Snorkeling from the beach in Manzanillo

If you’ve never tried this non-invasive water sport, Manzanillo is the perfect place to get your feet wet. There are numerous easy beach entries perfect for beginners.  Proficient snorkelers will enjoy them as well. If going it alone isn’t for you, and you’d like a trained guide in the water with you, visit our SNORKELING WEB SITE for our supervised (and fun!) tours.

This normally quiet cove on the Peninsula de Santiago offers snorkeling on both sides close to the rocky shore. On the left, or south side, it is shallow (no deeper than 20 ft.), and has a variety of fish, including schools of yellowtail surgeons, butterflyfish and porcupine puffers. You also should see at least 2 species of eels, Acapulco damselfish, and soft corals and sponges. Very interesting underwater landscaping with coral-encrusted rocks, and swim-through crevices. Look closely for feather duster and “Christmas Tree” worms that pop back into their tubular homes whenever you brush your finger near them. (No touching, please!)

On the north side of La Audiencia, many favorites, such as the Cortez Angelfish, reef cornetfish and balloonfish await your arrival. The underwater terrain consists of large boulders, rocky ledges, and crevices.

Caution: Occasionally there is a heavy surge (usually around full or new moons) but generally staying 3-4 ft. from the rocky shore will avoid scrapes. Don’t attempt to climb up on the rocks as they are sharp. It is best to snorkel in the morning between 9-11. The sea is calmer, and there are less motorized watercraft (Jet Skis, fishing pangas pulling banana boats). Sometimes the drivers of these vehicles don’t see a snorkeler in the water.

Directions: From Manzanillo’s main boulevard, Miguel de la Madrid (Hwy. 200), turn left (west) on Av. Audiencia. Follow the road straight where it dead ends at the beach.

This is a small beach that is actually part of Playa La Audiencia. It usually is calmer, and there is less motorized water sport traffic.  Whether you’re used to swimming or you’re more often found playing poker in the local casino, if you’re curious about what’s underwater, a clearer sea is good news. You can snorkel both sides of this tiny cove, or if you’re a good swimmer, you can snorkel out to the rocks that appear straight out in the center of the bay. Turtles have been seen near here, as have spotted eagle rays, puffer fish and schools of butterflyfish. There is a large school of yellowtail surgeonfish that usually feed in the surging water at the point on the right-hand side. (If you snorkel the right side, you’ll end up back at Playa La Audiencia.)

Directions: From Manzanillo’s main boulevard, Miguel de la Madrid (Hwy. 200), turn left (west) on Av. Audiencia. Follow the signs to Las Hadas. Just before the Las Hadas gate there is a road on the right. Turn right and follow Club de Yates drive (keep bearing right) downhill until it dead ends at a large parking lot with a white wall. At the end are stairs that take you to the beach.

The beaches of Santiago Bay stretch for five miles. At the northernmost point, where a tributary enters the sea from the Juluapan lagoon, is a popular beach, La Boquita. The wreck of a 300-yard-long cargo ship awaits you about 250 yards off the shore. Sunk in the hurricane of ’59, the San Luciano sits in only 25 ft. of water. The stacks protrude out of the water making it easy to locate, and the deck of the ship is only 4 feet beneath the surface, so snorkelers can swim its entire lenght and peer into the ghost ship’s many compartments. The San Luciano has become a beautiful artificial coral reef, a refuge for  many fish and other sea creatures, such as sea cucumbers, oysters, moray eels, sponges, octopus, encrusting hard and soft corals, and seahorses.

Caution: The ship is metal, some of it sharp and rusting. Do not attempt to stand on, touch, or rub up against the ship. Not only are living corals destroyed, but there are also feather-like animals, called stinging hydroids in spots on the wreck. Brushing up against them can cause an uncomfortable welt, with the stinging sensation lasting approximately 10 minutes. (Emergency first aid: Wash off the affected area immediately with sand from the bottom, apply meat tenderizer, urine, vinegar, fresh water or ice–whatever you have with you. If you have nothing but your bathing suit, rub the spot vigorously to remove as much of the surface venom as possible.) La Boquita is also an area with lots of boat and Jet Ski traffic. There have been several occasions recently where boats and Jet Skis have hit snorkelers in the water. Snorkel early in the morning, if possible, and try to snorkel in a group. Have a bright-colored snorkel or vest so you can be seen in the water.

Also at La Boquita, is a 10,000-year-old coral reef affectionate and appropriately named “The Aquarium.” A large variety of smaller fish (wrasses, Acapulco damsels, needlefish), eels, and rays can be seen here. The reef is shallow, in 3-10 ft. of water, so try not to stand on it or brush up against it. Doing so kills or breaks off the coral. The majority of the coral in this area is “broccoli” coral, a hard coral. There are also large colonies of encrusting stony coral.

Caution: Waves break over the shallow coral heads and have a tendency to push you closer to shore. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up “beaching” yourself atop the sharp coral. 

Directions: Follow Hwy. 200 to Club Santiago (north of Playa Miramar). The entrance to this private community is marked by a gated security shack. The small La Vianda market is across the street. Go through the gate (just wave at the guard), and continue on the cobblestone road (watch out for speed bumps) until the divided street ends and jogs to the left. Another 100 years and the street becomes a dirt road and you are bumping through a protected wetlands area. Follow this road to its end until you reach the thatched roof “ramada”restaurants along the beach. Directly in front of “Marildo’s Restaurant is the shipwreck. You can see it sticking out of the water off shore. To get to the reef, continue driving to the end of La Bouquita. You’ll have to wade across the creek and follow the black-pebbled shoreline to the left (northwest). Hike up the shoreline, and soon you will begin to see small broken pieces of coral mixed with the stones.  The reef is out there, about 20 ft. out.To enter, keep walking toward the point until you don’t see any more coral shards rock. Look for a place that is calm and is mostly rocks. Ease into the water and try to start snorkeling as soon as you can to avid being washed back up on the rocks. Snorkeling both the shipwreck and reef can be tricky if you’re not experienced.

Manzanillo Bay’s southernmost point is a long breaker at the entrance to the port. The most memorable thing about this area is the huge schools of stripped grunts, needlefish, and sergeant majors that swim effortlessly around the manmade rock habitat. You’ll also see bright yellow colonial cup coral,, fluorescent green encrusting stony coral, and pale pink gorgonians.

Caution: watch out for an occasional current during tide changes. Be aware if the current starts pulling you out. Sometimes, the closer you get to the end of the jetty, the stronger the current.

Directions: Take Miguel de la Madrid Blvd. to the Las Brisas traffic circle (a modern sculpture of a sailboat is in its center), head south on the main boulevard in Las Brisas, named Lazaro Cardenas. Follow it to the end (about 1.4 miles).

A small private beach that is actually part of the Vida del Mar complex located on the Peninsula de Juluapan. Although it has a magnificent coral reef right off the beach on the right hand side, Vida del Mar is a gated community, and you will have to know someone in the complex to get through the security.

Caution: Conditions can change rapidly, and are unpredictable, so snorkel with extreme caution. The beach entry is over rocks and pebbles being picked up and rolled with the surf, so having boots and heal-strap fins can make it easier for you to get in and out. Although this area can be very calm (usually in the early morning and at sunset), sometimes the waves crash against the rocks with astounding force. This area is not for poor swimmers and beginners.

Directions: Take Hwy. 200 north to the El Naranjo turnoff (Km. 22), marked by signs for Palma Real, L’Recif, and Vida del Mar. There is also new bull ring near the corner where you turn off. Follow the winding, paved road until it “T’s”; turn right to the Vida gate. Follow the signs to the L’Recif restaurant, and at the end of the large parking area is the beach.