by Wendy Devlin
Oh, kids! How about a trip to Manzanillo
this winter for our vacation?
Thirteen year-old Rose arched her
eyebrows wide over luminous brown eyes, "But Mom! You know we love Barra de
Navidad and Melaque. Besides, Manzanillo is probably just another dirty
big Mexican city!"
"Oh, contrario, mi hija!
Manzanillo is a small city of around 100,000 people. I think that its quite a
clean place. Plus it has at least fifteen beautiful beaches. We have the month of December
in Mexico so therell be plenty of time to visit Barra too. What do you think,
Fifteen years under long dark hair
swung around from the computer, "Sure. We can go to Manzanillo as long as
its not too boooooooooring! Id like to go back to Puerto Vallarta.
Thats a really fun place."
This was our fourth trip in seven
years to Mexico. When our three children were younger my family drove the Baja one
winter and circumnavigated mainland Mexico in a van and small trailer during the next one.
Last February, Josh, Rose and I flew from Vancouver, British Columbia to Manzanillo
and took a taxi north to Barra de Navidad for a two-week vacation. This trip I
planned to fly in and out of Puerto
Vallarta and tour the states of Colima, Jalisco and Nayarit by bus.
But my plan still needed selling!
"Oh! Did I tell you yet that
two internet friends in Manzanillo want to show us around?"
"Well, Mom, why didnt
you just say that first!" exclaimed Rose.
Prior internet contact with Manzanillo
reassured my safety concerns. After all, a bustling port city prompts visions of rowdy
sailors cruising the streets, picking fights, honking car horns and harassing women on the
street. What about city crime? Although I know Mexico as a safe place to visit with
younger children, the kids increasing independence stretched my mental safety net. How
much stretching could I handle this far from home? How safe were the streets of Manzanillo
five-hour bus ride south from Puerto Vallarta, we arrived at the beautiful Hotel
Sierra on the Santiago Peninsula of Manzanillo. Spying the gorgeous blue
pool, the kids flung on their bathing suits in the hotel room and flew into the elevator.
Plunging into the pool, they headed to check out the swim-up bar. Soon, a tawny Mexican
beauty blew her recreation whistle, inviting everyone for a game of volleyball in one end
of the pool.
"Oh! This is just too
cool!" Rose blurted as she spiked the ball hard over a gringos sunburned
head. Following the game all were invited to play beach volleyball on the white sands of
the exquisite Playa de Audiencia
in front of the hotel.
Hotel Sierra Manzanillo, Hotel Vista Playa de Oro, Plaza Las Glorias
and the Club Maeva host all-inclusive vacation packages for the whole family. In
addition to the unlimited eating and drinking add on activity programs for all ages. Game
and shuffleboard courts are generously open. Free scuba and snorkeling lessons in the pool help guests to prepare for
day trips out by boat to shipwrecks and thriving coral reefs. However it was the sign,
"nightly disco" that nabbed Joshs attention and he asked if we could go.
"Oh! El Disco! I
dont know. Youre under nineteen."
"But Mom, this is Mexico! Kids
can go anywhere with their parents."
"Oh, yes, I forgot."
Fresh to being an unescorted woman
in Mexico, I remembered that children always attend social events with women. In Mexico, a
woman would be almost as unlikely to attend without her children, as she would be to
attend without clothes on!
"O.K. Just no alcohol."
"Youve just got to start
trusting us. The bartenders arent supposed to serve minors anyway. The brochure says
that the disco starts at 10 p.m. and goes to 1 a.m. every night but Sunday."
Later, upon approaching the pool,
heading towards the palm-thatched palapa, disco music throbbed the night alive.
Inside everyone danced, old, young and teens. No partners necessary, just dance! Josh
danced his socks off every night of our stay but still he asked,
"So, Mom. Where else can we
dance in Manzanillo?"
"Oh! I dont know."
"But I thought that Susan
Dearing gave you her new book about Manzanillo
and the state of Colima. Here, give it to me and Ill take a look."
"Well, I thought maybe
wed go out for a nice seafood dinner at the Guadalajara Grill and catch some mariachis."
"Oh, yeah, right! Good one,
While catching the last suns
rays, poolside, another mother asked me, "You mean you and your kids leave the hotel
"Oh, sure. Sometimes we go shopping in the large mercado.
I just flag the local bus in front of the hotel and it arrives in a pleasant shopping area
in five minutes. Some days the kids stay here on the beach with their friends and I walk
and check my internet mail at Juanitos restaurant, two miles from the Hotel
Sierra. They serve a great breakfast too."
"Do you go downtown by the
"Only yesterday Rose and I
headed out there by the local bus and met a shipping agent friend downtown. He took us out
for lunch with the Atlantis discovery ships captain and afterward we toured the
"You must speak great
"Are you kidding! But I try
and get by. Mexican people seem to appreciate the effort to learn their language. Besides,
it gets us sharing some good laughs right off the bat! Tonight we are going out on the
town for the first time."
"How will you get
"Theres inexpensive cab
service everywhere. During the week, if the cabby that picks you up is having a slow
evening, just ask him to come back and pick you up later. Its great service!"
That evening at the disco in town,
I noticed the youthful crowd was mostly half my age.
But hey, Im still moving!
Mexican young people love to dance
in small groups of friends. Usually a large entourage of unattached friends accompanies a
few dating couples. Sometimes they dance in a big circle. The more flamboyant members
dance their way into the center amid appreciative applause and laughter of their friends.
Gradually the shyer members especially the girls are enticed to strut their stuff under
the limelight. Every night of the week but Sundays, Manzanillos discos hum.
By the end of the week, Rose and
Josh felt just as comfortable in Manzanillo as anywhere that theyve ever been.
Recreational activities by day and dancing by night sped their week away. For myself, a
snorkeling trip by panga to a coral reef and a day-trip to swim below El Salto, the highest
waterfall in Colima introduced me to the states natural wonders. A social
barbecue, dining out in Manzanillos fine restaurants, and dancing nightly
among friendly people fulfilled my vacation needs. Everything about our first stay remains
Oh, yes. But what about those
The only sailor that crossed my
path sat smartly on the city bus, completely outfitted in his gleaming whites. When Rose
and I boarded he rose immediately from his seat and with a flourish of his gloved hand
waved us to take his seat.
Oh! Manzanillo, I will return!
For more stories about family travel in Mexico, visit
articles by Wendy Devlin on the monthly e-zine:
Specific stories featuring the Costa Alegre, Jalisco, Mexico
Walking the walk, The Series. Featuring Barra de
Colima: From Sea to Sierra, Parts 1 and 2
Atlantis in Mexico, Parts 1 and 2