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Acapulco Neighborhoods

Acapulco’s scenic bay cuts into Mexico’s coastline, and roughly runs west to east. The city’s history developed inside that bay on the western side. This is where you’ll find the historic sites such as the Fort of San Diego and the city’s Traditional Zone. As Acapulco grew and developed in the 1950s into a tourism powerhouse, high-rise hotels were built along the shoreline of the interior of the bay, giving birth to Acapulco’s Golden Zone. Modern-day Acapulco has shifted its major development even farther east, along the higher elevations, to create the Diamond Zone. There you’ll find upscale hotels and restaurants with stunning bay views. 

Pie de la Cuesta

Most visitors who venture out to Pie de la Cuesta are probably heading out for an eco-holiday at the freshwater lake called Laguna de Coyuca. Pie de la Cuesta is about a 6-mile drive west of Traditional Acapulco. If you do venture out, buy a beer and soak up the sun on the Pacific Ocean side, but use caution if you go into the surf; it can be tricky. Instead, save your dip for the lagoon side. There’s plenty to do, including horseback riding, birdwatching, windsurfing and kayaking. Pie de la Cuesta is also known for the beauty of its sunsets. If you’re digging it, and you want to spend the night, there’s a selection of hotels ranging from 150-room properties to those with only a handful of keys. 

Urban Zone

The Urban Zone in the northwest part of the city is not really recommended for tourists. If you’re a city explorer who is not interested in sightseeing, but more intrigued by the sociology of a city, then take a gander. Just watch your back—the Urban Zone can turn into a “wrong place at the wrong time” excursion if you’re not careful, since skirmishes between rival drug cartels have been known to break out in this part of the city. If you feel the need to see it for yourself, take along a local you can trust. 

Traditional Zone

When it comes to Acapulco travel most visitors will be staying in hotels outside the Traditional Zone, since it’s the oldest part of the city and away from the beach. It would be a mistake to write it off, though, as the Traditional Zone is where you’ll see some of the city’s historic sites, an abundance of local color and its touristic icons: the brave La Quebrada cliff divers. You could easily make an afternoon of it by touring the Fort of San Diego, strolling through the uber-shady zocalo (main square), browsing the Mercado Municipal and then topping off the day watching the divers do their thing. If you have a strong digestive system, sample some of the food from the street vendors—the Mexican corn on the cob is especially tasty. There are some seedy areas in the Traditional Zone, but these are easy to avoid—just keep your antennae up. 

Golden Zone

This is where Acapulco developed its bones as a legendary beach destination. There are loads of beachfront hotels to choose from, as well as smaller budget hotels on the north side of La Costera, the road that runs along the beach. Most of the hotels in the Golden Zone have seen better days—they’re perfectly serviceable, but none of them are going to have you throwing up your hands hollering, “I’ve found the Promised Land!” La Costera is lined with shops, malls, nightclubs, fast-food joints and open-air restaurants. If you walk down to the western edge of the Golden Zone, where it butts up against the Traditional Zone, you’ll find the locals beach. This is a lively place, especially on weekends, when it’s packed with families enjoying the surf, sun and ramshackle restaurants serving fresh seafood and cold Tecates. 

Diamond Zone

The Diamond Zone is where the tourism future of Acapulco is being made. With a few exceptions, it’s the Diamond Zone that is drawing the biggest investment. The area is up on the hills to the east overlooking the bay. What you give up in beach access is amply compensated for by beautiful vistas, new upscale hotels, the city’s best restaurants and high-end shopping. The area is also studded with wonderful villas—some dating back to Acapulco’s heyday in the—60s, complete with Playboy After Dark sunken living rooms and kidney-shaped pools. If you have daily business in Acapulco proper, the commute down from the Diamond Zone could be a pain in the neck. But if you’re looking for a sybaritic getaway, the Diamond Zone is the place to be. 

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