Minutes after our bus taking us to our Manzanillo resort leaves the airport our facilitator informs us that we are in the state of Colima, and that it is the safest in all of Mexico.
The next morning our Transat Holidays on site coordinator at the Karmino Palace tells us “You are safe here. With only a 5% unemployment rate,” she adds “No one has a need for violence or crime.”
We hire a taxi driver/guide for a day trip around the region and one of the first points he makes is the same.
“You can walk the streets or on the beach at night and no one will bother you.”
Perhaps it is no wonder that the people of this state feel so strongly about communicating this information. The negative publicity relating to drug gang violence and other incidents in the past have had an effect on Mexican tourism, particular on American visitors, who have stayed away in greater numbers by far than Canadians.
From Canada, while tour operators last year reported some impact as a result of adverse publicity, for the most part flights to Mexican destinations were not only flying full, but with few major discounts required to fill them.
Nevertheless the state of Colima, with its pride in its high employment and low crime figures has this strategy which is aimed at providing extra comfort to the visitors who choose to visit the region.
This is our first trip to Manzanillo, one of the newer non-stop destinations available from Winnipeg.
It only took us a day to realize that, even though the locals love to promote the fact that the state of Colima has the lowest crime rate in Mexico, there is a lot more to experience here beyond security which, as a tourist we normally expect as a given.
There is an unusual beauty to be found in the bays, beaches and hills that form the geography of this area.
Many of the buildings on the hillside are painted a clean bright white. On one early evening as I overlooked the harbour from the edge of the cliffs near our resort, the sailboats in the setting sun resting in the shadows of these stark white properties made me wonder if I was in Santorini, Greece instead of Mexico.
My wife and I both fell in love with the daily temperature ranges. The days were hot, but not so much so that we felt the need to escape, or fear overexposure. And the nights! They were consistently exceptional, with the temperature cooling just enough for us to be relaxed in short sleeves without fearing the discomfort of oppressive heat.
As a golfer I appreciated the cooler mornings which allowed us to complete our games before the real heat of the day took over.
From November to April the days are almost always sunny, with day temperatures that are around 24C-28C with nighttime ranges from 17C-24C.
Recommended by friends, we decide to hire Savino Ayala, a local taxi driver, come tour guide, to take us on a day trip of the region.
Savino, having spent four years working in Seattle, is not only conversant in English, but we conclude fairly early into the journey that he is an intelligent and articulate man.
At a banana plantation he demonstrates how heat is formed inside the loosely plastic wrapped bunches enabling them to ripen faster and more uniformly.
He shows how the bananas indicate their near ripeness by reaching up to the sky as though to try touching the sun.
We learn about the parts of the cactus plant that is used as a cure for heartburn, and the Yaka fruit that supposedly controls blood pressure and diabetes as well.
“Taste this,” he says as he breaks off a piece of a cactus plant for us. “In Mexico we have many good uses for cactus, especially in cooking.”
Visiting cemeteries is not often a stop promoted in many tour books, but Savino takes us to one near Barra De Navidad to prove a point; “That in death many Mexicans have more wealth than they had all of their lives.”
Many of the monuments are extremely expensive, and mausoleums are often built at great expense to house entire families in their after life.
These coloured marble structures are supposed to serve as testament, in the Mexican culture, to the respect felt towards the individual during his or her lifetime even after they were gone.
Called ‘Christ of the Hurricane’, the church in Barra De Navidad is one of the most visited religious shrines in the entire region.
Seen as a miracle, many congregated in the church in the midst of the devastating winds of 1971’s Hurricane Lilly to pray for protection and safety.
According to the written record, as these witnesses prayed, “When the hurricane hit with all its fury, Christ dropped his arms.”
Even though the crucifix was made of plaster it was not damaged by the winds or water, and the arms still hang down today testifying to the miracle.
Local people believe the town was reborn as a result of this miracle, when Christ answered their prayers for salvation.
The highlight or our private excursion was the short boat ride to Isla Navidad. While accessible by car, the views from the water reminded us of the Lake of the Woods, with islands and channels along the way. The island houses a number of popular waterside restaurants and one of the largest luxury hotels in the region.
The Wyndham Grand Bay hotel hosts the wealthy yacht owners who use the bay for docking their monstrous vessels while they enjoy the pampering that goes along with the hotel amenities.
Marveling at the yachts moored on the waters in front of the luxury Grand Bay Hotel, we could be forgiven for believing we were magically transported to Monte Carlo in Monico.
Row on row these huge expensive floating resorts on water laid claim to the fact that the attraction to Manzanillo is equally strong for the rich and not so wealthy alike.
Savino gives us an overview of some of the restaurant options on the island. We choose the Colema and are treated to one of the best fresh seafood meals either of us has had in a long time.
We spent a good part of the week lounging around the 6 pools at the Barcelo resort but took time out to go to the Saturday market.
While the usual crafts and resort wear stands dot the market square, it is locals who fill most of the aisles looking for used tools, children’s clothing and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Even though the resort food and beverages were excellent and part of the all inclusive Barcelo plan, we still took the 20 minute walk to visit the nearby Wal-Mart and stop for a Starbuck’s coffee and carrot cake: Just a little touch of home even though both brands are clearly international in scope.
At the end of the week we wonder why it took so long to include this destination in the Manitoba sun season brochures.
The destinations was very popular in its first season, so we can only hope it continues to be a choice for safety searching vacationers who love what Mexico has to offer.
If you Go:
How to Get There:
At the present time Transat Holidays is the exclusive tour operator serving all of Canada. We stayed at the 5 star Barcelo Karmina Palace but they also offer a wide choice of properties in various star categories.
What to Do:
Deep sea fishing is a popular excursion as are trips to the city of Colima, the capital of the state,as well as the Isla Navidad and Barra de Navidad area.
Our driver guide charged $100 for the day trip for up to 4 people. Savino Ayala can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the most popular beach areas in the region used by locals and tourists is Playa Miramar, only a short taxi ride away. There are plenty of local fast food selections to choose from nearby.
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Ron PradinukOver the past few years I have had a weekly travel column in the travel section of the Winnipeg Free Press every Saturday, and have hosted a weekly travel show on radio station CJOB in the same central Canadian city. My blog, which I try to do most days is http://www.thattravelguy.ca/. I have also writen, and continue to write, destination stories for a number of newpapers and on line emagazines. You can read samples of my destination stories on http://journeystravelgear.com/DestinationStories.cfm My own background includes travel to almost 60 countries so far. As I talk to fellow travellers, as much as I have traveled I realize my list of places I must still visit is very long compared to others. So many places...only so much time in a life to see it all. For almost 30 years I have operated a travel agency focusing mostly on leisure travel. I served on the national board of the Association of Canadian Travel Agents for years and was the National President for two years. In 2000 we opened a travel superstore called Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre. It carries just about every travel product imaginable. It is also a swim wear and luggage centre and carries a wide range of travel clothing in brands like Tilley Endurables, Ex-Officio, and Royal Robbins just to name a few. In my blog I write about destinations, airline and tour operator policies, good and bad travel products you have used, and anything that has the connotation of travel. You can read my column every Saturday online at http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/ then clicking on to the feature sections link and then on to the travel section. They usually hold past columns and freelance stories You can listen live to the radio show online at http://www.cjob.com/ Sundays at noon Central Time, then clicking on listen live.
Located: Winnipeg Canada
Likes: Europe, Asia, South America, South Africa, Cruising, Golf Vacations, Fishing Vacations, Generational Family Vacations