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Acapulco, Mexico’s original party town, has a stunning topography of soaring cliffs curling into a series of wide bays and intimate coves, fringed with sandy beaches and backed by jungle-green hills. It was dubbed the ‘Pearl of the Pacific’ during its heyday as a playground for the rich and famous, including Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Elizabeth Taylor.

Acapulco remains gorgeous, though overdeveloped. The city’s reputation has been tarnished by years of violent battles in Mexico’s ongoing drug wars. Despite frightening homicide statistics, the violence is largely confined to gang disputes. International tourism has plummeted, but the city remains comparatively safe to visit. It still offers atmosphere and charm, with romantic cliffside restaurants, an impressive 17th-century fort, a world-class botanical garden, cliff divers and the old town’s shady zócalo. When you tire of the crowds, secluded beaches such as Pie de la Cuesta are a short trip away.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Acapulco.