Before Cancún and Ixtapa, Acapulco was Mexico’s original party town. With stunning topography of soaring cliffs, curling into a series of wide bays and more intimate coves, fringed with pearl beaches, backed by jungle-green hills and crowned with 24-hour nightlife. It was dubbed the ‘Pearl of the Pacific,’ during its heyday when Acapulco was the playground for the rich and famous, including Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor and Judy Garland. John F Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline honeymooned here, and it was immortalized in films such as Elvis’ Fun in Acapulco and TV’s The Love Boat.
That topography hasn’t changed, and Acapulco remains gorgeous, though overdeveloped. Worse, the city’s reputation was tarnished by years of violent battles in Mexico’s ongoing drug wars, which spilled into the streets, along with rolling heads (ask any cab driver). Tourism was gutted, and countless innocent working people have been affected. But the truth is that violence is no more and Acapulco is not only safe but offers pockets of calm: romantic cliffside restaurants, the impressive 17th-century fort, a world-class botanical garden and the old town’s charming shady zócalo (plaza). And when you tire of the crowds, secluded beaches and seaside villages such as Pie de la Cuestaare just a short drive away. Unfortunately, Acapulco remains under a gray cloud. Its latest challenge was Hurricane Manuel and the floods it spawned in September, 2013.
Acapulco borders the 11km shore of the Bahía de Acapulco (Acapulco Bay). Old Acapulco – centered on the cathedral and adjacent zócalo – comprises the western part of the city; Acapulco Dorado heads east around the bay from Playa Hornos to Playa Icacos; and Acapulco Diamante is a newer luxury resort area southeast of Acapulco proper, between the Bahía de Acapulco and the airport.
Acapulco’s principal bayside avenue, Avenida Costera Miguel Alemán – often called ‘La Costera’ – hugs the shoreline all the way around the bay. Past the naval base, La Costera becomes Carretera Escénica, which joins Hwy 200 after 9km at the turnoff to Puerto Marqués. Hwy 200 then leads southeast past ritzy Playa Revolcadero to the airport.