Acapulco is the original Mexican resort town. It remains a major destination and a worthwhile trip and is the number two Mexican spring break destination among U.S. college students.
Travelers by bus or car should note the cautions in "Stay safe" below.
Many buses go from major cities (e.g. Mexico City) to Acapulco. Most buses are safe, fast and comfortable and usually not very expensive. Some bus lines offer student discounts. The Estrella de Oro bus line offers nonstop trips from Mexico City with service more like First Class on an airline: roomy seats, ride attendants, snacks and drinks, and free movies. A regular Estrella de Oro (double-decker) one-way ride is M$395 (pesos) (about US$20), while upgraded VIP bus service is M$520. VIP service includes a marble lounge inside the regular Acapulco bus terminal with TVs, drinks, and newspapers. Depending on the bus, the ride takes 5-5½ hours in comfort. They search you and pat you down for weapons before leaving.
There is a modern four-lane highway from Mexico City to Acapulco (Autopista del Sol). It is somewhat expensive, but will take you there in 3½ hours, approximately, if you don't stop on the way. Be sure to have cash on hand as there are plenty of tolls, or "casetas" along the way. The Autopista is not continuous; there is a break in two sections where the road is rougher, so a car with good tires is a must. Traffic and parking in Acapulco are difficult.
- 1 Juan N. Alvarez International Airport (ACA IATA). Well connected domestically and internationally. Flights from Mexico City to Acapulco take approximately 35 minutes.
Ground transportation from the airport to the major tourist area of La Costera takes more or less the same time. Round-trip fares depending on the season and class, range from US$23 to US$50.
Taxis are everywhere in Acapulco. Since they are unmetered, make sure that you agree on a fare before entering. Always negotiate; they can smell tourist money a mile away. The old Volkswagen beetle cabs are cheaper than newer air-conditioned cars. Shared cabs (usually white with yellow) run between major destinations and are very convenient. They usually display their destination in large letters and charge a flat fee of M$12, irrespective of distance. You should not have to pay more than M$50 per cab ride within the Costera area but fares can reach as much as M$120 for rides from La Costera to La Quebrada, Princess Hotel (Revolcadero Beach) and the airport. Alternatively most hotels can arrange for taxi transportation for a fixed fare (usually inflated). Prices will usually be about 50% more expensive than for a taxi hailed on the street.
There are several public transportation options: Yellow cabs are M$12 per person; buses are M$8 for non-air-conditioned, M$9.50 for air-conditioned, and M$10 (after buying a card for M$10) for AcaBus, a new system started in January 2017. Because of the sheer amount of taxis here, when one is dining out it is often worthwhile for them to offer a round trip and simply wait around while you have your meal, and they will not charge extra.
Buses are worth experiencing even if you don't want to travel on them. Destinations are printed on the front window of each bus. There is no need to be at one of the regular bus stops in order to get on, except for AcaBus. Just wave your arm or look at the driver. He will stop and encourage you to get in. In fact, drivers will stop and try to get you to ride with them if you are even walking in the same direction that they are driving in. The bus system in Acapulco has been fully privatised; each bus is privately owned. This means they can decorate them however they want. Pink buses cruise around blaring out traditional Mexican music, racing against ones decked out in UV lights pulsing out club music into the night air. The complete lack of suspension makes for an unforgettable ride.
Private autos It is generally unwise to try to drive yourself around Acapulco. Traffic is heavy and drivers aggressive, parking is scarce, streets do not run in a neat grid, and even change names unexpectedly. Most, if not all streets lack signs indicating their name. In addition, foreign tourists driving rental cars can become targets of the Acapulco police officers, who will accept payment (~M$400) for violations in person at the time of pullover, without providing a receipt or proof of violation or clearing of the violation.
- La Quebrada Cliff Divers - No visit to Acapulco is complete without watching the cliff divers perform their impressive jumps into the shallow stream of water of dangerous tides that forms in the bottom part of La Quebrada. They have been doing it since 1934. You can see the dives from a small platform by the cliff for a small entrance fee, or eat at the La Perla restaurant which offers a good view of the divers. Showtime at 13:00, 19:30, 20:30 and 21:30.
- Zócalo - Zócalo, Acapulco's town square, lies on the western side of La Costera. It's cool, shady and peaceful during the daytime. There are two fountains and many mature, multi-trunked trees that are a sight in themselves. The Zócalo tends to expose more local culture than other, more tourist-centric, areas. Zócalo contains Acapulco's cathedral, as well as many restaurants ranging in size from sidewalk bistros and tiny street-corner kitchens. Many of the smaller restaurants will provide full dinners for as little as M$35. The Zócalo at night is worth experiencing. Between 20:00 and 23:00 the place is flooded with locals & chilangoes. Clowns entertain the crowd for tips. One is dressed as some sort of aztec warrior/statue thing. He is silver from head to toe.
- Pie de la Cuesta - Pie de la Cuesta is a quiet strip of land roughly 6 miles northwest of Acapulco, bordered on one side by the Pacific Ocean and on the other by a freshwater lake (Laguna de Cuyoca) on the other. The lagoon is extremely tranquil, but tourists are advised not to enter the Pacific Ocean at Pie de la Cuesta, because the surf is very dangerous. One can reach Pie de la Cuesta via bus. If you are on the Bay Side along the Costera, between Escudero and Diego Mendoza, look for the bus that says Pie de la Cuesta PLAYA LUCES. These go up that narrow strip of land. You can also take one that says San Isidro and that will let you off in the Zócalo in Pie de la Cuesta, but you have to walk a couple blocks to the strip and about a half kilometer up to the lagoon.
- Puerto Marqués - Located at a smaller bay just east of Acapulco, Puerto Marqués sees much less tourist traffic than Acapulco. One side of the bay is completely covered by adjacent beach-side restaurants offering very reasonably priced food and beer. The restaurant owners (as well as most other locals) are very friendly to tourists and some will offer discounts or a free round of beer to groups. Tourists and locals alike munch on shrimp enchiladas, sip negra modelos, wade in the waters, and enjoy the breathtaking sunsets. Fewer locals speak English in Puerto Marqués than in Acapulco, so it is recommended that visitors speak some rudimentary Spanish. One can reach Puerto Marqués via bus.
- Isla de la Roqueta - Isla de la Roqueta has a beautiful beach with shallow areas for families to play. You can get there by water taxi (around US$3.50) or the glass-bottom harbour tour boat (around US$7) from Caleta Beach. The harbour tour provides many sightseeing opportunities as well as seeing the yachts and homes of the rich and famous. As well, you can experience the cliff-divers’ show at La Quebrada, the submarine Virgin of Guadalupe, and see a diver with the tour swim under the boat with food to attract fish. If you don’t pack food while on your tour, there is a great opportunity to have lunch by way of a boat restaurant that comes alongside the boat and prepares your order. Just be prepared to wait depending on the number of people on the tour with you. Once on Isla de la Roquet there are numerous well-maintained trails, a lighthouse and beautiful snorkeling spots - but they can be rough (if this doesn’t suit you, your best bet would be to go to the Camino Real for snorkeling). And the bonus, you can take as much time as you want as the tour company’s boats dock throughout the day.
Most beaches are in the bay area fronting the main boulevard "La Costera". This bay area is what made Acapulco famous and its beauty and majesty have not faded over the years. Some of the most popular beaches inside the Bay and lining the Costera are Hornos, the traditional "afternoon beach", Papagayo, Tamarindos, and Icacos. Condesa beach at the east end of the bay is gay-friendly. Caleta/Caletilla beaches and Langosta Beach are on the open ocean, and usually a bit cleaner. Most hotels in Acapulco are found along the Costera, and prices generally go down as you move west toward the Zócalo and old Acapulco.
Another open water beach, more suitable for surfing, lies in front of the Fairmont Acapulco Princess and Fairmont Pierre Marqués Hotels. Playa Revolcadero is east of Acapulco, closer to the airport. The wave action is much higher than inside the bay or at Caleta/Caletilla, which are protected by La Roqueta island. Transportation from La Costera takes about 35 minutes through a winding and scenic road.
Don't miss Barra Vieja, approximately 20 minutes past the airport coming from the Costera (M$500–800 for a cab all day).
- CICI - a water park right by the main beach. Especially nice for kids. Entrance is M$100 and it features many different pools and slides, a Skycoaster (a mix between a swing and a bungee jump) and a dolphinarium. Dolphin shows are on offer, and so is one hour swims with the dolphins - a lifetime memory for US$120.
There are several more attractions, including golf courses, night clubs and post-Hispanic fortifications. Nightlife in Acapulco is pretty much fun, and many places are suited for tourism including "El Alebrije", "Disco Beach" and "Palladium", this last having an awe-inspiring sight of the whole bay of Acapulco.
- La Isla Shopping Center, Boulevard de Las Naciones No. 18 Lote 1, Mza V Col. Playa Diamante. La Isla is an upscale, outdoor shopping center on the outskirts of Acapulco roughly 30-45 minutes away from the city center. It is the place to go if you're looking for a quality shopping experience. It contains restaurants of all sorts, department stores, high-end shops, convenience stores and movie theaters. It has a very elegant feel as canals run through the entire shopping center.
- Señor Frog's. Señor Frog's is a party place; outside you will see signs that read "Drunk Crossing"; from that you can infer what this place is like.
- Kookaburra - Also good food with a great view of the city.
- La Perla - La Perla's claim to fame is that it provides a wonderful view of the cliff divers. A buffet breakfast is M$110 and includes Mexican breakfast specialties such as chilaquiles (fried tortilla pieces with scrambled eggs,cheese,chicken and salsa), sopas, and chicharones (pork rinds), with yogurt, cereal, fresh fruit, tropical juices, Mexican pastellitas (little coffee cakes) and seasonal treats such as a whole roasted piglet. Before the divers' show, you stand a good chance of a getting a serenade from a wandering trio of mariachis. (Tipping recommended, and they also take requests.)
- 100% Natural. A Mexican chain of restaurants in many locations throughout the city, including the beach. They specialize in traditional Mexican food prepared with a healthy slant and different sorts of tropical and nutritional juice blends. A hearty, tasty breakfast ranges between M$35 and 70, not including a juice drink. Very clean, with prompt service.
- El Nopalito, calle la paz (zocalo), ☏ . A traditional Mexican family restaurant, the most authentic one downtown, this is the real deal, real Mexican taste. They specialize in traditional Mexican food and some South American dishes that have been introduced to Mexico during the years. Everything is prepared with food obtained from local food providers instead of supermarkets, which makes eating there an economical support to fair trade. M$35 a meal, handmade tortillas and fruit water included (as of Jan 2013).
In the past few years Acapulco has become a preferred destination for spring breakers, with tens of thousands of students descending upon this resort town to drink away the sorrows of midterms in a multitude of bars and clubs. The fancier places may have long queues outside and will probably not let you in if you wear shorts and/or sneakers.
- El Alebrije claims to be the largest night club in Latin America, capable of holding over 5,000 people. The crowd is fairly young, around 18-25. Foam party on Fridays. Cover is M$400 for men and M$350 for women with a free open bar until 05:00. Be prepared to tip if you plan on drinking heavily. If arriving by car, you can park in the Walmart 24 hour carpark just up the road and save on the valet parking charges.
- Palladium. The other super club in Acapulco. It is in Las Brisas, perched on top of a cliff overlooking Acapulco. The large panoramic glass wall which forms one side of the dancefloor is very impressive. Prices are about the same as in Alebrije, drinks included in the cover charge. Tipping is also a good idea at Palladium; one group saw non-tippers wait 20 minutes for service and tippers serviced immediately.
- Mandara It's a smaller version of Palladium, owned by the same people, but instead of electronic you get hip-hop and reggaetón.
- Baby'O. One of Acapulco's perennial favorites. Baby'O is by far the most luxurious (and expensive) club in Acapulco and is favored especially by the 18 to 35 set of Mexico City's upper-class. Here, you will be able to revel in luxury. Expect to pay at least a M$600 cover charge and M$80-150 for a drink.
- Classico del Mar is a favorite for locals and chilangos. It's not as expensive as Baby'O but it doesn't have open bar as Alebrije, Palladium or Mandara. The most interesting part about this club is that it has 3 levels: Level 1 looks like a regular club with a lot of mirrors, a colored-lights dance floor, and theater boxes. Level 2 has a small bar and the restrooms. Level 3 is a Deck with huge screens on the walls, tables separated by curtains, and a cliff view. The floor, tables, bar, everything is made of wood and the place is not enclosed, so if it rains they won't let you up. If you decide to go there, be sure to ask for a table here; its the best part of the club but, it might get a little hot.
La Costera, Acapulco's main street along the coast, is full of bars and clubs:
- Ibiza is a lounge club on the beach which is very pleasant and often frequented by locals. It plays mainly electronic music.
- Disco Beach is very popular with foreign visitors and locals. Its main attraction is a dance floor fronting the Condesa beach (the main beach).
- Barbarroja is a bar/club in the shape of an old pirate ship that caters mainly to the 30 and over crowd. Also conveniently located by the Condesa beach.
- 1 Kingdom Youth Hostel, Carre Tara 4 Puerto Marques #104 (midway between the glitz strip and old Acapulco), ☏ . A former athletic training facility, a treat for the active or indolent. Inexpensive, with excellent showers and plenty of hammocks, internet access and a small bar. Outside of Acapulco proper, but that means it's near a quiet beach; a cab ride into the disco zone is about M$10.
- La Mision, clean room, clean sheets, painted brick, and cold showers. The rooms range from one bed to three. 2 blocks outside Zócalo. The staff does not speak English. A basic breakfast may be purchased from the kitchen, though there is a multitude of small restaurants nearby. Depending on the time you stay, you may be able to negotiate M$200 per person per night (regardless of the number of rooms occupied).
- Hotel Vital, the rooms are very clean and come with AC, cable, and their own bathrooms with hot water. There is wireless internet in the lobby and a covered pool off the side of the lobby. There is also a kitchen, but there are plenty of restaurants in the area. The hotel is less than a five minute walk from the beach, right across from the bungee jump. The managers are friendly, but do not speak English. M$150 for a room with one queen sized bed. If you find a friendly taxi driver who speaks some English he can probably help you out. It can be difficult to find because it's on a minor street. The address is Calle Piedra Picuda No. 50 Fracc. Condessa (frente al bungy).
- Fairmont Acapulco Princess, A very large property spread across hundreds of acres of landscaped gardens and golf course with more than 1,000 hotel rooms in three towers. It is built like an Aztec Pyramid and has excellent views of the beach. Like any Fairmont hotel, it is expensive - but well worth the money. It is about half a mile away from the main road linking the Airport to the La Costera. If you walk down to the main road - you will find a McDonald's and a Wal-Mart Supercenter - very effective in negating the steep food prices in Princess.
- Grand Hotel Acapulco, Av. Costera Miguel Aleman 1 (first hotel on the left-hand side of Costera Miguel Alemán Avenue), ☏ . Overlooks Acapulco Bay. Close to the shopping centres and restaurants.
- Las Brisas. A complex of ´Casitas´ at the top of a hill overlooking the bay. A private beach club helps avoid the masses (and the rubbish floating in the water). The only issue is that it is a long way out of town - it´s not possible to walk anywhere. Taxi drivers are aware that the resort is expensive and therefore massively overcharge customers who go there, but Las Brisas also rents their iconic pink jeeps to guests.
- Las Torres Gemelas, Costera Miguel Aleman 93, ☏ . Condominium/hotel complex translating to "The Twin Towers" in the middle of hotel district. It offers a kitchenette in every room. The hotel gets some pretty rough reviews around the hotel review sites.
- Las Torres Gemelas Private Suites, Costera Miguel Aleman 93, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A boutique suite hotel privately owned and independent from Las Torres Gemelas although located in the same twin towers. All suites are luxury suites with complete kitchen, US & Canadian satellite HDTV, flat screen HDTVs, surround sound systems, free high speed internet and all new modern furnishings.
For an average tourist, a more common danger comes from local police. Bribery and extortion can be encountered at every step. For example, if you are driving a nice clean car, you can expect to be stopped and falsely blamed for driving through red lights (even if the traffic lights were turned off), not using mirrors, using traffic lanes wrongly or other minor infractions.
- Taxco is along the way from Acapulco to Toluca, and just off the highway to Mexico City. Some guidebooks depict it as an adorable little town filled with silver shops, but many drivers have come to dread the crowded, narrow, windy roads. The caution under "Stay safe" above also applies.
- Ixtapan de la Sal is about an hour past Taxco on the way to Toluca. It boasts a perfect climate and thermal waters. There are modern water parks, spas, and a variety of folk health services. Caution as above.