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Acapulco Travel Guide - Travel S Helper


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Acapulco de Juárez, often referred to as Acapulco, is a city, municipality, and significant seaport on Mexico’s Pacific coast in the state of Guerrero, about 380 kilometers (240 miles) south of Mexico City. Acapulco is situated on a deep, semicircular bay and has been a port city since Mexico’s early colonial era. It serves as a port of call for ships and cruise companies traveling between Panama and San Francisco, California. Acapulco is the state’s biggest city, significantly greater than Chilpancingo, the state capital. Additionally, Acapulco is Mexico’s biggest beach and vacation city.

The city is well known as one of Mexico’s oldest and most popular beach resorts, having gained fame in the 1950s as a haven for Hollywood celebrities and wealthy. Acapulco is still well-known and receives a large number of visitors, but the majority are now from Mexico. The resort is separated into two sections: The north end of the bay is the more “traditional” location, where the famous vacationed in the mid-twentieth century; whereas the south end is dominated by modern luxury high-rise hotels.

Acapulco derives from the Nahuatl word Aca-pl-co, which translates as “where the reeds were destroyed or swept away.” In 1885, the “de Juárez” was added to the official name in honor of Benito Juárez, Mexico’s previous President (1806–1872). The city’s seal depicts broken reeds or cane. Capul draws its name from Acapulco; Capul served as the western terminus of the trans-Pacific sailing route from Acapulco to what was once a Spanish territory.

Acapulco – Info Card

POPULATION : • Municipality 687,608
• Metro 1,021,000
FOUNDED :   1520s
TIME ZONE : Time zone CST (UTC−6)
Summer (DST) CDT (UTC−5)
LANGUAGE :  Spanish
AREA : • Municipality 1,880.60 km2 (726.10 sq mi)
• Urban 85 km2 (33 sq mi)
• Metro 3,538.5 km2 (1,366.2 sq mi)
ELEVATION :  30 m (100 ft)
COORDINATES :  16°51′49″N 99°52′57″W
SEX RATIO :  Male: 48.45%
 Female: 51.55%
AREA CODE :   744
POSTAL CODE :  39300-39937
DIALING CODE :  +52 744
WEBSITE :   Official website

Tourism in Acapulco

Acapulco is one of Mexico’s oldest coastal tourist resorts, rising to popularity in the 1950s as a destination for Hollywood celebrities and wealthy seeking an exotic beach holiday. However, tourists in Acapulco have recently encountered issues with dishonest police officers who take money via extortion and scare visitors with threats of prison. On the northern end of the bay lies the “original” Acapulco, which is home to hotels owned by celebrities such as Johnny Weismuller and John Wayne. This is where the boardwalk and main plaza are located, and the neighborhood is now densely packed with contemporary, Mexican-style hotels within walking distance of discothèques and restaurants. Additionally, this side of the bay is referred to as “Traditional” or “Nautica.”

The latest developments, notably high-rise hotels, are concentrated near the bay’s south end. This region encompasses Punta Diamante and Puerto Marqués and extends from the airport to the Papagayo River, which divides it from the town’s older sector. Nobody walks in this neighborhood since practically all transit is by vehicle, limousine, or golf cart. The older area of town today serves to a mostly middle-class, nearly entirely Mexican clientele, while the glitzier modern sector caters to foreign tourists and Mexico’s higher classes, many of whom never go into the older, more traditional section. Additionally, this neighborhood has greater hotel occupancy rates.

Acapulco has a reputation as a high-energy party town where visitors may “eat at midnight, dance until dawn, and then sleep on the beach throughout the day.” The city’s nightlife has always been a prominent tourist attraction. From November to April, luxury liners such as the MS Queen Victoria, the MS Rotterdam, Crystal Harmony, and other Princess line ships make daily calls here. Despite its worldwide prominence, the majority of Acapulco’s tourists come from central Mexico, particularly the wealthy from Mexico City. Acapulco is one of the Mexican cruise line Ocean Star Cruises’ embarkation ports.

Acapulco welcomed 470,000 tourists over the 2009 Christmas season, the majority of them were Mexican citizens, contributing 785 million pesos to the local economy. Eighty percent come by land, while eighteen percent arrive by air. Over 25,000 condos are located in the neighborhood, the majority of which serve as second residences for their Mexican owners. Acapulco remains popular with Mexican celebrities and the rich, like Luis Miguel, Plácido Domingo, and Dolores Olmedo.

While much of the sparkle and glamour that made Acapulco renowned has persisted, the city has also acquired some less favorable reputations since the late twentieth century. According to some, it is a “passé” resort, having been surpassed by the more modern Cancn and Cabo San Lucas. Numerous issues have emerged here throughout the years, most notably in the bay and older areas of the city. The proliferation of roving merchants on beaches like Tamarindos, offering anything from newspapers to massages, is a well-known issue. It is inconvenient for visitors who want to just rest on the beach, but the government asserts that it will be tough to eliminate due to the high rate of unemployment and poverty in the area. Numerous tiny shantytowns cling to the slope around the city, inhabited by migrants seeking jobs. Drug-related violence has harmed the local tourist industry over the previous decade.


Acapulco’s primary draw, as it has been for decades, is its nightlife. Nightclubs routinely change names and proprietors. Often, informal lobby or poolside drink bars will provide complimentary live entertainment. Additionally, there is a beach bar zone where the younger generation congregates. These are situated along the Costera road and showcase techno or alternative rock music. The majority of them are clustered around the Fiesta Americana and Continental Plaza hotels. These establishments often open earlier and require more casual attire. Additionally, there is a bungee jump in this location.

The La Quebrada Cliff Divers are another intriguing feature in Acapulco. The practice dates all the way back to the 1930s, when young men competed informally to see who could plunge the highest point into the water below. Locals eventually started to solicit tips from others who came to see the guys dive. Today’s divers are professionals, plunging from forty meters into a seven-meter-wide, four-meter-deep inlet after worshiping at a shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe. On December 12, the Virgin’s feast day, freestyle cliff divers plunge into the sea in her honor. Dives vary from easy to difficult and culminate in the “Ocean of Fire,” where the water is illuminated with gasoline, creating a circle of flames that the diver must aim for. The show may be seen from a public location that costs a modest fee or from the bar or restaurant terrace of the Hotel Plaza Las Glorias/El Mirador.

Acapulco Bay and its nearby shoreline are home to a multitude of beaches. La Angosta (in the Quebrada), Caleta, Caletilla, Dominguillo, Tlacopanocha, Hornos, Hornitos, Honda, Tamarindo, Condesa, Guitarrón, Icacos, Playuela, Playuelilla, and Playa del Secreto are all located inside the bay proper. Pichilingue, Las Brisas, and Playa Roqueta are located in the adjacent, smaller Bay of Puerto Marqués. Pie de la Cuesta is located northwest of the bays, while Playa Revolcadero, Playa Aeromar, Playa Encantada, and Barra Vieja are located southeast. Two lagoons are located in the area: Coyuca, northwest of Acapulco Bay, and Tres Palos, southeast of Acapulco Bay. Both lagoons are mangrove swamps with boat cruises available. Tres Palos also contains protected sea turtle nesting grounds.

Apart from sunbathing, the beaches around the bay provide a variety of amenities, including boat rentals, boat cruises, horseback riding, scuba diving, and other water activities. One popular cruise departs from Caletilla Beach and heads to Roqueta Island, which has snorkeling opportunities, a restaurant, a small zoo, and a lighthouse. Additionally, there is an underwater statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe here, which Armando Quesado erected in 1958 in commemoration of a group of divers who perished here. Numerous scuba-diving cruises also visit this region, which has sunken ships, sea mountains, and cave rock formations. Deep-sea fishing is another popular sport. Sail fishing is the primary draw. Here, fish weighing between 89 and 200 pounds have been captured. Due to the abundance of sailfish, boat captains have been known to wager with prospective customers that if they do not catch anything, the trip is free.

The Zócalo, a classic central plaza dotted with shade trees, cafés, and stores, is located in the city’s historic district. The church of Nuestra Seora de la Soledad, with its blue onion-shaped domes and Byzantine towers, is located near the square’s northern end. Originally designed as a film set, the structure was eventually converted into a church. The Fort of San Diego is Acapulco’s most historic structure, situated east of the main plaza and initially constructed in 1616 to safeguard the city from pirate invasions. In the mid-17th century, the Dutch partly demolished the fort, repaired it, and then devastated it again in 1776 by an earthquake. By 1783, it had been rebuilt again, and this is the edifice that can be seen today, unmodified save for 2000 restorations. There are remnants of the moats, as well as the five bulwarks and battlements. Today, the fort houses the Museo Histórico de Acapulco, which chronicles the port’s history from pre-Hispanic times through independence. Additionally, there are temporary displays.

CICI is an acronym for Centro Internacional de Convivencia Infantil. It is a sea-life and aquatic park situated on Costa Miguel Aleman. There are wave pools, water slides, and water toboggans on the property. Additionally, daily dolphin performances and a swim with dolphins program are available. The facility is mostly geared at youngsters. Another popular destination for children is Parque Papagayo, a vast family park that has life-size replicas of a Spanish galleon and the space shuttle Columbia, three artificial lakes, an aviary, a skating rink, rides, and go-karts.

The Dolores Olmedo House is situated in Acapulco’s old downtown and is notable for the Diego Rivera paintings that cover it. Since Olmedo was a youngster, he and Rivera had been friends, and Rivera spent the last two years of his life here. He painted practically continuously throughout that time period and adorned the outside walls with tile mosaics depicting Aztec deities such as Quetzalcoatl. Murals decorate the inside of the residence. Because the house is not a museum, only the outside murals are accessible to the public.

There is a tiny museum named Casa de la Máscara (House of Masks) devoted to masks, the majority of which are from Mexico, but there are also specimens from other countries. The collection has over 1,000 pieces and is arranged into seven rooms: Masks of the World, Mexico Through the Ages, The Huichols and the Jaguar, Alebrijes and Guerrero Dances, Devils and Death, Identity and Fantasy, and Afro-Indian masks. The Acapulco Botanical Garden is a tropical garden on property held by the Universidad Loyola del Pacifico. The majority of the species are indigenous to the area, and many, such as the Peltogyne mexicana or purple stick tree, are endangered.

The annual French Festival spans the whole city of Acapulco and features a variety of activities that strengthen cultural ties between Mexico and France. The highlight of the event is a fashion display and a gourmet food market. The Cinépolis Diana Galleries and the Teatro Juan Ruz de Alarcón feature French and French literary personalities who provide lectures on their specialized fields. Even some of the neighborhood’s nightclubs have French DJs. Other events observed here include Carnival, San Isidro Labrador’s feast day on 15 May, and the Nao de China, a crafts and cattle fair held in November.

Acapulco is home to many golf courses, including the Acapulco Princess and the Pierre Marqués, which was constructed by Robert Trent Jones for the 1972 World Cup Golf Tournament. Pedro Guericia created the Mayan Palace course, and a more affordable course named the Club de Golf Acapulco is located near the convention center. The most prestigious course is the Robert von Hagge-designed Tres Vidas Golf Club. It lies next to the ocean and is often visited by flocks of ducks and other birds.

Additionally, Acapulco boasts a bullring, known as the Plaza de Toros, located near Caletilla Beach. The Fiesta Brava season goes throughout the winter.


Each year, over 100,000 American teens and young people spend their spring break in resort regions and balnearios around Mexico. The primary reason students go to Mexico is to take advantage of the 18-year-old drinking age (vs. 21 in the United States), which tour companies have promoted alongside the sun and ocean. This has been more appealing since the 1990s, when more typical spring break destinations such as Daytona Beach, Florida, placed limits on drinking and other activities. This law has resulted in an increase in spring break visits to different areas of Mexico, with Acapulco being one of the most popular locations.

Cancn was a popular spring break destination in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Cancn, on the other hand, has made efforts to rein in the irresponsible conduct linked with the event, and students have begun seeking for other accommodations. This has prompted many more people to pick Acapulco over Cancn, despite the fact that the trip is longer and more costly for many. Many are drawn to the south side’s fancy hotels and Acapulco’s legendary nightlife. In 2008, 22,500 students spent their spring vacation in Acapulco. Hotels did not get a large number of bookings in 2009, owing mostly to the economic crisis in the United States and partly to fears of drug-related violence.

The US State Department issued a travel warning to college students planning spring break visits to Acapulco in February 2009. The warning—which came as a consequence of violent activities emanating from Mexico’s drug cartel débâcle—swept throughout college campuses, with some colleges going so far as to caution students against traveling to Mexico over spring break. The New York Times followed the travels of a Penn student on spring break in Acapulco less than a week after the email was sent, and Bill O’Reilly dedicated an entire section of his program, The O’Reilly Factor, to advising students to avoid Acapulco. In June 2009, a series of events between the drug cartel and the government happened. These attacks comprised planned assaults on police offices and street confrontations with large-caliber firearms and explosives. However, there were no documented cases of violence directed against spring breakers.

Geography of Acapulco

The city, which is situated on Mexico’s Pacific coast in the state of Guerrero, is classed as one of the state’s seven areas, with the remainder of the Guerrero coast being divided into the Costa Grande and Costa Chica. 40% of the municipality is mountainous. Another 40% is semi-flat, while the last 20% is flat. The elevation ranges from sea level to 1,699 meters (5,574 feet). Potrero, San Nicolas, and Alto Camarón are the highest summits. The municipality is bisected by one main river, the Papagayo, and a number of arroyos. Additionally, there are two tiny lagoons, Tres Palos and Coyuca, as well as other hot springs.



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