The Oddest Ocean View by
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While not the exact place we stayed, this is what the beach looked like on the Manzanillo coast.

I have stayed in many wonderful and quirky places over the years, including B&Bs. One of my more recent favorites was a small hotel in Amsterdam somehow created out of a 17th-century warehouse. We were on the top floor, facing a canal–delightful. But mostly, this prompt triggered memories of rustic places in the past that are now fully developed areas.

So it went for most of the night, and it was impossible to sleep. Instead of an ocean view room, we had an ocean.

One notable hotel was in Jaco Beach, Costa Rica, on the Pacific Coast, where my mom and I stayed with my brother, who was a Peace Corps volunteer. While this beach is now a major resort, when I was there in the early 1980s we had to fly from San Jose, the capital, because there were no good roads. We took a a small plane with a man who was going to repair the generator at the hotel. Apparently electricity and water weren’t a given.

We landed in a rice field, and children ran to greet the plane, as in a movie. The hotel was built right between the jungle and the beach, and fortunately the generator repair was successful. Our room was simple but comfortable, and as night fell, from our balcony we could see green winking eyes of jungle creatures peeking out from the trees.

The strangest place I’ve stayed was on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, near Manzanillo. It was 1979, and my first chance to have a vacation with my then boyfriend Hugh. Our budget was limited, but our trusty travel agent (remember them?) got us places to stay first in Puerto Vallarta, and at the end of the trip in Guadalajara. We wanted to spend at least a night in between away from tourist areas and cities. In a guidebook I found a small hotel on the beach near Manzanillo, and it said the owner spoke English. I called and spoke to the owner, who did speak English, and reserved an ocean view room.

The first part of the trip went OK, although right before we left Puerto Vallarta for the Manzanillo area, I ate something that triggered the ailment common in Mexico. I drank a lot of Coca Cola and couldn’t eat anything. Between PV and the Manzanillo coast, there was one very narrow, winding road through the jungle, and Hugh and I boarded a bus. My Spanish was and is limited, but I could read signs and talk in very simple sentences. Despite being from Texas, Hugh’s Spanish language skills were completely lacking. He made up for it by being 6’3″ and very strong–a combination of Scotch-Irish and Cherokee (think Kris Kristofferson the size of Johnny Cash). I felt totally safe.

It was a long, dense ride south through the jungle. Federales would suddenly appear from nowhere and cross the road. We met poor but very nice people on the bus, who clearly wondered what the hell we were doing there. At least there were no chickens on the bus. I was able to explain where our destination was, and they kindly gave us updates on how much longer it would take and pointed the way when we got there.

We made it to the hotel, which looked more like a motel, and the owner showed us to our room. It was spartan with a concrete floor, which I thought was strange, with two twin beds and ceiling lights that worked from metal pull chains. Out the front window, indeed we could see the narrow beach and nearby ocean.

Nothing, Nowhere

At this point we wanted something to drink at very least, and we wandered into the hotel lobby and asked where we could get food. Everything was closed. We headed down the road and saw no buildings of any kind. I saw a young man coming toward us, and after a halting conversation, we realized we both knew French, and switched to that language. He told us there were no facilities on the coast and that we would have to go into Manzanillo. He even helped us get a taxi. In Manzanillo we stocked up on soda, canned juices, and packaged bread, and returned to the hotel, where we spent some time on the beach and dipped in the swimming pool to cool off. Exhausted, we went to our room, looking forward to a sound sleep.

That wasn’t to be. Hugh, who had been making fun of my “weak” stomach, began feeling effects of the tourista. There was no air conditioning in the room, and it was muggy despite the open window. Insects and arachnids of all sorts abounded. About 11 PM, I heard a whoosh and then a thunk. A few minutes later, another whoosh and a thunk. A third time, even louder.

I stumbled out of bed to the window and saw that the entire beach was now ocean, and the ocean was “thunking” on the wall of our room. It was high tide. I bit of salty water even oozed onto the floor. So it went for most of the night, and it was impossible to sleep. Instead of an ocean view room, we had an ocean.

By the next morning, the beach was quiet and the sun was drying out the damp sand. It was already hot. Armed with some warm Coca Cola and leftover bread, we checked out of our ocean view room and trudged back toward the jungle and the bus stop. At least on the long ride back to PV sleepiness took over, and we snoozed most of the way back. We quickly headed to the airport for our flight to Guadalajara.

This is what the Manzanillo beach looks like today, near the fancy Las Hadas resort.

Guadalajara turned out to be a fascinating city, where we stayed in a lovely posada-style hotel. The day after we arrived there, we had a meal at the Holiday Inn, which had an internal purified water system and good food. I was never so grateful for a simple chicken lunch and the sight of a Holiday Inn. Despite our travails at the “ocean view” room, I am glad we got to see Mexico as Mexicans experienced it, uncomfortable as it was.





Profile photo of Marian Marian
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.

Characterizations: , funny, well written


  1. Suzy says:

    Mare, your first paragraph intrigued me, with the Amsterdam warehouse turned hotel. Is there another story there?

    Great description of going to places that were off the beaten path then and are now totally touristified. Glad you got to see them when they were rustic. Although that Manzanillo motel might have been a little TOO rustic. Love your line, “Instead of an ocean view room, we had an ocean.” That made me laugh, although I’m sure at the time it was no laughing matter. Thankfully you made it to Guadalajara and all was well.

    • Marian says:

      Yes, we survived Manzanillo, and it’s much more amusing now than it was then, Suzy. The Dutch have done some amazing tricks with buildings, and in Amsterdam there are many residences and hotels created from these odd (to us) warehouses, tall and narrow. And, the buildings are now very “green,” way ahead of here in the US. We were taking a cruise to Norway round trip from Amsterdam and wanted to explore the city before and after, and most large hotels were booked. We found this place on the internet (just found my itinerary, it’s the Hotel Singel on the canal of the same name, not far from the train station) and took a chance. Breakfast was self serve but nice, and the guests, other than us, were all from other European countries. The only funny thing was the “single” room next to ours, which we saw while it was being cleaned. It was larger than a phone booth, but not by much! Really pleasant time over all.

  2. John Shutkin says:

    Amazing adventures, Marian, and artfully told — especially the place near Manzanillo. And I can’t help but observer that it is almost always more fun to read about the disasters than the pristine palaces. (Sort of like the villians are usually more interesting than the good guys.) To read about them, that is; but not to experience them at the time. So I’m glad you can recount them with some humor now, as hellish as they must have been.

    I have to ask. Were you young and brave or just young when you embarked on such an adventure?

    • Marian says:

      Definitely young, John, and about 50/50 brave and stupid! I was about 25 at the time. I never would have embarked on that kind of adventure without Hugh in the picture. The Mexican men, even in PV and Guadalajara, gave him wide berth because of his height and build. It hadn’t occurred to me that people could be armed. However, the “regular” folks around Manzanillo were gentle and delightful people, and once they got over Hugh’s scary looks, they were forthcoming. We treated them with respect, and they reciprocated.

  3. Thanx for the travel stories Mare, the ocean-in-the-hotel room and all!

    And the Montezuma’s revenge that you and Hugh suffered in Mexico reminded me of a trip we made with our 10 year-old son Noah to Mexico City were we had friends. We had booked a hotel near their home, but their kids invited Noah to sleep at their house instead, much to his delight!

    We’d been warned not to drink the tap water and were careful at restaurants and back at our hotel, even brushing our teeth with bottled water.

    Our friends promised to keep an eye on what Noah drank, but on the last day of our trip the poor kid got very sick and we realized as careful as our friends had been, they forgot about the ice tea Noah had been drinking at their house – made with unboiled tap water!

    • Marian says:

      Ugh, poor Noah. We were warned not to drink anything with ice cubes in it, because they could be made from tap water. A couple of years ago we stayed at Dick’s sister’s timeshare in Cabo, and we went to Sam’s Club and got lots of bottled water! (I don’t consider Cabo truly Mexico anyway.)

  4. Khati Hendry says:

    The ocean front room story was a new one for me! That whole saga was certainly unforgettable. It is good to have had the chance to experience something like that before too much development, but good to have updated options as well.

    • Marian says:

      Yes, today I’d go with the updated options, but I am glad I saw what a country was really like. I spent a day in Nicaragua and saw what it was like there, but I was relieved to go back to the cruise ship for meals and lodging.

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    What an adventure, Marian! Once, we took our kids and traveled with another family that also had 3 kids to Puerto Vallarta, where we had reservations in a lovely (in the brochure) hotel that wasn’t finished. After much “discussion,” they sent us to their sister hotel, which was nothing like what we had been promised. Still, the beach was great and the weather fine. I can’t say the same for the food, but being careful limited our choices there.

  6. Dave Ventre says:

    Nice that they had an all-inclusive package that included sharks!

  7. What a trip, Marian. You brought us with you, and it summoned moments, too, of feeling lost perhaps forever in the unwelcoming jungle. But the ocean at the wall. Scary. So many wonderful details. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Betsy Pfau says:

    Lots of great details in this story, Mare. As others have noted, your time in Manzanillo is unforgettable, from getting there, to no food, to the the huge bugs in the room, and finally the high-tide ocean invading your room (not to mention your general Mexican-disease discomfort). Glad you “got out dodge” quickly without more harm and moved on to the comfort of Holiday Inn food! Who would have thought it could be so good?

  9. Well, you solved the mystery of why those floors were made of cinder blocks! Never did the phrase “warm Coca Cola and leftover bread” carry such eloquence! This was truly a fun path to follow (literarily speaking) and one I don’t need to follow in real life, for sure.

    • Marian says:

      Dale, it’s amazing what tastes good when you are hungry and nothing else is safe. Fortunately the Coke in Mexico is made with real sugar–very sweet, but better tasting than the US version with corn syrup.

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