What To Do In Acapulco, Mexico

Ah Acapulco--long stretches of creamy sand set around a curving bay lined with gleaming white hotels. Liz Taylor was married there and it was considered one of the world's disco capitals in the swinging 60's and 70's. Unfortunately hard times have fallen on this former grand dame. Violence plagues its less-savory areas and it's been overshadowed by its more swish cousins Puerto Vallarta and Cancun.

Photo of Acapulco Mexico
The beautiful Acapulco bay and beach
Where
Southern Mexico, Pacific coast

Why
You want a beach vacation with plenty of activities, shopping, and clubbing.

What To Expect
Lots of Mexican tourists, spring breakers, and families. Electric nightlife. Don't expect to get away from it all--Acapulco is a city of over a million after all. Stunning views of the Pacific. Drunk people. You'll pay in pesos but some places accept dollars.

When To Go
Acapulco has hot and humid weather year-round. Plan to shower, oh, like four times a day. Christmas to the end of April is peak season so expect more crowds and higher hotel rates. Easter brings in the locals. June to October is cheaper as temperatures rise and rainfall is more frequent. Go in fall for better rates and less crowds.

How To Get There
Fly direct to Acapulco's international airport. A comfortable five hour bus ride from Mexico City on Estrella de Oro will set you back about $35 USD each way. Book ahead because this bus route is in high demand, especially on weekends.

Where To Stay
While you'd easily find a 300 peso room in the rest of Mexico, this just doesn't exist in Acapulco. I stayed in Hotel Magallanes which is right off the strip and less than five minutes from the beach. It's clean with a small pool. I paid 800 pesos ($63 USD) for a suite with kitchen and two double beds which at $31 USD each (double occupancy) isn't bad. It had air-conditioning at night and was perfectly secure. Check out the Tripadvisor page.

Where To Eat
I ate at the popular taco chain Tacos Tumbras which is known for its delish tacos al pastor (basted pork that's roasted on a spit). Cheap, delicious, meaty. I also had a solid breakfast of chilaquiles (fried tortillas in tomato sauce with cheese and chicken/eggs) with coffee and juice at El Zorrito for about $10 USD. It didn't blow my mind but it was sanitary and on the main strip. Their pozole looked amazing so I'd go for that next time. My one healthy choice was 100% Natural, a popular chain with vegetarian choices and pleasant setting. My veggie friend swears by it. I had a filling and fresh smoothie there.

Chilaquiles with chicken and salsa verde.
What To Do
During the day most people crash on the beach. All beaches are public so you can park yourself wherever you like. Beach clubs will let you use their hammocks/tables/lounge chairs if you buy food or drinks. The beaches never feel overly packed which is great.

Water sports such a para sailingjet skiing, and snorkeling are hugely popular. There's also fancy malls. Buyer beware: major labels are more expensive in Mexico than in the U.S. Don't miss the 50ft bungee jumping platform or the famous cliff divers.

At night, people pack the streets to chow down on tacos, buy beer from street-side stalls, and get down at the many clubs.

Safety Tips
Stay in the tourist zone and you'll be fine. Most violence happens in non-tourist areas and involves locals. Pick pocketing is all too common so guard your gear when on the beach. Don't put your wallet in your back pocket and watch your purse. A little common sense goes a long way.

My Thoughts
For a weekend trip, Acapulco is an acceptable way to relax by the ocean. I wouldn't book a dedicated trip here unless you're looking for a Cancun experience. In that case, go to Cancun already--flights and hotel packages are much cheaper. I didn't visit Acapulco's Diamante area but I imagine if you have the dough to check in at one of its fancy hotels and eat at one of its NYC-quality restaurants you'd have a great old time.

Still, I was wowed by Acapulco's storied history. I went sailing with an American real estate veteran who'd been there over 60 years. He told me about concerts by Frank Sinatra, politicians and their expensive summer homes and romantic affairs, and the pumping disco scene in the 60's. It made me long for another Acapulco--one that had a little more class and was a little less crass.

Resources:
  1. Lonely Planet Mexico. Because it is the Bible.
The main hotel area in Acapulco

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