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Introducing Acapulco

Before Cancún and Ixtapa, Acapulco was Mexico’s original party town. With stunning yellow beaches and a 24-hour nightlife, it was dubbed the ‘Pearl of the Pacific.’ During its heyday, 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. It was immortalized in films such as Elvis’ Fun in Acapulco and TV’s The Love Boat.

Nowadays, the golden arc of beaches surrounding Bahía de Acapulco remains as gorgeous as ever, but the city’s reputation has been severely tarnished by years of violent incidents in Mexico’s ongoing drug wars. Many tourists are staying away, and locals have initiated an all-out campaign to bring them back. The city’s new slogan, plastered on billboards all over town, is ‘Habla bien de ACA,’ a play on words that can mean, ‘Speak well of this place,’ or ‘Speak well of Acapulco.’ Graffiti on the local buses also makes overt reference to the damage to normal people’s livelihoods caused by the drug trade.

Bustling Acapulco does offer 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 Cuesta are just a short drive away.

Acapulco borders the 11km shore of the Bahía de Acapulco (The 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. From Playa Caleta on the Península de las Playas, it curves north towards the zócalo, then continues east along the beachfront past Parque Papagayo (a large, shady park popular with Mexican families) all the way to Playa Icacos and the naval base at the bay’s southeastern edge. Most of Acapulco’s hotels, restaurants, discos and points of interest are along or near La Costera, especially near its midpoint at La Diana traffic circle. 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.