Acapulco offerings extend beyond the beach

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ACAPULCO -- This vibrant port city, famous for its beautiful bay, offers something for just about every traveler's taste and budget.

The beach might still be the No. 1 reason for coming here, but visitors interested in nightlife, sightseeing, shopping and dining will find plenty to keep them occupied.

Shopping

Looking for a love potion? How about a sombrero? Then look no further than the zocalo and its Mercado Municipal.

Locals come to this sprawling market to purchase their everyday provisions, from fresh fruits and vegetables to love potions.

Acapulco's zocalo is home to the Mercado Municipal and its many shopping opportunities. Although Acapulco is not known for its indigenous handicrafts, the crafts market here features such typically Mexican items as sombreros, pinatas, framed paintings of the Virgin of Guadalupe and seashell renderings of the crucifixion.

Fruit is an especially sweet buy, with mangos and bananas selling for as little as 25 cents a pound. The market is open daily.

Kid fun

From El Fuerte de San Diego, which originally was built to protect Acapulco from pirates, to Cici, a modern-day, water-oriented theme park for children, the Costera Aleman -- the city's main business avenue -- is home to many of Acapulco's kid-friendly and low-cost attractions.

• Cici. A water theme park for children, Cici has dolphin and seal shows, a freshwater wave pool, a water slide and a mini-aquarium. Entrance is $4.

• Parque Papagayo. Papagayo sits on 52 acres of prime real estate on the Costera. Children can enjoy a life-size model of a Spanish galleon, an aviary, a roller-skating rink and a racetrack with child-size race cars. Entrance is free, and rides range from 70 cents to about $2.

• Casa de la Cultura. This complex houses a small archaeological museum, an exhibit of Mexican and international crafts and the Ixcateopan art gallery. Entrance is free.

• Sunset cruise. For about $12, visitors can enjoy a cruise with an open bar and live music. Bonanza, a respected local operator, runs sunset cruises from near the zocalo. Many hotels and shops sell tickets for the cruises, which depart daily at 4:30 p.m.

Beach time

A day at the beach is a day well spent in Acapulco. For less than a $12 taxi ride or a 75 cent bus ride from the city, visitors can head to two beautiful, off-the-beaten-path beaches known as Pie de la Cuesta and Coyuca Lagoon.

You can power along on a Jet Ski or sign up for a laid-back, three-hour boat ride on Coyuca, the freshwater lake that's said to be three times the size of Acapulco Bay.

Another less-crowded beach is Puerto Marques. Sheltered within a small bay east of Playa Icacos, it boasts the most tranquil waters in the area, great sunsets and small restaurants where a local meal of fresh-caught fish and a beer costs about $5.

Sightseeing

Looking for silver goods? Then a day trip to the city of Taxco is well worth the journey. Located about 170 miles north of Acapulco, Taxco is a relic of its colonial past.

An old mining town, Taxco remained isolated for centuries until William Spratling, an architecture professor from Tulane University, fell in love with the town and started reviving its silver mines in 1929.

Today, the town is dotted with silver shops and tourists trying to strike a deal on beautifully designed silver jewelry and other items.

Although shopping in Taxco is not what many would consider "cheap," shoppers definitely find good value for their dollar.

Comfortable bus service is available from Acapulco for about $13, and information about schedules can be obtained at any hotel concierge or tour desk.

Cliff divers

The spectacular Quebrada, where fearless divers plunge 130 feet into the Pacific below -- landing in a 12-foot-deep cove -- has been one of Mexico's famous attractions since the 1940s.

No visit to Acapulco would be complete without witnessing a dive. There are typically five daily performances, including four in the evening when divers carry torches.

One of the best viewing spots is La Perla Nightclub at the cliffside Hotel Plaza Las Glorias (formerly Hotel El Mirador).

For more information on Acapulco, call (800) 44-MEXICO or visit www.visitmexico.com.

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