Venturing to Manzanillo, Colima & Isla Navidad


I used to think Manzanillo was the poor step sister to Puerto Vallarta and Zihuatanejo - that was before I visited. It is much smaller than the aforementioned resort towns, not having as many resorts and hotels. And much smaller beaches being made up of a lot of crescent bays. The two major hotels in Manzanillo are the Barcelo Karmina Palace, a nice 4-star property where we stayed. The other is the infamous Las Hadas, made famous and putting Manzanillo on the map when the movie ""10"" was filmed there. (Suite 420 at Las Hadas is the ""Bolero"" suite, costing approximately $1,100.00 per night. )

Karmina Palace is a lush, well kept, u-shaped resort with every accommodation a large suite. Most of the suites have some kind of water view and all suites have terraces. There were 2 flat screen televisons; one in the bedroom and one in the sitting area. The housekeeping service was impeccable.

A Premium Club option gives you WIFI in the room (at a cost), upgraded amenities by Bulgari, a stocked mini bar, private check-in and check-out area, and unlimited dining in the alternative restaurants. Even though the WIFI has a cost, if you don't use it in your room you can only get it in the lobby area. Only Premium Club suites offer the option of in-room WIFI.

DINING: This is an all-inclusive property, offering the usual buffet (great breakfast choices), a beautiful Mexican palapa restaurant built over a rocky bluff at one end of the property and an Italian restaurant. Before Christmas they will open their Japanese restaurant. We experienced the Mexican restaurant and the lobster crepes were awesome. They offer a lot of fresh seafood.

SPA: They have a small spa offering a range of services. I opted for a one-hour deep tissue/sports massage. My therapist, Lucy, did a wonderful treatment. Since it's a small area, they have no relaxation area nor comfy waiting area. They offer wall benches in the locker room and come and get you there. They have a nice steam room.

BEACH AND POOLS: This resort caters to families, providing Club Barcy for the little ones. There is a wonderful waterslide that has a Mayan temple built around the stairway to the top of the slide. There are two pools that are adults only catering to couples. There are waterfalls and an area under the falls with lounges. The grounds around the pools are terraced and if you're at an adult pool you can't hear the sounds from the family pool as the adult pools are the farthest away and closest to the lobby.

ENTERTAINMENT: At 11PM, the Mexican restaurant becomes a night club open until 2AM. Problem with that is from any room you hear the music. They also perform stage shows and while I was there, they had a ballet company that performed songs and dances from Disney movies - in Spanish ;0) They also had a bizarre short children’s show with strange Disney characters, Donald Duck being the scariest.

Las Hadas, in my opinion, is still living on it's laurels from ""10"". Having been finished in 1974 after ten years of building, Las Hadas (the faeries) was opened to 300 guests, friends of the owners. Since it's opening, it has had refurbishments, but not in the way of larger bathrooms or bigger rooms. Some of the rooms we inspected were very small and the bathrooms tiny. The entire Moorish-style resort is made up of cobblestone streets, paths, lots of bougainvilla, birds of paradise, palms and other beautiful vegetation. They have a central ""street"" that offers a travel agency, a couple of shops, car rental. There are many towers and turrets and the place itself seems magical. Their beach is better than Karmina Palace’s, but still is not a big beach. They also offer a marina for visiting yachts, tennis courts and a golf course. The 18th hole of the golf course is in front of Karmina Palace, right at the ocean. (Guests of Karmina Palace get reduced rates at the Las Hadas course.) Karmina Palace and Las Hadas are neighbors. Las Hadas is European plan, but they offer an optional meal plan.

The only other two resorts in this area is Club Maeva, which caters to Mexican clientele and a Tesoro property that is a high rise building - a rare sight in this area. I really can't recommend either of these places to discerning travelers.

CITY OF MANZANILLO - There is not much here, a few shopping streets and it's not as picturesque as P.V. or Zihuatanejo. Their city symbol is a huge sail fish, about 125-feet high in the main square. There is some of the best big game fishing on the Pacific in this area. Manzanillo is the largest Mexican seaport on the Pacific, receiving cargo daily from Asia and Australia. Its power plant also supplies power not only to the state of Colima, but also two or three of the surrounding states. With this industry in Manzanillo, they have a thriving economy. The seaport employs 12,000 workers just by itself. They are also building a new cruise port right in the town of old Manzanillo to be separate from where the cargo ships dock.

THINGS TO DO HERE: Sea kayaking, snorkeling/diving, big game fishing, ATV off road jungle/beach excursions, ruins and tombs of Tampumacchay.

COLIMA CITY - This is a beautiful colonial city with a verdant and large central square and the Church of the Ave Maria. We visited the Governor’s Palace and the city hall. Both equally charming. The city of Colima is one hour’s drive from Manzanillo on good roads and definitely worth the trip. Colima sits near an active volcano with a twin that’s not active.

ISLA NAVIDAD - This beautiful location is also about an hour from Manzanillo. All of Isla Navidad is owned by a wealthy family from Guadalajara. (Guadalajara is only a 3-hour drive and makes a nice combo with this beach area). Isla Navidad sits both on the ocean as well as a large lagoon. The area is fabulously beautiful. Located in this bucolic setting is:

WYNDHAM GRAND BAY RESORT - Though Wyndham runs the management, it's still owned by the family from Guadalajara. This is a 5-star property - no doubt. It's immaculate, grand - as it's name implies - and a destination in itself. It has a meandering, lush 27-hole championship golf course. We had a delicious lunch and a tour of the property. Their Presidential Suite is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen anywhere. There is no bad view from the rooms, even those with little or no water view looked out at the jungled hillsides or the gardens. They offer a beach that isn't on the ocean but on a lagoon. It's palm lined with Bali beds, lounges and umbrellas and extremely beautiful. The property is built up a hillside. I would go back to the Grand Bay to stay in a heartbeat. The nearby small peninsula, Barra Navidad, is approached only by launch from Grand Bay and offers restaurants, shops and bars. Grand Bay also has a very impressive marina and we saw luxury yachts there from Juneau, the BVI's and Bahamas. They also has a lovely spa, offering a large spa menu and they famous Four Hand massage. This is a place of beauty, peace, tranquility and a true getaway feeling.