The Ultimate Travel Guide to Acapulco | Mexico
Updated: Sep 23, 2019
Sometime around the mid-20th-century, Acapulco was the preferred Mexican destination for international visitors. During its golden days, you could find politicians, celebrities and artists enjoying this once tropical haven, you would have found the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and even John F. Kennedy living it up here.
Why Visit Acapulco Today?
While it is true that this city has fallen far from grace, there are still a ton of amazing things to see, do and enjoy here!
With its beautiful beaches, eccentric nightlife, fantastic foods and amazing people, you still can have a great time here, for a fraction of the cost of a similar vacation to Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Los Cabos.
The truth is that Acapulco is more Mexican now than it ever has been before, once upon a time Acapulco was just like Cancun, Los Cabos and those other Mexican towns which are tourist hotspots today, those places feel more American than they do Mexican.
As the years went on by, Acapulco's reputation as a city for the world's elite became worse and worse, the city became victim to its own virtuous, after so many years of attracting the big names, the city slowly but surely succumbed to overcrowding, drug trafficking, cartels, violence and pollution.
Acapulco has seen the worst come and go, it is now steadily improving its status as a tropical haven for foreign and national visitors once again.
A lot of Mexican visitors tend to arrive for weekend getaways, and speaking for international visitors, the place is on the up and up, I have seen more gringo's in Acapulco than in Mexico City.
With a lot to see and do here this place is a must-visit, whether you'd like to dance the night away in some of the country's best clubs, watch some of the best cliff divers in the world or spend the day drinking mojitos on the beach, you can do it all here!
Here is my ultimate travel guide to Acapulco, informing you about subjects such as, how to get there, the best things to do, the best hotels stay in, and the most delicious restaurants to eat in.
Getting To Acapulco, Mexico
If you are travelling by car to Acapulco, I recommend that you travel with extreme caution. Make sure that you absolutely know where you are going and don't just depend on Google Maps. I've said it many times on this site now about Guerrero, the state is just too dangerous.
There have been many incidents reported by tourists and Mexican nationals running into illegal roadblocks being set up by paramilitaries and gangs throughout the state of Guerrero, while they aren't always violent there has been the odd story of an attack.
My advice would be to travel only using the toll roads, forget the free federal roads! I wouldn't even consider it, I also wouldn't be stopping off in any small towns either as this is where you can expect to find gangs, paramilitaries and cartels operating.
The drive from Mexico City to Acapulco is somewhere between 3.5 and 4 hours, using the toll roads.
Mexico has invested billions into the country's bus network, there are very few other countries in the world where you can travel in such style, and luxury, not only is it an amazing experience to travel first-class, but the buses here provide an incredibly convenient way to travel throughout the country.
From Mexico City to Acapulco, you can expect the journey to be somewhere around the 4-hour mark, depending on the traffic and time of day.
The buses here really are on another level to that of anything else I've seen anywhere, but because of this, you can expect to pay a premium price to use such services.
Not all of the buses are first-class and premium, but I would say the majority of them are, you can travel via bus for cheap in some cases, but generally speaking, the price is just as much or more than the cost of a domestic flight.
If you want to know more about the buses in Mexico be sure to check out this article I have written https://www.traverstravels.net/post/is-it-safe-to-travel-by-bus-to-mexico.
This is by far the safest and most reliable way of travelling to the area, it's also rather inexpensive if you are flying from within Mexico.
Once you have arrived at the city airport, you can either take a taxi or shuttle bus to your hotel, which could take anywhere between 30 and 40 minutes for you to get there.
The cost of the bus is rather inexpensive but if you are taking a taxi, make sure to take an official one at the taxi rank, otherwise, you could end up spending a small fortune, also make sure you negotiate the price before making the journey.
Where To Stay In Acapulco
You have a ton of options to choose from when considering where to stay in Acapulco! I mean this city has been famously attracting foreign visitors for almost 100 years now! There are very few Mexican cities that are even remotely close to this.
Because the place has been a popular tourist destination for so long, you can expect to find hundreds of hotels, places to rent and all sorts of different accommodations available, whatever you are looking for, you can be sure that there is something here for you.
In fact, one of the main reasons that I highly recommend you visit Acapulco now is because there are so many high-end hotels/resorts offering vastly cheaper stays in comparative to other hotspots throughout the country.
With all of that said, here are my recommendations on the three best places to stay in Acapulco in 2019.
Princess Mundo Imperial
Okay, this is for sure one of the oldest resorts in the city, and while I wouldn't say that the place is dated, a better term to use would be classic! It could maybe do with a little modernisation.
For most people, especially families, I would say that this is an excellent choice of accommodation, the value you get here for the price that you pay is outstanding!
First of all the location is perfect, you can find the Princess Mundo Imperial hotel in the highly popular tourist district of Diamante. The property itself is right on the beach, the hotel actually has its own private section for you to spend the day relaxing.
Secondly, there is so much going on! There are always daily activities for families and couples that you can join in on for free, there is water polo, beach games, shows, movie nights, and painting & games for the little ones.
This hotel is now under new management and trying to do things a little differently, they have recently started to renovate the rooms and hotel, modernising the property somewhat, give it a couple years and you wouldn't even know it was one of the oldest resorts in the city.
You can find rooms here for as little as $50 USD per night, depending on the season and room availability of course.
Las Brisas Acapulco
Now this is a hotel with a view! Las Brisas in Acapulco is another one of the hotels from the city's Golden Age, and although it may be somewhat dated, similar to the previous mention, more times than not you will be left speechless by the amazing views of the city bay.
This hotel really does feel timeless, and I think it adds to the experience rather than taking from it, there really are few bad things one could say about the hotel, if I was to be picky, the property could be a little closer to the beach, but if I were to have it my way, you wouldn't get to experience those breathtaking views.
Most of the rooms are a bit dated, which isn't too much of a problem, especially considering the majority of the rooms have a private balcony and pool, that's something special and unique that you won't find in many other places!
Apart from the amazing views, private pools, fantastic hospitality and decent food (that's right I said decent, the food is nice but nothing to write home about!), the hotel is relatively cheap to stay in, during the off-peak season you can expect to pay around $80 USD per night.
Banyan Tree Cabo Marques
This luxury resort definitely falls on the higher end of the spectrum! I don't often rave on about luxury stays or high-cost resorts, but for what this place offers, it's definitely worth mentioning, even if you can't afford to sleep here for an entire week, just spending a night or two here will make that holiday extra special.
All rooms are equipped with private pools which are situated to provide you with some outstanding views over the Pacific, it really is the highlight of the hotel, but everything else was also exceptional, the staff are very welcoming and helpful, the room was amazing and the food is delicious (in both restaurants).
It's definitely not the kind of place for everyone, if you like romantic getaways, privacy and seclusion from bustling cities, then this is the place for you, it's located roughly 25-minutes from the city centre, so you are a fair bit out, the resort overlooks the Puerto Marques Bay, which is just past the tourist district of Diamante.
I can only recommend you visit this hotel if you get a good deal, it can be extremely pricey at times, if you are paying peak time prices, I would argue there are better places to spend your money.
I would like to pay anywhere between $200 to $300 USD and no more, it's just not worth anymore! And while you definitely can get rooms for these prices, you could more easily find the same rooms for up to $800 to $900 USD also.
Best Things To Do In Acapulco
There are a ton of amazing things for you to see, do and experience in the wonderful city of Acapulco, sadly most of the people visiting here don't really get to experience much outside of the resort or hotel they are staying in.
A high percentage of the tourists today choose just to stay in the resort and never leave, whether it be for safety concerns, language barriers or just plain ignorance, it's hard to understand why you would want to visit a beautiful town and not explore it!
I know that the resorts and hotels do have plenty of things going on every day, they do a fantastic job of keeping the guests occupied with the different activities and parties, but there is just so much more that you are going to miss out on if you don't get out and explore!
Here are some of my favourite things to do in Acapulco!
Go Snorkelling On La Roqueta Island
La Roqueta Island is a small nature reserve that can be found just of the coast of Acapulco bay, south of Las Playas. It is a highly popular spot amongst tourists as its soft golden beaches, beautiful turquoise waters and picturesque terrains can make it's visitors almost forget that they are staying in a huge bustling city not so far from here, it really is a small paradise!
There are a variety of different things that you can do on the island, most of which are water-based of course, but of the lot, I highly recommend snorkelling! There are two reefs for you to choose from, Piedra de Elefante and Piedra de Hierbabuena, both of which are full of exotic, vibrant underwater life.
If you are interested in visiting the small island, I highly recommend you do so in the morning as come early afternoon, it will be crowded with tourists! Making the visit much less enjoyable and more a pain if anything else.
Passenger ferries and taxi boats regularly make the trip from Playa Caleta.
Visit Fort Of San Diego
One of Acapulco's most treasured historical monuments is this amazingly well-preserved star fort that was built in the early part of the 17th century.
The now museum has had quite a colourful and tragic history, it has warded of attacking pirates, been partially collapsed due to a violent earthquake, seen wars, been under siege and lord only knows what more!
If the walls could talk I'm sure they'd have quite the story to tell! But I guess the English or Spanish speaking walking tour will have to do.
The museum is roughly $2 USD ($30 Pesos) or you can visit for free on Sunday's, it is located at the west end of Acapulco bay on Hornos street, the location provides some excellent views over the Pacific and city.
Watch The La Quebrada Cliff Divers
A classic attraction in the city that is not to be missed! This one has been around forever, and it still continues to garner a lot of attention today from both tourists and locals alike.
Just the sight of these professional divers twisting and turning acrobatically in midair after jumping from a 40ft cliff will have your nerves gone, I never thought I could feel so nervous for someone else, but when you are there and actually see how high it really is, the cliffs and small waters at the bottom you'll understand.
They are quite literally putting their life at risk every-time they make a jump, one slip or miscalculation about the timing and that's it, game over! The tide does be in and out every few seconds, of which they have to catch it coming in, and if you slip that high of a cliff, good luck.
There is usually some small fee or donation needed if you are watching from the platform nearby.
Visit a Beach Bar on Playa Pie de la Cuesta
If you have ever read one of my guides before, you'll know there are far fewer things in life that I love to do more than chill out on a tropical beach and throwing back a few beers and cocktails.
I think this is just one of those things I got from my family and friends back home, in Ireland a vacation usually means a one or two-week getaway to Spain or Portugal to go get wrecked! While I don't necessarily get wrecked, or even spend a lot of my time on a beach drinking, a day is usually sufficient enough for me.
In Acapulco, it couldn't be easier to get a drink on or near the beach as there are plenty of beach bars, restaurants and cafes around. The best beach to do it on is Playa Pie de la Cuesta, with plenty of beach bars, fewer tourists and plenty of coastline what's not to like!
While it might be frowned upon to take your drink away from the beach bar to go relax in the hot sun and sand, you can do so discreetly without a problem.
You can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $130 MXN to take a taxi or shuttle to this almost private beach, which is situated just outside of Acapulco.
Explore The Zócalo Area
Zócalo has Acapulco’s central plaza, which is located by the famous Our Lady of Solitude Cathedral, in this entire area you can catch a glimpse of local life, and it's well worth your time.
I know you are on vacation and most likely just want to chill out, but this is an experience to be had, it is right here in Zócalo that you will find Mexican nationals going about their everyday life, you are in their town after all, so why not see how they live.
Many of the traditional Mexican town square features are here, from its own gazebo and fountain to the local businesses selling street foods, ice creams, balloons and other tasty treats it's a must-visit.
It's usually on weekends that this place attracts quite the crowd, particularly on Sundays as you can catch a free concert performed by Acapulco’s very own municipal band.
Restaurants In Acapulco
Mexico is famous for its wide variety of colourful dishes, the food here is some of the best you will ever have in your life! This is speaking for the entire country in general, not only Acapulco.
Different regions of the country have different specialities, for example, Puebla is known for mole, while pozole is more popular in Guadalajara and coastal towns like Acapulco are famous for their fresh fish produce.
Some of the better food you will find here is in seafood restaurants, as you are almost guaranteed to be eating the freshest food, that's not to say you shouldn't look around town for taco's, tamales or chile en nogada either, these are just some of the other famous Mexican dishes you need to try.
La Cabaña De Caleta
Is a perfectly situated restaurant, located right along the Old Town that sits just a few feet from the Pacific, not only can you sit down, relax and enjoy some delicious seafood, but you can do so with some spectacular views for next to nothing.
You can expect to enjoy some of the freshest seafood here, and if that's not your thing they do serve up some other famous Mexican dishes like chilaquiles and mole.
If you do like fish even slightly it should be considered a crime for you to visit this coastal city and not to try any, in particular with this restaurant, I highly recommend that you try the rice and prawns with a shrimp cocktail on the side or the pescado a la talla is also a local favourite.
Becco al Mare
Now this is what I would call a fine dining experience! This place is spectacular to say the least, there are very few restaurants that I have visited in my life that I would consider to be better than this, this is definitely up there in the top 5!
This modern, sheik restaurant is also an architectural feat, the building alone looks fantastic, but once you step inside those giant walls, you become somewhat speechless with the decor, spaciousness, views and the smell of that fresh food.
This is an Italian inspired restaurant serving up a wide variety of the finest foods from popular Mexican to Italian dishes, the grilled rib-eye is to die for, that and a glass of one of their vintage Italian red wines is the perfect combo!
This is probably the most expensive restaurant to dine in Acapulco, and if not it's right up there, make sure you have at least $100 to $150 USD per couple if you want to comfortably enjoy the fine Italian wines and delicious food.
Last but defiantly not least, Taco Tumbras is the budget eat, that both locals and tourists have come to love so much over the years.
Who doesn't love Tacos? It's probably the most common food you can find anywhere in Acapulco and the entire country, and while you can find tacos al pastor almost anywhere in the city, I highly recommend Taco Tumbras, they have served up some of the best tacos I've eaten anywhere in Mexico.
While the restaurant might not be decorated perfectly or be situated on the beachfront like many others, it does serve up some fantastic food and can attract quite the crowd at times, it's a must-visit! Especially after a drunk night out.
I hope you found this guide to Acapulco, Mexico, helpful! If you are interested in any other of my guides you can check them out just below, I've also recently talked about the safety in Acapulco, you can check that out right here https://www.traverstravels.net/post/is-acapulco-safe-to-visit.
Feel free to let me know what you think or share your experiences with me either through Pinterest, Instagram or you can reach out to me here directly on the site, have a safe trip!