Lay of the Land
Tucked in a narrow coastline between the Sierra Madre and Acapulco Bay, the city of Acapulco has three resort areas. Old Acapulco, on the west side of the bay, was the place to be in in the 1940s and '50s, when John Wayne, Rita Hayworth, Mexican film star María Félix, and friends cavorted in the sand. These days Old Acapulco's waterfront is the place to go for seafood on the sand (La Cabaña de Caleta) at the family-friendly Playa Caleta and to wander around downtown's zócalo. At the center of the bay, the 1970s-style Costera is action central, with bungee jumps beside beach bars, wave runners along the coast, and waiters delivering umbrella drinks to sunbathers lounging beside pools. The globe-trotting jet set and wealthy Mexican families vacation in lavish villas on the hills above Las Brisas east of the Costera, where laser beams and fireworks light up the night sky from glitzy discos like . Added to the mix are the new vacation compounds lining the far eastern coast at Acapulco Diamante, an up-and-coming destination on the east side of Acapulco Bay.
Celebrity-owned villas, boutique hotels, and eco-lodges seem to pop up every month in Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, getaways 150 miles north of Acapulco that have long enjoyed a cult following. Master-planned Ixtapa has golf courses, a marina, and elegant inns lining the beach. Zihuatanejo has the neighborly vibe of an older seaside town with several popular beaches just a few miles from downtown's market area and malecón. Smaller towns and beaches along the coast north and south of Acapulco draw surfers, dropouts, and recluses, but there are still plenty of undisturbed stretches of sand.
WHEN TO GO
Acapulco and Zihuatanejo's climate is tropical and often muggy. Summer's rainy season lasts from June through September, with frequent afternoon showers and the occasional hurricane (though the bays are generally protected from the high surf). The drier, hotter months—October to May—are the best times to visit Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, and the rest of the coast; this is also the period when hotel room rates are highest. There are two sweet spots for good weather and reasonable rates: September to early November, and March through May (not including Easter week and Spring Break). Some restaurants and hotels in Acapulco and Zihuatanejo close between May and October.
HOW TO GET THERE
International airports at Acapulco (ACA) and Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo (ZIH) receive direct flights from several U.S. cities as well as from Mexico City. The vast majority of travelers to the region head to one particular resort or town and only need to worry about the airport transfer—usually best prearranged through your hotel. Since distances are sometimes great, a taxi can easily be $50 or more each way (prepay for a voucher at the airport counter). But it's still usually a better investment than renting a car, which you won't need once you arrive at your hotel.
Acapulco's fairly efficient public bus system and abundant taxis make it unnecessary (and unwise) to rent a car. If you want to explore further afield, negotiate an hourly rate ($15–$20) with a friendly cab driver and spend a few hours in the hills above Las Brisas and Old Acapulco. You could rent a car for the drive between Acapulco and Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo or take a comfortable first-class bus with Estrella Blanca or Estrella de Oro. Both travel between Acapulco and Ixtapa/Zihautanejo and connect both resorts with Mexico City.
Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo are walking towns (with the occasional taxi ride mixed in). However, if you plan to travel between the two areas frequently (Ixtapa and Zihua are a ten-minute drive apart), you'll want to rent a car.
In recent years, violent crime—most of it related to warring drug traffickers—has been on the rise around Mexico. Some of it has spilled into the streets of Acapulco, but rarely in areas where tourists go. Be sensible about venturing outside the tourist zone, and always keep your wits about you. Before planning your trip, check the U.S. State Department Web site for specific warnings (www.travel.state.gov).
For information, contact:Acapulco: www.visiteacapulco.com/switchlang/en
Mexico Tourism Board: www.visitmexico.com View Mexico Factsheet