Located on Mexico's Pacific coast, Acapulco was Mexico's first major tourist destination. This thriving city on the picturesque Bahia de Acapulco underwent extensive renovations in the early 2000s, adding a variety of restaurants, bars, clubs, and concert venues for visitors to enjoy and cleaning up the city's many excellent beaches. Whether you're making a short stop as part of a Mexican Riviera cruise or you plan on staying in the city for a while, there are plenty of things to do in Acapulco all year long.
See the Cliff Divers at La Quebrada
Whether you choose to go during the day or see the death-defying dives at night when the spectacle is lit by torches, Acapulco's famous cliff divers are a must-see on any visit to this port city. Launching themselves from a height of more than 100 feet into the churning ocean, the divers must time their dives to coincide with the incoming waves. La Quebrada offers a fabulous view of the open ocean and beautiful sunsets, and the cliff divers here perform five times a day.
La Quebrada is located on the northwestern end of the city—between the La Candelaria and La Pinzona neighborhoods and near the Acapulco Historical Museum of Fort San Diego—and overlooks the Pacific Ocean. One of the walls of the cliff has a path to a restaurant in the Mirador Acapulco Hotel, where tourists gather to watch the diving show or view pelicans diving for fish.
Acapulco has year-round beach weather and plenty of great places to lay in the sand to soak up the sun. Whether you're looking for a spot to tan or you want to experience thrills like bungee jumping or parasailing, the beaches in Acapulco—known locally as playas—have something for every type of traveler. However, all of Acapulco's beaches can have a strong undertow, so be cautious when swimming.
Playa Condesa, located in the center of Acapulco Bay near many of Acapulco's popular nightclubs, is the trendiest beach and a good location to enjoy water sports. Meanwhile, playas Caleta and Caletilla have gentle waves and are preferred by families with small children. Another option is to join the locals at the lovely beach at Puerto Marques.
Explore La Costera
Acapulco's main drag is the Costera Miguel Alemán—usually referred to simply as La Costera. This road follows the coastline around the bay and is where most of Acapulco's shops, restaurants, and nightclubs are located, but you'll also find large shopping malls such as La Gran Plaza and Plaza Bahía here as well.
La Costera is the pulsing beat of the city, where all the action is, so it's definitely worth adding to your travel itinerary when visiting Acapulco. In fact, it's hard to miss seeing this thriving strip of local culture no matter what time of day or year you come to the city.
Stroll Around the Zocalo
Officially known as the "Plaza Juan Alvarez," this is the main public square in Acapulco's old city, a tree-shaded plaza where locals and tourists congregate, particularly in the evenings and on weekends. You'll find the central Acapulco cathedral here as well as plenty of places to eat and shop. Within walking distance is Acapulco's traditional Mercado El Parazal, the Malecón, La Quebrada, and the Marina.
Take a Glass-Bottom Boat Ride to Isla La Roqueta
Enjoy a fun day on Isla La Roqueta, an ecological reserve just off the coast of Acapulco, via a glass-bottom boat tour, which is offered from Playa Caleta. This glass-bottomed vessel allows you to observe the sea life and the submerged statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe on your way to Isla La Roqueta. Once there, enjoy the beautiful beach for swimming and snorkeling and then take a hike up the hill to the lighthouse to enjoy the view of the surrounding ocean and distant mainland.
San Diego Fort is a star-shaped fort that was constructed at the beginning of the 17th century to defend from pirates galleons carrying merchandise from Asia. The fort was reconstructed in 1778 after an earthquake caused some damage.
At present, El Fuerte de San Diego (San Diego Fort) houses the Historic Museum of Acapulco, with 12 exhibition halls where you can learn about the earliest inhabitants of the area, Acapulco's role in trade with Asia, and the fort's role in Mexico's War of Independence. The Fuerte San Diego is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday, and admission is free on Sundays.
Hike Around Palma Sola Archaeological Site
Located on a mountainside six kilometers northeast of Old Acapulco within El Veladero National Park, the Palma Sola Archaeological Site features 2,000-year-old petroglyphs and rock carvings made by the Yopes, Acapulco's earliest known inhabitants.
Besides its historical and archaeological interest, this site also offers stunning views of Acapulco and the bay and is a great way to escape the city and see some of the natural area surrounding the urban zone. The Palma Sola Archaeological site is open daily and is free to enjoy, but you can also take guided tours of the petroglyphs if you want to learn more about their history from a professional guide.
The Hotel Los Flamingos was built in the 1930s and purchased in the 1950s by members of the "Hollywood Gang," which included John Wayne, Johnny Weissmuller, Erroll Flynn, and Cary Grant. Now, a 1950s photo collection in the hotel lobby offers a nostalgic look back at the hotel's former owners. Built atop a 450-foot cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Los Flamingos Hotel boasts one of the best views of Acapulco Bay and Isla La Roqueta. It's an excellent spot to have an evening drink and enjoy the sunset.
Sample Acapulco's Nightlife
Acapulco's nightlife is notorious for its wild parties, fantastic cocktail menus, and massive clubs, and while the action might not get started until later, there's a chance you could be out all night in this thriving Mexican city. Party with a view on the Las Brisas hillside at huge nightclubs like Palladium and Mandara or pop into a variety of packed clubs along La Costera like Planet Hollywood, Hard Rock Cafe, and Baby O. When in doubt, just head to the oceanfront bars and clubs around 10 p.m. and you should be able to find a party to your liking.
The best—and perhaps most luxurious—way to enjoy all the sights Acapulco has to offer is to embark on a sunset tour aboard the Acapulco Acarey Yacht Cruise. Featuring an open bar, passed hors d'oeuvres, salsa music, and a knowledgable guide of the city, the sunset tour takes about three hours to complete and is one of the best tours available for Acapulco. As an added bonus, this unique experience is also surprisingly cheap at just under $24 per person.