Mexico’s original seaside resort, Acapulco has enticed vacationers for more than half a century. The Kennedys and the Clintons honeymooned there, Elizabeth Taylor was married there, Placido Domingo and Danny DeVito have homes there, and other film stars have been relaxing beneath its palms since the heydays of Errol Flynn and Frank Sinatra. These days, Acapulco is bigger and, in some ways, better than ever.

The seaside city of Acapulco is also a backyard beach to residents of Mexico City (the national capital is just 250 mi/400 km away). As a result, Acapulco feels more authentically Mexican than resorts such as Cancun or Los Cabos, which are tailored to vacationers from abroad.

A playground that never sleeps, Acapulco is home to dazzling restaurants and decadent discos. Dine on sushi one night and posole (a regional specialty) the next. And if heavy metal and pulsing techno are not your thing, belt out a song at a karaoke bar. But don’t expect to get much sleep. The way to experience Acapulco is to dance all night, sleep half the day and fuel your body with sun and spicy foods in between.


Acapulco Bay lies on the Pacific coast of Mexico—the so-called Mexican Riviera. Towering over the bay and its beaches are condominium towers and once-magnificent hotels, most of them built several decades ago and beginning to show their age. At night, the bay’s crescent-shaped shoreline resembles a movie star’s glittering necklace. By day the view is dominated by the high, verdant mountains that wrap around the port, sealing it off from the interior of the country.

The stretch of coastline on either side of the Acapulco Bay inlet runs roughly east to west along the Pacific. About 5 mi/8 km from the Acapulco airport, which runs along the ocean east of the city, you’ll find an area called Acapulco Diamante. It has three golf courses and several luxury hotels.

Carretera Escenica (Scenic Highway), the road from the airport, heads west, hugging the shoreline before turning into the mountains. It passes lovely Marques Bay, with its luxury hotels and elegant villas dotting the hillside, before reaching Acapulco Bay, where it becomes Avenida Costera Miguel Aleman (usually called the Costera for short). The arcing stretch of beachfront and hotels that lie along the bay is sometimes called the Tourist Zone or Golden Zone.

The Costera passes west by Papagayo Park and then dips southwest into the older part of the city. That’s where cruise ships and freighters tie up below Fort San Diego. Beyond lies the Zocalo, or main plaza, which is the center of the downtown area. The Costera continues south around a hook-shaped peninsula toward a pair of small bays, Caleta and Caletilla, whose beaches are favorites with budget vacationers. Acapulco’s first hotels, now inexpensive places to stay and popular with Europeans and Canadians, were built in the hills above these bays.