Shopping in Manzanillo
click on photos to enlarge
Tourist dollars burning a hole in your pocket? Change them to pesos and visit some of the places below. Please note that the international exchange rate is usually about 2 points higher than the local Manzanillo rate. All banks and currency exchanges charge commission, which is reflected in the lower exchange rate locally.
Downtown Manzanillo has retail shops surrounding the Jardin, or town square, and they continue down Av. Mexico for roughly 8 blocks. On street corners you'll find vendors selling hats, belts, clothes, T-shirts, and many other items. To make it easy to find all your tourist treasures, check out the tourist guidebook about Manzanillo and the state of Colima.
In the small beach area of San Pedrito, there are more numerous small shops and restaurants. Ramada-style restaurants with thatched roofs are on the beach. This area is also an old shark fisherman's camp, and at the end of the block, a 3-story building houses immigration and the port captain. Cruise ships also dock at the end of this street.
All beaches have vendors selling everything from dresses to jewelry. Playa Audiencia, in the Peninsula de Santiago, has stalls at its entrance, and each vendor has an excellent selection. Bo Derek braids, trensitas in Spanish (made famous in the movie, "10"), can be put in your hair for about 100 pesos, depending on the style you choose. You'll find the vendors at Audiencia to be courteous and friendly.
Playa Miramar (across the street from Club Maeva) has several market stalls with Mexican handicrafts, T-shirts, purses, silver, bathing suits, beach cover-ups, rugs, and more. Here, they bargain, so read the section on bargaining below to learn how to make a deal.
Plaza Manzanillo, the largest mall in the Hotel Zone, has numerous shops, including a large department store/supermarket, the Comercial Mexicana. Make sure you walk around outside as well as inside. The mall has expanded, and now there are even more shops.
If you're looking for designer jewelry and fashions, Maria Cumbé boutique has a variety of ladies apparel, designer jewelry, Mexican handicrafts, hats, shoes, pottery, household decorator items, Professional scuba and snorkeling gear is available at Underworld Scuba/Scuba Shack, where diving and snorkeling trips and classes, tank fills, and equipment rental are also available. It is a CMAS and PADI Dive Center.
The small town of Santiago has a shopping center between the streets Juarez and Reforma, Plaza Colimese. Offering souvenirs, fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, seafood, gifts, paper supplies, piñatas, juice bar, jewelry, clothing, hair products, and a variety of other items for winter residents or weekly tourists.
On Saturdays in the town of Santiago, there is a Tianguis (open air) market across the street from the main Jardin at the stoplight. It goes on for more than 20 blocks, and is an interesting way to spend a couple hours. On Sunday, the Tianguis moves to the town of Salagua.
A walk around the town of Santiago will also put you in touch with the Palacio de los Conchas y Caracoles, or the Shell Palace, which has all sorts of seashells and items made from them. On Calle Juarez #40 you'll find Las Primaveras, a huge arts and crafts shop taking up the first and second stories of two houses. All around that area are numerous small shops with handcrafted items.
Plaza Salagua (where the Soriana supermarket is) has various stores and fast food vendors both inside Soriana and outside facing the parking lot. There are now ATMs at both the Soriana and Comercial Mexicana supermarkets inside the store.
Bargaining is a very old tradition and part of the Mexican culture. It's an expected part of the game to bargain for a better price with beach vendors, and at the mercados and tianguis markets. It's probably harder for a gringo to get as good a bargain as the veteran Mexican shopper, but if you have fun with the haggling process, and approach the vendor with a smile, you're on your way.
Start at about half of what the vendor asks, and work your way up from there. A good deal is about 30-40% less than the asking price, but if you just can't live without it, pay what you think it's worth. (If your actions and words convey to the vendor that you can't live without it, you'll never get him to bargain. Don't assume, because he speaks very little English, that he doesn't understand everything you say. Use your body language; act nonchalant, like it doesn't matter whether you buy the item of not, and you'll get it at a better price.)
Keep these points in mind: The vendor is an experienced haggler and he knows what his bottom line is. You both want to walk away feeling you made a good deal. If you pay too much (just because you like the guy or girl), you make it more difficult for other tourists to get a good bargain. Also, once you make a purchase, every vendor on the beach will be coming up hoping to make a sale. However, they are all friendly, not pushy, and a simple, "No gracias" (and not looking at his wares) will send him on his way.
Normal retail shops, such as the ones in the malls, do not bargain. If you see a price tag on the item, the price is not negotiable. Please don't insult a shop owner who pays rent, and ask him or her to make you a better deal.
Buying silver: Some of the silver sold on the beach is not really silver at all. It is a nickel alloy called "alpaca," and is hard to tell from the real thing. Also, real silver should have a .925 stamp. Be careful of this trick, though, because anyone can buy a .925 stamp and mark their alpaca. When buying silver, it is best to buy it at a reputable silver shop, where silver is sold by its weight. Remember, if the price on the silver bracelet you want to buy seems too good to be true, it's probably not real silver.
This information was taken from the 150-page tourist guidebook "Manzanillo and the state of Colima, Facts, Tips and Day Trips," by Susan Dearing.