Spring Break: Manzanillo vs. the most dangerous (and popular) U.S. cities

by Susan Dearing

Spring Break, called Semana Santa in Manzanillo (Mexico), is a 2-week holiday, where traditionally, high school and college kids go by the droves to warm weather destinations to party and catch some rays. After spending a half day watching Spring Break videos on You Tube, I found they do a lot more: drinking, drinking and driving, doing drugs, fighting, dancing, having sex, and generally acting like idiots. Wet T-shirt contests (ladies), no T-shirt contests (ladies), sexy dancing contests (ladies), drinking contests--it's girls and boys gone wild.

Where is the safest place to let your children go on Spring Break? I'm no expert on child rearing, since I have none (thank you, God), but once I was one (a teenager, I mean). Everyone who reads this article was also a teen (or is one), so you know what I'm talking about when I say there are temptations are out there, and on Spring Break, they are out there big time.

You can't keep your child under lock and key, but there are many things you can do, and decisions you can make to help keep them safe. So much has been written about the safety in Manzanillo, Mexico; in fact, I've written 3 articles about it myself, but what I didn't know until this week was that the top 25 most dangerous destinations for Spring Break are in the U.S.! Here's the list (in order of danger), according to Avvo, a consumer advocate website.

Shocked? Don't be. Watch the videos below, selected off the internet. I actually stopped searching for Spring Break videos after I found the ones from Panama City. Enough is enough, and you can certainly see why your kids can get into trouble, and the cities they go to are dangerous as well.

  1. Orlando, FL Orlando Spring Break Weekend
  2. Daytona Beach, FL Daytona Beach's Spring Break at the Desert Inn
  3. Las Vegas, NV Las Vegas Street Fight: Spring Break 2010
  4. Myrtle Beach, SC Spring Break - Myrtle Beach 2010
  5. West Palm Beach, FL Spring Break
  6. South Padre Island, TX Fight, Spring Break
  7. New Orleans, LA Fight on my spring break
  8. Panama City, FL Spring Break Panama City   Club LaVela- Panama City
  9. Jacksonville, FL 
  10. Miami, FL
  11. Fort Myers, FL
  12. Galveston, TX
  13. Fort Lauderdale, FL
  14. Lake Havasu City, AZ
  15. Key West, FL
  16. Kihei/Maui, HI
  17. Lafayette, LA
  18. Naples, FL
  19. Virginia Beach, VA
  20. Park City, UT
  21. Steamboat Springs, CO
  22. San Diego, CA
  23. Reno, NV
  24. Santa Barbara, CA
  25. Honolulu, HI

Avvo compiled the list by evaluating the following factors in 25 U.S. spring break destinations: violent crime risk/rank, murder risk/rank, rape risk/rank, fatal car crashes and Avvo's data, including doctors and lawyers per capita, doctor rank and criminal defense questions.

Now comes Manzanillo, Colima as a Spring Break destination. Why would our city be better and safer?

So much has been said about our low crime rate, and the reasons behind it, so we'll move on to your children's safety here. Take some time now to watch the videos below, and you'll make some very different observations, as I did.

Though there is some drinking and "dirty dancing" going on, the kids in the videos seem to be more in control, happier--whether drinking or not--smiling and having fun. They are interacting, making jokes, playing in the sand, sunning and swimming in the ocean. Sure, they are on holiday, but when you watch their faces, there seems to be an inner peace of who they are--a tranquility, a zest for life--that the kids in the U.S. Spring Break videos seem to be missing. 

Though most are Mexican and are speaking Spanish in the videos, there is no missing that having fun is the number one activity, whether it be from dancing, having a picnic on the beach, or rolling around in the sand. Drinking may be a part of it--but not all of it. The bands are dressed up, doing their version of the "Temptations," though to Mexican Banda music. The young ladies in the videos are natural--no breast implants here--some even a little chunky. Doesn't matter. Perfect bodies aren't a must to have fun in Manzanillo. Chunky girls and boys can have fun, too!

Please click on photos to enlarge

Empty Las Brisas beach

The other difference I see is that kids as well as adults are on the beach and are enjoying the day. Entire families come to picnic, to swim, to dance. White, black or brown, there are no separate groups; everyone is out for a good time at the beach. I can't imagine a fight like in New Orleans, especially one where a girl is pummeled by a gang of drunken guys, just for trying to protect her knocked-out boyfriend, after a free-for-all brawl. 

LaBoquita Beach

There seems to be a naiveté here that is missing in our young people. In the U.S. videos, most of the kids act like they've seen it all, are bored, need alcohol and drugs just to have fun. And in Orlando or Daytona Beach, having fun means something different than in Manzanillo.

Concert on the beach

Another safety issue important to parents of Spring Breakers is drinking and driving. In Manzanillo, you can take a cab, and last year, cabs lowered their fares, encouraging visitors to take a taxi instead of drive. In any U.S. resort town, taxi prices are exorbitantly high, encouraging  kids to drive.

Surfing and body boarding

Many students choose to drive to their Break city, but, Moms and Dads, it is safer to get them on a plane, send them to a safe tourist destination, and from there, let them take taxis or busses. The majority of all fatalities in the U.S. and Mexico during Spring Break are due to auto accidents. There has not been a single fatality of any foreigner during Manzanillo's Spring Break for any reason.

Lifeguard stands all along
the beach will be occupied
at Easter

The second most common accident is by drowning. In some areas of Mexico, there are no plans or measures to prevent downing, but in Manzanillo, there are several. 

More lifeguards. Lifeguards have access to 2-way radios to coordinate between lifeguard towers, ATV beach patrols, ands jet ski patrols. This allows communication in all areas, and rapid response in emergencies. 

Rescue class sponsored by
Department of Tourism

ATV beach patrol

The flags on the main beaches indicate the severity and danger of the wave action. Blue, of course, is totally safe to swim.

In 21 years I have never seen a blue flag. This is probably a liability issue. If someone gets injured or drowns and a blue flag is up, is the city liable?

A white flag means caution--swim, or enter the ocean with care. This week, we have white flags all along Santiago Bay. 

Jet ski  patrol all along
Miramar Beach
in Santiago Bay

Mexican Navy Interceptor
is one of several different types of patrol boats used in rescue operations. This is a former U.S. Coast Guard vessel.

A red flag means danger; use extreme caution. Only experienced swimmers or surfers should be in the water. How do you know where to swim? At Miramar Beach (Playa Miramar), the most popular beach in Manzanillo, other than La Boquita, go in the water where you see others, and don't go in any farther than they do unless you are a very experienced swimmer or surfer.

La Boquita is the safest swimming beach. In general, each bay has a north and south end. Stay at the ends where the water is calmer. If your knowledge of the ocean and swimming ability is in question, wear a life jacket or bring with you some type of flotation device. There has never been a foreign tourist that has drowned in Manzanillo.

Red flag with explanation
of color code on Olas
Altas (High Waves) Beach

Campers at Miramar Beach during Spring Break

Manzanillo has increased public security, with police officers showing patience and tolerance. Imagine your teenager being drunk, and a police officer, instead of arresting him or her, driving your child to a hospital, where, incidentally, there is no charge for treatment. Isn't that better than being arrested and going to jail? In the U.S., it goes on his permanent record; here, no such thing. There has never been a foreign tourist that has died for any reason during Spring Break.

Police heighten patrols during Easter weeks

Popular swimming beach
with small waves, La Boquita

In Manzanillo, however, istead of drinking themselves into oblivion, they are swimming, snorkeling, surfing, scuba diving, ATVing, ziplining, horseback riding, shopping, taking a banana boat ride, kayaking, body boarding, among many other things.

There is so much to do that drinking is secondary to having fun. All of these activities are healthy and safe, and available from trusted tour companies. Why not book some tours for your kids over the internet that will give them a week of fun?

View from Marildo's Restaurant, La Boquita

Get yourself some Bo Derek braids at La Boquita or
Playa Audiencia

Statistics show that you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than getting killed in the country of Mexico, but speaking of lightning, Florida at spring break time has numerous storms, accompanied by lightning. Florida is considered the lightning capital of the U.S. Lightning strikes in Central Florida this time of year more often than anywhere else and is the most deadly. Although it kills only about ten percent of its victims, those that survive are often left with lifelong severe medical problems. There will be no problem with severe weather in Manzanillo. Every day during Spring Break will be sunny and clear.

Beach vendor stands at
Playa La Audiencia

The U.S. state department has warned that Spring Break in Mexico could be dangerous, citing drug violence and kidnappings as examples. Drugs are illegal here. The tolerance that police will show a drunken teenager on Spring Break will not exist if he is caught with an illegal drug. Many people argue that drugs should be legalized, but until that time comes, if ever, getting caught with even the smallest amount of pot will be a costly, devastating mistake with Mexico's legal system and the Napoleonic code.

ATVers at La Boquita
A fun way to spend a half day

This suggestion is for everyone coming to Mexico: If you can't do without your illegal drugs when in Manzanillo--don't come. If caught, you will go to jail, and there is no bail. You will sit there until your trial (in a year or two). Remember drinking--tolerance; drugs--zero tolerance. I cannot say that there has never been a foreigner arrested for drug possession, because there has, and the stories aren't pretty. But drug-related violence--Stay away from drugs and you will not be exposed to drug-related violence.

Umbrellas, a table & 4 chairs
available to rent for $8/day

Beachside Tablao Restaurant

Kidnapping of foreigners in Manzanillo? Never. There have been a couple of attempted kidnappings of Mexican adults here. The perpetrators were caught and jailed. It would be extremely unusual and difficult to kidnap a foreigner.

First, criminals of this type are generally not bi-lingual. Most ransom demands are made on a pay phone, or a "throwaway" phone.

Ziplining adventure

La Boquita swimmers

Imagine having to go through an international operator and placing a long distance call, the language barrier, and the logistics of transferring the money, leaving a paper trail.

Just not worth the effort, when there are plenty of rich Mexicans that are far easier targets. The odds of a foreigner being kidnapped in Manzanillo are slim to none.

Red Bull tent on
Miramar Beach

The bottom line of all this is that Manzanillo is a better, safer, and more fun option for Spring Breakers. Take a look at the videos below to see a lot of young people having a great time on Spring Break, Manzanillo style!

Activities in Manzanillo Humpback whale in Manzanillo Fiesta K-lienT at Miramar Beach "Dance of the Dogs," funny guy on beach who makes up songs and drums on old cans and bottles
Manzanillo during Spring Break La Boquita in Manzanillo Spring Break Band at Miramar Beach, Manzanillo
Easter vacation Radio K-lienT at Spring Break Fun & games on the beach

E-mail Susan Dearing

Find out more about Susan's guidebook, "Manzanillo & the State of Colima--Facts, Tips, & Day Trips"

To learn more about tours offered in Manzanillo, go to: www.manzanilloadventures.com

Articles about Spring Break Safety. VERY IMPORTANT READS!

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