25 OCT 2016: “The two big things Mexico is big on we have,” boasts Mexico’s new tourism minister of a state more commonly associated with big cargo ships.  Cesar Castaneda who began his new role in February and once was the director of the Mexican Tourism Board in Toronto and Montreal, is referring to salt and limes.

These two products from his state of Colima seem to be in an unending supply. “You can go to the salt beds and watch the salt cultivation,” he laughs.  

But chances are travellers who arrive to this Mexican Pacific coastline will be in for more secret surprises especially if they vacation there in the near future.

Wedged between the state of Jalisco which is famous for the beach resort town of Puerto Vallarta and farm-rich Michoacan, this coastal area with its sparse population (only roughly 650,000 residents) most likely has a bigger limes-to-people ratio and has been off the tourism radar due to its farming and its heavy port presence. “We have the most important trade port in Mexico,” he says, and adds the Mexican government and investors up until recently concentrated on Colima as a commercial port, which inevitably has led to a super infrastructure of roads and highways.

“You can drive anywhere in my state in one hour and be at the next destination for a totally different experience,” he says describing the well connected road system as safe with gorgeous scenery from mountain vistas to sea views with delightful villages and farming in between.

From November through April, snowbirds from Canada and the US migrate for the annual winter pilgrimage in Colima. According to the Colima Ministry of Tourism, the Canada-US tourist arrival ratio is equal. “Canada has a smaller population but (the state) attracts the same number of visitors as from the United States,” noting the strong Canadian visitor penetration of seniors. “Colima is not crowded like Puerto Vallarta.”

Less known than other Mexican states, Colima is switching its gears to focus on a new market: outdoor adventure leisure travellers. Specifically, it’s a younger demographic as well as active seniors who crave unique experiences in a heritage-rich setting.

“We have some of the best scuba diving and surfing and our wildlife is amazing,” Castañeda notes during a brief Toronto visit as he fires up his laptop to show me his favourite places and new landmarks.

An avid diver and surfer himself, I asked Castañeda how these dive and surf spots compare with other better-known places. “We have one of the best surf spots on the Pacific in Manzanillo,” he notes of the wave action around Pascuales, adding, “What I want is to grab a part of the cake from Costa Rica directly.”

Fueled by scenery, cultural heritage sites, and vast swaths of pristine wilderness, Colima he compares to Costa Rica as a naturalist’s dream-come-true. “We have volcanoes, we have great flora and fauna,” he notes.

The tourism ministry recently launched a new Canadian-focused website GoColima.com and has a new social media presence on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using @GoColima.

Here is the 411 on Colima.

Infrastructure

While currently the government isn’t investing in airport renovations Colima will have flights this winter in major hubs across Canada from such carriers as Sunwing and WestJet to Manzanillo with year-round connecting service to Mexico City from Aeromexico and Air Canada.

Scenic Wonders

The compact state boasts two volcanoes (one is inactive and snow capped, the other is active often with bellowing smoke). Visitors can enjoy the beach life at either the Manzanillo Beach or Santiago Beach and then head to the hills for a fabulous late afternoon sightseeing and end the day by some alfresco dining overlooking the two volcanoes. (Where else can you do that?). Another favourite is Comala located north of Colima City which is revered as “The White Village” for the immaculate facades and bright bougainvillea. The Mexican Tourism Board has designated the quaint village under the Pueblos Magicos “Magic Towns” programme.

New Landmarks


Agents might be familiar with Manzanillo’s city symbol of a giant blue sail fish but wait for what’s in store. The world renowned architect José Luis Ezquerra (of Las Hadas fame as seen in the 80s flick “10” starring Bo Derek) recently passed away but he had a treasure trove of unrealized projects. “We will have a cross designed by him built on a hill overlooking the (Manzanillo) bay,” he says describing one of the new landmarks.  The other anticipated landmarks in Manzanillo include a new aquarium, a new solar-energy Ferris wheel on the pier, and the launch of a cable car next spring with mountain to downtown connectivity.

 Green State

“We want to be the most environmentally friendly state in Mexico,” Castañeda says and describes some of the initiatives. Drivers in the near future will be greeted by electrical car charging stations available across the state, and car rentals will include the swanky Tesla-types to other electric car manufacturers.  On Fridays during turtle hatchling season, the local research centre Cuyutlan offers a baby turtle release program.

Parks

The state has two archaeological parks. All parks, Castañeda notes, offer free Wi-Fi, and to boot, Colima is the only Mexican state that offers this. Where else can you get that?

Cruise Port: Manzanillo

For the cruise market, an estimated 2,000-3,000 cruise pax are welcomed from each ship that docks in Manzanillo. This year alone the state tourism office anticipates the arrival of 20 cruise ships.  

Golf

Colima boasts six picture-perfect golf courses. There’s La Mantarraya Golf Course at the Las Hadas resort. Designed by Roy and Pete Dye, the scenic 18-hole course has more than half of the holes played over water.  Another fabulous golf course has a volcano backdrop. Where else in the world can you tee-off like at these places?

Weatherwise

When the wrath of winter is upon us and as we scrape ice from our car windows, it’s time to think of Colima with its annual seasonal high temperature of 35 Celsius.

For other travel info see www.visitcolima.mx

Colima
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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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