Most people – even if they've not the remotest idea where it is – have heard of ACAPULCO, yet few know what to expect upon arrival. Bordered by the rugged Sierra Madre to the east and beautiful Acapulco Bay to the west, the city is considered by many to be the grande dame of the Mexican tourist industry.
As long as you don't yearn to get away from it all, you'll find almost anything you want here, from magnificent beaches by day to restaurants, clubs and discos by night. That said, the manicured and sanitized hotel zone, where everything is geared towards package tourists, can be thoroughly off-putting. Getting from one side of the city to the other is also a very time-consuming and frustrating experience, with perpetual gridlock, grime and choking exhaust fumes.
What Acapulco undoubtedly has going for it, however, is its stunning bay: a sweeping scythe-stroke of yellow sand backed by the white towers of the high-rise hotels and, behind them, the jungly green foothills of the sierra. Even though the town itself has a population of over one and half million and hundreds of thousands of visitors come through each year, it rarely seems overcrowded. There's certainly always space to lie along the beach, partly because of its sheer size, and partly because of the number of rival attractions – everything from hotel pools to parasailing to romantic cruises.
Acapulco de Juárez has always been characterized by its strong tourist impact, both national and international. Featured in hundreds of films, a favorite of well-known Hollywood stars from the 50s and 60s, attractive to hotel impresarios and investors; and today, the destination of many a Mexico City inhabitant seeking sun and sea on the weekends.
One of the main attractions has remained unchanged through time; traditional Acapulco continues to be an ideal place to stroll. You can visit the San Diego Fort , which served as protection against the attacks of dangerous buccaneers in times when pirates were a common threat; Roqueta Island, with its Aca-Zoo, a small zoo with some native species; El Zócalo , with its well-known, curiously designed Cathedral ; La Quebrada , and its daring divers; or the Beaches of Caleta and Caletilla , popular with Acapulco locals. The activities in this district tend to be fun and cheap.
The Zona Dorada ("Golden Area"), one of the largest districts in Acapulco, extends itself throughout the Avenida Miguel Alemán, also called Costera. In this area—compared by some to Sunset Boulevard—there is a large number of exclusive shops, like Tommy Hilfiger ; restaurants and bars such as Langosta Loca , La Mansión and Suntory , also some four-star hotels.
Pie de la Cuesta
Bahía Puerto Marques
Port Marques Bay is the other district that nature seems to have blessed: natural charm and postcard scenery abound. In this area, tourism has taken over with large hotels, shops and eateries. One of its greatest attractions is its seafood market, which can be found along the beach.
One of the most exclusive spots, with private beaches and large luxury hotels is Punta Diamante. One such hotel is the Hotel Las Brisas complex, with hotels and condominiums. These places occupy the beaches of Pichilingue, far from the town and the Costera Miguel Alemán. This means the hotels have all sorts of services and facilities, and often host events like congresses and symposia. There are some shops and stores around this area, like Costco .
Towards the international airport is an area with hotel complexes and all-inclusive resorts. These include The Fairmont Acapulco Princess , Hotel Mayan Palace (Vidafel) and Tres Vidas , with its world-class golf course, located near the Laguna de Tres Palos . The sea here is open, which makes it ideal for practicing sports such as surfing: however, it is not ideal for swimming. Throughout the beach, one can find many places selling typical local dishes, which you will be hard pressed to find elsewhere. This is the case of the delicious Pescado a la talla dish, well-seasoned freshly caught fish.
It may be the old Acapulco which enchanted Elizabeth Taylor, or the new one—with its large hotel chains, luxury shops, theme restaurants or popular clubs; tourism is still going strong in the bay, as strong as it has ever been. If you visit Acapulco, be sure to try a bit of both worlds—you're likely to come back time and time again.
As is the case with all the Mexican beach destinations where international tourism has flourished, Acapulco has a great number of restaurants, bars and discotheques, each one with a style of its own, offering special dishes and special features which make them worthy of recommendation.
There are restaurants located all along the hotel area, and also in the city center. The latter tend to be more reasonably priced, and mostly specialize in seafood or local cuisine. In the province of Guerrero, the traditional food is rather hot and spicy. Take this into account when ordering food: don't overdo it.
Golden Zone (Zona Dorada)
Variety is the spice of life, or so the Spanish saying (en la variedad está el gusto) goes, and in Acapulco Bay this has been taken very seriously. Taking advantage of tourists' taste for nightlife, the number of discotheques and bars in the bay seems to increase by the day. Popular ones around town include: Baby'O , the legendary Hard Rock Cafe Acapulco , and its neighbor Planet Hollywood Acapulco . At most of the nightclubs, there is a flat fee upon entry, and thereafter one can drink as much as one wants all night long. The most exclusive discos are in the area known as Las Brisas.
If you prefer slightly quieter places, stop by one of the several piano bars along the coast, like Cafe del Pacífico , which is an intimately lit romantic hangout. Dino's and Villa Fiore are other fine restaurants that serves Italian cuisine.
Perhaps you would prefer to taste something a little more local? Excellent places for Mexican food include El Zorrito's , or if you are in town for some fine seafood, La Langosta Loca and Pipo's have a wide variety of dishes to please your palate.
If fast food is more your thing, you will find what you are after at places, like California , El Fogón , Shakeys Pizza and Subway .
A great place to go dancing is the Palladium or Carlos 'n' Charlie's , or you want to simply listen to some great tunes, try Pepe's , a romantic piano bar. If you would rather have an Italian experience, book a table at Restaurante Casanova , which is one of the city's best restaurants. Culinary delicacies all the way from Japan are served at the elegant Suntory and San & Town .
For breakfast, lunch or dinner, Acapulco has an enormous quantity of options to choose from, no matter the occasion, your food preferences or your budget. When it comes to international cuisine restaurants, check out Madeiras , on Calle Coyuca 22. Señor Frogs has a glorious salad and cold meat menu. If you want authentic Mexican, try Los Rancheros .
Traditional Zone (Zona Tradicional)
La Perla is one of Acapulco's best and is conveniently located inside the Hotel Mirador. Why not take advantage of being right next to the sea and try some local seafood at restaurants such as, El Amigo Miguel . For a quick meal on-the-go, Tio Alex is a great choice.
The traditional area of Acapulco is something you simply cannot miss. It was here that the port became an international tourist destination.So because of this we highly recommend the following tour, which will take the entire day, but will be a truly unforgettable experience.
To start with a deliciously nutritious breakfast, stop at 100% Natural restaurant, where dishes are light and exquisite. Afterwards, you only need to cross the street to be at the Beaches of Caleta and Caletilla . These are very popular; they're usually the busiest areas due to their warm, calm waters. Renting a small pedal boat or a jet ski is a great idea. Then, visit Magic Marine World aquarium, located in the centre of both bays.
Once you have toured the aquarium, and enjoyed the pools and slides, for a bite to eat, check out a glass-bottomed boat, which you'll find at the docks. The boatmen feed the fish, so you can see them eating right below your feet. Another attraction is a visit to the Capilla Submarina (Underwater Chapel), which consists of an impressive statue of the Virgen de Guadalupe, as the Queen of the Sea. You will also hear stories about giant manta rays, mermaids and many others that make up a part of the tour and add interest to the trip. Finally, you arrive at Roqueta Island, where you can grab a bite at Palao restaurant. It offers beautifully seasoned seafood and first-class service.
After savoring delightful food, you might want to stop by the Aca-Zoo on this island, which is not a bad idea, but to get there you will need to climb a few little hills to admire the animals in their natural habitat. After finishing this tour you can take advantage of a dip in a part of the ocean with a soft surf and fine sand. Much later, the conductor of the boat that has been rented will return you to your point of departure.
Sunsets in Acapulco are famous. Caleta Beach is one of the best places to see them, with a drink in your hand and a trio singing next to you. This can be a truly unforgettable experience. To put an end to a perfect day, visit the famous Quebrada show. We suggest seeing the 8:30p show because the torchlit diving is very impressive. Next, maybe finish off with a romantic dinner at La Perla restaurant, where you can enjoy traditional Mexican music in a stunning setting. If you are still up for more after your meal, check out a disco. Or you can go dancing on one of the many boats featuring live music, with the starry sky above and the natural sound of the waves surrounding you, we recommend the Bonanza Yacht. It also offers Hawaiian dance shows and a buffet supper included in the admission price.
Pie de La Cuesta Tour
A complete tour of this area requires the use of a car. Renting a car may be the best option: taxis could turn out to be pretty expensive. As you start making your way down the road, you will soon have a view of the sea beside you. This is where the tour starts.
Pie de la Cuesta is located some 6 miles from the center of Acapulco; along the way you will come across several cozy seafood restaurants where you grab breakfast, although a stop at the Tres Marías restaurant, where you will get a taste of the true flavors of the coast is highly recommended. The seafood is caught in the early morning hours so it is always served as fresh as possible. The great attraction of this area is that by simply crossing a narrow street, you will find yourself overlooking spectacular views of either the sea or the lagoon.
On the side of the lagoon, you have the chance to practice a never-ending list of water sports, such as water-skiing, parachuting, jet skiing, sailing and boat racing. However, the real charm of this place is its sunsets, which have given these beaches worldwide fame.
Other activities to keep you occupied on the beach are sports like, volleyball, football, horse-riding, 4-wheeled bikes, and above all, soaking in the Acapulco sun. Hotel Parador del Sol is another excellent option to spend the day at, as the admission price includes the use of all the facilities, that is, the pool, sun-decks, areas for volleyball and football, a buffet, and more.
Very nearby, there's a small port next to the lagoon, which organizes a Jungle Tour . This is a wonderful chance to go on a two-hour boat tour, where you will get to see a small isle inhabited by all sorts of bird species. If you are so lucky as to visit it in the winter, you will be able to see the ducks who have migrated from Canada to the warm waters of Acapulco. But it is not only birds you will have the chance to see here; this is also a great fishing area which provides Acapulco restaurants with most of their fish. This is a truly beautiful tour which is well worth spending some time on while you enjoy being in direct contact with nature.
If you're traveling with children, Pie de la Cuesta also offers an aquatic amusement park, Castillo del Rey León with all sorts of water activities, perfect for the little ones. It has swimming pools, slides, and games which will provide the perfect entertainment for kids and adults alike.
After such a busy day, how about dinner at El Cabrito restaurant? Located on the Costera Dorada, its spacious terrace is the perfect setting for a relaxed and enjoyable evening. Later, enjoy international music at the discos like El Alebrije or Andrómedas.
The Diamante Area in Acapulco is the newest part in terms of building and development. This is where the luxury hotels and accommodation are to be found. However, there are also some of the most beautiful beaches and places to visit in this area. Here is a guide to the most interesting spots in Diamante.
Start the day with a visit to the Capilla de la Paz (Chapel of Peace), a church of remarkable beauty located at the top of a hill. From here, you can see the whole bay and port of Acapulco—time to get out your cameras! You will also see the most exclusive residential area in town, Hotel Las Brisas , where national and international artists and several millionaires live. If you take a taxi, he or she will be able to show you a few of them.
Continue the tour by stopping off at Los Pavorreales restaurant, where a delicious Mexican breakfast is waiting for you. You can also take the opportunity to go for a ride on the Laguna de Tres Palos , either on a boat or a jet ski, which you can rent. Or simply go for a swim in the pool.
For lunch, stop by Bahía de Puerto Marques , where there is a wide variety of seafood restaurants offering delicious food at very reasonable prices. We suggest the Cevichería Linda, a place where the variety of cocktails is sure to please the palate.
Now that you're in this bay, you may want to go water-skiing, snorkeling, or rent a jet-ski, which will enable you to reach the most exclusive and private beaches. Pichilingue</>
An excellent place for lunch amongst restaurants located in La Barra, where the Laguna de Tres Palos and the Revolcadero Beach come together to form a beautiful landscape. Here you can go horseriding, as well as swim in the lagoon. It is not advisable to swim in the sea, as the waves can be strong and dangerous. It is, however, possible to go on a panga, a small row-boat, which will give you the chance to get to know the lagoon canals, as well as see all sorts of species of birds in their natural habitat, and picturesque fishing villages.
On your way back, don't miss the chance to visit the Gran Turismo hotels, such as Acapulco Princess , Mayan Palace and Pierre Marques , with wonderful facilities of all sorts. You can stop off at any of these, and enjoy a drink at their lobby bars, with live music, a distinguished ambience and excellent service. Most of the guests at these hotels are foreign tourists.
These hotels also have a large selection of boutiques, offering exclusively designed shoes and accessories which are bound to give you that elegant and sophisticated touch. To end the day, how about a fun night at the disco? Palladium and Pepe's are in the same area and provide splendid quality and service.
TOUR OF THE REGION
The folklore of Guerrero is very varied and of great interest for anybody who comes to visit Acapulco. It's highly recommend to do this tour on a Thursday, as this is the day when most restaurants prepare the most traditional dishes from the area.
The first place you should visit is the Mercado del Campesino , where you will find unique products, not only from Acapulco, but also from all over the region. If you arrive between 8 and 9 in the morning you stand a better chance of purchasing the best products. Although it is small, each of its stalls provides plenty of handicrafts and a wide variety of other objects.
The Fuerte de San Diego museum is another must for soaking in the culture. An impressive Colonial building, it houses pieces of great value which have been found by archaeologists over the years in Acapulco and surrounding areas.
For more archeology, you could go to the Centro Cultural de Acapulco , although here the exhibition is smaller and the objects are of a later date. Perhaps after visiting these museums, you might feel like indulging in a different sort of activity. Why not visit Playas Hornos y Hornitos and Tamarindos , where you can spend the rest of the morning playing water sports and watching the fishermen at work?
If you prefer a more touristy and international atmosphere, try Playa Condesa , a very popular beach, due to its beauty and entertainment facilities.
When hunger strikes, we recommend you go to Los Cazadores restaurant, famous for its Pozole Verde, the local dish par excellence. This is not only worth going to for the excellent food, but it also gives you the chance to see the variety show staged here, so you can easily spend the afternoon here in its festive atmosphere. Another choice could be Los Rancheros restaurant, which, despite not offering a show, does have a terrace with views of the bay, where you can spend a pleasant time listening to the music and the sound of the sea.
Towards the end of the evening, visit the Parque Papagayo , a fair with dolly mollies, Mexican snacks and games. Kids and adults alike will find this place charming and fun.
Round it all off by going to Noche Mexicana Centro de Convenciones , where there is traditional music and dancing, shows, and also the chance to savor an exquisite meal.