The birthplace of Mexico’s tourism industry fosters thoughts of cliff divers that amaze, memories of John Wayne and his Hollywood gang, and a scenic urban waterfront drive – still clogged with traffic and old Volkswagen Beetle taxis.
For those who remember the formative years of Acapulco with entrepreneur Teddy Stauffer and the legendary Duke, take note – the new Acapulco is emerging. An array of now-open posh hotels and major tourism investments, both from the public and private sector, are creating a new image.
A few years ago, cruise ships spent the night and took on new passengers. The shiny waters hid a growing underbelly of cartel crime that would tarnish the jet-set legacy. Today the city of 2 million attracts the bulk of its visitors from Mexico City. Acapulco is the closest beach getaway.
“There is some hard work to be done,” says Benny Hudson, representative for Acapulco’s cruise tourism. “The new federal government administration is developing a security shield around the city.”
The most recent investment in Acapulco comes in the form of the new Advisory Council for the Recovery of the Traditional Zone, the celebrated neighborhood that is home to the iconic La Quebrada cliff divers, as well as Wayne’s famous Los Flamingos Hotel and the now renovated retro-chic Hotel Boca Chica.
Mexican entrepreneur Carlos Slim was appointed chairman of the new Advisory Council, whose main objective is to protect, restore and revitalize this historic section. Future projects include the creation of a Center for Biodiversity, a recreation center for the Caleta and Caletilla beach areas,and an improved traditional 'zocalo.'
Major upgrades to Acapulco's tourism infrastructure are also planned. A new transportation system (ACABUS) is slated to run from the Traditional Zone to the Diamond Zone – the area near the distant airport. Anoyther plan includes construction of a tunnel that will connect the main tourism area (the Golden Zone) to the Diamond Zone. These projects are expected to alleviate traffic.
Also new in Acapulco is the Turtle Dunes Country Club and Golf Course, an exclusive, full-service country club opened last year on the grounds of the Fairmont Acapulco Princess. The club features an 18-hole championship golf course, a clubhouse located on the famed Revolcadero Beach.
Recent hotel openings include the fashionable boutique property Hotel Encanto, the vision of Mexican architect Miguel Angel Aragones, and the cliff-top wonder called Banyan Tree Cabo Marqués. Also new to Acapulco is the 224-room Holiday Inn La Isla property in the Condesa neighborhood.
Few cruise lines call on Acapulco these days. Flights to Acapulco began in 1953 with American Airlines. The carrier still operates here today. Flights are numerous for anyone who wants to remember the era when John Wayne welcomed Gary Cooper to his Hollywood hideaway.
For those who need reminding of the nostalgia, stop by the El Mirador Hotel. Notice the wall-mounted photo of Frank Sinatra with Ava Gardner at the cliff divers’ performance location. For more information, visit www.rememberacapulco.com.
When you go:
American Airlines offers service from both Miami and Fort Lauderdale, via Dallas-Fort Worth. Visit AA.com.