Travel Weekly Crossroads' associate editor, Judy Koutsky,
spent the holidays on a chartered cruise along the Pacific coast of
Mexico. The following is Part Two in a series of reports:
ABOARD THE OCEAN MAJESTY -- This was our longest day at port:
from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. After traveling on the ship for a full day,
we were all a little anxious to hit land. Many were up early to eat
breakfast while Acapulco was coming into view.
I had a full day of activities planned, but some people
preferred not signing up for excursions and instead paid a cab
driver to give them a personal tour of the city. These rides can
run anywhere from $40 for a couple of hours to $100 for a five-hour
tour. Visitors always should agree on a price before entering a
cab, as the system is not run by meters but by fixed rates
calculated at the driver's discretion.
The morning excursion lasted four hours and included a detailed
tour of the city, a stop to see the famous cliff divers and
shopping. It's amusing to see how Acapulco caters to Americans.
There's a stretch called the American mile where every fast-food
chain is represented (except Taco Bell), plus there's a
Blockbuster, an enormous Wal-Mart and a Sam's Club. Everybody here,
naturally, speaks English. As we weaved in and out of traffic
through this stretch, I spotted more American pedestrians than
Speaking of traffic, it takes a special kind of person to drive
through Acapulco (population 2 million), and I don't recommend
renting a car unless your reflexes are sharp. Our tour guide,
Xavier, remarked that they "don't have pedestrians in Mexico, just
survivors." Later in the day, when I was with a local, I ran across
the street to avoid a cab bearing down on me. "Don't worry," he
said, "they don't hit Americans." I wasn't so sure.
We drove through the part of town that was struck by Hurricane
Pauline not many months ago. Twenty-five inches of rain, the
standard rainfall for a whole year, came down in 10 hours.
Immediately after the disaster, the government organized a
full-force cleanup effort, and many restaurants and hotels on
Avenida Costera Miguel Aleman, the main street, were refurbished or
demolished and rebuilt. Although a few signs of el huracan
Paulina can be seen -- restaurants still under construction,
for example -- the beachfront is clean and safe, albeit with a bit
less sand. If your clients were planning a trip to Acapulco before
Pauline, there's no reason they shouldn't still come. If anything,
the cleanup efforts gave the area a face-lift, and it's not a bad
idea to visit before the crowds come back en masse.
It's worth noting that most of the nicer resorts, due to their
location, were not affected at all. Our tour stopped at the popular
Acapulco Princess, and not a trace of Paulina's wrath could be
seen. Instead, the resort was bustling with tourists enjoying the
many pools, golf courses, tennis courts and shops.
Back on the bus, we headed to the world famous clavadistas
of La Quebrada. A visit to Acapulco is not complete without viewing
the cliff divers, who range in age from 16 to 54 and, interestingly
enough, are unionized. Each diver will say a prayer to the shrine
of Our Lady of Guadalupe, located right on the cliff, before
gracefully diving 130 feet into the ocean. Upon surfacing and
climbing back up the cliff, with no climbing equipment, the crowd
gives a very exuberant and boisterous ovation.
Usually there are three or four different divers performing,
each diving once for the crowd. The daily dives can be seen both in
the afternoon and the evening. The 10:30 p.m. show is said to be
quite a sight, with the performers diving with torches.
This attraction is a great bargain; it costs less than $5 per
person to stand in a viewing area just below the cliffs. However,
for a little more (around $10), clients can sit at the
bar-restaurant directly across the way, Hotel Plaza Las Glorias/El
Mirador, and enjoy a drink with the excellent view. (This is what
Many visitors to Acapulco spend a good part of their time here
shopping, and prices are pretty reasonable compared with the rest
of the Pacific coast. Mexico is the No. 1 producer of silver in the
world, and jewelry shops can be spotted up and down the avenues.
Many tours will take tourists to the more expensive shops in town,
but there are local men waiting nearby to guide tourists to the
flea markets, where the prices can be as much as 50% lower. Our
"local guide" walked us to the market, waited for us to finish
shopping and made sure we got back to our excursion bus. We
willingly gave him pesos for his troubles and our bargains.
The afternoon was spent exploring the playas. All the
beaches in Acapulco are public, but clients will get charged for
the use of chairs and towels (unless they bring their own, of
course). The beaches are open 24 hours a day, and visitors can spot
many fishermen dragging their nets through the water to catch their
daily supply of shrimp. Many touristy trinkets can be bought on the
beach, and water sports abound here.
Goes to Mexico, Part 1: 'Little Boat' Makes for a Cozy Cruise to
Judy Goes to Mexico, Part 2: Acapulco Boasts Restored
Goes to Mexico, Part 3: Traditions Still Alive in Mexico's 'Twin
Goes to Mexico, Part 4: Creatures From the Manzanillo
Goes to Mexico, Part 5: Whale Sightings Start the Year Right in