La Manzanilla is one of those places you wished you had discovered before it was discovered. Picture yourself hacking through the jungle and coming upon the gloriously beautiful and serene beach overlooked by forested mountains, and staking your claim to a piece of it. While it is far too late to be discovered, it still offers the serenity and ambience it had from the beginning, inevitibly enchanting new visitors and providing a tropical haven for retired or wintering Nortes, often from Canada.
La Manzanilla is in the State of Jalisco and is about a three hour drive up the coast from Comala. Because of the distance, you may well want to spend a couple of nights there.
One of the first stops for many visitors is the crocodile sanctuary, just one block right of the town's main entry intersection. Look through the battered chain link fence to see huge American Crocodiles basking just feet away in the mangroves or, if someone is throwing out chunks of fish, fighting for the scraps. For a few pesos to a good cause, you can also walk the elevated catwalk and suspension bridge for views of more crocodiles plus various wetland birds, Yellow-winged Cacique and with some luck Boat-billed herons roosting during the day. Contimuing on the crocodile road watch for San Blas Jay, Orange -breasted Bunting and ibis lurking in the mangroves along the road. This road continues on for couple of mile and offers several differentl habitat types. Going left at the main intersection leads to the town's hotels and restaurants, but if you're planning to stay during the busy winter months and especially during Jan and Feb, reservations are highly recommended. The town's best hotel is the Posada and it remains reasonably priced but there are numerous other small hotels and rentals. Many beachfront and hillside homes are also available for longer stays but prices can be high.
Birding from one of the many palapa restaurants can produce Brown Booby and other coastal species as well as wonderful and inexpensive seafood. Driving the mangroves and beach scrub past the crocodile sanctuary for a few miles up the coast can also offer good birding, including orange-breasted Bunting.
Davison (Dave) Collins is a skilled guide and offers offers guided birding and whale watching tours. Both custom and scheduled trips are available with him or his staff but they can be difficult to find. His email is email@example.com call at 315-351-5305 (Mexican cell phone) . An office is across the street from the Hotel Posada. His evening mangrove trip offers a chance to see the secretive Boat-billed Heron plus other mangrove specialties. Dave is also active in preserving the area's natural habitats and character and is highly knowledgeable about its ecosystems.
Eber, another local providor, offers snorkeling, whale and sea turtle watching, fishing or birding in a "lancha," a large open hulled boat. A trip to the edge of the boat's fuel range takes you to the mouth of Tenatcatita Bay, offering a chance to see shearwaters, jaegers, Red-necked Phalaropes, Sabine's and Heerman's Gulls, and, with luck, a Red-billed Tropicbird. You can call him at 315-107-9736 or stop by Restaurant Cato and see if he's around.