Oh! Manzanillo!
by Wendy Devlin

Wendy (lower left) and new friends in Manzanillo

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 it’s quite a clean place. Plus it has at least fifteen beautiful beaches. We have the month of December in Mexico so there’ll be plenty of time to visit Barra too. What do you think, Josh?"

Fifteen years under long dark hair swung around from the computer, "Sure. We can go to Manzanillo as long as it’s not too boooooooooring! I’d like to go back to Puerto Vallarta. That’s 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 didn’t 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 after dark?

Hotel SierraAfter a 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 gringo’s 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.

Men's bikini contestHotel 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 rooms,First-time divers in the pool tennis 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 Josh’s attention and he asked if we could go.

"Oh! El Disco! I don’t know. You’re 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."

"You’ve just got to start trusting us. The bartenders aren’t 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 don’t 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 I’ll take a look."

"Well, I thought maybe we’d go out for a nice seafood dinner at the Guadalajara Grill and catch some mariachis."

"Oh, yeah, right! Good one, Mom!"

While catching the last sun’s rays, poolside, another mother asked me, "You mean you and your kids leave the hotel grounds?"

"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 Juanito’s restaurant, two miles from the Hotel Sierra. They serve a great breakfast too."

"Do you go downtown by the harbor?"

"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 ship’s captain and afterward we toured the ship."

"You must speak great Spanish!"

"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 around?"

"There’s 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. It’s great service!"

That evening at the disco in town, I noticed the youthful crowd was mostly half my age.

But hey, I’m 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, Manzanillo’s discos hum.

By the end of the week, Rose and Josh felt just as comfortable in Manzanillo as anywhere that they’ve 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 state’s natural wonders. A social barbecue, dining out in Manzanillo’s fine restaurants, and dancing nightly among friendly people fulfilled my vacation needs. Everything about our first stay remains most memorable.

Oh, yes. But what about those sailors?

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 Navidad/Melaque

Colima: From Sea to Sierra, Parts 1 and 2

Atlantis in Mexico, Parts 1 and 2