Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

GREAT WINTER ESCAPE CONTEST: Much to do in Manzanillo

Ocean port not just another sleepy vacation area

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IT is now Week 4 of the Great Winter Escape and so far readers have seen three very different Barceló Resorts in three very different areas: the Riviera Maya in Mexico where vacationers can stay at one resort and play at three; the breathtaking Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba where rest and relaxation is the order of the day; and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, with lots of choices for golfing, shopping and resort activities.

We are now taking you someplace completely different ... to the Pacific side of Mexico to Manzanillo and the Barceló Karima Palace Resort.

If the lucky winner chooses this package they will receive return airfare direct from Winnipeg with Air Transat Holidays, seven nights accommodation in a junior suite at the luxury four-and-a-half star Barceló Karima Palace Resort. All meals, drinks, activities and entertainment are included while at the resort, along with transfers and departure taxes. If the winner is a six-day Winnipeg Free Press subscriber they will also win $200 in spending money courtesy of Ixtapa Travel.

Air Transat Holidays has been offering direct service to Manzanillo from Winnipeg for a few years now and the destination keeps growing in popularity. The area first gained recognition in 1979 with the release of the movie 10 where Bo Derek ran down the beach in front of the Las Hadas hotel with her famous corn rows.

Manzanillo is more than just a sleepy vacation area, it is Mexico's busiest ocean port with a population of 110,000 and 16 kilometres of beaches that stretch out from the city into the Bays of Manzanillo and Santiago. Recognized as the sailfish capital of the world, the ocean offers ideal conditions for sport fishing, diving, surfing, jet skiing or just playing in the waves. The most popular beaches in Manzanillo are Playa Las Brisas and Playa de Miramar, well known for their impressive waves that will delight even the most seasoned surfer.

In contrast, the Barceló Karima Palace Resort is set on a small, quiet cove near the Mantarraya Golf Course and with a stunning view of the ocean. The hotel has six inter-connecting pools surrounded by tropical gardens and waterfalls. The 18th hole of the golf course actually sits on an island green directly in front of the hotel.

"The views from the hotel are breathtaking and the water in front of the hotel is calm and quite shallow," says Corwin Kostenchuk, general manager of Ixtapa Travel. "And of course the weather is almost always perfect in Manzanillo. It averages 30 degrees Celsius in the winter and gets very little rain."

The unique and beautiful Barceló Karima Palace Resort features 324 junior suites in two five-storey buildings. The junior suites have one king or two double beds, hair dryer, alarm clock, coffee-maker, mini-bar, iron, living area with sofa bed, balcony or terrace.

Guests have a choice of buffet dining and two a la carte dinners per week at a choice of three a la carte restaurants (Mexican, Italian, Japanese).

Resort activities include kayaking, tennis, badminton, dance classes, beach volleyball, table tennis, water polo, water basketball and even cocktail making classes. There is a gym, nightly entertainment and a disco.

There is much more to see and do in the surrounding area and Air Transat Holidays sells a range of excursions to satisfy everyone's interests (extra charge).

For the water enthusiasts, there is a sailing adventure with impressive views of the bays. The snorkelling and scuba tour will take divers to Elephant Rock, where a sunken ship has sat at the bottom of the ocean for the last 85 years.

No trip to Manzanillo is complete without a deep-sea fishing excursion. There have been many tales told of the "big one" that got away and many more of the fish that have been landed, including sailfish, marlin and tuna.

For the adventurous there is an ATV tour through the rugged mountain trails and for the nature lovers there is a visit to an ecological turtle reserve to study the habits of the sea turtles and iguanas common to the area.

And not to be missed is a day trip to the historical city of Colima, 60 kilometres inland. Along the way you will be able to admire the impressive de Fuego and de Nieve volcanoes and check out some archeological ruins. The trip includes a visit to the picturesque village of Comala and a typical tapas lunch.

Some of the most instantly recognizable symbols of Colima are ceramic sculptures of small, fierce-looking and very fat hairless dogs that were once a pre-Hispanic tradition, and today fill the craft shops and street stalls of the state. The dogs were relatives of the chihuahua and Xoloitzcuintle (Mexican hairless) and were bred to be guard dogs.

Corn rows, fat dogs, sailfish and lots of sun and sand -- it can't get any better for the Great Winter Escape winner who chooses the Barceló Karima Palace Resort in Manzanillo. Direct flights on Air Transat Holidays depart Tuesdays until April.

Visit winnipegfreepress.com/escape to enter the Great Winter Escape Contest.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 29, 2011 E4

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