Acapulco

Getting around in Acapulco
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Acapulco is Mexico’s largest beach and balneario resort city. The city of Acapulco is the largest in the state of Guerrero, far larger than the state capital Chilpancingo.

The snazzy high-rise hotels provide beautiful views of the deep blue sea. The weather is deliciously warm. The city itself sits on a picture perfect bay, framed by small hills and white houses.

Acapulco is located on a deep, semicircular bay and has been a port since the early colonial period of Mexico’s history. It is a port of call for shipping and cruise lines running between Panama and San Francisco, California, United States.

The city is best known as one of Mexico’s oldest and most well-known beach resorts, which came into prominence in the 1950s as the place where Hollywood stars and millionaires vacationed on the beach in an exotic locale. Acapulco is still famous and still attracts many tourists, although most are now from Mexico itself.

General information

The full name is Acapulco de Juárez.

Acapulco is a city, municipality and major seaport in the state of Guerrero on the Pacific coast of Mexico, 380 kilometres (240 mi) south of Mexico City.

As the seat of a municipality, the city of Acapulco is the government authority for over 700 other communities, which together have a territory of 1,880.60 km2. This municipality borders the municipalities of Chilpancingo, Juan R Escudero (Tierra Colorada), San Marcos, Coyuca de Benítez with the Pacific Ocean to the south.

The metropolitan area is made up of the municipalities of Acapulco de Juárez and Coyuca de Benitez. The area has a population (as of 2005) of 786,830.

Acapulco is also Mexico’s largest beach and balneario resort city.

The resort area is divided into two: The north end of the bay is the “traditional” area known as “Zona Dorada” (“golden zone”), where the famous in the mid-20th century vacationed, and the south end “Diamante” (“diamond”) which is dominated by newer luxury high-rise hotels.

Geo & Climate

The city, located on the Pacific coast of Mexico in the state of Guerrero, is classified as one of the state’s seven regions, dividing the rest of the Guerrero coast into the Costa Grande and the Costa Chica.

Forty percent of the municipality is mountainous terrain. Another forty percent is semi-flat, and the other twenty percent is flat. Altitude varies from sea level to 1,699 metres (5,574 feet).

The highest peaks are Potrero, San Nicolas and Alto Camarón. There is one major river, the Papagayo, which runs through the municipality, along with a number of arroyos. There are also two small lagoons, Tres Palos and Coyuca. Along with a number of thermal springs.

Acapulco features a tropical wet and dry climate: hot with distinct wet and dry seasons, with more even temperatures between seasons than resorts farther north in Mexico, but this varies depending on altitude. The warmest areas are next to the sea where the city is.

Tropical storms and hurricanes are threats from May through November.

The forested area tends to lose leaves during the winter dry season, with evergreen pines in the highest elevations.

Fauna consists mostly of deer, small mammals, a wide variety of both land and sea birds, and marine animals such as turtles.

Etymology

The Yope Indian legend was the inspiration for giving its name to Acapulco. The story goes that Ácatl (cane), the oldest son of one of the chiefs of the tribe was in love with the Princess Quihuitl (rain), daughter of the tribal chief rival.But discouraged to marry her, Ácatl fell into a depression so deep that his own tears melted his body, forming a large swamp of mud where the cane grew.

Meanwhile Princess Quihuitl with great sadness, was lost in the bay as a cloud, and upon discovering the death of her lover, became a huge storm that destroyed the cane and she died with her beloved Ácatl and this act, were united forever in Acapulco, that’s how they called this place; Aca-pōl-co “where the canes were destroyed”.

The “de Juárez” was added to “Acapulco” in 1885 to honor Benito Juárez, former President of Mexico (1806–1872).

History

Pre-Columbian

By the 8th century around the Acapulco Bay area, there was a small culture which would first be dominated by the Olmecs, then by a number of others during the pre-Hispanic period and before it ended in the 1520s. At Acapulco Bay itself, there were two Olmec sites, one by Playa Larga and the other on a hill known as El Guitarrón. Olmec influence caused the small spread-out villages here to coalesce into larger entities and build ceremonial centers.

Later, Teotihuacan influence made its way here via Cuernavaca and Chilpancingo. Then Mayan influence arrived from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and through what is now Oaxaca. This history is known through the archaeological artifacts that have been found here, especially at Playa Hornos, Pie de la Cuesta and Tambuco.

In the 11th century, new waves of migration of Nahuas and Coixas came through here. These people were the antecedents of the Aztecs. In the later 15th century, after four years of military struggle, Acapulco became part of the Aztec empire during the reign of Ahuizotl (1486–1502). It was annexed to a tributary province named Tepecuacuilco. However, this was only transitory, as the Aztecs could only establish an unorganized military post at the city’s outskirts. The city was on territory under control of the Yopes, who continued defending it and living there until the arrival of the Spanish in the 1520s.

16th century

There are two stories about how Acapulco bay was discovered by Europeans. The first states that two years after the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, Hernán Cortés sent explorers west to find gold. The explorers had subdued this area after 1523, and Captain Saavedra Cerón was authorized by Cortés to found a settlement here. The other states that the bay was discovered on December 13, 1526 by a small ship named the El Tepache Santiago captained by Santiago Guevara. The first encomendero was established in 1525 at Cacahuatepec, which is part of the modern Acapulco municipality. In 1531, a number of Spaniards, most notably Juan Rodriguez de Villafuerte, left the Oaxaca coast and founded the village of Villafuerte where the city of Acapulco now stands. Villafuerte was unable to subdue the local native peoples, and this eventually resulted in the Yopa Rebellion in the region of Cuautepec. Hernán Cortés was obligated to send Vasco Porcayo to negotiate with the indigenous people giving concessions. The province of Acapulco became the encomendero of Rodriguez de Villafuerte who received taxes in the form of cocoa, cotton and corn.

Cortés established Acapulco as a major port by the early 1530s, with the first major road between Mexico City and the port constructed by 1531. The wharf, named Marqués, was constructed by 1533 between Bruja Point and Diamond Point. Soon after, the area was made an “alcadia” (major province or town).

Spanish trade in the Far East would give Acapulco a prominent position in the economy of New Spain. Galleons started arriving here from Asia by 1550, and in that year thirty Spanish families were sent to live here from Mexico City to have a permanent base of European residents. Acapulco would become the second most important port, after Veracruz, due to its direct trade with the Philippines. This trade would focus on the yearly Manila-Acapulco Galleon trade, which was the nexus of all kinds of communications between New Spain, Europe and Asia. In 1573, the port was granted the monopoly of the Manila trade.

17th–19th centuries

The galleon trade made its yearly run from the mid-16th century until the early 19th. The luxury items it brought to New Spain attracted the attention of English and Dutch pirates, such as Francis Drake, Henry Morgan and Thomas Cavendish, who called it “The Black Ship.” A Dutch fleet invaded Acapulco in 1615, destroying much of the town before being driven off. The Fort of San Diego was built the following year to protect the port and the cargo of arriving ships. The fort was destroyed by an earthquake in 1776 and was rebuilt between 1778 and 1783. At the beginning of the 19th century, King Charles IV declared Acapulco a Ciudad Official and it became an essential part of the Spanish Crown. However, not long after, the Mexican War of Independence began. In 1810, José María Morelos y Pavón attacked and burnt down the city, after he defeated royalist commander Francisco Parés at the Battle of Tres Palos. The independence of Mexico in 1821 ended the run of the Manila Galleon. Acapulco’s importance as a port recovered during the California Gold Rush in the mid-19th-century, with ships going to and coming from Panama stopping here. This city was the besieged on 19 April 1854 by Antonio López de Santa Anna after Guerrero’s leadership had rebelled by issuing the Plan de Ayutla. After an unsuccessful week of fighting, Santa Anna retreated.

20th century

In 1911, revolutionary forces took over the main plaza of Acapulco. In 1920, the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VIII) visited the area. Impressed by what he saw, he recommended the place to his compatriots in Europe, making it popular with the elite there. Much of the original hotel and trading infrastructure was built by an East Texas businessman named Albert B. Pullen from Corrigan, Texas, in the area now known as Old Acapulco. But some of Acapulco’s best known hotels were built by others. In 1933 Carlos Barnard started the first section of Hotel El Mirador, with 12 rooms on the cliffs of La Quebrada. Wolf Schoenborn purchased large amounts of undeveloped land and Albert Pullen built the Las Americas Hotel.

In the mid-1940s, the first commercial wharf and warehouses were built. In the early 1950s, President Miguel Alemán Valdés upgraded the port’s infrastructure, installing electrical lines, drainage systems, roads and the first highway to connect the port with Mexico City.

The economy grew and foreign investment increased with it. During the 1950s, Acapulco became the fashionable place for millionaire Hollywood stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Eddie Fisher and Brigitte Bardot. Former Swing Musician Teddy Stauffer, so called “Mister Acapulco”, was a hotel manager (“Villa Vera”, “Casablanca”), who attracted a lot of celebrities to Acapulco.

From a population of only 4,000 or 5,000 in the 1940s, by the early 1960s, Acapulco had a population of about 50,000. In 1958, the Diocese of Acapulco was created by Pope Pius XII. It became an archdiocese in 1983.

During the 1960s and 1970s, new hotel resorts were built, and accommodation and transport were made cheaper. It was no longer necessary to be a millionaire to spend a holiday in Acapulco; the foreign and Mexican middle class could now afford to travel here. However, as more hotels were built in the south part of the bay, the old hotels of the 1950s lost their grandeur.

In the 1970s, there was a significant expansion of the port.

The Miss Universe 1978 pageant took place in the city. In 1983, singer-songwriter Juan Gabriel wrote the song “Amor eterno”, which pays homage to Acapulco. The song was first and most famously recorded by Rocio Durcal. Additionally, Acapulco is the hometown of actress, singer and comedian Aída Pierce, who found fame during the 1980s, 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century.

During the 1990s, the road known as the Ruta del Sol was built, crossing the mountains between Mexico City and Acapulco. The journey takes only about three and a half hours, making Acapulco a favorite weekend destination for Mexico City inhabitants. It was in that time period that the economic impact of Acapulco as a tourist destination increased positively and as a result a new type of services emerged like the Colegio Nautilus. This educational project, backed by the state government, was created for the families of local and foreign investors and businessmen living in Acapulco who were in need of a bilingual and international education for their children.

The port continued to grow and in 1996, a new private company, API Acapulco, was created to manage operations. This consolidated operations and now Acapulco is the major port for car exports to the Pacific.

The city was devastated by Hurricane Pauline in 1997. The storm stranded tourists and left more than 100 dead in the city. Most of the victims were from the shantytowns built on steep hillsides that surround the city. Other victims were swept away by thirty-foot waves and 150 mph (241 km/h) winds. The main road, Avenida Costera, became a fast-moving three-foot-deep river of sludge.

Acapulco Tradicional

Zocalo (Main Square)

In the old part of the city, there is a traditional main square called the Zócalo, lined with shade trees, cafés and shops.
Zócalo lies on the western side of La Costera. It’s cool, shady and peaceful during the daytime. There are two fountains and many mature, multi-trunked trees that are a sight in themselves. The Zócalo tends to expose more local culture than other, more tourist-centric, areas. Zócalo contains Acapulco’s cathedral, as well as many restaurants ranging in size from sidewalk bistros and tiny street-corner kitchens. Many of the smaller restaurants will provide full dinners for as little as 35 pesos. The Zócalo at night is worth experiencing. Between 8:00 and 11PM the place is flooded with locals & chilangoes. Clowns entertain the crowd for tips. One is dressed as some sort of aztec warrior/statue thing. He is silver from head to toe.

The Cathedral

At the north end of the square is Nuestra Señora de la Soledad cathedral, with blue onion-shaped domes and Byzantine towers. The building was originally constructed as a movie set, but was later adapted into a church.

Fort of San Diego

Acapulco’s most historic building is the Fort of San Diego, located east of the main square and originally built in 1616 to protect the city from pirate attacks. The fort was partially destroyed by the Dutch in the mid-17th century, rebuilt, then destroyed again in 1776 by an earthquake. It was rebuilt again by 1783 and this is the building that can be seen today, unchanged except for renovations done to it in 2000. Parts of the moats remain as well as the five bulwarks and the battlements. Today the fort serves as the Museo Histórico de Acapulco (Acapulco Historical Museum), which shows the port’s history from the pre-Hispanic period until independence. There are temporary exhibits as well.

The Dolores Olmedo House

The Dolores Olmedo House is located in the traditional downtown of Acapulco and is noted for the murals by Diego Rivera that adorn it. Olmedo and Rivera had been friend since Olmedo was a child and Rivera spent the last two years of his life here. During that time, he painted nearly nonstop and created the outside walls with tile mosaics, featuring Aztec deities such as Quetzalcoatl. The interior of the home is covered in murals. The home is not a museum, so only the outside murals are able to be seen by the public.

Casa de la Máscara (House of Masks)

There is a small museum called Casa de la Máscara (House of Masks) which is dedicated to masks, most of them from Mexico, but there are examples from many parts of the world. The collection contains about one thousand examples and is divided into seven rooms called Masks of the World, Mexico across History, The Huichols and the Jaguar, Alebrijes and Dances of Guerrero, Devils and Death, Identity and Fantasy, and Afro-Indian masks. The Botanical Garden of Acapulco is a tropical garden located on lands owned by the Universidad Loyola del Pacífico. Most of the plants here are native to the region, and many, such as the Peltogyne mexicana or purple stick tree, are in danger of extinction.

Plaza de Toros (Bullring)

Acapulco also has a bullring, called the Plaza de Toros, near Caletilla Beach. The season runs during the winter and is called the Fiesta Brava.

La Quebrada Cliff Divers

Another enigmatic attraction at Acapulco are the La Quebrada Cliff Divers. The tradition started in the 1930s when young men casually competed against each other to see who could dive from the highest point into the sea below. Eventually, locals began to ask for tips for those coming to see the men dive. Today the divers are professionals, diving from heights of forty metres (130 feet) into an inlet that is only seven m (23 ft) wide and four m (13 ft) deep, after praying first at a shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe. On December 12, the feast day of this Virgin, freestyle cliff divers jump into the sea to honor her. Dives range from the simple to the complicated and end with the “Ocean of Fire” when the sea is lit with gasoline, making a circle of flames which the diver aims for. The spectacle can be seen from a public area which charges a small fee or from the Hotel Plaza Las Glorias/El Mirador from its bar or restaurant terrace.

La Quebrada Cliff Divers – No visit to Acapulco is complete without watching the cliff divers perform their impressive jumps into the shallow stream of water of dangerous tides that forms in the bottom part of La Quebrada. They have been doing it since 1934. You can see the dives from a small platform by the cliff for a small entrance fee, or eat at the La Perla restaurant which offers a good view of the divers. Showtime at 1PM, 7:30PM, 8:30PM and 9:30PM.

Nightlife

Acapulco’s main attraction is its nightlife, as it has been for many decades. Nightclubs change names and owners frequently. For example, Baby ‘O has been open to the national and international public since 1976 and different celebrities have visited their installations such as Mexican singer Luis Miguel, Bono from U2 and Sylvester Stallone. Another nightclub is Palladium, located in the Escénica Avenue, the location gives the nightclub a beautiful view of the Santa Lucia Bay at night. Various DJ’s have had a performance in Palladium among them DVBBS, Tom Swoon, NERVO and Junkie KID.

Informal lobby or poolside cocktail bars often offer free live entertainment. In addition, there is the beach bar zone, where younger crowds go. These are located along the Costera road, face the ocean and feature techno or alternative rock. Most are concentrated between the Fiesta Americana and Continental Plaza hotels. These places tend to open earlier and have more informal dress. There is a bungee jump in this area as well.

Acapulco Diamante

Golf courses

There are a number of golf courses in Acapulco including the Acapulco Princess and the Pierre Marqués course, the latter designed by Robert Trent Jones in 1972 for the World Cup Golf Tournament. The Mayan Palace course was designed by Pedro Guericia and an economical course called the Club de Golf Acapulco is near the convention center. The most exclusive course is that of the Tres Vidas Golf Club, designed by Robert von Hagge. It is located next to the ocean and is home to flocks of ducks and other birds.

Tennis courts of the Princess Mundo Imperial

Another famous sport tournament that has been held in Acapulco since 1993 is the Abierto Mexicano Telcel, a 500 ATP that takes place in the tennis courts of the Princess Mundo Imperial, a resort located in the Diamante zone of Acapulco. Initially it was played in clay courts but it changed to hard court. The event has gained popularity within the passing of the years. The athletes who participated in the competition were some of the most famous players in the last couple of years.

Theme & Attractions parks

The Centro Internacional de Convivencia Infantil or CICI

The Centro Internacional de Convivencia Infantil or CICI is a sea-life and aquatic park located on Costera Miguel Aleman. Especially nice for kids.

It offers wave pools, water slides and water toboggans. It features many different pools and slides, a Skycoaster (a mix between a swing and a bungee jump) and a dolphinarium. There are also dolphin shows daily and a swim with dolphins program.

Entrance is 100 pesos.
Dolphin shows are on offer, and so is one hour swims with the dolphins $120 USD.

Parque Papagayo

Another place that is popular with children is the Parque Papagayo: a large family park which has life-sized replicas of a Spanish galleon and the space shuttle Columbia, three artificial lakes, an aviary, a skating rink, rides, go-karts and more.

Beaches, Lagoons & Islands

Beaches

There are a number of beaches in the Acapulco Bay and the immediate coastline.

In the bay proper there are the La Angosta (in the Quebrada), Caleta, Caletilla, Dominguillo, Tlacopanocha, Hornos, Hornitos, Honda, Tamarindo, Condesa, Guitarrón, Icacos, Playuela, Playuelilla and Playa del Secreto.

In the adjoining, smaller Bay of Puerto Marqués there is Pichilingue, Las Brisas, and Playa Roqueta.
Facing open ocean just northwest of the bays is Pie de la Cuesta and southeast are Playa Revolcadero, Playa Aeromar, Playa Encantada and Barra Vieja.

In addition to sunbathing, the beaches around the bay offer a number of services, such as boat rentals, boat tours, horseback riding, scuba diving and other aquatic sports.

Lagoons

Two lagoons are in the area, Coyuca to the northwest of Acapulco Bay and Tres Palos to the southeast. Both lagoons have mangroves and offer boat tours. Tres Palos also has sea turtle nesting areas which are protected.

Roqueta Island

One popular cruise is from Caletilla Beach to Roqueta Island, which has places to snorkel, have lunch, visit a small zoo and a lighthouse. Isla de la Roqueta has a beautiful beach with shallow areas for families to play.

There is also an underwater statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe here, created in 1958 by Armando Quesado in memory of a group of divers who died here.

Many of the scuba-diving tours come to this area as well, where there are sunken ships, sea mountains, and cave rock formations.

Another popular activity is deep-sea fishing. The major attraction is sail fishing. Fish caught here have weighed between 89 and 200 pounds. Sailfish are so plentiful that boat captains have been known to bet with a potential customer that if he does not catch anything, the trip is free.

You can get there by water taxi (around $3.50 USD) or the glass-bottom harbour tour boat (around $7 USD) from Caleta Beach.

Pie de la Cuesta

Pie de la Cuesta is a quiet strip of land roughly 6 miles northwest of Acapulco, bordered on one side by the Pacific Ocean and on the other by a freshwater lake (Laguna de Cuyoca) on the other. The lagoon is extremely tranquil, but tourists are advised not to enter the Pacific Ocean at Pie de la Cuesta, because the surf is very dangerous. One can reach Pie de la Cuesta via bus. If you are on the Bay Side along the Costera, between Escudero and Diego Mendoza, look for the bus that says Pie de la Cuesta PLAYA LUCES. These go up that narrow strip of land. You can also take one that says San Isidro and that will let you off in the Zocalo in Pie de la Cuesta, but you have to walk a couple blocks to the strip and about a half kilometer up to the lagoon.

Puerto Marquez

Puerto Marquez located at a smaller bay just east of Acapulco, Puerto Marquez sees much less tourist traffic than Acapulco. One side of the bay is completely covered by adjacent beach-side restaurants offering very reasonably priced food and beer. The restaurant owners (as well as most other locals) are very friendly to tourists and some will offer discounts or a free round of beer to groups. Tourists and locals alike munch on shrimp enchiladas, sip negra modelos, wade in the waters, and enjoy the breathtaking sunsets. Fewer locals speak English in Puerto Marquez than in Acapulco, so it is recommended that visitors speak some rudimentary Spanish. One can reach Puerto Marquez via bus.

Gastronomy

Acapulco’s gastronomy is very rich, the following are typical dishes from the region:

Spicy and fragrant such are the appetizing dishes of Acapulco, a coastal town which has in the fishes and the seafood its best heralds of taste, and in the traditional morisqueta – white rice – an inseparable ally, a loyal gastronomy squire.

Delights from where to choose on a varied menu, with famous stews such as the pescado a la talla – culinary bastion of the well attended beach of Barra Vieja -, prepared with mayonnaise and a special sauce based on chilli; or the extremely accepted pellizcada, a traditional “Mexican Whim” in an Acapulco version, in which the corn omelette is stuffed with fish, olives, tomatoes and diverse spices.

A recipe that deserves the palate’s attention is the Acapulco cebiche, in which small pieces of fish are cooked with lemon juice, accompanied by onions, olives, capers, tomatoes, oregano, salt, small cubes of avocado and cilantro.

Caldo de cabeza de pescado (“fish-head broth”), a powerful though tasty substance, or the octopuses on vinegar, stuffed squids, fish tamales with mint, clams with sausage and a very long and tasty etcetera that you should not miss.

Relleno is baked pork with a variety of vegetables and fruits such as potatoes, raisins, carrots and chiles. It is eaten with bread called bolillo.

And since people do not live on seafood only, make use of your stay at Acapulco to taste the traditional food of the state of Guerrero, an inspiring crossbred gastronomy which conjugates pre-Hispanic and European tastes, creating sublime recipes that should not be ignored by fine-food advocates.

A result of this crossbred is the famous pozole. Pozole is a soup with a salsa base (it can be white, red or green), corn, meat that can be either pork or chicken and it is accompanied with ‘antojitos’ like tostadas, tacos and tamales.

Pozole must be preceded by some drinks of mescal – a strong and very dry liquor – a cactus brandy- that alerts and prepares the stomach for what is to come next: a weighty bowl (pozolero) overflowing with a white broth comprising lemon, oregano, onion, avocado, green chilli and crackling fried delicious sardines.

There is also the green pozole, of similar preparation but the broth has this colour. In either case, both are served accompanied by fried omelettes daubed with cream and powdered with cheese.

Another exquisite dish, though a lot lighter, is the fiambre (cold meat), a combination of pork, chicken and beef seasoned with jalapeno chillies, grapes, raisins, almonds and olives.

Whenever you wish to sweeten your day, do not miss the tulips of tropical fruits, little balls of pasta stuffed with sorbet ice cream and a sauce made of several fruits, the pastry filled with Acapulco coconut, and tamarind, and even sweet chilli.

When drinking, take into consideration the petaquilla, a beverage based on mescal and a squash of wild grapes of the region, known as the Blood of Backus, a well considered and big item liquor in this part of the world.

If exploring exotic tastes is not your favourite hobby, you do not need to worry. Acapulco has excellent and innumerable restaurants worshiping international gastronomy.

Holidays & Festivals

Festival Internacional de la Nao

One cultural event that is held yearly in Acapulco is the Festival Internacional de la Nao, it takes place in the Fort of San Diego, located near the Zócalo in downtown of the city.

The Festival honors the remembrance of the city’s interaction and trades with Oriental territories which started back in the Sixteenth Century.

The Nao Festival consists of cultural activities with the support of organizations and embassies from India, China, Japan, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea. The variety of events go from film projections, musical interpretations and theatre to gastronomical classes, some of the events are specifically for kids.

French Festival

The annual French Festival takes place throughout Acapulco city and offers a multitude of events that cement cultural links between Mexico and France.

The main features are a fashion show and a gourmet food fair. The Cinépolis Galerías Diana and the Teatro Juan Ruíz de Alarcón present French and French literary figures who give talks on their specialised subjects. Even some of the local nightclubs feature French DJs.

Other festivals celebrated here include Carnival, the feast of San Isidro Labrador on 15 May, and in November, a crafts and livestock fair called the Nao de China.

Spring break

Over 100,000 American teenagers and young adults travel to resort areas and balnearios throughout Mexico during spring break each year.

The main reason students head to Mexico is the 18-year-old drinking age (versus 21 for the United States), something that has been marketed by tour operators along with the sun and ocean. This has become attractive since the 1990s, especially since more traditional spring break places such as Daytona Beach, Florida, have enacted restrictions on drinking and other behaviors. This legislation has pushed spring break visitation to various parts of Mexico, with Acapulco as one of the top destinations.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Cancún had been favored as the spring break destination of choice. However, Cancún has taken some steps to control the reckless behavior associated with the event, and students have been looking for someplace new. This has led many more to choose Acapulco, in spite of the fact that for many travelers, the flight is longer and more expensive than to Cancún. Many are attracted by the glitzy hotels on the south side and Acapulco’s famous nightlife.

In 2008, 22,500 students came to Acapulco for spring break. Hotels did not get that many in 2009, due mostly to the economic situation in the United States, and partially because of scares of drug-related violence.

In February 2009, the US State Department issued a travel alert directed at college students planning spring break trips to Acapulco. The warning was a result of violent activity springing from Mexico’s drug cartel débâcle and took college campuses by storm, with some schools going so far as to warn their students about the risks of travel to Mexico over spring break. The New York Times tracked the travels of a Penn student on spring break in Acapulco just a week after the dissemination of the email, while Bill O’Reilly devoted a segment of his show, The O’Reilly Factor, to urge students to stay away from Acapulco. In June 2009, a number of incidents occurred between the drug cartel and the government. These included coordinated attacks on police headquarters and open battles in the streets, involving large-caliber weapons and grenades. However, no incidents of violence against spring breakers were reported.

Transportation

In the city, there are many buses and taxi services one can take to get from place to place, but most of the locals choose to walk to their destinations.

Colectivo

However, an important mode of transportation is the government subsidized ‘Colectivo’ cab system. These cabs cost 13 pesos per person to ride, but they are not private. The driver will pick up more passengers as long as seats are available, and will transport them to their destination based on first-come first-served rules.

The colectivos each travel a designated area of the city, the three main ones being Costera, Colosio, Coloso, or a mixture of the three.

Coloso cabs travel mainly to old Acapulco.
Colosio cabs travel through most of the tourist area of Acapulco.
Costera cabs drive up and down the coast of Acapulco, where most of the hotels for visitors are located.

Bus

The bus system is highly complex and can be rather confusing to an outsider. As far as transportation goes, it is the cheapest form, other than walking, in Acapulco. The most expensive buses have air conditioning, while the cheaper buses do not.

Buses are worth experiencing even if you don´t want to travel on them. Destinations are printed on the front window of each bus. There is no need to be at one of the buses regular stops in order to get on. Just wave your arm or look at the driver. He will stop and encourage you to get in. In fact, drivers will stop and try to get you ride with them if you are even walking in the same direction that they are driving in.

For tourists, the Acapulco city government has established a system of yellow buses with Acapulco painted on the side of them. These buses are not for tourists only, but are certainly the nicest and most uniform of the bus systems. These buses travel the tourist section of Acapulco, driving up and down the coast.

The bus system in Acapulco has been fully privatised – each bus is privately owned. This means they can decorate them however they want. Pink buses cruise around blaring out traditional Mexican music, racing against ones decked out in UV lights pulsing out club music into the night air. The complete lack of suspension and the bizarre incentive for the buses to race each other to each bus stop as they compete for passengers makes for an unforgettable ride.

There are buses with specific routes and destinations, generally written on their windshields or shouted out by a barker riding in the front seat. Perhaps the most unusual thing about the privately operated buses is the fact that they are all highly decorated and personalized, with decals and home-made interior designs that range from comic book scenes, to pornography, and even to “Hello Kitty” themes.

The Acabus infrastructure has a length of 36.2 kilometres (22.5 miles), counts with 16 stations that spread through the city of Acapulco and 5 routes. This project will help organize traffic because the buses now have a specific line on the roads and there would be more control over transportation and passengers.

Taxis

Taxis are everywhere in Acapulco. Since they are unmetered, make sure that you agree on a fare before entering. Always negotiate.

The old Volkswagen beetle cabs are cheaper than newer air conditioned cars.

Shared Cabs (usually white with yellow) run between major destinations and are very convenient. They usually display their destination in large letters and charge a flat fee on $12 pesos, irrespective of distance.

You should not have to pay more than $50 pesos per cab ride within the Costera area but fares can reach as much as $120 pesos for rides from La Costera to La Quebrada, Princess Hotel (Revolcadero Beach) and the airport.

Alternatively most hotels can arrange for taxi transportation for a fixed fare (usually inflated). Prices will usually be about 50% more expensive than for a taxi hailed on the street.

Car Rental

Rental Car Although the rates aren’t always low, and the cheapest cars tend to be manual transmission, renting a car is a good way of getting around the city. Although if you are just planning to stay at the hotel, then it’s a no, but otherwise is a good idea. Traffic is not that heavy, except on Spring Break and the Mexican Holidays, and parking in hotels is not expensive (3-4 USD for your stay), and gas is very cheap.

Private Autos It is generally unwise to try to drive yourself around Acapulco. Traffic is heavy and drivers aggressive, parking is scarce, streets do not run in a neat grid, and even change names unexpectedly. Most, if not all streets lack signs indicating their name. In addition, foreign tourists driving rental cars can become targets of the Acapulco police officers, who will accept payment (~$400 pesos) for violations in person at the time of pullover, without providing a receipt or proof of violation or clearing of said violation.

Airport

Juan N. Alvarez International Airport (ACA) is well connected domestically and internationally. Flights from Mexico City to Acapulco take approximately 45 minutes and ground transportation from the airport to the major tourist area of La Costera takes more or less the same time. Round trip fares depending on the season and class, range from USD$23 to USD$50.

The safest way to arrive to your hotel is by prebooking a transfer from one of the following well-known companies:

Gray Line Shuttle
Amstar DMC Acapulco Private Airport Transfers

Stay safe

According to the U.S. Department of State, drug-related violence has been increasing in Acapulco. Although this violence is not targeted at foreign residents or tourists, U.S. citizens in these areas should be vigilant in their personal safety.

For the average tourist, the most frequent danger comes from local police. Bribery and extortion is at every corner. Basically, if you are driving a nice clean car (doesn’t matter if it’s a rental) you can expect with high probability that you will be stopped and blamed for driving through a red light (even if the traffic lights were turned off), not using your mirror, or incorrectly using traffic lanes, etc.

Tourist Assistance + Emergency

You can dial 078 from any phone, where you can find free information about tourist attractions, airports, travel agencies, car rental companies, embassies and consulates, fairs and exhibitions, hotels, hospitals, financial services, migratory and other issues.

Or dial the toll-free (in Mexico) number 01-800-006-8839.

You can also request information to the email correspondencia@sectur.gob.mx

MORE EMERGENCY NUMBERS:

General Information: 040 (not free)

National Emergency Service: 911

Radio Patrols: 066
Police (emergency): 060
Civil Protection: +52(55)5683-2222
Anonymous Complaint: 089

Setravi (Transport Mobility): +52(55)5209-9913
Road Emergency: 074

Cruz Roja: 065 o +52(55)5557-5757
Firefighters: 068 o +52(55)5768-3700


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