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On A Budget Playa (Beach) Resort

Visitors to Mexico can stretch their dollar in Acapulco with authentic, incredible cuisine for under US$10, charming accommodations for less than US$60 and a wealth of activities at great values.

A vibrant port city, Acapulco is home to one of the most beautiful bays in the world. Acapulco has long been a favorite for celebrities such as Liz Taylor, Placido Domingo and Julio Iglesias. Today, the destination offers something for travelers of all budgets and is frequented by visitors simply interested in swimming, shopping, dining or just soaking up the sun against one of the world's most spectacular backdrops.

Day 1 - Monday (Lunes)

Click For Acapulco City GuideStart off your trip with a walk to the Zócalo and its Mercado de Artesanías (Crafts Market) and Mercado Municipal. All day the Zócalo is bustling with activity filled with vendors, shoeshine men and people greeting one another.

Locals come to these sprawling markets to purchase their everyday needs, from fresh vegetables and candles to love potions. While Acapulco is not known for its indigenous handicrafts, at the crafts market you can test your bargaining skills for Mexican treasures such as enormous sombreros, piñatas,framed paintings done on velvet of the Virgin of Guadalupe and seashell renderings of the crucifixion. Fruits can be particularly inexpensive with mangos and bananas for as little as 25 cents a pound. Both markets are open daily.

Day 2 - Tuesday (Martes)

Driving along the Costera Aleman could be a great option for travelers looking to take in the scenes without taking an expensive tour. From El Fuerte de San Diego, which was originally built to protect Acapulco from pirates, to Cici, a modern-day water-oriented theme park for children, the Costera Aleman provides visitors not only with a spectacular view of the bay but with some of Acapulco's most treasured and low-cost attractions.

Cici - A water theme park for children, Cici has dolphin and seal shows, a freshwater pool with wave-making apparatus, a water slide and mini-aquarium. Entrance is $4.

Parque Papagayo -
Papagayo sits on 52 acres of prime real estate on the Costera. Children enjoy a life-size model of a Spanish galleon, an aviary, a roller-skating rink and a racetrack with child-size racecars. No entrance fee, rides range from $.70 to $1.80.

Casa de la Cultura - A cultural complex houses a small archaeological museum, an exhibit of Mexican and international crafts and the Ixcateopan art gallery. No entrance fee.

Day 3 - Wednesday (Miercoles)

Wednesday night may be just the evening to take a sunset cruise along Acapulco's breathtaking bay. For about $12, visitors can enjoy a cruise with open bar and live and disco music. A good deal for those on a budget, Bonanza's cruises leave downtown near the zócalo at 4:30 p.m. Sunset cruises are likely one of the best ways to also see the cliff divers. Many hotels and shops sell the tickets.

Day 4 - Thursday (Jueves)

A day at the beach is always a day well spent on Mexico's West Coast. For less than a $12 taxi ride or a $.75 bus ride from the city, visitors can find two off-the-beaten-path beaches known as Pie de la Cuesta and the Coyuca lagoon. For the peso equivalent of about $5, visitors can also tour the lagoon in a "lancha" or small motorboat where you can witness fishermen casting their nets, a variety of hidden coves and tiny islands inhabited by a variety of bird species.

Another beautiful, less crowded beach is the pristine Puerto Marqués. Sheltered within a small bay east of Playa Icacos, it boasts the most tranquil waters in the area, breath-taking sunsets, charming little restaurants that will set up tables, chairs and umbrellas for you and where a shrimp cocktail and a bottle of Corona will cost about $5.

Day 5 - Viernes

Day trips to the nearby silver city of Taxco could be a great way to save on local wares, which can be hard to come across in Acapulco.

Approximately 170 miles north of Acapulco, Taxco, one of Mexico's most picturesque and charming cities, is a relic of its colonial past. An old mining town, Taxco remained isolated for centuries until an American William Spratling fell in love with the town and revived its silver mines.

Today, the town of Taxco is littered with silver shops and tourists trying to strike a deal on beautifully designed jewelry and wares. While shopping in Taxco is not what many would consider "cheap," shoppers definitely find good value for their dollar. Even if you can't afford to shop, a visit to Mexico's most medieval looking city is worth the visit.

Day 6 - Saturday (Sabado)

A trip to Acapulco isn't complete until you've seen the world-famous divers at La Quebrada. Trained divers plunge 130 feet into a narrow cove of just 11 feet of water, which is safe only when a wave has come in. You can see the dives, while sipping a drink at the Plaza Las Glorias Hotel or watch from a concrete embankment where admission is only $1.25.

Dives are scheduled at 1 p.m., and nightly at 7:30, 8:30, 9:30 and 10:30 p.m. At night, the last divers carry lighted torches as they plunge into the water -- an unforgettable sight.

Day 7 - Sunday (Domingo)

For those traveling between Christmas and Easter, bullfights can provide some spectacular entertainment for about the cost of two movie tickets. Held on Sundays at 5:30 p.m., tickets cost approximately $16. Preceding the bullfights are performances of Spanish dance and music.

Where to Stay

Stay at the Quinta Real Acapulco(Click Photo)
Hotel Quinta Real Acapulco -
an exclusive boutique resort
hotel with fabulous facilities.

It is a surprise to find many luxury chain hotels in Acapulco, a truly cosmpolitan city. Many of these luxury hotels offer exceptioinal year around values, such as the Hyatt, with standard garden room prices under US$80 per night. You can slide up the scale to a Fairmont (there are two of them in Acapulco, but the rates are still reasonable to luxury four and five star accommodationis in other Mexican locales, such as Cancun. Acapulco also has many find four and five star Mexican owned and run chains that offer even better rates, exceptional service, and they are right on the beach; most notable are the Plaza Las Glorias, Quinta Real, Qualton Club, and Camino Real chains. There are many small but luxurious boutique hotels as the world famous Las Brisas, hugging the cliffside.

Stay at the Camino Real Acapulco Diamante
(Click Photo)
Spectacular Camino Real Acapulco Diamante Resort
Overlooking the Shores of Puerto Marques Bay.

There's a variety of inexpensive lodging in Acapulco. The values are in the small hotels along the side streets surrounding the zócalo.

These accommodations are typically US$15 to US$20 per night and may provide private showers and electric fans.

Cheap Digs

Let's Stay At Las Brisas

(Click Photo) Las Brisas is an unique, year-round resort, set high on a hill overlooking the Bay, is a world of quiet luxury and complete privacy. Fresh flowers decorate the air-conditioned casitas, each equipped with a deluxe bar. In order to ensure a peaceful environment, radio and TV are not provided. The romantic private patios and swimming pools are surrounded by bougainvillaea and hibiscus. Dining: The Bellavista for gourmet international dining and musical ambience. Seafood at La Concha restaurant and private beach club. Theme parties include Jeep Safaris on Thursday mornings and Fiesta Mexicana on Friday evenings. Sports: La Concha Private Beach Club with two saltwater swimming pools carved out of rock, a large freshwater swimming pool with swim-up bar, and all watersports. Five lighted tennis courts, sauna, massage. Golf nearby. Fleet of 75 automatic jeeps for rental. Daily service charge in lieu of tipping.

Three of the area's top values are: Hotel Paola (16 Calle Teniente José Azueta; 82-62-43), which includes in its modest price free coffee and cookies, served both morning and afternoon.

Hotel Angelita (37 Calle Quebrada, 83-57-34) and Casa de Huéspedes California (12 Calle La Paz; 82-28-93). For guests who want to stay a month or more, rates go down to about $12.50 a night.

There are also some nice choices in the US$50 per room range that include more amenities -- notably air conditioning. A block away from the Costera and the beach you can find: the Acapulco Diana (58 Calle Francisco Pizarro; 84-73-73), which has a small pool, a bar an restaurant, and even refrigerators, and the Jazmín Suites (274 Calle V. Yáñez Pinzón; 84-45-66), with the added amenity of fully equipped kitchens. Hotel Playa Caleta (26 Fraccionamiento Las Playas; 82-06-70) is right on Playa Caleta, and has rooms with beautiful ocean views.

No matter what your budget you can make it stretch anytime of the year on the wide array of Acapulco hotel choices.

Cheap Eats

While Mexican cuisine can be described as exceptional, luckily for those travelling on a budget prices can be definitely affordable in Acapulco. Typically, your best prices can be found in small traditional restaurants, where Mexican families eat traditional national fare. For fresh fish and seafood, you can't beat El Amigo Miguel (16 Calle Benito Juárez; 82-51-95), three blocks from the zócalo. A full meal with an appetizer (crispy quesadillas stuffed with shark meat, or a zesty shrimp salad with avocado, onion and chili) and a main course (whole red snapper in garlic sauce, or a grilled filet of sea bass in "Veracruz" sauce, with onions, capers and tomato) costs less than $10. If you prefer dining on the beach, El Amigo Miguel has another restaurant on the Costera.

For decades, Mexicans in Acapulco have been eating tortas (layers not only of meat and/or cheese, but refried beans, avocado, tomato, onion and chile peppers, all heated on a grill in a plump roll) at a restaurant called La Tortuga. Set in a lovely outdoor garden under spreading mango trees, La Tortuga not only serves great tortas (about US$1.50), but more elaborate meals such as breaded veal cutlet or fried pork chops for US$4.50, or a plate of assorted antojitos, that includes tacos, enchiladas, tamales and other Mexican specialties for US$10.

For travelers looking for a taste of home, 100% Natural serves soy burgers, yogurt shakes, fruit salads and sandwiches. There are several of these health conscience restaurants scattered throughout Acapulco, particularly on the Costera. These restaurants are typically open 24 hours and average under US$15 per meal.

Getting Around

Getting around the city is cheapest when done by bus. They run frequently from many stops along the Costera for about US .30 - 40 cents. By taxi, transportation can be more expensive particularly since they don't use meters. (It's important to establish prices in advance with your driver).

For more information about Acapulco, contact the Acapulco Convention and Visitors Bureau at 011 52 744 484 8555 or visit

By Luis Dunn, Mexico City Correspondent.

Acapulco: Your Personal Guide

Acapulco: Your Personal Guide

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