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Located along the white sands of a crescent-shaped bay along Mexico's Pacific Coast, Acapulco is one of Mexico's original tourist destinations. The city remains a favorite for its spirited nightlife, inviting beaches and charming cityscape....

Categories: Mexico

Acapulco is one of the most exciting travel destinations in the world. Known for its fantastic nightlife, picturesque beaches, limitless watersports, and world-famous cliff divers, Acapulco offers plenty of opportunities for sightseeing and adventure.
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14-night Inca & Aztec Kingdoms - 2026 World Cruise Segment

Price: $4,799 - # of Days: 14 days

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60-night Circle South America - 2026 World Cruise Segment

Price: $21,049 - # of Days: 60 days

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77-night Spanning The Americas Voyage - 2026 World Cruise Segment

Price: $27,999 - # of Days: 77 days

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17-night Pacific & Island Holiday Voyage - 2026 World Cruise Segment

Price: $6,999 - # of Days: 17 days

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12-night Pacific Pathways Voyage

Price: $3,599 - # of Days: 12 days

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31-night Caribbean to Alaska Cruise

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197-night World Odyssey Voyage

Price: $62,999 - # of Days: 197 days

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180-night Around the World Voyage

Price: $57,999 - # of Days: 180 days

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25-night Panama Canal Cruise

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Mexico's original seaside resort, Acapulco has enticed vacationers since the 1930s. The Kennedys and the Clintons honeymooned there, Elizabeth Taylor was married there, Placido Domingo has a home there, and other film stars have been relaxing beneath its palms since the heydays of Errol Flynn and Frank Sinatra. These days, Acapulco is bigger and, in some ways, better than ever.

The coastal city of Acapulco is also a backyard beach to residents of Mexico City (the national capital is just 250 mi/400 km away). As a result, Acapulco feels more authentically Mexican than other resort towns such as Cancun or Los Cabos, which are tailored to vacationers from abroad.

A playground that never sleeps, Acapulco is home to dazzling restaurants and decadent discos. Dine on sushi one night and pozole (a regional specialty) the next. And if heavy metal and pulsing techno are not your thing, belt out a song at a karaoke bar. But don't expect to get much sleep. The way to experience Acapulco is to dance all night, sleep half the day and fuel your body with sun and spicy foods in between.

Must See or Do

Sights—The cliff divers at La Quebrada; a horse and carriage ride past the shops and hotels of the Costera; downtown Acapulco, especially the Zocalo (main plaza); Caleta Beach and nearby Isla de Roqueta.

Museums—The Museo Historico de Acapulco in El Fuerte de San Diego; Palma Sola archaeological zone; Centro Cultural Acapulco.

Memorable Meals—Fresh seafood-studded pasta and stunning ocean views at Becco al Mare; pozole (pork and hominy stew) traditionally served on Thursday at Zapata, Villa y Compania; spicy Thai-Mex plates at Zibu.

Late Night—A sunset cruise on Acapulco Bay; clubbing with a view of Acapulco Bay at Palladium; late-night decadence at Baby'O.

Walks—Strolling along Revolcadero Beach between the Fairmont Pierre Marques and Fairmont Acapulco Princess hotels; window-shopping in La Zona Dorada or La Isla Shopping Village; exploring Papagayo Park; taking in the lively scene along the "strip" between the Condesa and Calinda hotels after sunset.

Especially for Kids—The carnival rides and go-kart track in Papagayo Park; swimming and playing at the water park, El Rollo Acapulco; taking a glass-bottomed-boat ride to Isla de Roqueta.


Acapulco Bay lies on the Pacific coast of Mexico—the Mexican Riviera. Towering over the bay and its beaches are condominium towers and hotels. At night, the bay's crescent-shaped shoreline resembles a movie star's glittering necklace. By day the view is dominated by the high, verdant mountains that wrap around the port, sealing it off from the interior of the country.

The stretch of coastline on either side of the Acapulco Bay inlet runs roughly east to west along the Pacific. About 5 mi/8 km from the Acapulco airport, which runs along the ocean east of the city, you'll find an area called Acapulco Diamante. It has golf courses and an ever-growing number of luxury hotels.

Carretera Escenica (Scenic Highway), the road from the airport, heads west, hugging the shoreline before turning toward the mountains. It passes lovely Marques Bay, with its luxury hotels and elegant villas dotting the hillside, before reaching Acapulco Bay, where it becomes Avenida Costera Miguel Aleman (usually called "Costera" for short). The arching stretch of beachfront and hotels that lie along the bay is sometimes called the Tourist Zone or Golden Zone.

The Costera passes west by Papagayo Park and then dips southwest into the older part of the city. That's where cruise ships and freighters tie up below Fort San Diego. Beyond lies the Zocalo, or main plaza, which is the center of the downtown area. The Costera continues south around a hook-shaped peninsula toward a pair of small bays, Caleta and Caletilla, whose beaches are favorites with budget vacationers. Acapulco's first hotels, now inexpensive places to stay and popular with Europeans and Canadians, were built in the hills above these bays.

If you turn inland from the Costera (heading north from the shore) you'll find neighborhoods marked by poverty.

Note: Some businesses in Acapulco are located on unnumbered streets and labeled "s/n," for sin numero (without number). The addresses are described using the closest intersection.


Acapulco was an Amerindian fishing village until it was settled by the Spanish in the early 1500s. It then became a major port for Spain's trade with Asia. After pirates began plundering the area, the Spanish erected Fort San Diego, which was completed in 1616, to protect their ships. Later, toward the end of the Mexican War for Independence in the 1800s, the fort was the site of a Mexican victory over the Spanish.

When the Spanish left in 1821, the town's importance declined. Then, in 1927, a road over the mountains linked Acapulco with the rest of Mexico, and the first hotel opened seven years later. Acapulco evolved as a resort town because it was the closest beach to Mexico City. The trip there is downhill almost all the way—the altitude drops more than 7,000 ft/2,100 m to sea level during the drive.

Following World War II, Hollywood discovered Acapulco, and it became a fashionable hideaway for those who had the time and money needed to get there. Direct international air service began in 1964, bringing with it the jet set and a boom in hotel construction along the bay. The dollars that tourists squandered so freely inspired the Mexican government to promote the development of "more Acapulcos" from the Caribbean to Baja California a decade later.

In the years that followed, these competing destinations caused Acapulco to suffer, and it fell into disrepair. Rejuvenation efforts began in the 1990s, but Hurricane Pauline slammed into the city in 1997. It caused deadly mud slides in the hills surrounding the city. The damage highlighted the great economic chasm between the glitzier hotel zone and the rest of Acapulco, which is poor, crowded and polluted. In more recent years, Acapulco has been hit by several hurricanes and tropical storms that resulted in hundreds of fatalities, revealing that the geography and infrastructure of the entire area still make the resort town vulnerable to weather events of this type.

Renovations in the resort area, resulted in the development of Acapulco Diamante—an upscale resort area along Marques Bay that replaced a shantytownlike beach. More condominiums, which are rented out as accommodations, were built near the airport. Luxury hotels continue to spread out along the Diamante area near the airport, and Old Acapulco in the downtown area is constantly being improved. Plans are in place to further improve this area and are aimed at development and tourist appeal with a focus on sports, medicine, food and green space. This Princess Diamond Master Plan most notably includes a 10,000-seat stadium that will host the Telcel Mexican Tennis Open.

The rustic area west of downtown called Pie de la Cuesta, with its Coyuca Lagoon, has developed more small inns that cater to travelers looking for a quiet, laid-back ambience, far from the high-energy hotel zone.


During the 1930s and 1940s, Johnny Weissmuller, better known as Tarzan, used to hang out with John Wayne and Errol Flynn at the lovely Hotel Flamingo. He later bought the hotel in partnership with Wayne and other film stars. Weissmuller kept a house in Old Acapulco, died there in the 1980s and is buried in Acapulco.

Acapulco means "place of dense reeds" in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, who ruled most of Mexico before the Spanish arrived.

Acapulco is famous for having the first major rock 'n' roll club in Mexico in the 1960s, called Tequila A Go Go, which drew celebrities of every ilk and launched its reputation as an after-dark mecca. Today, it's a shopping mall.

The resort city's most famous drink is the coco loco—tequila, coconut milk and a splash of secret ingredients served in a green coconut—created at the Hotel Flamingo in 1935. The heyday of Hollywood made it world-famous.

From the 16th to the 18th centuries, Acapulco was the site of a bustling international trade fair centered around the annual arrival of the Manila galleon, a Spanish ship that was loaded with silk, porcelain, spices and other treasures from Asia.

Jennifer Lopez shot a reggaeton music video in Acapulco; Madonna, among other celebrities, has been spotted at Baby'O disco club; and Jennifer Aniston often escapes to a beach mansion in the hills of Las Brisas.

To keep the beaches clean, a flotilla of yellow skiffs patrols the bay, scooping up trash in nets, and hotels scour their beaches every morning. But many people believe the water is still polluted. You might want to stick to sunning on the beach and swimming in the hotel pool.


Cruise ships stopping in Acapulco sail into Acapulco Bay and tie up at a dock west of the hotel strip (also known as La Zona Dorada, or the Golden Zone) along the Costera Miguel Aleman, usually just called the Costera. There's room for two or three ships. When the berths are full, ships may anchor in the bay and tender passengers to the dock in smaller crafts.

A hospitality desk in the terminal building offers information to cruise-ship passengers; it's open whenever a ship is in port. Other services include tour guides, money exchange, ATM, a communications center with internet access, telephone services, a bar, handicrafts, silver and beachwear shops, a pharmacy, a lively restaurant and a fleet of taxis outside the terminal.

From the dock, you can walk across the Costera and up to Fort San Diego on an overhead bridge that overlooks the cruise pier. Old Acapulco's main plaza, the Zocalo, is a five-minute walk northwest, but the main Costera tourist zone is much farther east—you may want to take a cab.

Shore Excursions

Shore excursions—and their prices—vary from cruise line to cruise line. Some will take you on a tour of the city's attractions and celebrity homes, some will explore nearby towns such as Taxco (if you are in port for more than one night), and some will engage your sense of adventure with deep-sea fishing or a trip up a river through the jungle by jet boat. Many cruise lines and outfitters also offer the experience of watching the famous Acapulco cliff divers.

Check with your travel agent for additional information.

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