What springs to mind when you hear the word Acapulco? The fashionable coastal playground of the 1950s, where stars of the silver screen such as Brigitte Bardot, Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra flocked to frolic? The glamorous setting of the Elvis Presley film Fun in Acapulco? Or a busy Mexican city with its fair share of drug wars and corrupt police?
All three definitions are true, and together make up a seaside city with a varied and colourful past and equally lively present. Whether you visit to see the famously graceful and fearless cliff-divers, or to indulge in a luxury beach holiday, or to dance from dusk till dawn, Acapulco promises to provide a breathtaking backdrop to a memorable holiday.
You’ve probably seen images of the La Quebrada Cliff Divers, a group of extreme sportsmen who daily perform critically timed high-dives from the cliffs into the water below. And you may have heard that the nightlife in Acapulco runs 24/7, with a vast array of venues to choose from. But Acapulco offers visitors much more.
Golfers can take their pick from a number of picturesque courses, one of which (the Pierre Marques) hosted the 1982 World Cup of Golf. Lovers of sea and sand have many beaches to choose from, mostly in the bay area in front of La Costera. Boating and other aquatic sports are on offer at many, too.
At Zocalo, the traditional square in the old part of town, you’ll find shady streets full of cafes and shops, while culture vultures will appreciate the historic cathedrals and Byzantine towers.
Eat and Drink
Food in this city ranges from top-class to middling fare that will fill a gap while you take in the sights of passers-by, party-goers or cliff divers, depending on the venue. At La Perla you not only get a first-class view of the divers but can also sample Mexican specialities such as chilaquiles (fried tortillas with chicken, cheese, scrambled eggs and salsa) and chicharones (pork rinds).
Health-conscious diners will enjoy the healthy Mexican cuisine and fresh juices on offer at the chain 100% Natural, while the best seafood is probably served at El Amigo Miguel.
The young and young-at-heart (or simply energetic) are spoilt for choice when it comes to nightclubs in Acapulco. There are several “super” clubs, such as El Alebrije, which claims to be the biggest nightclub in Latin America.
Tourists and locals mingle on the beachfront-facing dance floor of Disco Beach. Over 30? Head to the pirate ship bar Barbarroja to mix with an older crowd.
Where to Stay
Because of the large number of young people who visit Acapulco (many American college students on study break take advantage of the legal drinking age of 18), there is a lot of budget-priced accommodation to choose from. Much of it is on the beach, near the nightlife.
If you’re looking for mid-range luxury, try one of the many hotels in Acapulco’s “Golden Zone”, also on the beach. Big-ticket luxury hotels are mostly further out of town or up on the hill overlooking the action below, many with their own private beaches.
No matter what you want to shop for, you can probably find it in Acapulco, where there is everything from open-air markets (such as the craft market, Mercado de Artesanias) selling locally produced clothing, jewellery and homewares, to souvenir shops lining the Costera.
Upmarket malls (such as La Isla, close to the airport) housing big-name stores such as Zara, DKNY, Coach and Starbucks, are popular with the locals on weekends.
Acapulco Like a Local
Art lovers should set out to find the incredible mural created by the love-struck artist Diego Rivera on the wall of a house in 1956. Rivera completed the mural on the external wall of his beloved’s home while she was out of town. Best bet might be to take a cab to the top of the winding road in an old residential area because this love letter is not easy to find, but those who’ve seen it say it was worth it.