© 2012; 2001 Connecting: Solo Travel Network & Lenora Hayman. Information
Note: This article is reproduced here for inspirational value alone and will not normally be updated.
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Acapulco – More than a Beach – A Solo Travel Report

By Lenora Hayman

Revered for its stunning location on a circular, mountain-framed stretch of golden sand beach, Acapulco was the resort of choice for playboys and movie stars during the 50s and 60s. Then, the glamorous resort began to lose its luster as its population burgeoned past a million and resulting pollutants took a toll. Meanwhile, new resorts lured away foreign tourists.

Acapulco may not be as squeaky clean as Cabo, Cancun, Ixtapa or Huatulco, but it has an element lacking in those built-for-tourist resorts. Acapulco has a storied past. I read of archeological finds that date habitation at 3200 BC. By 1521, Hernan Cortes had discovered the large protected bay, and soon Spanish expeditions were sailing west from Bahía de Acapulco to the Far East, south to Peru and north to Alaska. Lately, tourism officials have begun to promote this historical side along with adopting other spruce-up and clean-up measures, in the hopes of restoring Acapulco as Queen of Mexican resorts.

Old Acapulco

The renovation process is at work in the tree fringed zócalo (main square) at the heart of Acapulco Viejo (old Acapulco). Backed by the domes of a church and fronted by shoreline, this lovely leafy plaza is ignored by most tourists who frequent the towering hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, galleries and shops along glitzy Costera Miguel Aleman – or La Costera as the main beachside avenue is known. To learn more about Acapulco's history, I set out early for a day of exploring in my stout huarache sandals made with car tire soles. But keeping in mind tropical heat, humidity and hills, I also had a pocketful of change ready for a 3 peso (.33 cents) bus ride in case I felt in need of a lift. Frequent buses make many stops along La Costera – route destinations are noted on the front.

A seaside walkway (malecon) runs east from old Acapulco to the Fort of San Diego, which was built in 1611 for protection against marauding pirates then rebuilt in 1783 after an earthquake. The fort is now home to the Acapulco History Museum (Museo Historico de Acapulco). Exhibitions focusing on Philippine and Spanish conquests and the "pirate" Sir Frances Drake were closed due to renovations when I was there but should be complete by the time you read this. Unfortunately, I had to miss them, but in retracing my steps 50 meters downhill, I came across the new House of Masks, which was worth a brief visit. Here I learned that Guerrero state is home to most of Mexico's artists whose fantastic masks of jaguars, skulls and other supernatural creatures are worn in dance rituals that bridge our spiritual and daily worlds.

From there I commenced a hot westerly walk up the Peninsula de las Playas to the top of Cerro de la Pinzona and Dolores Olmedo's House (6 Inalambrica). Diego Rivera, one of Mexico's greatest artists, lived here the last two years of his life. In 1956, in gratitude and affection for Olmedo, Rivera created, along the outside wall of her house, a fantastic mosaic of tiles, shells and stones depicting Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god of the Aztecs, and another of Tepezcuincle, the Aztec dog. The house is not a museum, but from the street, I could see murals painted on the inside walls.

Heading back towards the zócalo, I stopped at Hotel Misión, a century old hotel located two blocks inland from the main square and Calle La Quebrada – the street that goes to the spot where the famous cliff divers leap into the sea each day. Built around a densely planted patio and still a favorite of budget travelers, Hotel la Mision served as a garrison during the War of Independence. The building has also been a Wells Fargo warehouse and Acapulco's first school, Colegio Acapulco.

A few meters from the zócalo, in the plaza Sor Juane Ines de la Cruz, is the Inn of Memories, (La Posada del Recuerdo). Benito Juarez, on returning from exile in New Orleans, stayed here prior to becoming President of Mexico. Vicente Guerrero, the insurgent leader, was escorted in chains from here to Huatulco to be shot.

Recent History

By now it was 2 pm, the sun was boiling, and my walk had become a trudge, so I treated myself to a 30-peso ($3.50) cab ride up Avenida Lopez Mateos to Hotel Los Flamingos. Built in the 30s and owned from 1950-84 by the "Hollywood Gang" – John Wayne, Johnny Weismuller (Tarzan), Cary Grant, Errol Flynn, Red Skelton, Roy Rodgers – it still retains its Hollywood charm. With a refreshing Coco Locos in hand, I strolled the hibiscus pathways and thought: if these walls could talk what stories they could tell. Photos on the wall included one of a busboy named Adolofo Santiago Gonzalez posing with Tarzan. The tips must have been good because that busboy now owns Los Flamingos.

Enough history for one day. After all is said and done, what is Acapulco if not one long, glorious beach? And the beach was what I wanted next, only I longed for one a little less public than those around town. My final day I took a 3-peso bus ride to the Puerto Marques traffic intersection and caught a 7-peso "combi" van for the 32-km ride to Barra Vieja, a beach that few tourists know. As luck had it, high waves were up, so I shared a 200 peso (US$23) boat trip up the Tres Palso Lagoon to view cranes, pelicans and black patobuso birds quietly going about their business careless of human affairs past or present.

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