Weather-wise, it’s such a lovely day
If you say the word, we will beat those birds back to Acapulco Bay
It is perfect for a flying honeymoon, they say
Come fly with me, let’s fly
Pack up, let’s fly away…
The name Acapulco conjures up images of gorgeous sandy wide bays where vanishing edge pools and luxury homes line the cliffsides looking out to the rippling blue seas. The Hollywood jetset crowd of the 1950’s would fly down for cocktail hour and glamorous all night parties. Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, Jonny Weismuller and Elvis were all prominent figures in this Pacific playground, JFK and Jackie took their honeymoon there and Elizabeth Taylor got married for the third time in Acapulco. It was the exotic place to go during the 50’s when men wore classic suits and women paraded in elegant outfits while watching sunset from the pink paradise of Las Brisas Hotel to the ice cube sound of ‘chink chink’ in long alcoholic drinks.
Times have changed though, the main visitors now are the wealthy from Mexico City who take the short 3 hour drive down to Acapulco Bay for fun filled weekends in the city nightclubs and bars all along the main strip. Acapulco is still a popular holiday destination but there are less international tourists than ever due to its violent crime reputation.
To look at this shimmering tropical bay with its snazzy high rise hotels, you might be surprised to know that Acapulco is the 4th most violent city in the world! Statistics published in January 2016 state there are 104 homicides per 100,000 residents. In 2009 a prominent drug lord was murdered in Mexico resulting in rival gangs fighting out some gruesome battles for supremacy of the profitable drug market in Acapulco. Violent gun crime and beheadings are mainly confined away from the tourist strip and in the working class neighbourhoods. Typical of many large Mexican tourist cities there are multi million dollar properties on the coast meanwhile some of the poorer inland areas do not even have running water. The city relies on its tourist trade, Federal and State Police tooled up with huge semi-automatic machine guns stand guard and patrol the strip while iconic VW Beetle taxis whizz along, but the zones away from the tourist town are marshalled only by Municipal Police who are sometimes ill equipped to handle gang gun battles.
The US Embassy advises tourists only to arrive into Acapulco by air or cruise ship and not to stray from the main tourist areas. So you might wonder why two sets of middle aged Brits would make the 7 hour journey from Puerto Escondido to Acapulco by car over far too many ‘topes’ to stay for a couple of nights…
The mission – shopping!
Our friends Keith and Sue have just purchased a condo in Puerto, so we went armed with a shopping list to enable them to kit out their new gorgeous Mexico home. There are a few stores in Puerto but in Acapulco there are the main department stores plus Walmart and Sams Club.
Now bearing in mind the scary statistics and the fact that there were 12 murders in Acapulco over the two days prior to our visit, due to the removal of Federal Police who had been redeployed on security detail for the visit of Pope Francis to Mexico, you would think we would give it a big swerve? We hear of shootings in Puerto on a more regular basis, the causes- sex, drugs and money, none of which us Brits are likely to get involved in. We always make sure we will be safe, we never drive out of towns in the evenings, we stay in tourist areas, know the road routes, don’t flash any valuable goodies around and never go out late into the night. Sensible, usual precautions wherever we travel.
On the journey we had only 1 Federal road stop and the handsome moustached officer was a cheery chap who sped us on our way even with our truck piled high with purchases and covered with a tarpaulin! In Acapulco we saw plenty of armed police, saw Mexican cars being stopped and searched in the city, but we saw very few other gringos during our little stopover.
The view of the bays from the bargain Holiday Inn Resort were stunning, the strip was packed with seaside bars and restaurants and I’m sure they are pumping at weekends where the jazzy lights obscure the run down facades. But then in contrast dotted all along the strip are high end brand stores in glossy glass fronted buildings and I’ve never seen so many Starbucks all in one place!
In the swanky La Isla Shopping Centre hardly anyone else was there when we visited, this high end brand shopping complex was incredible we could hardly believe we were in Mexico. You could even take a gondola ride through the canal winding through the stores but it’s a shopping centre that only tourists and wealthy Mexicans could ever afford to shop in. In department store Liverpool we were given fabulous service by Hector who became our personal shopper during the two hours we were there choosing furniture to be delivered to Puerto.
After a long days shopping (loads of fun for the Evans helping to spend Keith and Sue’s money!) we took a taxi ride to the famous La Quebrada to watch the death defying cliff divers. For the full experience we took a table at the historic El Mirador hotel where Hollywood legends have their photo and signatures carved for eternity into the walls. We slowly sipped our $120 peso cocktails and watched 5 clavadistas dive into a shallow inlet of water. These speedo clad guys dive into the sea from lower level cliffs on the left side, swim across the sea inlet then freestyle climb up the rocks to their dive spots that jut out of the cliffs on the right. After a quick ‘Hail Mary’ prayer at the top they count the waves in and out before diving down into the waters, timing is everything to avoid breaking their necks or worse.
For tips on the way out they will happily pose for photos, we think Sue had a quick speedo bum touch!!
Our drive back to Puerto was nice and steady, we stopped just before Pinotepa at a friendly roadside restaurant for lunch where the owners had fantastic smiles, made a killer fresh salsa and fresh off the griddle delicious tacos. This is the real Mexico we know and love.
Mexico is a fantastic place and as Sue says ‘It’s an adventure everyday’
We’ve only met friendly people, who want us to love Mexico while spending our pesos of course. Yes there is a lot of drug related violence throughout Mexico but it’s well away from us gringos and unfortunately a problem that deters many from visiting this fabulous country. So to avoid any limb decapitation, Mr & Mrs E won’t be setting up drug cartels anytime soon..
Mexico is amazing, be sensible, be safe but mostly you’ll have fun!