Thanks to its geography, Manzanillo feels more like three towns than one. The breathtaking Península de Santiago is covered by wealthy enclaves, epitomized by the anachronistic Moorish mini-city of Las Hadas resort. Most of Manzanillo’s properties are laid-back, more functional than elegant. But even its toniest hotels are easier on the pocketbook than comparable lodgings in higher-powered Mexican beach resorts. The Santiago Peninsula is worlds away from the tightly packed, bustling downtown where there's nary a gringo in sight. The connective thread between the two is one long stretch of gold sand paralleled by a traffic-clogged road that is, in sections, too built-up (if you need an Office Max or Home Depot or Walmart, have no fear) and could be the sprawl of any Mexican (or North American) city.
With some lovely beaches and a minimum of faux-Mexicana, Manzanillo certainly does have its appeal. Its many fans, primarily Mexican families and North American snowbirds, know that the place will never be another Puerto Vallarta, Cancún, or Los Cabos, and that’s fine with them, thank you very much. But perhaps the best way to enjoy the city is to not be too tied down to it. Along Highway 200 heading north are dozens of low-key beaches easily toured using the city as a base.