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Those heading off for an Acapulco vacation usually have one top priority, and that is to head to the beach. There they can either kick back and relax or opt for something active, like a jet boat ride or a parasailing adventure. But Acapulco travel can be much more. Visitors can stay busy throughout their time exploring the historic quarter of the city, shopping at local markets or high-end boutiques, or searching for the finest Mexican-Asian fusion meal or best street taco. Day trips include pre-Hispanic archeological sites, ziplines and rafting adventures, waterparks and natural lagoons offering a variety of eco-activities. In Acapulco, the city’s nightlife is legendary, and things kick into gear once the sun goes down. And that leads us right back to the beach, where you can spend the next morning with a towel over your eyes, nursing yourself back to full strength for another day and another night of exploring Acapulco.
Magico Mundo Marino suffers (or benefits) from a split personality. Is it an aquarium or a water park? Actually it’s both. If you have kids in tow, bring them to the exhibits first, where they can ogle a variety of sea creatures and exotic birds. Then set them loose on the water slides and pool. You’ll also have the option of catching a free sea lion show or kicking back in Magico Mundo’s restaurant and taking in the broad views of Caleta beach.
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Tehuacalco (an Acapulco archeological zone) has only been open to the public since 2008. Tehuacalco is south of the city of Chilpancingo, Guerro’s capital city. This makes it a bit of a drive outside of Acapulco, about an hour to the north, but it’s worth the trip if you want a glimpse of the region’s Pre-Hispanic Yope Indian past. The Yopes were considered fierce warriors and were never conquered by the Aztecs. The archaeological zone has the remains of a ball court, living spaces, a temple, pyramidal structures, sun cult caves and petroglyphs. You’ll see all this during a tour, as well as exhibits in a small museum housing artifacts from the site. Part of the site’s appeal is its location, which is ringed by the South Sierra Madre Mountains.
One hour drive north of Acapulco, near the town of Tierra Colorado.
Neighborhood: Golden Zone
Here’s one of the top Acapulco things to do if you’re traveling with kids, be a hero and bring them here. CICI Waterpark is right on the beach and is Acapulco’s version of a waterpark, with lots of pools and slides. You can also watch dolphin shows and pay big bucks to swim with the dolphins. There’s also a tethered hot-air balloon ride that lifts you 50 meters into the air, giving you a cool view of the city. Little ones should give a wide berth to the park’s Skycoaster, kind of a Frankenstein creation mixing a swing and a bungee jump.
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House of Masks
Much of Acapulco travel revolves around beach, shopping, eating and partying. That’s why it’s nice to have something from left field like the Casa de la Mascara, he House of Masks. While the 1,000-mask collection centers on Mexico, there are also masks from around the world. The collection is grouped around themes like “Devils and Death,” “The Huichols and the Jaguar,” and “Masks of the World.” It’s one of best Acapulco things to do, and the museum is free, as well as conveniently located near the Fort of San Diego. Keep a sharp eye out for it, since the collection is in a house converted into a museum and it blends into its surroundings.
This is a magical zone. While most Mexican zocalos (main squares) are sun-blasted affairs, Acapulco’s is deeply shaded, almost as though you were a fish in a murky aquarium. There’s not an awful lot to see here; the main attraction is La Catedral Nuestra Senora de la Soledad, dating from the 1930s. There are lots of little shops and restaurants, and, if no cruise ship is in port, the ratio of tourists to locals is low. In the evening, various street performers wander in, mainly in hopes of entertaining local children in exchange for a few pesos.
La Roqueta Island
Neighborhood: Traditional Zone
A 10-minute boat ride from Caleta Beach brings you to La Roqueta Island. You can also choose to make the trip in a glass-bottom boat. It will cost twice as much, but they make a point of going over the submerged statue of the Virgin de Guadalupe, otherwise known as Virgin of the Seas. Boats set off at 30-minute intervals and the last boat back to the mainland sets sail at 5:30PM. You can rent watersports equipment once you’re on the island. In addition to snorkeling, hiking is also good, and it’s possible to make a circuit of the island in about two hours. The island has two beaches, with surf gentle enough for little kids. The beaches tend to get crowded during the weekend, since the island is also popular with locals. There are three small restaurants serving meals at picnic tables on the beach, try the garlic baked red snapper. The island also has alcoholic burros wandering around that like to bum beers off diners, so if you’re a member of PETA, be prepared to have your day ruined.
Neighborhood: Papagayo River
This ecological park about 45 minutes outside the city is one of the top Acapulco attractions. Bravo Town is located on the Papagayo River and is surrounded by mountain scenery. This is the place to go once the thrill of downing some tequila and having your head shaken from side to side by a waiter has faded. Kick out the jams with zip-lining, kayaking, rappelling Sierra Madre del Sur and river rafting on 5 miles atop class I, II and II-plus rapids (rafting is usually only good from June to February). Bravo Town is an offshoot of the Shotover jetboat ride. For an additional fee, Shotover Jet will transport you from their office in Acapulco to Bravo Town.
Neighborhood: Traditional Zone
If you’re interested in Acapulco history, the Fort of San Diego is one of the best Acapulco things to do. Not only has it played an important part in the story of Acapulco, having been used to repel pirates, the Dutch and Mexican revolutionaries, it is also the site of the Acapulco History Museum. The museum has 15 exhibition rooms chronicling such eras as the earliest pre-Hispanic inhabitants of the region, sea trade with Asia, and the role the fort played in the Mexican War of Independence. When you’re done touring, take a few minutes to enjoy the expansive bay views from the fort’s walls. On Sundays, admission to the museum is free, and students with school I.D. are gratis all the time.
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Neighborhood: Traditional Zone
In a world of blistering theme park rides and over-the-top Las Vegas shows, the Le Quebrada Cliff Divers may seem quaint. If you pause a moment and really think about what they’re doing, timing their dives between breaking waves from a height of 131 feet, to dive into an inlet only 23 feet wide and 13 feet deep, then there’s nothing quaint about it, these guys have cojones. The divers first pray to a shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe, and then make their dives. The show culminates with a diver holding lit torches in each hand and diving into a ring of fiery gasoline on the water. You can pay a few bucks and watch the show from an observation deck, or opt for a ringside table at the Mirador Hotel Acapulco’s La Perla restaurant (avoid dinner if possible, which is subpar, and order a cocktail instead).
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Neighborhood: Pie de la Cuesta
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If you’re in Acapulco for more than a few days, you may need a change of pace from saltwater, sun and the bustle of La Costera. Coyuca Lagoon is a natural freshwater oasis to the west of the city, in Pie de la Cuesta. The lagoon is lined with palms and surrounded by coconut groves. You can swim, horseback ride, birdwatch and water ski. Then, there are also plenty of places to grab a meal or even make your trip in to an overnight. Numerous operators run ecological boat tours to Coyuca. Most of these tours are half-day affairs, so if you’re looking for something more leisurely, ask around or plan a Coyuca Lagoon sojourn on your own. Bogie and Hepburn filmed some of the scenes in their classic film "The African Queen" at the Coyuca Lagoon.
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