Starting with the construction of the Hotel El Mirador in the 1930s, the fishing and seaport city of Acapulco has been a growing tourist attraction for Norte Americanos and other tourists from Mexico and around the world. From the 1950s through the 1970s it was the vacation resort in Mexico. Since then, the blossoming of tourism in Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan has eclipsed some of Acapulco’s shine. Which was something that brought me there in late 2008.
Newer hotels line the Bay in the Golden Zone, and the shore further down the coast beyond the mountains is becoming a vast city of glitzy resorts. My own choice was Alba Suites in the "traditional" section, out on the peninsula. English is a second language here, where most of the guests are from Mexico or nearby countries. The streets are mainly residential, and time share vendors hardly ever venture to come. It’s Mexico.
There’s a lot to offer in Acapulco. Nightclubs abound, and there are fishing cruises, parasailing and diving. We skipped all that. After a non-stop year our plan was to kick back for a week, do some photography, catch up on some reading, sleep and togetherness.
We did take the day trip to Taxco. Having been there 20 years ago, we wanted to revisit and see what had changed. See the related article. Also see the movie Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
The advantage and the disadvantage to being out on the peninsula is the isolation. It’s a bus or taxi ride to the Golden Zone or even to the city center. Casa de cambio (exchange house)? What’s that? Everybody out on the peninsula already has his own pesos. And that is the end of the disadvantages.
Five pesos (about 40 cents) gets you a bus ride into town. Waiting for a bus? You don’t even need an egg timer. The privately owned and operated (and government subsidized) buses sometimes seem to come down the street nose to tail. No need to buy a ticket. Just hand over some pesos and get change on the spot. More comfort? Take one of the VW taxis for a few pesos more. Stick out your hand and flag one down.
Walking distance (about a half mile for us) from the hotel is exiting Caleta Beach with its booming restaurants and marvelous sand. Be prepared, however. Alba Suites is on a cliff overlooking the bay, and the bus does not go up this hill. Burn of a few calories from your Caleta Beach meal.
The view from Alba Suites is absolutely stunning. The view from our balcony took in all of the bay, including the adjacent yacht club and nearly the entire city on the opposite shore.
The Web site Acapulco.com is an excellent source. Prior to our trip we booked the Taxco trip and airport transportation through companies listed there. See also Fred Meulemeester’s site at http://www.fredsphoto.on.ca/acapulco2.htm. Fred heads down to Acapulco on a regular basis and likes to share his experiences and tips.
If you want to get away from that mid-west blizzard, this is the place. The tour salesman in Acapulco told us December is too cold. We begged to differ. T-shirts were soaked with sweat after a few minutes of afternoon walking. Good news: Evenings in Acapulco are invigorating. Our balcony at Alba Suites was ideal for breakfast, a late night snack and even lunch.
Get some pesos. American money is good, but cash register drawers want local money. If you stay out on the peninsula you will need some pesos for the bus to get into town to get some pesos. We solved this problem on arrival by hiking down to the hill to the main street and buying groceries from a local store. They took dollars at a reasonable exchange rate and gave pesos. The many casas de cambio in the Golden Zone give varying rates, but the best we found was Consultoria Internacional. It’s right on Costera Miguel Aleman toward the down-coast end of hotel row. There are Oxxo stores (Mexico’s answer to Seven-Eleven) everywhere, and they take dollars. However, Oxxo’s business is selling stuff and not changing money. Be reasonable and buy a bunch of stuff.
The hotel will change money. You do not want to do this. When the official rate was 13.5 pesos to the dollar, Alba Suites was giving 9.5. Consultoria Internacional was giving 13.0. Oxxo was giving 12.8. Rates (except at the hotel) updated daily as the dollar settled in for a long winter’s nap.
Take the bus. Nobody lives forever. The route is marked in tempera on the front window. You want the Caleta, Hornos, Zocalo route. You do not want the route that includes "Rio." This takes you on a detour through narrow city streets. Fares vary. I once gave the driver ten pesos (for two people), and he gave me a peso change. I saw another bus charging 5.5. One bus was air-conditioned. Most are not, except for the special tourist buses.
Regular shared-ride airport shuttles do not go out to Alba Suites. It’s an extra charge, and it’s not a shuttle. We booked two round trip fares in advance for a total of $90 plus Texas sales tax.
We booked our hotel, airport transportation and the Taxco day trip on the Internet and paid in U.S. dollars.