Acapulco de Juárez has always been characterised by its stong tourist impact, both national and international. Featured in hundreds of films, a favourite of well-known 50s and 60s Hollywood stars, attractive to hotel empresarios and inverters; and today, the destination of many a Mexico City inhabitant seeking sun and sea at weekends.
One of the main attractions has remained unchanged through time; traditional Acapulco continues to be an ideal place to stroll. You can visit the Fuerte de San Diego, which served as protection against the attacks of dangerous buccaneers in piracy times; La Isla de la Roqueta, with its ‘Aca-Zoo’, a small zoo with some native species; El Zócalo, with its well-known, curiously designed Catedral; La Quebrada, and its daring divers; or the Playas de Caleta y Caletilla, popular with Acapulco locals. The activities in this district tend to be fun and cheap.
The Zona Dorada (“Golden Area”), one of the largest districts in Acapulco, extends itself throughout the Avenida Miguel Alemán, also called Costera. In this area – compared by some to Sunset Boulevard – we find a large number of exclusive shops, like Guess, Pepe Jeans, Peer, Benetton and Jean Pierre; restaurants such as Baby Lobster, La Mansión or Suntory, and some four star hotels.
If you’re take the panoramic road, towards la Quebrada, you will find a district called Pie de la Cuesta, a small fishing village, famous for offering some of the most glorious sunsets you’re ever likely to see. People travel from all over Acapulco, just to catch a glimpse of this wonderful display. The sea is open, so the large waves make it dangerous to swim in. However, you can just sit and watch the sun setting with friends, or taste a dish or two at the restaurants: Restaurante Tres Marías and Villa Rubí.
Puerto Marqués is the other district which nature seems to have blessed: natural charm and postcard sceneries abound. In this area, tourism is starting to take place at a large scale. There are large hotels which have already been planned, and its is rapidly changing. One of its greatest attractions is its seafood market.
One of the most exclusive spots, with private beaches and large luxury hotels is Punta Diamante. One such hotel is Camino Real; another is part of Las Brisas complex, with hotels and condominums. These places occupy the beaches of Pichilingue, far from the town and the Costera Miguel Alemán. This means the hotels have all sorts of services and facilities, and often host events like congresses and symposia. There are some shops and stores around this area, like Costco(formerly Price Club).
Towards the international airport, we find the area with hotel complexes and all-inclusive resorts. Some such are Hotel Princess, Mayan Palace (Vidafel) and Tres Vidas, towards the Laguna de Tres Palos. The sea here is open, which makes it ideal for practicing sports such as surfing: however, it is not ideal for swimming. Throughout the beach, one can find many places selling typical local dishes, which you will be hard pressed to find elsewhere. This is the case of the delicious Pescado a la talla dish, well-seasoned freshly caught fish.
Be it the old Acapulco which enchanted Elizabeth Taylor, or the new one – with its large hotel chains, luxury shops, theme restaurants and popular clubs – tourism is still going strong in the bay, as strong as it has ever been. If you visit Acapulco, be sure to try a bit of both worlds – you’re likely to come back time and time again.
History of Acapulco
Imagine an unspoilt paradise, on the coasts of the Pacific, where only a few animal species lived, the sun, the sea and the vegetation making up a green and ochre landscape. Thus was Acapulco Bay 3,000 years ago. The first inhabitants of this area were the Nahuas, a tribe predecessor of the Aztecs, according to archaeological findings dating back to over 2,000 years ago.
In 1521 Francisco Chico, by order of Hernán Cortés, acting on behalf of the Spanish Crown, arrived in this area, the first foreigner ever to step on Mexican territory, and named it Santa Lucía. The newly founded city quickly became an important trading centre between Asia and America, with ships constantly coming and going to and from the East, and which brought, among many other goods, spices into America. As a result of the economic boom, the population increased threefold and its wealth attracted the attention of legendary pirates such as Sir Francis Drake, Morgan and Cavendish.
In order to defend the port from the frequent pirate attacks, a castle was built: Fuerte de San Diego, which would later fall prey to an earthquake in the 18th century, and would be destroyed as a result. Acapulco is, after all, one of the most earthquake-prone areas in the country.
At the beginning of the 19th century, King Charles IV declared Acapulco ‘Ciudad Oficial’ and it became an essential part of the Spanish Crown. In 1810, José María Morelos attacked and burnt down the city during the War of Independence.
Acapulco recovered its importance during the Gold-rush. Many of the ships stopped in the port on their way to Panama, and more than a few of the passengers were so taken by the natural beauty of its beaches that they decided to settle there.
In 1920, Acapulco started its voyage towards becoming an important tourist destination, with the visit of the Prince of Wales and future King Edward VIII. Acapulco’s charm had captivated the royalty and they soon recommended the place all around Europe. The idea to create a hotel and trading infrastructure came from a Texan businessman named Pullen, responsible for the construction of what is now known as Old Acapulco. Years later, president Miguel Alemán radically transformed the port, installing electricity, drainage systems, pavements and building the first road from Mexico DF to the port, which brought much more tourism to the area.
The economy grew and foreign investment increased with it. 1950 marked the beginning of the golden age of Acapulco. It became the ‘in’ place among millionaires and Hollywood stars. Elizabeth Taylor chose Acapulco for one of her weddings; Sinatra, Eddie Fisher, J. F. Kennedy and Brigitte Bardot were regular faces on Acapulco´s beaches.
During the 60s and 70s, 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 to Acapulco.
Over the time, Acapulco has become accessible for everyone, whatever one’s tastes and budget.
During the 90s, the road known as the Ruta del Sol was built, crossing the mountains between Mexico City and Acapulco. The journey only takes three and a half hours, and this makes Acapulco one of the favourite weekend destinations among Mexico City inhabitants.
Acapulco is still expanding and its infrastructures constantly improving with the ever-growing foreign investment. No doubt it is worth visiting this Mexican destinations where the landscape and sunset are still the same as the Nahuas admired from its deserted beaches so many years ago.