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Golden Times

When then-Senator John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline went to the Mexican beach resort city of Acapulco for their honeymoon in 1953, Americans got to know the Pearl of the Pacific, and they liked what they saw. In the 1950s and 60s, Acapulco and its endless beaches became a playground for everyone from jet setters to Hollywood’s elite.

Located in the State of Guerrero on the Pacific Coast 240 miles south of Mexico City, Acapulco had a resurgence in the 1970s, thanks to it being a port stop on ABC-TV’s hit television series The Love Boat for 10 years. The city is split into two resort zones: the Zona Dorado, located north of Acapulco Bay and the Diamond Zone, which is located in the south.

There’s ample air service into Acapulco International Airport (ACA), with flights out of Houston on United Express and AeroMexico. There are also flights available on low-cost carriers Aeromar and Interjet via Mexico City, as well as flights on Volaris via Mexico City and Tijuana.

Tourists can also take the new “Highway of the Sun,” a scenic 3.5 hour drive, or a five-hour scenic tour that allows drivers to visit the colonial cities of Taxco and Cuernavaca on the way. Modern buses are also available. And like the Love Boat of old, Acapulco is a port served by the Norwegian, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas and Silversea cruise lines.

What to Do

Acapulco, the 16th largest metro area in Mexico, boasts more than 12 miles of beaches, from Barra Vieja to Pie de al Cuesta. Visitors can enjoy water experiences including fishing, snorkeling and scuba diving. The city is home to two Blue Flag beaches: Revolcadero II and Icacos II. The certification, provided by the Foundation for Environmental Education, ensures that beaches, marina and boat tourism operators are meeting criteria for water quality, safety and environmental education.

But if beaches and water sports aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other things on the entertainment menu.

Xtasea, a new overwater zip line, has just opened. Riders go up to 75 mph across Puerto Marquez Bay. The company calls it the longest overwater zip line in the world, at more than a mile long and 328 feet high.

La Quebrada is home to Acapulco’s world-famous cliff divers. This group of men between the ages of 17 and 45 dive off a 150-foot-high cliff into crashing waves into a pool that’s only 12 feet deep. There are public viewing areas from different angles where visitors can tip the divers after their performance. You can also pay $60 for a meal at the La Perla restaurant and a better view.

To see more of the natural side of Acapulco, consider taking a six-hour guided land/sea tour to Coyuca Lagoon. Activities include learning how residents rescue and incubate the eggs of endangered turtle species and release the baby turtles back into the Pacific Ocean. You can also explore the witch doctor market to shop for natural products including herbs, roots, flowers and even insects, all used for medicinal purposes.

Finally, learn something new by visiting the Museo Historico de Acapulco, located at Fort San Diego. It is home to information on the events and history of Mexico and covers the state of Guerrero, the pre-Hispanic Era, the Spanish conquest, trade with the Orient, the wars for independence and the history of the current day.

Where to Stay

Acapulco’s supply of nearly 20,000 hotel rooms includes accommodations for every budget. One of the city’s more popular hotels is the iconic Princess Mundo Imperial Riviera in the city’s Diamante region, a quick 15-minute ride from the airport. Opened in 1971, the main building on the 161 acre property is a 15-story Aztec-style pyramid flanked by two towers.

Each one of the property’s 1,011 rooms and suites have private balconies with sliding glass doors that open up to views of either the ocean or the hotel’s two golf courses. Guests can sleep on either a king-sized bed, or two double beds. Rooms in the Perla Tower at the Princess Mundo Imperial Riviera have been upgraded with larger flat-screen TVs, iPod docking stations and marble floors.

On-site amenities include five swimming pools, tennis courts, a full health club and access to its own stretch of beach. The hotel’s Chula Vista restaurant gives travelers the chance to dine on a lavish buffet breakfast while looking out at the beach and the hotel poolside. It features a mix of Mexican and Western cuisines.

For those sun worshipers wishing to be closer to the beach or the pools, the outdoor Beach Club serves various beers, wines, specialty cocktails, appetizers/bar snacks and entrees that focus on seafood from the region. For great Italian food, the hotel’s own Tavola bistro offers contemporary cuisine by Chef Antonio La Monica flavored with fresh organic herbs from an on-site garden.

Posadita Steak and Seafood Grill offer seasonal food and a Sunday brunch that gets high ratings. There’s also Cafe Et Chocolat, which serves sandwiches, salads, desserts and pastries and has a full Starbucks drink menu. And the main lobby’s Laguna Bar serves tapas, as well as a wide variety of tequilas and specialty craft cocktails.

The hotel’s Tlalli Clinic Spa has 17 massage cabins, a thermal pool and services including aromatherapy, biomagnetism, thermotherapy and mesotherapy. There’s also a team of doctors on staff to do cosmetic medical procedures. The beauty salon offers hair styling, nail care and makeup applications.

Where To Eat

Acapulco is home to hundreds of restaurants representing different cuisines and budgets, with eateries that are owned by some of Mexico’s best chefs. A great pick is Becco Al Mare, an Italian restaurant where Chef Ermy Nava Aparicio showcases fresh seafood from the Pacific Ocean. The restaurant, a modernist cube of glass and wood, offers spectacular views of Acapulco from all vantage points. You can get even better views sitting in the outdoor bar and seating area.

Chef Susanna Palazuelos is a popular restaurant icon in Acapulco thanks to her wedding catering business that hosts more than 100 events a year. She focuses on using local products, has served meals to the last six Mexican presidents and has participated in 18 Tianguis Turístico México events. She also hosts private dinners at her home in the cliffs of Acapulco.

Palazuelos’s son, Eduardo, named Best Mexican chef in 2014 and elected by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be an Ambassador of Mexican Cuisine, is the chef at popular Zibu, an Acapulco restaurant which serves Mexican-Thai fusion food.

Plans for the Future

In 2016, Mexican investment company Grupo Autofin pledged to spend $1 billion over six years on a master plan that includes upgrades to the Pierre Mundo Imperial and Princess Mundo Imperial hotels, as well as a host of new construction. Among the properties on the list; the Hotel Prince by Mundo Imperial, Hotel Marqués Boutique, Residences and Luxury Condominiums, Hotel Boutique Only You, Diamante Retirement Homes, Princess Medical Center, Premium Shopping Center, plus the Aventura Guerrero eco-amusement park and a new tennis stadium. Plans are to have these projects completed by 2022.

The city is also building a new Macrotunnel set to open in spring 2017 that will connect Playa Icacos, located northeast of the bay of Acapulco, to the Diamond Zone. It has also started running the ACABus, which offers transportation from the city’s Traditional Zone to the Diamond Zone.

Acapulco will unveil a new $30 million, eco-friendly, state-of-the-art airport terminal in 2018. Constructed by Grupo Aeroportuario Centro Norte (OMA), it is designed to boost capacity by 1.3 million passengers a year.  

By Benét Wilson