Hiding Away in Manzanillo

Far from the usual tourists, the Hotel Tesoro welcomes all

By: Kimberly Thorpe

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The Hotel Tesoro Manzanillo fronts
Playa La Audiencia beach.
I’m in a cab at 10 p.m. on Saturday night heading through downtown Manzanillo, Mexico, when a crowded McDonald’s catches my eye.

“It just opened last week,” says the driver, noticing my confused expression. “It’s the only one in Manzanillo, so everyone is very excited.”

I am at once saddened and delighted. Saddened because McDonald’s found Manzanillo before I did, and delighted to be in a city small enough to make a new McDonald’s the big Saturday night attraction.

Manzanillo is located in the state of Colima on Mexico’s Golden Riviera, between Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco on the Pacific coast. It consists of two bays, Bahia de Manzanillo and Bahia de Santiago. Between the two bays is the Santiago Peninsula. The area is a popular weekend and holiday destination for Mexican families, but is largely unknown to U.S. vacationers. In fact, during a five-day press trip to Hotel Tesoro Manzanillo, I didn’t run into any U.S. tourists, except for a handful of university students studying abroad in nearby Guadalajara. For families looking for an economical and exotic destination without swarms of tourists, Manzanillo is the place.

According to Hotel Tesoro Manzanillo’s sales manager, Willard Lazzarini, the hotel has undergone dramatic improvements since early last year. Lazzarini cites as evidence a growth in the occupancy rate from less than 60 percent to nearly 100 percent. He believes the winning strategy is to combine better management techniques, smarter advertising and a concerted effort by the entire staff to improve the guest experience. His self-proclaimed mantra: “We want [the guest] to be more comfortable here than at home.”

Besides appealing to families, the hotel also reaches out to international businesspeople. Manzanillo is one of the largest ports in the Americas, accommodating goods from Europe and Asia. There are several all-inclusive packages designed to accommodate both a business traveler on a two-day stay, or a large family on a week holiday. The manager and the staff stress flexibility as the quality that sets Tesoro apart as an all-inclusive hotel.

“There is no fine print here,” said Lazzarini. “All-inclusive means all-inclusive.”

Included in each hotel room’s refrigerator are three bottled waters, two Tecates and a handful of sodas. Housekeeping refills your fridge once a day. Room service is available once per day as part of the package. While watching the waves crash on La Audiencia Beach one morning from my room’s balcony, I enjoyed spicy eggs, refried beans, soft cheese, sweet breads and coffee and juice.

Similar to the other Hotel Tesoros (there are three, all in Mexico), the on-site dining options include various outdoor buffets and one finer, sit-down restaurant that requires reservations (but is still part of the all-inclusive package). I found that the quality of food was consistent regardless of whether I ate inside at the Adobe Fine Mexican Cuisine restaurant or outside at the Cafe Coral buffet restaurant while enjoying the sea breeze.

Each night guests can enjoy a spectacular dinner show performed by the hotel’s entertainment staff and appropriate for the whole family. On Friday night, while enjoying a Mexican meal from the buffet, I watched by the intricate costumes as the staff danced their way through the history of Mexico, from Aztec times to traditional Mexican folk dances. The show ended in stage pyrotechnics and a cloud of smoke.

The hotel’s Aura Spa is another strength of the hotel with excellent massages and other spa treatments. The gym located above the spa is modern and comfortable; it has two air-conditioned rooms filled with spinning and elliptical machines while TVs are tuned to American reality shows.

Vacationers headed for Tesoro Manzanillo should be reminded that this is a family destination. The pool can be packed with kids playing throughout the day while large poolside speakers beat out dance music. La Audiencia Beach, while accessible to the public, is mostly for Tesoro guests. Parents can relax knowing that their children are not only entertained but also secure.

At night, the breaking waves of the sea take over. Even the moon hanging over the ocean seems brighter on this side of the Tropic of Cancer.


Hotel Tesoro Manzanillo
Avenida la Audiencia L-1, Peninsula de Santiago

Travel Agent Special: $65 per night, per person, until Dec. 20

Getting There: Delta and Alaska Airlines now offer direct flights from LAX to Manzanillo International (ZLO). From the airport, arrange for Hectours destination management company (52-314-333-1707; www.hectours.com ) to arrange hotel transfers.