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Manzanillo vs Ixtapa vs Puerto Vallarta Help!!

Calgary, Canada
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Manzanillo vs Ixtapa vs Puerto Vallarta Help!!

Hi there, we've been trying to make a decision for our 2 week trip in early december and we are getting more confused and frustrated the more we research. I have searched these forums for days and still can't get a clear idea.

We are considering the Tesoro Ixtapa (only Ixtapa trip we can afford) Tesoro or Gran Festivall Manzanillo, and the Decameron in PV/Bucerias. (we stayed in Decameron Los cocos in Guyabitos and it was an amazing holiday in every way but we want somewhere new)

We are late 40s early 50s, and not picky travelers. We love the mexican culture, music, food , people everything, and don't want to be in a sanitized resort for the whole 2 weeks. Don't care about food reviews on resorts as we can always find something good to eat, or go out even if we are staying AI.

We want SAFE, CULTURE, GOOD BEACH and lots of ability to interact with locals/walk in town/shop Not beach like Mayan Riviera obviously, but one we can swim in and not be drowned like in Hautulco. That was one scary beach at the Barcelo.

I know Ixtapa is a manufactured place like Cancun and Huatulco, but perhaps there's other redeeming qualities about the area? Amazing beaches? Jungle excursions?

I'm worried about air pollution in Manzanillo, from coal plants and the like. I have asthma and can't handle too much smog for very long. Pollution from shipping and air pollution are my main reservations about ZLO

PV I'm concerned that the weather will be 'cold' for early december, and that the ocean might be cold to swim in?

Thanks in advance for any help or insight you might be able to pass on to us.

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Cancun
Cancun
Quintana Roo, Mexico
Zlo
Zlo
3 Reviews
Manzanillo, Mexico
Saskatoon, Canada
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1. Re: Manzanillo vs Ixtapa vs Puerto Vallarta Help!!

I won't be able to really help out with Ixtapa, as our only experience there was a short layover in the airport, just long enough to guzzle a beer, but IMHO, if you're looking for something relatively authentic, Manzanillo is a great choice. Safe, lots of culture, great family atmosphere.

PV is almost always cheaper than ZLO. You can get a four or five star resort in PV for the same price as a three star in ZLO, so budgetwise, that's the best option, however, it's really, really packaged and homogeneous. This is NOT a bad thing; if we could scrape together the time to take a quick trip back to PV on one of those $500 per person week-long trips, we would go back, but for a longer stay, it's not our first choice.

Both Tesoro and Gran Festival are three star resorts. Their decor is 70's/80's/90's, but everything is clean, and the food is decent.

The beach at Tesoro is quiet; on the south end, there's a shallower area where you can wade out a bit, maybe do a bit of snorkeling. The area right in front of the hotel is fine for swimming, but there IS rolling wave action right at the shoreline because the bottom drops off very quickly. Still, you can get out and splash about, if you're so inclined.

The Gran Festival is located on what I consider to be one of the area's best beaches; it's long and golden, great for walking. On the south end and in the central area, right across from the hotel, the water is lovely, great for wading, great for bodysurfing and boogieboarding, with a line of restaurants and an artists market right there. If you walk to the north end, the water is very calm, there's a wreck in the water that people often snorkel around, and there's another line of restaurants. It's a bit of a hike, but worth it.

As far as pollution goes, I know they're in the process of switching over the power plant to natural gas. There was some news in April of this year that stated that they'd completed the conversion, and were phasing in the natural gas. Last I heard, they were at 50/50, and expected the phase-in to be complete by late this year, so already, the air is cleaner than when we were there in February. That said, neither my husband nor I are sensitive to smog, so our experience may be different from someone who has asthma.

And finally, while I wouldn't swim right in the main marina downtown in Manzanillo, (or Vancouver or Chicago or LA), the beaches are pretty great. We've never seen an oil slick or weird-colored foam in the water on any of the swimming beaches.

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Zlo
Zlo
3 Reviews
Manzanillo, Mexico
Vancouver
Vancouver
British Columbia, Canada
Los Angeles
Los Angeles
California
Calgary, Canada
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2. Re: Manzanillo vs Ixtapa vs Puerto Vallarta Help!!

Thanks ChellyBelle for your thoughtful reply. This does help as I am really going back and forth between these two resorts. The tesoro beach from the pics on TA looks closed off on one end, so not great for walking for hours. Is the beach at Gran Festivall open to walking for miles if one wanted? Also do you know if it would be safe to jog in the early mornings along a major road? In Ixtapa there is some sort of trail there that I could jog on, and some people have talked about walking form Ixtapa to Zihua which is something I'd love to do. If we walked out of our resort at GF would there be stuff to see and do along the main road? Markets, shops, restaurants? We loved doing this in Guyabitos at the Decameron Los cocos, just walking for a few km along the road from the resort and shopping and grabbing a snack. the RDC in Bucerias looks to be like this as well.

The one thing I can't handle is being isolated in a resort, miles from anything. This happened to us in Cozumel at the Allegro. You could cross the street by the resort and shop in a very expensive sliver shop, but you had to take a $17USD cab ride into the town to see any real Mexican culture/people. Punta Cana is like this as well. yuk.

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Cozumel
Cozumel
Quintana Roo, Mexico
Punta Cana
Punta Cana
Dominican Republic
Alberta
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288 posts
4 reviews
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3. Re: Manzanillo vs Ixtapa vs Puerto Vallarta Help!!

ChellyBelle - the Gran Festival - is that the beach that is next door to the Karmina? One side is quite rough waters and on the other side is a good swimming beach? I think that is what I have read. My daughter (14 years) would love to try bodysurfing or boogieboarding.

Saskatoon, Canada
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4. Re: Manzanillo vs Ixtapa vs Puerto Vallarta Help!!

As far as jogging safety, from a personal crime standpoint, I'd say it's very, very unlikely that you'd get mugged or anything, but I'd be pretty concerned about traffic unless you're in the hotel zone at the Tesoro; the main road by Gran Festival is a highway leading into the city; I'd strongly advise against jogging along the highway. The beach would be fine, though. You could run the beach all morning without seeing a soul until around 10 am, probably.

If you're walkers, there's lots to see and do around both hotels.

The Tesoro beach is not a long walk sort of beach, it's a small crescent likely less than half a kilometre from walkable end to walkable end, and while it's not really noticable on Google Maps, either end of the beach ends in a cliff face, so it's not something where you could walk to one end of the beach and then go exploring.

Off the beach, though, there are always lots of people walking the hills around the Tesoro; from Tesoro, you can walk a couple of kilometres of hills and see some pretty interesting houses, and take some great pictures from several lookout areas, especially above the Tesoro. All those hills are a workout and a half! If you walked down the main road back to the boulevard, about halfway down, there are a couple of nice restaurants with large patios.

The beach at Gran Festival is very long; from walkable end to walkable end, it's probably about four kilometres. The area around it is fairly flat, although there is a hilly residential area sort of behind/beside the hotel, it's probably not as walkable. There's an artists' market and lots of GREAT restaurants directly across the highway from the hotel, and an overpass from the hotel property to the beach, so you don't have to cross the highway at ground level.

In addition to all that, taxis are relatively inexpensive in Manzanillo; they operate of a tariff sheet that dictates exactly what the price should be, zone to zone, and out in front of your hotel, you'll see a huge board that looks like this;

http://goo.gl/gYpZA

It will tell you exactly how much you should expect to pay for a taxi. Plus, all the concierges are aware of taxi tariffs, and are happy to tell you how much to pay, and will tell the taxi driver what they told you, so there are no surprises. As always, make sure your driver knows what you expect to pay before you get in a taxi. And with the exception of the airport, it should cost you the same amount going as coming.

From the Tesoro to the beach in front of Gran Festival, for example, it should be between 80 and 90 pesos (the equivalent of about $7.00 CAD). Don't bring USD to pay taxi drivers or tip maids - the locals have to jump through all sorts of hoops to cash it, and you won't get a great exchange rate.

From Gran Festival to a mall near the Hotel Zone, you'd probably pay about 70 pesos, and from there, you can walk all over a busy shopping district; there are tons of excellent restaurants, a mall, a walmart, starbucks, dominos, burger king, etc if you're needing a little slice of home, plus some really great local restaurants (I highly recommend trying El Camaron Mariscos - fan freaking tastic food!)

Wow, I am SUPER rambly today! Getting excited - 92 more sleeps!

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El Camaron  Mariscos
El Camaron Mariscos
34 Reviews
Manzanillo, Mexico
Saskatoon, Canada
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5. Re: Manzanillo vs Ixtapa vs Puerto Vallarta Help!!

Jonesy44 - no, Gran Festival is right next to Santiago Bay, which is great for boogieboarding. The Karmina is on Manzanillo Bay - the quiet beach next door to the Karmina is under a condo complex, adjacent to the Dolphin Cove Inn.

The property on the side of the Karmina with the rough waters isn't safe to swim in at all - there's a wicked riptide right at the shoreline, and the currents will suck a person out to sea even if they're a fairly strong swimmer. Really, on Manzanillo Bay, the only safe place to swim I know of, is on the south end of the beach, towards the entrance to the port.

If you want to go boogieboarding and bodysurfing, take a taxi ride to Playa Miramar. The bay is kind of a C shape - at the top and bottom of the C, the water is calm and great for snorkeling and splashing around - the back of the C offers AWESOME BOOGIEBOARDING!!! And bodysurfing, of course, but the boogieboarding is fantastic.

There's even some surfable waves a little closer to the south end, from what I hear; the ones in the centre of the beach break too close to shore to catch on a surfboard, but are excellent for boogieboarding.

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Manzanillo Bay
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Dolphin Cove Inn
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258 Reviews
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Playa Miramar
Playa Miramar
264 Reviews
Manzanillo, Mexico
Calgary, Canada
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69 posts
18 reviews
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6. Re: Manzanillo vs Ixtapa vs Puerto Vallarta Help!!

Thank you all for your help, I am especially thankful for all the tips about Manzanillo. I did finally decide on Ixtapa, and there's 3 adults who will all be crammed into one room at the Presidente Interconteninental hotel for 2 weeks. The total for 3 was just over $4000. Dec. 1-14.

I am the type to rent a condo or a house from a local, and just eat out locally and buy some of my own groceries, but my traveling partners aren't so adventurous. Hopefully after 2 weeks in Ixtapa I can convince at least my husband to come back and we can do the condo rental as opposed to AI. I despise AI, but hey in marriage compromises must be made lol.

We usually take two trips per winter, but might only take one this year since I'm also starting a new job on Jan2. But you can be sure the next one will be to Manzanillo and I'll be referencing some of the info here for sure.

We picked Ixtapa at this time of year primarily for the weather, it's hotter, and for the long walkable beaches and running hiking trails I've been hearing about. I am a marathon runner so being able to keep up with some of my running while on vacation is important to me. If we go in March or April the weather is not as much of a factor for Manzanillo or even PV. This time in December with really short days can get quite cold esp in the evenings, as this was very evident when we went to Mayan Riviera one year at this time.

Thanks to all of you and I'll post a trip report/hotel review when we return.

Cheers!!

Winnipeg, Canada
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13 posts
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7. Re: Manzanillo vs Ixtapa vs Puerto Vallarta Help!!

the gran festivall is definitely worth checking out. it is basic rooms that yes are old and need upgrading (mostly the bathrooms) but they are just fine..really how much are you in the rooms. the resort grounds are beautiful, LOTS for kids to do. there is a beach across the street which has a walkway over the road to get to, also a bar and lunch restaurant, and beach chairs -all part of the gran festivall. the little place next door el tablao (sp?) is said to have the best & cheapest food around. the food is also good at the buffet, as for the other restaurants they usually open them for one evening a week but the buffet varies so much you dont tire of it also, it is so reasonable to eat out it is well worth it too, some really authentic places to go. lots of people complain about the rooms and food, but if you go there knowing its a 3star and expecting that, you will be just fine. i am not a fussy person and prefer the culture rather than being treated like royalty in a huge resort. plus shopping/eating out in manzanillo is very cheap. not as much for tours/attractions as other tourist places but manzanillo has not yet become a huge tourist hub-bub, but i'm sure it soon will. the evening shows are amazing at gran festivall, and outdoors. staff is all great. the tesoro is okay but the rooms arent great (i would rather the gran festivall even though they may not be as fancy), the pool is VERY small, beach is small and the entertainment in the evening is inside -not where i wanna be when i'm on a vacation. Manzanillo is a very safe place to vacation.

Calgary, Canada
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8. Re: Manzanillo vs Ixtapa vs Puerto Vallarta Help!!

Thanks for your thoughts on the Gran Festivall, we will definitely consider that place when we head to Manzanillo. Can't wait to check it out!

Minneapolis...
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9. Re: Manzanillo vs Ixtapa vs Puerto Vallarta Help!!

"........ If we go in March or April the weather is not as much of a factor for Manzanillo or even PV. This time in December with really short days can get quite cold esp in the evenings, as this was very evident when we went to Mayan Riviera one year at this time......."

Huh?

You are very mis-informed as to Manzanillo weather!

I have been to Manzanillo in ALL months (4 to 5x per year) and cool nights are very rare. A "cool night" in Manzanillo is into the 60's. Most lows are mid 70's

Puerto Vallarta is another story. Winter nights often dip into the 50's....Brrrrrrrr

As to running, one issue for me is the "too hot" issue, and I like to run in 75-85F air! You will have more "too hot" issues in Ixtapa, perhaps morning "lows" of around 80+!

Other than that, Ixtapa is a great destination!

The Santiago beach in Manzanillo is great for running; about 3 miles long.

Always best to wait for low tide, however.

Also, I would consider the main road and sidewalks to be safe for running 10 km or more.

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Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta
Jalisco, Mexico
10. Re: Manzanillo vs Ixtapa vs Puerto Vallarta Help!!

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