Acapulco's iconic sport remains cliff diving at La Quebrada made famous by the long-running ABC TV program, The Wide World of Sports with its "thrill of victory...agony of defeat" motif. Show times are 1, 7:30, 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. Since 1934, remarkably fit men sail off the towering rocks, diving into shallow water and dangerous tides below. For a modest entrance fee, one may watch the plummeting action from a platform by the cliff or leisurely dine at La Perla restaurant which provides a decent view of the fearless divers. A buffet breakfast costs 110 pesos ($11) and includes chilequiles (fried tortilla pieces with scrambled eggs and chili), sopas, and chicharones, with yogurt, cereal, fresh fruit, tropical juices, Mexican pastellitas (little coffee cakes) and seasonal treats. For added flavour, you will be a serenaded by a wandering trio of mariachis.
A famous beach resort, Acapulco is located on the Pacific coast, 395 kilometres (245 miles) from Mexico City. The beautiful bay and beaches were staked out by the hotel industry which has staged major renovations, accented by a vibrant nightlife, making this area one of the hottest playgrounds in Mexico.
If the cliff divers instill some courage, you may try bungee jumping and parasailing, admiring the stunning panorama of the bay and surrounding mountains from high above the beaches. Speaking of beaches, Acapulco offers a full 20 kilometres (12 miles) of them with activities ranging from aquatic sports, diving or simply snoozing in the sun.
Here are some recommendations:
Of course, there are many more beaches, including Revolcadero, four kilometres (2.5 miles) east of Puerto Marques, Punta Diamante, five kilometres southeast of Puerto Marques, Condesa, in the Zona Dorada area along Costera Miguel Aleman Avenue, Tamarindo, Hornos and Hornitos, along Costera Miguel Aleman Avenue, Pichilingue, in the Punta Diamante zone about 15 minutes from the airport and Barra Vieja, 27 kilometres (16.7 miles) south of Acapulco.
Roqueta: This beach is on Roqueta Island, so board the boat that leaves from Caleta Beach and explore the lighthouse and zoo. Check out the outlying areas' tropical plants from a boat that carries one to remote areas where there is a rich ecosystem of iguana, other reptiles and various species of birds. Roqueta is favoured by scuba and cave divers. From a glass-bottom boat, view aquatic plants and animals below, and later, plunge into the deep to witness the underwater statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Puerto Marques: is 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) southeast of Acapulco. This beach is a favourite of Mexican tourists, waves fairly calm, and wonderful for pictures. Locals savour the delicious fish and seafood dishes, and recommend this beach for its shallow-water scuba diving and snorkeling with myriad marine life. Tour the black lagoon in a dugout canoe, and wonder at the plant and animal life in the mangrove swamp where shadowy roots grow wild and provide a sinister, murky tone.
Caleta and Caletilla: These beaches are located on Costera Miguel Aleman Avenue, in front of Roqueta Island. Arrive on foot or use public transportation. The Magico Mundo Marino amusement park offers lodging, swimming pools, water slides, restaurants and aquatic sport rentals. Known for calm waters and gorgeous scenery, these are Acapulco's more traditional beaches and recommended for novice scuba divers and snorkelers due to their excellent water visibility. Caleta provides popular swimming for families with children; however, get ready to be approached constantly by vendors.
Icacos: is in the southern portion of the bay, one of Acapulco's biggest and longest beaches in the hotel zone, appropriate for water activities that require rentals. The CICI aquatic park provides dolphin and seal shows, water slides, swimming pools and small aquariums. Moderate waves and calm waters are perfect for windsurfing. Icacos is also ideal for snorkeling, with a sunken ship, Rio de la Plata, available at a greater depth for certified divers. Parasailing and waverunners are readily available. Located in front of La Palapa Hotel, Playa Icacos is a favourite for vacationers and spring breakers.
Pie de la Cuesta: is 10 kilometres (6 miles) northeast of the Acapulco Bay, known for its strong surf. Arrive by following the Pie de la Cuesta highway to the four-kilometre mark in Barra de Coyuca. This small beach of powdery sand invites one to scan the open sea from the shade of a hammock or take a boat ride to Coyuca Lagoon to try waterskiing. Restaurants offer fine fish and seafood. Here, you can help protect marine turtles and their eggs. Females deposit up to 100 eggs, hatching in 45-50 days from October to January. Parador del Sol, a marine turtle camp, conducts research and helps to protect the turtles and eggs from poachers.
Be forewarned that the surf and undertow are strong enough to challenge even advanced surfers. Plan to visit for the day to remain for the sunset. There are good seafood restaurants, and welcome respite from busier beaches along the main strip.
"Mr. Acapulco," Teddy Stauffer is noted for his claim to fame, the creation of the first discotheque, "The Tequila a Go-Go," and the most glamorous Acapulco hotel at the time, Villa Vera, frequented by actor Johnny Weissmuller, aka "Tarzan." There are many clubs, the two most popular, Salon Q and Ninas, both in the heart of Acapulco. Music is Latin, Cumbia, Duranguense, Norteno, Merengue and most commonly, Salsa. El Alebrije claims to be the largest night club in Latin America, serving 5,000 people. The crowd is young, around 18-25.
There are huge nightclubs, usually packed wall-to-wall with "beautiful people" who party 'til sunrise. Discos open at 11:00 pm and close at 6:00 am. Yikes, how does one engage in water sports the next day?
Local buses add to Acapulco's colourful flavour, being privatized and therefore subject to unique decorations. After a night on the town, you might encounter pink buses, blaring Mexican music, others decked out in UV lights, pulsing with music, and, for tourists, more moderately styled yellow buses with "Acapulco!" painted on the side.
Be careful with the night life or you might want to join the cliff divers when you awake!
Adam Southwood writes for Canadian, U.S. and European magazines and newspapers. He is a graduate of both McMaster University in Hamilton and UWO in London with an interest in culture and history. He has produced several educational programs for TV..
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