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Acapulco - Mexico's largest seaside resort

Acapulco is located in the state of Guerrero on the Pacific coast, 380 kilometers (240 miles) southwest from Mexico City. It is Mexico's largest beach and seaside resort city.

The city is nestled along the shore of a deep, semi-circular bay that has been a port since Mexico's early colonial period. Acapulco is a popular port of call for cruise lines navigating the Pacific Ocean from many ports in North or South America. Acapulco has the reputation of a high-energy party town, where one can have dinner at midnight, dance until dawn and relax in the daytime on the beach. The night life is a major attraction for tourists looking to have a good time.

Acapulco beach
The modern beachfront of Acapulco

Forty percent of the area occupied by the city is mountainous terrain. Another forty percent has hills, and the remaining twenty percent along the coastline is flat. The mountains around Acapulco have an elevation of 1,699 meters (5,574 feet) above sea level. Acapulco has a tropical climate with distinct wet and dry seasons. The seasonal temperatures are fairly constant, but vary by altitude. The warmest areas are next to the sea. Tropical storms sometimes occur from May through November.

Acapulco is one of Mexico's oldest and most well-known beach resorts. It served as the background of many Hollywood movies in the 1950s and became a popular destination for Hollywood stars and millionaires such as Frank Sinatra, Eddie Fisher and Brigitte Bardot. Elizabeth Taylor and other famous people owned luxurious homes near the city. Tourism declined in the 2000s when wars between drug traffickers created a lot of negative publicity.

Acapulco has the "traditional" area close to the cliffs on the west side. In this old area, the beach is directly accessible from the road that runs along the coast. The "modern" section of the resort was built at the end of the 20th century, and it is dominated by luxury high-rise hotels along the beachfront. The hotels are located between the coastal road and the beach.

Map of Mexico showing Acapulco
Acapulco is in southwest Mexico
Map of Acapulco
Map of Acapulco Bay

The pier for cruise ships is located adjacent to El Fuerte de San Diego, which was the fort that protected the harbor in colonial times. Modern cruise ships are as tall as 12-story buildings and you can see a picturesque view of Acapulco Bay from the top decks.

View from the Acapulco harbor
View from a ship docked at Acapulco harbor

The following image shows dancers in traditional costumes performing for tourists arriving on a cruise ship. The stone wall in the background is part of the star-shaped fort Fuerte de San Diego.

Dancers in traditonal dresses
Dancers in traditional dresses greet tourists at the piers

La Quebrada
The cliff called "La Quebrada" is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Acapulco. Daring divers entertain tourists by jumping off ledges on the cliff as high as 80 feet (24 meters). Divers have to time their jump when the incoming wave increases the depth of the water to avoid serious injury or death.

Acapulco cliffs
Hotels and restaurants overlook the cliffs in Acapulco

Divers make a living from tourist donations and from sponsorships by the hotels and restaurants surrounding the cliff.

The divers start training at an early age and they must learn how to climb the cliffs and how to avoid the dangerous spots. At night, the divers provide a suspenseful spectacle by jumping with torches in their hands.

Acapulco diver
Acapulco diver

La Capilla de la Paz
A large cross on the top of a mountain can be seen from anywhere along the beach in Acapulco. The large cross is part of the Capilla de la Paz (The Chapel of Peace) that was built by Carlos Trouyet as an ecumenical chapel. The lower level of the chapel has the tombs of the Trouyet family, including two sons who died in an aviation accident in 1967.

Capilla de la Paz, Acapulco
Capilla de la Paz (The Chapel of Peace)

Today, the Capilla de la Paz is a popular tourist destination that provides a panoramic view of Acapulco Bay.

Acapulco bay seen from Capilla de la Paz
Acapulco bay seen from Capilla de la Paz

El Fuerte de San Diego
The first major road between Mexico City and the port of Acapulco was constructed by 1531, and Hernán Cortés established Acapulco as a major port in the early 1530s. Within a few years, the area became a major Spanish province.

A fort was initially built in 1615 to protect from pirate raids. Construction for the current fort started in 1776. The fort was designed as a pentagonal structure with five bulwarks. The fort was completed in 1783 and could accommodate one thousand men with enough supplies and water to last one year. The fort was later converted to a convent, a hospital and a jail.

El Fuerte de San Diego
El Fuerte de San Diego protected the entrance to the harbor

Spanish trade in the Far East gave Acapulco a prominent position in the economy of New Spain. By 1550, there were already thirty Spanish families living in Acapulco that provided a permanent base of European residents, and there was a brisk trade with galleons from Asia. Acapulco became the second most important port, after Veracruz, due to its trade with the Philippines.

The fort has been converted into a museum containing pre-Columbian exhibits and artifacts from the various periods of Spanish and Mexican administration.

Historical Museum of Acapulco
The Historical Museum of Acapulco is housed in the fort.

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