know
Before we could remember anything but the eyes
Of the angels lookin' out as we left Paradise;
But the merry days of youth is beyond our controle,
And it's hard to part ferever with the old swimmin'-hole.

Oh! the old swimmin'-hole! In the happy days of yore,
When I ust to lean above it on the old sickamore,
Oh! it showed me a face in its warm sunny tide
That gazed back at me so gay and glorified,
It made me love myself, as I leaped to caress
My shadder smilin' up at me with sich tenderness.
But them days is past and gone, and old Time's tuck his toll
From the old man come back to the old swimmin'-hole.

Oh! the old swimmin'-hole! In the long, lazy days
When the humdrum of school made so many run-a-ways,
How plesant was the jurney down the old dusty lane,
Whare the tracks of our bare feet was all printed so plane
You could tell by the dent of the heel and the sole
They was lots o' fun on hands at the old swimmin'-hole.
But the lost joys is past! Let your tears in sorrow roll
Like the rain that ust to dapple up the old swimmin'-hole.

Thare the bullrushes growed, and the cattails so tall,
And the sunshine and shadder fell over it all;
And it mottled the worter with amber and gold
Tel the glad lilies rocked in the ripples that rolled;
And the snake-feeder's four gauzy wings fluttered by
Like the ghost of a daisy dropped out of the sky,
Or a wownded apple-blossom in the breeze's controle
As it cut acrost some orchard to'rds the old swimmin'-hole.

Oh! the old swimmin'-hole! When I last saw the place,
The scenes was all changed, like the change in my face;
The bridge of the railroad now crosses the spot
Whare the old divin'-log lays sunk and fergot.
And I stray down the banks whare the trees ust to be—
But never again will theyr shade shelter me!
And I wish in my sorrow I could strip to the soul,
    And dive off in my grave like the old swimmin'-hole.

Los Amiales: "The Old Swimmin' Hole"
Where the rivers Armeria and Colima merge

Small "ramada" restaurant
Adults can sit under a shady palapa and watch the children

Coquimatlan Jardin (town square)
San Pedrito Catholic Church and the Zocalo, Coquimatlan