From celebrity retreats to spring break raves and family vacations, Acapulco has welcomed them all. Today, this city by the bay offers everything from retro-chic digs in the heart of the historic district to five-star beachside retreats, along with an ample helping of fine dining, water sports and nightlife.
1 The Original Getaway
Years before Cancún or Cabo were blips on the vacation radar, Acapulco was the place where the glamorous people came south of the border for a beachfront holiday. At the time, this was a destination that catered almost exclusively to the upper crust, but that began to change in the 1970s when a new era of development and air service opened the town to a growing wave of middle-class travelers.
2 Bays, Beaches and Lagoons
The coastline delivers everything from crashing surf on rocky headlands to calm waters lapping on sandy beaches. The metro area encompasses more than 20 beaches, some sheltered, others facing the open ocean. At the mouth of the bay, Isla la Roqueta is a favorite day trip for swimmers and snorkelers, while both north and south of the city, sheltered mangrove lagoons provide wildlife habitat and sea turtle nesting grounds.
3 Old Town
Acapulco was one of the first locations the Spanish settled along the Pacific coast in the early 1500s. Thanks to its protected harbor, this outpost soon grew into one of colonial Mexico’s major trading ports. Pirates plundered, earthquakes and wars ravaged the waterfront and gold rush traffic brought boom and bust. Today, you can find reminders of the city’s colorful past at venues such as the Fort of San Diego, once the most important Spanish fortress on the Pacific coast.
4 Zone Options
Acapulco is three resort areas in one. To the north, the city waterfront and many vintage resorts of the Traditional Zone are undergoing a wave of restoration. Along the south shore of Acapulco Bay, the beachfront hotels of the Golden Zone remain the area’s number one draw, with a wide range of dining, shopping and entertainment options nearby. Farther to the south, beyond the shores of smaller Puerto Marqués Bay, the shoreline known as the Diamond Zone is home to a new generation of luxury hotels and condominiums.
5 Love the Nightlife
When the sun goes down, the party is just getting started, and for those with the fortitude, the celebration can last until dawn. Acapulco’s spring break action is legendary, but you don’t have to be a collegiate on a binge to appreciate the city’s range of entertainment options. In addition to anything goes beach bars and pulsating all-night dance floors, one can also find live musical performances and more subdued venues.
6 The Cliffs
It’s known simply as La Quebrada, the gulch. Since the 1930s, local daredevils have plunged from an 80-foot-high precipice into this narrow inlet to the delight of cliff-side audiences. The prime vantage point for this daily performance is the shoreside La Perla restaurant. In addition to high dives, this section of coast provides a spectacular backdrop for sunset views, especially from the nearby Sinfonía del Mar, a cliff-side plaza that provides commanding vistas of the western horizon.
7 Family Friendly
Acapulco has a lot to offer vacationing families. Many hotels offer nanny services and children’s activity clubs. There are calm beaches where youngsters can swim safely, a number of outdoor markets and city parks suitable for strolling and mingling with the locals, as well as museums and historic buildings worthy of a visit. Commercial attractions include glass bottom boat cruises, an island zoo, tours into surrounding mountain villages, an aquarium and a youth-themed water park.
8 Water Ways
Acapulco Bay and the Pacific Ocean are ideal for a wide range of water sports. The more sheltered portions of the bay provide calm lee shores to launch beachside favorites such as stand-up paddle boarding, parasailing, towable rides and kayaking. The bay itself is ideal for sailing, personal watercraft and powerboats, while shorelines exposed to Pacific swells draw surfers and body surfers. Isla Roqueta is a favorite snorkeling and scuba diving destination, while deep-sea fishermen range farther offshore in search of trophy catches.
9 Highland Escapes
Along Acapulco’s coast, there is no coastal plain, and the slopes of the Sierra Madre del Sur come close to the shore. These mountains provide a cooler, greener change of scenery that is still within an easy day trip of the beach. One of the most popular near-town excursions is the Palma Sola, where one can hike a hillside trail to discover pre-historic petroglyphs on the way to a panoramic summit providing sweeping views of the coast.
10 Cultural Exchange
Acapulco began as an international destination and still draws a good share of its visitors from afar. But the area also became a favorite coastal destination for Mexican nationals, especially residents of Mexico City. This popularity creates a more authentically in-country vibe than in other resort areas more heavily dominated by American vacationers. English is still widely spoken or at least understood, but you’ll also have ample opportunity to practice your Spanish.