“You’re going where in Mexico?” Our excited reply of Manzanillo brings on blank stares from our neighbours. Most everyone has heard of Cancun, Mexico or Riviera Maya, Mexico, but less is known this port city on the Pacific Ocean. Even an internet search of things to do in Manzanillo Mexico typically lists beaches and day trips out of town.
Not that beaches are a bad thing and Manzanillo beaches go on forever. What else is there to see in Manzanillo?
This being our third trip to visit our friends living in Manzanillo, we decide to dig deeper. Known as the sailfish capital of the world, this sunny Mexico vacations destination must surely have hidden gems waiting to be discovered.
So the quest for what to do in Manzanillo Mexico begins. We hound our friends, their friends and neighbours and basically anyone who will speak to us. Locals are always the best source of information.
Below is a Manzanillo guide and maps we have created. We believe they will be helpful to anyone planning a trip whether you want to go deep sea fishing or find the best views of the city.
Where is Manzanillo Mexico?
Located on the Pacific Ocean, Manzanillo Mexico lies in the state of Colima and is the busiest port in the country. It’s protected bay, with curving, wide sand beaches, handles all cargo headed for Mexico City. Manzanillo is 274 km (170 mi) south of Puerto Vallarta by car.
The map of Manzanillo below, includes our suggestions for what to see and do in the city that retains its authentic Mexican feel. We hope you love it there as much as we do.
Interested in other Mexico travel? Read these.
20 Things To Do In Manzanillo Mexico
This Manzanillo restaurant has one of the best views in the world
Often in our travels we arrive to tourist crowds elbowing for the best view. Feeling as though we are a decade too late, we wonder what it would have been like in the early days.
Discovering the new rooftop restaurant Casa Luna in Manzanillo, the feeling is far different. With its stunning 270 degree view from the Santiago peninsula, the Bay of Santiago and the Bay of Manzanillo are visible. The jaw-dropping sunset view in one direction gives way to the night skyline on the opposite side of the bay. It beats any restaurant view we have seen in the world.
The owners are local, the staff are friendly and the pina coladas the best we have tasted in our travels. A nip of cinnamon is the secret we are told. Open Wednesday to Sunday from 6 pm onward, the vibe is casual with music of the 70’s and 80’s wafting off the rooftop.
Our advice would be to visit Casa Luna soon. We predict it will be one of the most sought after Manzanillo restaurants, if not worldwide, very soon.
One word of caution for those with mobility issues. The owners advise they do not yet have elevator access and the restaurant access requires several sets of stairs.
Eat tropical tacos with a Manzanillo ocean view
There is la lot to love about the Las Brisas restaurant Pacifica Del Mar. The outstanding ocean view, the choice of seating from indoors to partially covered to outdoors. However it is the tropical tacos on the menu that steal my heart. Rather than corn or flour tortillas, the chef uses thin slices of jicima as the base for his fresh seafood tacos.
Manzanillo bars and restaurants at Playa La Boquita
At the far end of the Playa La Boquita you will find many ramadas, or tent covered beach bars and restaurants. On weekends and holidays the locals come to relax and enjoy family time. Beach vendors offer enough inflatable toys to bring up the shipwreck off shore. It is a friendly vibe and a good place to sit back and take in the relaxed Mexican pace.
Our one tip would be sure to bring some pesos in coins as some of the bathrooms (baños) require a fee.
Giant board games at this Manzanillo Mexico restaurant
In a lesser known gem on the beach, Hostal Olas Atlas welcomes guests from around the world. Within the building, is the funky Hoa Bar, with a casual vibe. The decor is eclectic with murals, quotations and assorted board games.
Whether sitting at indoor tables overlooking the beach, or with your toes in the sand at tables on ground level, you can’t get a much closer Manzanillo ocean view. While playing over-sized Connect Four or Jenga, you can sip cold cervezas and cocktails or choose something tasty from the small menu.
This is a dog friendly establishment and we had several quiet canine visitors.
Free food with your drink at Manaanillo Bar Social 1952
Established in 1952 in El Centro, the owner of Bar Social established a policy that free food would be given to those who ordered drinks. His theory was that patrons would not get drunk too quickly, allowing for more consumption of liquor and beer.
Now refurbished, the Manzanillo restaurant tradition continues. Our cerveza arrives with spiced jicima and cucumber. As an added bonus the bartender gives a juggling performance with a bottle from the bar.
Hike to the abandoned houses of Manzanillo Casa Abandonada
Gazing at the view of Manzanillo from the abandoned building, high above the Palma Real resort, one can see why a builder would love the location. Unfortunately, according to locals, the project never really got off the ground due to issues with water and power access. A dream never realized.
Below it, lies another abandoned structure. Those who have lived in Manzanillo for decades, say this house was inhabited for some years and hosted extraordinary parties.
To hike to Manzanillo’s abandoned houses, head to Playa La Boquita at the end of the Club Santiago area, cross a pedestrian bridge and follow the paved road. A steep, shorter route follows the road, which if you stay left becomes a dirt pathway taking you to the abandoned houses.
Alternatively, for a longer but easier hike, follow the road along the lagoon to a stone sign that says El Risco. Turn left and go uphill. When you reach the sign Condominios Asturias turn left again. Follow that path to the abandoned buildings.
Be aware both both structures are in a state of disrepair. Use caution and watch your footing. We saw two bats when we were exploring inside the abandoned houses and kept our distance.
Where to run in Manzanillo
There is no shortage of beaches in Manzanillo for running or walking. For those wanting a pathway, cobblestone is a common surface and not ideal. In the Fovissste area of Manzanillo the Sports Stadium “May 5” ( Unidad Deportiva “5 De Mayo”) is open for public use. The outdoor track is in great condition and will save your ankles from a nasty turn on the cobblestone.
Watch the ships come into the port of Manzanillo
If you are a lover of ships, Manzanillo boasts the busiest port in Mexico. Handling cargo for Mexico city and area from the Pacific Ocean, the industrial ships waiting their turn to unload is a constant. One of the best vantage points to watch the action is from the Las Brissas beach ( Playa Las Brisas).
Go deep sea fishing in Manzanillo
On our first visit to Manzanillo years ago, we booked a fishing excursion and came back with less than a nibble. Since the area is known for its abundance of fish, they don’t call Manzanillo the sailfish capital of the world for nothing, we were disappointed.
Friends who live in Manzanillo tell us success in deep sea fishing is all about the expertise of the captain and the crew. Although the weather did not cooperate for us on our recent visit, our friends booked with Brian of Renta De Lanchas Manzanillo Albatros the day after our departure. As you can see by the photo below, the captain and crew found where the fish were biting.
On our next Manzanillo visit we will be following that recommendation!
Snorkel at the San Luciano shipwreck
Anchored on the Juluapan peninsula near Playa La Boquito in Santiago Bay, the San Luciano is Manzanillo’s sunken treasure. Since 1965 the 300 foot long vessel has sat in a relatively shallow waters at 6 meters (20 feet). To swim out to the wreck takes about 10-15 minutes from shore.
Our safety recommendation is to book a reputable snorkeling tour or at the very least to wear a life jacket.
Take a swing at Manzanillo golf
With three Manzanillo golf courses in and around the city, Las Hadas, El Corozon and Club Santiago, golf lovers will have no shortage of things to do in Manzanillo. Since we are not golf experts,we asked our friend David, who is an avid golfer living in Manzanillo, for his description of the courses.
‘Las Hadas is a very challenging course. El Corozon is very well manicured and has stunning views. Club Santiago is a 9 hole course with alternating tees for the second nine. It is casual and sneakily difficult.’
Try stand up paddle boarding in Manzanillo
Stand up paddle boarding and paddle surfing originated in Hawaii, allowing surfers to get farther into the ocean to catch waves. In the last decade the sport has exponentially increased in popularity throughout the world.
Paddle boarding allows for almost silent gliding over the waters surface, well unless one is flailing and falling in every 30 seconds as may or may not have been the case for me in first attempts at this sport.
Mexico vacations on the beach now often include the sport. In Manzanillo you can take lessons or for the more experienced, rent stand up paddleboards, through Oasis Ocean Club.
At Oasis you will also find a popular beach front Manzanillo restaurant. The beach bar has a fun vibe and a favourite of many winter visitors.
Watch for a wild coati
These small mammals, known as ‘hog-nosed coons’ in English, are the size of large house cats. The omnivores with long, slightly upturned noses ( hence the pig reference), are native to Mexico, Central and South America as well as parts of the southwestern United States.
At the end of our Manzanillo hike a large number of coatis came out of the jungle near Palma Real. Be aware coatis have sharp teeth and feeding wildlife is never a good idea.
Stand with the Manzanillo Sailfish sculpture ( Monumento al Pez Vela)
Proclaiming itself as the ‘Sailfish capital of the world,’ Manzanillo makes the point with a monstrous sculpture. Mexican artist Sebastian leaves no doubt to the message of importance of fishing to this coastal community. At 30 meters (90 feet) tall and 25 meters (82 feet) wide, the giant blue sailfish is referred to by some locals as ‘el camaron’ for its resemblance to a giant shrimp.
The massive sculpture is hard to miss on the waterfront in central Manzillo ( El Centro).
Take a photo of the Manzanillo sign
Near the sailfish statue in the plaza area near the cruise ship dock, look for the Manzanillo sign. Vibrant shades, and with its own mini sailfish, the sign makes for an iconic photographic souvenir.
Watch a turtle release with Tortuga Manzanillo
Watching the tiny Olive Ridley turtles run for the sea, is a wonder of nature. How these little newly hatched creatures, gently dug from their sand nests, know which direction to go, leaves my head tilted like a puzzled puppy.
Run by the University of Colima, the Tortugario Manzanillo not only saves turtles but educates the public on the dangers of plastic in the water to wildlife. A fenced area protects the nests of the sea turtles and the releases take place nearby. The address is 28218 Santa Domingo, on the beach behind the Walmart.
Finding out when the turtle releases happen is the biggest challenge. This one was at 6 pm and we found out from someone living in Manzanillo. Our suggestion would be to send a message using the link above.
Fill a fish with plastic – PETZ recycling
In an effort to promote the recycling of PET plastic bottles, massive fish shaped containers are appearing on Mexican beaches. The PETZ containers (a combination of PET and the pez, Spanish for fish) are open mouthed waiting to swallow beach goers plastic.
Keeping waste off the beach translates to protecting the marine environment. Several of the giant metal fish can be found along Manzanillo’s Miramar Beach (Playa Miramar).
Look for the Colima dog sculptures in La Brisas Manzanillo
The Mexican Hairless dog or Xoloitzcuintie ( try saying that 10 times) has a long history in the state of Colima, Mexico. Archaeological evidence has been found dating back 3500 hundred years to similar dogs in this area. When visiting the city of Colima you can’t go anywhere without seeing replicas of the famous dog.
In Manzanillo watch for the vibrant pups in the Las Brisas area.
Saturday morning shopping Tianguis Santiago
From hardware to tupperware, bras to berries, the open-air market of Manzanillo bustles from 8 am onward each Saturday morning. In Mexico and Central America, the word tianguas refers to an outdoor market that springs forth just one day a week.
Attracting both tourists and locals the market is a moving sea of people. We suggest that you brush up on Mexico shopping skills prior to stepping into the maze of tarp covered tables and trays. A map showing the location of the Santiago market can be found here.
Each year the Manzanillo Artisans Market sets up under a large white tent near one of the big box stores. You will typically find the market around mid January to the first days of February.
Local Manzanillo shopping in Centro Santiago
Bring your patience and parking skills should you arrive to Centro Santiago on the weekend. Follow the locals to the line ups for fresh seafood, fruits and vegetables. This is a no nonsense area where folks have come to do their shopping and get on with enjoying their weekend.
Do your best not to jam the narrow side walk gawking and snapping photos. I admit that may have been me asking forgiveness in broken Spanish.
Here was the only location we saw a Manzanillo Tuk-Tuk, affectionately called an ‘Ubercito’ by some. New to the city, and with rumors of them being rounded up for lack of registration or insurance, this may be a rare sighting.
What would be your pick of things to do in Manzanillo Mexico?
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