Acapulco Boasts Restored Infrastructure, Energy


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. Acapulco

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 Mexican.

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.

Divers 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 we did.)

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.

Judy Goes to Mexico, Part 1: 'Little Boat' Makes for a Cozy Cruise to Mexico

Judy Goes to Mexico, Part 2: Acapulco Boasts Restored Infrastructure, Energy

Judy Goes to Mexico, Part 3: Traditions Still Alive in Mexico's 'Twin Cities'

Judy Goes to Mexico, Part 4: Creatures From the Manzanillo Lagoons

Judy Goes to Mexico, Part 5: Whale Sightings Start the Year Right in Baja

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