Manzanillo, Mexico

South of Puerto Vallarta and along the Pacific coast is the Costa Alegre, or Coast of Joy. This area of Mexico encompasses huge swathes of bays and sandy beaches and the thriving port city of Manzanillo. The city and surrounding bays were integral to Spain's 16th century trading routes between the Philippines, Mexico, and Europe.

Head north to experience the quiet beaches of Costa Alegre. Legend has it that gold from a wrecked pirate ship may still be found in the waters off the coast of Chalacatepec beach. This area is also a goldmine for birding enthusiasts. Make your way inland to visit the archeological site of La Campana, once part of a large and advanced pre-Hispanic society. Play in the warm, calm waters of Miramar beach in Manzanillo. Watch pelicans dive for fish as you enjoy fresh seafood from a beachside restaurant--try Maxi's for good Caribbean fare.

Sample from the salsa platter and dig into a beef and shrimp molcajete while you people watch at centrally located El Fogon. Eat where the locals eat - at Mariscos Carlos. This restaurant might sit behind the bus station, but don't let that fool you, dishes like golden shrimp taquitos and fresh lobster are top notch.