In Acapulco’s golden era, high society met on its shores. Hollywood stars were regulars, including Elizabeth Taylor, who married her third husband there.
Acapulco has lost its former ranking as a leading international tourist destination to younger upstart resorts. There are no direct flights from Alberta and it takes a day to get there. However, it is definitely worth the effort to go if you are looking for a crowd-free, quiet holiday.
Acapulco is a city of beaches, each with its own personality. We stayed at the Mayen Sea Gardens, about a half-hour taxi ride south of downtown Acapulco.
The place is full of condominiums, but there was basically no one there when we arrived. We had the beach to ourselves and on our long beach walks, we might see a total of 10 people.
Apparently the wealthy Mexicans who live in Mexico City own the majority of the condos and they don’t go to the beach in February and March. Taxi rates were posted at the hotel and this really helped but other than the hotel desk manager, basically no one spoke English and we spoke no Spanish! The manager was able to line us up with Papi, an older English-speaking taxi driver.
Papi became our personal tour guide.
Papi took us on a city tour. There were new high end shopping malls with very few cars in the parking lot, a beautiful church high up in the hills with a fabulous view of Acapulco, and all sort of expensive homes with security walls and beautiful gardens.
In downtown Acapulco, there was plenty of traffic, and lots of T-shirt shops, bars, restaurants and amusement activities.
The main beach was crowded with the many hotel guests. Unfortunately for us, there were very few art galleries.
On the beach near the downtown area, the locals played volleyball and fishermen reeled in their nets.
Acapulco used to be a major destination for the cruise ships, but the ships don’t stop here any more due to major security and theft issues. We felt very safe as there were armed military and armed city police all through the area. The harbour area where the cruise ships used to stop is now a huge parking lot full of new cars in transit.
Papi said, “Let me tell you about the famous cliff divers. In the 1930s, Teddy Stauffer a Swiss big band leader, playboy and hotel and club owner noticed kids jumping off the cliffs into the sea. With his encouragement and marketing skills, Acapulco now has the famous cliff divers.” A trip to Acapulco isn’t complete until you’ve seen the famous divers at La Quebrada leap from a 40-metre (130 foot) cliff into 3.3 metres (11 feet) of water.
Without a car, we got a little cabin fever. We were looking for an adventure by the second week of our stay. Our friend Mike had previously backpacked the region and encouraged us to visit Taxco, an old gold and silver mining town in the mountains half way between Acapulco and Mexico City.
Apparently after the Spanish Conquest in 1521, conquistador Hernan Cortes learned that the Indians living in the mountains south of what is now Mexico City paid earlier conqueror Moctezuma in blocks of silver and gold.
The Taxco Indians extracted silver and gold from what is believed to be one of the earliest mines in North America.
In 1759, French-born mining magnet Jose de la Borda built Santa Prisco Parish church declaring “God gives to Borda, Borda gives to God.”
In the 1920s, American professor of architecture William Spratling set up a silver jewelry workshop and Taxco became the silver capital of the world. Spratling’s designs are still made in the original moulds he designed.
The half-day bus ride to Taxco was excellent, on major mountain highways in the luxury road bus. There was a lot of very rough country as we drove up the mountain.
From time to time we would see cattle grazing on corn stock residue and scrub brush as it was the dry season and there was no green grass.
When the bus arrived in Taxco, a tourist information officer greeted us with a local city map and got us a taxi to our hotel.
We would have never found it on our own up the steep and narrow cobblestone streets in this mountain-top town.
Our accommodation was great, in a two-storey colonial hotel complete with courtyard, beautiful flower gardens and flowering trees, and a large upper patio area that overlooked the city.
It was a magical place and well worth the effort of getting there.
Since Taxco was halfway between Mexico City and Acapulco, it is a major tourist attraction for the Mexicans. We saw very few foreigners. There were so many jewelry shops it was mind-boggling.
If you go
• Air Canada doesn’t have any direct flights but we were able to fly Air Canada to Houston, then Air Mexico to Mexico City and then on to Acapulco.
• We stayed at the Mayen Sea Garden (www.seagarden.com), which is part of the Grand Mayan and Mayan Place resorts (www.thegrandmayan.com and www.mayanplace.com). It is a very large complex and you take a shuttle bus to move around the resort. The Grand Mayan is designed for families with a huge water park and excellent golf courses.
• Taxco Hotel Los Arcos is a colonial-era hotel nestled in the mining town in the mountains with steep cobblestone streets flanked by jewelry shops, workshops and markets selling everything from jewelry to home decorating items made of silver. www.hotellosarcos.net
Duane McCartney is a local freelance writer.