As an international mecca for sun and fun, Acapulco is legendary. The name evokes images of blue water, rugged cliffs and picture-perfect sunsets. Whether you want to relax on a white-sand beach or shop at first-class malls and boutiques, you'll find Acapulco has just what you are looking for.
The city, built at the foot of the Mexican highlands, hugs Acapulco Bay; it is nestled between the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Sierra Madre Mountains on the other.
HistoryAcapulco was originally a part of the Aztec empire, though no major ruins remain in the area. After the arrival of Hern n Cort‚s and his troops in 1530, it was quickly established as a busy ship-building center and an important naval base for Spain. By the late 1500s, the city was a major port of call for treasure ships laden with silk, spices, porcelain and ivory from the Orient, and gold and silver from South America.
The imported goods were subsequently transported overland by mule to Mexico City and then to Veracruz, where the expensive cargo was shipped to Spain. When word of these opulent shiploads reached Europe, Dutch and English pirates began raiding and plundering the Spanish galleons.
For protection against these buccaneers, the Fuerte de San Diego was built. The star-shaped fort, which stands just outside the town center, replaced an earlier structure destroyed by an earthquake in 1776. The lucrative trade with the Far East ceased when Spain was pushed out.
Acapulco remained a remote fishing village until 1922, when a road linked it with Mexico City. But it was not until 10 years later that people began making the trip from the capital to Acapulco, where the only accommodations were boarding houses. The first hotel opened in 1934, but the real boom started after World War II. Acapulco's natural beauty soon attracted the attention of international jet-setters, giving the town--now the heart of the Mexican Riviera--its world-renowned cosmopolitan air.
SightseeingAlong the Costera Miguel Alem n, the city's principal thoroughfare, you'll find most of the major hotels, restaurants and shopping centers.
Located just across the Costera from the cruise-ship terminal, the Fuerte de San Diego now houses the Acapulco Historical Museum. Its many displays recall the city's earliest inhabitants.
The focal point of Acapulco Tradicional, the city's bustling center, is the z¢calo, the main plaza. The eccentrically designed Acapulco Cathedral, constructed in 1930, overlooks the square; its Byzantine towers were built atop an uncompleted movie theater.
Papagayo Park, located on the Costera in front of Los Hornos Beach, features a walk-through aviary with hundreds of species of birds, a monkey island, several rides, an aerial tramway and a botanical garden.
While you're on the Costera, visit the Centro Acapulco--a $50 million cultural and convention center sprawling across 35 bayfront acres. Its design was based on classic Mayan architecture, with fountains and landscaped gardens. The complex's Archaeological Garden is lined with excellent reproductions of pre-Columbian sculpture.
Nearby is the CICI Park, a fun place for the whole family. The park includes a wave pool, a play pool, water slides and seal, dolphin and bird shows. There are also dining facilities and a beach club. Magic Sea World, located at Caleta Beach, offers similar activities for children.
A highlight of any visit to Acapulco is watching the world-famous cliff divers of La Quebrada. Their dive into a narrow cove from atop a 130-foot-high cliff requires split-second timing. It is a spectacular feat and can be seen from the cliffs below the Calinda Mirador Hotel.
One of the best ways to see many of these sights is by taking a Shore Excursion. Check with your Cruise Director for more information.
BeachesAcapulco has 38 beaches, and many are among the most beautiful in the world. Morning beaches (facing east) are ideal for people seeking solitude; afternoon beaches have justified reputations for liveliness.
The traditional spots to spend the morning are Caleta Beach and Caletilla Beach, located on the west side of the bay at the end of the Costera. Their afternoon counterparts are the long, sweeping beaches of Los Hornos and Hornitos, on the Costera east of the Fuerte de San Diego. Another popular afternoon beach is La Condesa (situated between the Condesa del Mar and the Ritz hotels), which starts hopping after 1 o'clock.
SportsAcapulco Bay provides perfect conditions for a wide variety of water sports, including waterskiing and sailing. Experts and novices alike can partake in snorkeling or scuba diving; the waters are calm and top-notch instruction and equipment rental can be arranged at establishments on the Costera, either downtown or in front of the Fuerte de San Diego. Sailboards, Jet Skis, giant inner tubes and other water toys can be rented at La Condesa Beach. Revolcadero is the best beach for surfing as well as horseback riding.
Just a 10-minute ferry ride from Caleta Beach, Roqueta Island has a splendid, uncrowded beach and several places where you can rent water-sports equipment. A submerged statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico, provides interesting snorkeling just offshore; glass-bottom boat tours are also available.
The waters around Acapulco offer an angler's bounty of sailfish, marlin, shark and mahimahi. You'll find plenty of charters to choose from at the docks near the z¢calo. If golf is your game, there are two championship 18-hole courses shared by the Princess and Pierre Marqu‚s hotels. An 18-hole public course is located at the Club de Golf across from the Elcano Hotel. Tennis courts are open to the public at many of the major hotels.
ShoppingThe opportunities for shopping in Acapulco are extensive; the city has become known for its modern shopping malls. The two-level Acapulco Plaza Galer¡a, located inside the Acapulco Plaza Hotel, has nearly 50 stores offering everything from clothing to handicrafts.
Next door to the Acapulco Plaza Hotel is Plaza Bah¡a, a three-story air-conditioned complex modeled after the luxury shopping malls in the United States. The 60 shops here carry unique Mexican designs along with well-known labels of high-quality sportswear and designer fashions.
Many shops close for about two hours in the mid-afternoon and reopen around 4 p.m.
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