“Peaceful” is how our driver Donato described what he liked most about living in Mexico.

The comment seemed ironic considering all I’d read about Mexican drug cartels and in the midst of the July 1 presidential election. All of the above had given us serious pause before bringing our kids to Manzanillo, Mexico, for vacation.

Donato had experience living in the United States, so he could offer a fair assessment.

Why is it more peaceful in Mexico? His answer: No Los Angeles traffic. Point well taken.

Feeling the heat

We couldn’t have arrived during a worst time of year weather-wise.

In a location known for an almost year-round temperate climate, June and July are its hottest and wettest months. It offers the kind of heat and humidity that envelops you like your own personal sauna. Add to that the limited air-conditioning of our partially open-air villa and you’ve got a serious motivating force to plant yourself under a fan or inside a body of water for most of the day.

Let’s just say tennis and other forms of movement are quickly ruled out as sources of entertainment. We were warned of the heat, but it was the only time that worked with our family’s schedule.

Best prize: family memories

During a charity auction, we “won” the seven-night stay at Villa Aves del Paraiso in Manzanillo’s exclusive La Punta residential area.

I’ll blame it on my husband – and the wine. Just when the bidding peaked and we lost, a miraculous second trip materialized at our asking price. With eyes upon us, there was no looking back. It was a done deal.

All of my whining about the heat aside, the prize ended up being a fun stay and unique experience. It was just what our family needed – time to be together without the pressure of being on the constant go to see things. We were our own entertainment and being together was more important than what we were doing. To me, that’s what a meaningful family trip is all about.

Lay of the villa

The villa included four bedrooms, a pool, open-air living spaces, multiple balconies and its own staff to cater to our every need.

Concierge/owner … check. Driver for the aging, shop-prone Volkswagen van … check. Daily laundry service … check. Smiling bartender/houseman … check. Most importantly, happy and talented chefs … check.

Hearty breakfasts, midday snacks called botanas served with sweetly blended concoctions, and three-course dinners became our new norm.

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We mixed our days with visits to the neighborhood’s private beach, time lounging by the pool, and trips to explore the area outside our compound.

Port of call

Our deck overlooked the bays of Manzanillo and Santiago. Across the water we could see downtown Manzanillo along with the coal-fired smokestacks that drive its power and cargo ships that fuel its commerce.

While tourism is a big part of its economy, about 60 percent of Mexico’s imports come through the city’s port.

There’s something cool and mysterious about seeing the ships stacked with colorful cargo bins pass through this area during fog-filled mornings and evenings, slowly making their way to and fro port.

From our vantage point, tourism and commerce complement each other beautifully in Manzanillo. The combination also provides a slightly different take on a Mexican resort town, giving more depth to our family vacation. Peaceful indeed.