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Acapulco Spotlight

Mexico's legendary beach resort is back in the limelight

By Elissa Richard

May 1st, 2007

One of the Mexican Riviera's most fabled hotspots, Acapulco is deeply ingrained in the sun seeker's subconscious as a destination worthy of pilgrimage. The buzz began in the mid-20th century when Hollywood's glitterati – including John Wayne, Richard Burton, and Elizabeth Taylor – started retreating here. Songsters like Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan went so far as to intone the city's fun-to-say name in their lyrics. Even political luminaries were drawn to Acapulco's lively beaches; the resort counts John and Jackie Kennedy and Bill and Hillary Clinton among its thousands of honeymooners. But beyond the celebrity lore, it's the firsthand experience – an enchanting mix of extraordinary natural surroundings, relaxed cultural mores, and, come sundown, no-holds-barred revelry – that cements Acapulco's status as the "Queen of Mexican Beach Resorts" in the heart of every beach bum that visits.

Some say the resort has had its heyday, but like a fallen celeb pushing her way back into the spotlight, Acapulco is in the midst of a comeback. This reinvention is most obvious in the new beachfront Diamante (Diamond) zone known as the "New Acapulco," a luxurious stretch of sand at the forefront of the latest chapter in the resort's storied history. The water pollution that plagued the main bay and threatened Acapulco's demise in the '80s and early '90s has since been cleaned up, strict policing has clamped down on the infrequent brushes with regional drug cartels, and the city government has invested over $1 billion in infrastructure improvements. Now visitors can once again concentrate on what made Acapulco so appealing in the first place – the sun, the surf, and the sand.

If you find yourself in Acapulco with just three days, spend at least two of them enjoying the powdery sands and temperate water, tropical drink in hand. Don't miss being wowed by Acapulco's bronzed, daredevil cliff divers, and be sure to schedule a sunset horseback ride on Playa Revolcadero. Head to the Las Brisas neighborhood and splurge on dinner at an upscale hillside restaurant overlooking the twinkling lights of Acapulco Bay, and cap off at least one of your nights by indulging in some serious partying, courtesy of Acapulco's vivacious nightlife scene. Five days allots time to stroll the historic Old Acapulco area, with its centuries-old fort and laid-back zócalo (town square). Plan an up-close encounter with the region's tropical flora and fauna by tacking on a visit to the botanical gardens, as well as a leisurely boat tour on one of the neighboring lagoons. Spend an afternoon snorkeling off Roqueta Island, swimming with dolphins at the CICI water park, or teeing off at one of five area golf courses. One week will allow you even more time to enjoy the beaches and ocean – you can add a deep-sea fishing trip or bay cruise to your itinerary; or head out on a day trip to the charming colonial town of Taxco, world-renowned for its master silversmiths.

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