Acapulco, the Queen of the Mexican Riviera Guarantees 360 Days of Sunshine
The Queen of the Mexican Riviera might be old, but she is evergreen, still remarkably beautiful and with a sunny disposition year-round.
Founded in 1550, Acapulco soon became the base of the Spanish fleet, sailing between Mexico and Asia. For more than 250 years, galleons plied in and out of Acapulco, shipping more than 200 million pesos worth of silver to the Orient in exchange for luxury goods like silk, porcelain, jade, ivory, incense, and spices bound for Spain.
Pirates like Sir Francis Drake and a motley crew of international freebooters were attracted by the floating wealth crisscrossing the Pacific. To discourage their appetite and marauding ways, the Spaniards built (1616) Fort San Diego in Acapulco. The uniquely designed building contained the most advanced architectural innovations of the period, features that made it a military engineering masterpiece. Shaped like a pentagon, the fort overlooks the ample harbor. Large enough to shelter up to two thousand troops, Fort San Diego could stock enough provisions and ammunition to last for a year. Now appropriately housing the Historical Museum of Acapulco, Fort San Diego is being gloriously renovated to its original appearance. After the Spanish Empire crumbled and the Pacific galleons vanished, Acapulco became a backwater — a sleepy fishing village.
After the Second World War, the city began its transformation to a prime vacation spot — thanks to the efforts of President Miguel Aleman. The construction of a four-lane highway, linking the city to Mexico City made Acapulco more accessible. Hollywood stars, jet-setting Americans, and European millionaires “discovered” the Pacific hideaway.
Nowadays, Acapulco is a busy and an affordable resort. Over four million people visit the resort yearly. The main reasons why they come are the warm temperature (26-29C), sunshine 360 days of the year, 35 km of golden sand beaches, plush hotels and the verdant Sierra Madre Mountains which cup the resort city. Combined, these attributes make Acapulco an earthly paradise for those who like outdoors or active vacations.
Water sports take on a whole new meaning in this magnificent setting. Scuba diving to reefs and shipwrecks, deep-sea fishing, water skiing, parasailing or just jumping the waves, make Acapulco a year-round fun destination.
The real Acapulco lies west of the hotel zone, on busy Av. Costera Miguel Aleman. It is interspersed with modest hotels, restaurants, bars, and shopping that is entirely Mexican in flavor.
Visit the Zocalo, the Cathedral of Nuestra Senora de la Soledad and pause on a park bench to people-watch in the shade of a huge ceiba (kapok) tree. Be sure to visit Dolores Olmedo’s home on Cerro de la Pinzona Street, in old Acapulco. In 1956 the renowned Mexican painter, Diego Rivera covered the entire outside wall with a mural of mosaic tiles, shells, and stones. It took him 18 months to complete the massive and magnificent job.
The House of Masks
New in Acapulco, the House of Masks museum displays masks from the seven regions of the State of Guerrero. Supporters of the museum want to preserve the history of the masks while there are still mask-makers who can teach the art. Videos of traditional dances that take place all over Guerrero are shown to visitors and workshops are offered to young people so that they may understand the meaning, the symbolism of the masks and perhaps learn how to make them.
No visit to Acapulco is complete without seeing the cliff divers, an institution since the early 1930s. At the almost perpendicular La Quebrada gorge young divers fly 135 feet into the blue sky before diving into the emerald waters of the Pacific. At night, performed with torches, the dives are even more spectacular — the divers drop through the warm and humid air with the grace of a bird in flight.
For those who love to golf Acapulco has four 18-hole championship courses. The Fairmont Acapulco Princess and the Fairmont Pierre Marques are challenging and a pleasure to play.
Acapulco never sleeps. As the sun sets over Acapulco Bay, the legendary excitement of the night grows with the twinkling beauty of the lights surrounding the bay. Sounds of the ocean mingle with romantic ballads sung to the strumming of guitars. You can dance from dusk to dawn at the nightclubs and discotheques where the action begins to get lively around midnight.
Mexican Fiesta Nights, held at the major hotels and the Acapulco Cultural & Convention Center are another popular attraction. The Mexican Folkloric Ballet is one of the finest folkloric dance performances one can ever hope to see. The every-popular whirling Papantla Flyers is a colorful religious performance that dates back to Mayan times.
The four million tourists who make a beeline to sunny, exciting Acapulco every year return home not only with sombrero souvenirs but also with great memories and perhaps with plans to return to the Queen of the Riviera ASAP.
When You Go… Hot tips
Ride the local buses. It’s a fun way to see the city and talk to the friendly local people. The ride costs only 2 pesos (20 cents). Morning is the best time to tour because it is cooler and the traffic less hectic.
Tipping: Be generous. Salaries are very low in Mexico.
Shopping: The Mercado Central and El Parasal are the best places for great buys and unusual gifts.
Unusual adventure: The bungee jump at Condessa Beach is for the brave at heart. You can swim with the dolphins at the CICI Water Park or at Condessa Beach.