Our dear friends Laura & Will joined us again for more adventures in Mexico. We had hoped to take them out sailing, but Due West was preoccupied getting ready for the Flamingo Regatta, and not quite sail-ready for their visit. Laura and Heidi worked together many moons ago (30+!) We’ve all been fast friends since, and always have great times together.
So instead of sailing, we rented a car and explored the Costalegre Coast from Barra to Manzanillo. Barra is in the state of Jalisco, (and the agricultural “region” of Cihuatlán). Manzanillo is in the state of Colima. Costalegre translates to “Cheerful Coast” and is a series of beaches, capes, and bays of various sizes sprinkled along the Pacific coast of Mexico, between Puerto Vallarta, in the state of Jalisco, and Manzanillo. We plan to explore more of these bays and beaches as we make our way north to Puerto Vallarta in May. So we explored the southern part between Barra and Manzanillo with Laura and Will.
The well-paved highway between Barra to Manzanillo winds through thousands of hectares of coconut palms, cattle, and banana plantations in Cihuatlán. It’s a rich agricultural area with lots of food stands along the roadside selling everything from fresh drinking coconuts, to bananas and plantains, to watermelon and more. There are also LOTS of topes “speed bumps” along the way, and often hidden in the shade of a tree, so driver beware!
The highway passes this amazing tree, known locally as the “fertility tree”, legend says when anyone wants to get pregnant, they go rub the belly of this tree! We stopped to check it out, NOT because anyone wants to get pregnant, LOL! But just because it’s a unique and lovely tree. If anyone knows what type it is, please leave a comment!
Port of Manzanillo
This aerial view of the Port of Manzannillo was taken from the Port’s website, and only shows a portion of the emenese port facilities. There is also a Mexican Naval Base in this port city.
While Manzanillo may be most well known as Mexico’s largest port city (and the 59th largest port in the world), it’s also a university town with a fantastic municipal market and a fun city in its own right. It’s an hour’s drive from Barra de Navidad, and we typically rent a car for a day, every 6-8 weeks for groceries and things we can’t find in Barra, (population 7,000+), or doctors appts, etc. Manzanillo has something for everyone, including a SAMS Club (but sadly not a Costco!) and an ocean-front Home Depot with likely the BEST view of any Home Depot in the world.
From the Garden Center of Home Depot, you can watch the container ships lined up, sometimes 9+ deep as they wait to unload their goods—some of them likely coming to this very Home Depot, or maybe even to you!
The Port of Manzanillo is located along the pacific coast of Mexico, and handles the Pacific Ocean cargo for the Mexico City area. Most imports destined for central Mexico come through the Port of Manzanillo, and given its location, it acts as an important port for Asian importers and exporters too. Most of the port’s exports are shipped to neighboring United States, Canada, Guatemala, and Colombia, but also to farther off countries including Japan, China, India, Malaysia, and Singapore. Its main exports include beer, cars, cement, sugar, copper, steel tubes, carbon, glucose, and resin.
Being from Seattle with a large container port facility with its cranes, trains, and cargo, we are used to cargo ports. But we were shocked to see the size of the Manzanillo container port facility, with several miles of end-to-end cargo containers waiting to be loaded onto cargo ships or trains. There are also a large shrimping and fishing fleet based out of Manzanillo with seafood available everywhere. Check out this video of Manzanillo’s container facility and trains moving containers at the port.
Manzanillo Municipal Market
First stop was the Manzanillo Municipal Market because it’s full of interesting foods, colors, and Mexican culture. This time, as in previous visits, we were the only gringos there. This is where Manzanillan locals shop, but typically not gringos, and you won’t hear English spoken here. We parked the rental car on the market’s rooftop parking lot and were pleasantly surprised it only cost 2 pesos to park for several hours, that’s about 10-cents! What a great deal!! Click all smaller photos to view larger.
The open-air Manzaillo Municipal Market is three stories tall with amazing wall murals. Produce is on the ground floor, restrooms and storage on the second floor, and restaurants on the top floor.
After window-shopping the huge produce section we were on to check out other shops that surround the market, like the piñata store, the multi-colored plastic bucket store, a mish-mash of clothing, birds in cages, and the “plastic crap from Asia” store. There is also a great dry-goods store with everything from nuts and spices to drid chilis, moles, brooms and woven plastic shopping bags. You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant… er, uh, the Manzanillo Municipal Market!
Manzanillo Old Town Architecture
The architecture around old-town Manzanillo is also a mish-mash, all of these buildings from trees growing through the roof, to modern designs within a block of each other! And check out the car-port art with a dinosaur in a bird cage hanging in front of some script… is that Hebrew? Caption that! Many Mexican homes have ornately carved wood doors and iron gates.
Looking for a good Mexican lunch, we were beckoned into a local tacoria that looked good, by a very dark-skinned non-Mexican guy. He waved the menus at us, so we decided to take a chance and eat there. Much to our surprise, he turned out to be from Haiti, along with the most of the other servers, and none of them spoke Spanish or English! Thankfully Laura is quite fluent in French, which helped. And the chef was Mexican, so we wrote down what we wanted in Spanish and the chef confirmed our orders. No problemo. But we were puzzled about all the Haitians in Manzanillo? Turns out there is a large Haitian population there, and Mexico is apparently having its own border issues with Haitian refugees coming in through Guatemala.
Manzanillo Fishing Port
After lunch, we checked out the local fishing fleet complete with lots of pelicans! And this cute little back-water bay full of pangas, (Mexican open fishing boats).
Entering and leaving Manzanillo you can either take the waterfront road or the “back road” around behind the city with this amazing view of Santiago Bay. So we took the back road on our way in and the waterfront road on our way out. Bahia Santiago is many cruisers’ favorite anchorage, and we look forward to anchoring there soon.
On the return drive passing through Santiago, we stopped for late afternoon snacks at one of our favorite beach restaurants, the Oasis Beach Club on Bahia Santiago. This popular beach is packed with people on the weekends and holidays, where you can rent an umbrella and beach chairs for the day, or buy your plastic-crap floaty toys across the highway.
Shipwreck Los Llanitos and Snorkeling Bahia Cuastecomate
The next day we hired Ruben and his panga to take us snorkeling and to tour the shipwreck of the Los Llanitos (“ya-nitos”). We wrote about the shipwreck of the Los Llanitos in a previous blog post, you can learn more about it there. But suffice to say, the captain didn’t follow orders, and went the wrong way during Hurricane Patricia, a category 5 super-hurricane in 2015. No bueno!
The snorkeling at Bahia Cuastecomate was great. We had snorkeled there a couple months previously, working on the Adventure Scientists coastal reef survey project, and had not been too impressed at that time. This time however, we saw many more varieties of fish, from Wrasses, Blue Chromis, and Blue Damsel Fish, to Parrot Fish, Angel Fish, Sargent Majors, and even a spotted eel! Our GoPro video gives a good idea of what we saw. The surge was pretty strong, so we slowed down the video a bit to give you a longer look at things as we were tossed around in the sea. The background noise you hear are shrimp! And they can also be heard right through the hull of Due West, 24/7, LOL.
A lovely meal at Mango Day & Night Cafe, and a night on the town with Super Trouper ABBA?!? LOL
All too soon, it was time for Laura & Will to move on to other Mexican adventures. We loved having them visit and look forward to more vitis from them (or any of you!) soon. The week after they left, things got into full swing with the Barra Cruise-In-Week and Flamingo Regatta. You can read more about that in our next post: The Flamingo Regatta. Meanwhile, Tikka & Tosh are saying “Dad! Hurry up and finish your boat project, tenemos hambre!” Love these kids!