Acapulco Travel Guide

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Acapulco's first distinction – always a breath-taking sight upon arrival – is its deep horseshoe-shaped bay on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. The full beaches of golden sand are fringed with palms, pools, restaurants and hotels, and a jungly backdrop of green hills that stretch into the rugged Sierra Madre mountain range. This picture-perfect scenery is a still from a movie … many of them, in fact, from the days of Johnny (Tarzan) Weismuller and Rita Hayworth to Elvis Presley and Sylvester Stallone. Its second distinction is its climate. Not known for their modesty, Acapulqueños (as the city's denizens are called), will say their "Acapulquito" has the best weather and swimming temperatures in the whole country. They are probably right. Acapulco's balmy delights first lead you to disrobe, coax you to letting your hair down and before you know it you'll be letting it all hang loose -- no doubt they have contributed to the resort's steamy reputation for carnality and hedonism. However, what no-one on this continent can beat Acapulco at (although Río in Brazil has something of the ring, and Havana in Cuba once used to) is its name … for glamour, romantic sunsets, Hollywood stars, romps on the beach, daring cliff divers, tropical seduction, the birth of disco, the wild antics of the jet-set, presidents, royalty and pop stars, all-night parties, and feasts for each of the senses. This is a two-edged sword for a port-town that has in fact been hosting outsiders and dealing with pirates (and other kinds of human sharks) for centuries, if you consider the days of the Manila Galleon, in the sixteenth century. Acapulco's allure is unique, but sometimes it is hard to live up to a larger-than-life reputation. People try however, and ooze charm and stories as tall as the drink you hopefully will be sipping. Unlike Cancún, whose population is largely a mix of folk from other states, there is a regional character here that is markedly feisty, exuberant, very proud, cheeky and downright wily. Acapulco is easy to reach, less than a four-hour drive from Mexico City, half-an-hour by plane from Juarez International airport and fairly well served with direct flights from destinations in the US. It is also a well-established port of call on cruise ship routes, and its stylish yacht club keeps sailboats from all over. It is now huge, divided into at least three major sections and travelling between them (usually by taxi) is one of the first issues a visitor will have to address. Its main income is from tourism, and it provides most of the income for the whole state of Guerrero and many local people, who have seen it all, speak a little English. Because proximity, and tradition, make Acapulco a magnet for the capital's working and service classes, especially in low season (summer holidays primarily but also Semana Santa), it is also one of the few resorts that genuinely caters to all budgets and most ages. Entertainment runs the whole gamut from tacky to whacky, and sordid to stylish, and you can eat and drink well for a song, as well as pay through the nose for something shriveled up and watered down. You need to be savvy – I don't recommend Acapulco for the guileless – and if you want to get a punch for your peso it certainly helps to speak Spanish and to have some patience. Harbor no illusions … if you are a white, English-speaking foreigner wearing tourist-type clothes, it is inevitable the local folk will start thinking in dollars. Gone are the days when local beauties walked barefoot down from their shacks on the hillside to feed you fresh home-made tamales or tacos from baskets propped on their heads merely hoping for a glint of your appreciative blue eye and maybe a tip. But there is a genuine warmth and hospitality for the visitor who is open-minded and armed with a generous sense of humor. While the Golden Days are melting into myth, the Diamond Days – Acapulco's current phase – are now firmly entrenched. Named for Punta Diamante, the tiny peninsula that now holds a new Banyan Tree hotel, this kicked off when tax incentives at the end of the 90s persuaded investors to try out some luxury developments on and beyond the Carretera Escénica (the "Scenic Highway"). Fortunately there was also a noticeable refurbishment of the old town, Caleta, La Quebrada and the Zócalo and adjacent stretch of seafront – still my favorite part – in the last six years. But the major change has been the massive expansion along Revolcadero Beach, of mega-stores and shopping malls, some housing for locals, restaurants, a conference center, a few hotels, an entertainment center and colossal condominium buildings aiming for the wealthy Mexico City ("chilango") market. As a result, Acapulco's tourism profile – already very varied – is changing every month. Only the last year has seen the opening of three landmark hotels (all listed here), while new restaurants and clubs pop up like proverbial mushrooms. Lively events spruce up the calendar year, from a tennis tournament to a string of fancy-dress pilgrimages, an arts festival in the old fort or a daring cliff diving spectacle as the human torch, or a fashion show or baby turtle release experience for children. Nightspots and discos update their floorshows with each new season, hotels bring in new entertainment to lure guests, the Philharmonic tries to make itself heard over the techno beat from the clubs, and efforts to bring in world-famous opera singers happily coincide with a rowdy sand sculpture competition. Keep your eye on this site for what is coming up in January and February 2011.

Where to Go in Acapulco

TOP PICKS BY OUR LOCAL EXPERTS

Etel Suites

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expert pick

Avienda Pinzona 92, Col. Playa de las Peninsulas

A good bet for longer stays or families is Etel Suites, an moderately priced small property in Col. Playa de las Peninsulas.

Playa Pie de la Cuesta

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expert pick

Carretera Pie de la Cuesta
Pie de la Cuesta

The best sunsets in Acapulco

Beto Godoy

Kilometer 32, Carretera Acapulco-Pinotepa

Great talla-style fish

Salón Q

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expert pick

Costera Miguel Alemán 3117
(Zona Dorada)

Lively and stylish salsa club near Icacos beach

Acapulco Blog Posts

UPDATES FROM OUR TRAVEL TEAM

Best Beaches in Acapulco
If the cartoon family, the Jetsons, came back from the future for a Mexican beach vacation you can imagine the daily argument over the Best Beaches in Acapulco: Wife Jane wants to visit safe little Playa Caleta, daughter Judy wants to party with her new friends along Playa Condesa, boy Elroy prefers... Read more

Fresh Traditional Seafood in Acapulco
A visit to Acapulco isn't complete without a trip to Beto Godoy, a seafood restaurant in Barra Vieja. Located off the beach, you sit under a palapa style roof in a family friendly atmosphere. Choose your own fresh fish from their daily catches and they will prepare it anyway you desire. It may take a... Read more

Relive Old Hollywood at the Resorts of Acapulco
In the 1950's and 60's Hollywood elite would travel to sunny Acapulco for some margaritas, sun bathing and a tryst or two. If you want to relive that by-gone era in the same amount of style head to the Diamond Zone of the bay front.  Read more


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