Activities in Manzanillo revolve around its golden-sand beaches, which sometimes accumulate a film of black mineral residue from nearby rivers. Manzanillo's public beaches provide an opportunity to see local color and scenery. They are the daytime playground for those staying at places off the beach or without pools.
Beaches -- Playa Audiencia, on the Santiago Peninsula, offers the best swimming as well as snorkeling, but Playa San Pedrito, shallow for a long way out, is the most popular beach for its proximity to downtown. Playa Las Brisas, located south of Santiago Peninsula as you're heading to downtown Manzanillo, offers an optimal combination of location and good swimming. Playa Miramar, on the Bahía de Santiago past the Santiago Peninsula, is popular with bodysurfers, windsurfers, and boogie boarders. It's accessible by local bus from town. The major part of Playa Azul, also south of the Santiago Peninsula, drops off sharply but is noted for its wide beach.
Birding -- Birding is good in several lagoons along the coast. As you go from Manzanillo past Las Brisas to Santiago, you'll pass Laguna de Las Garzas (Lagoon of the Herons), also known as Laguna de San Pedrito, where many white pelicans and huge herons fish in the water. They nest here in December and January. Directly behind downtown is the Laguna de Cuyutlán (follow the signs to Cuyutlán), where you'll usually find birds in abundance; species vary between summer and winter.
Diving -- Underworld Scuba-Scuba Shack (tel. 314/333-3678; www.divemanzanillo.com), located at Blvd. M. de la Madrid Km 15, conducts professional diving expeditions and classes. Many locations are so close to shore that there's no need for a boat. Close-in dives include the jetty, and a nearby sunken frigate downed in 1959 at 8m (26 ft.). Divers can see abundant sea life, including coral reefs, sea horses, giant puffer fish, and moray eels. A two-tank boat dive costs $95 per person ($10 discount if you have your own equipment). "Discover Scuba" for beginners, which starts with instruction in a pool and continues with an ocean dive, costs $85 and lasts about 4 hours total. You can also rent weights and a tank for beach dives for $10. A three-stop snorkel trip costs $45. All guides are certified dive masters, and the shop offers PADI certification classes in intensive courses of various durations. The owner offers a 10% discount on your certification when you mention Frommer's. MasterCard and Visa are accepted.
Fishing -- Manzanillo is famous for its fishing, particularly sailfish. Marlin and sailfish are abundant year-round. Winter is best for dolphin fish and dorado (mahimahi); in summer, wahoo and rooster fish are in greater supply. The international sailfish competition is held around the November 20 Revolution Day holiday, and the national sailfish competition is in February. You can arrange fishing through travel agencies or directly at the fishermen's cooperative (tel. 314/332-1031), located downtown where the fishing boats moor. A 5-hour fishing charter costs about 3,000 pesos for up to eight people.
Golf -- The 18-hole La Mantarraya Golf Course (tel. 314/331-0101) is open to nonguests as well as guests of Las Hadas. The compact, challenging 18-hole course designed by Roy and Pete Dye is a beauty, with banana trees, blooming bougainvillea, and coconut palms at every turn. A lush and verdant place (12 of the 18 holes are played over water), it remains a favorite. When the course was under construction, workers dug up pre-Hispanic ceramic figurines where the 14th hole now lies. It is believed to have been an important ancient burial site. The course culminates with its signature 18th hole, with a drive to the island green off El Tesoro (the treasure) beach, in front of the Karmina Palace Resort. Greens fees are 1,950 pesos for 18 holes, 1,070 pesos for 9 holes; cart rental costs 650 pesos for 18 holes and 455 pesos for 9 holes. It's open daily from 7am to 7pm.