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With a shallow, penetrable wreck and some of the most pristine coral reefs in Central Pacific Mexico, Manzanillo is an off-the-beaten-path paradise.

Highlights

San Luciano Wreck

Sunk during a hurricane in 1959, today, the top of the wreck is just 4 feet (1 meter) below the surface, making it a perfect wreck for beginners.

Whales and Manta Rays

Outside Manzanillo Bay, Pena Blanca is an open ocean rock black coral beds below. In the right season, this rock is visited by whales and manta rays.

Underwater Arches

At Elephant Rock, two swim-through, underwater arches are flanked by shallow coral reefs. This site occasionally hosts sea turtles and whale sharks.

Diving in Manzanillo

Quick facts

To the south, Manzanillo Bay is a non-traditional dive destination. Unlike many Mexican resort areas, the reefs here are still pristine and growing. In addition to reefs, divers will also find underwater fissures, swim-through archways, tunnels, and sea mounds with visible lava flows. As an added bonus, Manzanillo Bay is home to a highly penetrable wreck.

You will also be treated to astounding visibility that often reaches 100 feet (30 meters). Be aware that strong currents can ravage the area, especially in the sites outside the bay, and many of the sites along the rocky wall experience heavy surge around full and new moons. At other times, the sites close to shore are perfect for beginners with only gentle current.

Most diving in the area takes place from small speedboats or wooden pangas with an easy backwards roll, although some shore dives are possible. These shore dives have wonderful night diving potential.

Keep in mind that a 16% tax is levied on all diving operations in Mexico.

When to go

Pelagic species, like whales and mantas, are most easily seen from November to May. June to October features the warmest water temps and best visibility.

November to May

November to May is considered the best time to dive offshore sites in Central Mexico, because the sea conditions in the Pacific are calmest during these months. The weather is good too; generally it’s sunny with an occasional rain shower.

Manta rays can be seen throughout the year, but during the winter months, divers also have the chance of spotting the rare whale shark or even a migratory whale.

At this time, however, visibility is negatively impacted is by the very plankton blooms that attract the mantas and whale sharks. These are most common around the full moon.

If you love diving with pelagic species, book your holiday between November and May.

Elsewhere in Mexico, November to May is considered high season for general tourism, causing an increase in the price of flights and accommodation.

June to October

June to October is the offseason for liveaboards and general tourism in the area. However, at this time, the water warms significantly, reaching 84°F (26°C) in August and September. For many divers, especially beginners who will find the open ocean sites difficult to reach, the summer months are an ideal time to dive.

In addition, visibility is at its peak from June to October. It’s also low season for tourism throughout Mexico, meaning you should find excellent deals on accommodation, airfare and excursions. However, you will have to battle the hot and humid summer weather while topside.

If you’re an advanced diver who would prefer to look elsewhere, try Caribbean diving for a change. The season on the east side of Mexico is year-round.

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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Where to dive

Beginners should stay inside Manzanillo Bay yet staying aware of tidal surges. Advanced divers can search out Pena Blanca and La Ahogada.

    Snorkeling in Manzanillo

    Because Manzanillo features shallow reefs teeming with marine life, it is the perfect place for families of divers and non-divers to vacation. Topside spotters will find plenty of boats willing to show them the best snorkel spots, including Elephant Rock and the Aquarium. It’s also possible to snorkel around the San Luciano wreck which nearly reaches the surface.
    There are several dive sites of note in Manzanillo. First and foremost, the San Luciano wreck is worth at least one dive while visiting the area. This ship sank during a hurricane in 1959. Today, the top of the wreck is just 4 feet (1 meter) below the surface, making it a perfect wreck for beginners. For more of a challenge, wreck divers can explore the many open rooms throughout the ship. Other dive sites within the bay that are worth exploring include Playa Audencia, Club de Yates, L’Recif, Las Brisas Jetty, Los Frailes and Elephant Rock. Pena Blanca is reserved for advanced divers due to its open ocean location, but is worth the risk. Here you’ll find beds of black coral and several pelagic species. Migratory whales, giant manta rays and sailfish are occasionally spotted.

    What to see

    Manzanillo is home to an aquarium of fish and after a day diving in the Bay, you’ll be busy trying to remember everything you’ve seen. Lobsters, octopus, seahorses and a large number of huge pufferfish reside at the San Luciano Wreck. Many of the reefs in the area host schools of yellowtail surgeonfish, zebra and jewel moray eels, needlefish, king angels, grouper, hogfish, triggerfish, Cortez angelfish, stingrays, striped grunts, sea turtles and hundreds of other colorful fish. At Elephant Rock and Pena Blanca, the open ocean site, divers occasionally see manta rays, whale sharks, sailfish and even whales on a lucky day.

    Calendar

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    Most likely sightingsPossible sightings

    Location

    Manzanillo (The “sailfish capital of the world”) is the largest port city on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Host of numerous national and international fishing competitions, Manzanillo has become a hotspot for fishing addicts and tourists alike.

    The city was founded by the Spanish during the 16th Century as a shipbuilding yard. Later the port was used as a setting off point for exploratory missions in the Pacific. For over 300 years, the city’s history is filled with pirate sieges and great battles. Important to note for scuba divers, it’s rumored that thousands of pieces of Spanish gold litter the sea floor. You never know what you might find.

    Today, Manzanillo is the largest commercial port servicing the Pacific ocean in Mexico.

    Other attractions

    Surrounded by mountains, pristine beaches and crystal clear water, Manzanillo is a veritable playground for the adventurous traveler. Outside of the city are hidden lakes to swim in, waterfalls to find and mountains to climb. The view from the top of these is extraordinary and well worth the effort. Looking toward the ocean, Manzanillo is known as a sport fishing destination and several companies are waiting to take you deep sea fishing. While you could fill your week with adventures, don’t forget to take some time to relax on one of the many pristine, white sand beaches.

    Getting there

    The Playa de Oro International Airport is a smaller airport located around 40 minutes north of Manzanillo. Offering both national and international flights to the USA and Canada, this is the closest airport to the city. Manzanillo can also be reached from the north and south along highway 200 so arrival from Puerto Vallarta, Colima and other surrounding cities is a possibility.

    UTC-06:00

    Time zone

    MXN

    Currency

    +52

    Calling code

    127 V

    Electric volt

    A, 

    B

    Plug type

    ZLO

    Main airport