Acapulco is known for its great beaches and watersports, and few visitors bother to explore its traditional downtown area. But the shaded zócalo (also called Plaza Alvarez) is worth a trip, to experience a glimpse of local life and color. Inexpensive cafes and shops border the plaza. At its far north end is the cathedral Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, with blue, onion-shaped domes and Byzantine towers. Though reminiscent of a Russian Orthodox church, it was originally (and perhaps appropriately) built as a movie set, then later adapted into a house of worship. From the church, turn east along the side street going off at a right angle (Calle Carranza, which doesn't have a marker) to find an arcade with newsstands and more shops. The hill behind the cathedral provides an unparalleled view of Acapulco. Take a taxi to the top of the hill from the main plaza, and follow signs to El Mirador (lookout point).

Local travel agencies book city tours, day trips to Taxco, cruises, and other excursions and activities. Taxco is about a 3-hour drive inland from Acapulco.

Watersports & Boat Rentals

An hour of water-skiing at Coyuca Lagoon can cost as little as $35 or as much as $70.

Scuba diving costs about $80 for 4 hours of instruction, when you book through a hotel or travel agency. Dive trips start at around $70 per person for two-tank dives. One reputable shop is Acapulco Scuba Center (tel. 744/482-9474) on Paseo del Pescador near the zócalo. We also recommend Fish-R-Us (tel. 877/334-7478 in the U.S., or 744/482-8282;, which offers shore and boat dives, usually to Roqueta Island. Sunken ships, sea mountains, and cave rock formations are all on display around the area. Boat rentals are cheapest on Caletilla Beach, where you can usually find inner tubes, small boats, canoes, paddleboats, and chairs for rent.

For deep-sea fishing excursions, go to the boat cooperative's pink building opposite the zócalo, or book a day in advance (tel. 744/482-1099). Charter trips run $200 to $600 for 6 to 7 hours, tackle and bait included, with an extra charge for ice, drinks, and lunch. Credit cards are accepted, but you may get a better deal by paying cash. Boats leave at 7am and return at 2pm. Fish-R-Us also books quality excursions. If you book through a travel agent or hotel, prices start at around $250 for four people.

Parasailing, though not free from risk (the occasional thrill-seeker has collided with a palm tree or even a building), can be brilliant. Floating high over the bay hanging from a parachute towed by a motorboat costs about $35. Most of these rides operate on Condesa Beach, but they also can be found independently operating on the beach in front of most hotels along the Costera.

Golf & Tennis

The Acapulco Princess (tel. 744/469-1000) course is a rather narrow, level, Ted Robinson design. The adjacent Pierre Marqués course has been completely redesigned by Tripp Davis and rebuilt as the 18-hole Turtle Dunes Country Club, which includes a Lorena Ochoa Golf Academy. The course is the centerpiece for the new Princess Diamante residential development and is open to members only. A morning round of 18 holes at the Princess course costs $150 for guests and $170 for non-guests (discounted rates for afternoon rounds). American Express, Visa, and MasterCard are accepted, and the cart is included in the fee. Tee times begin at 7:30am, and reservations should be made at least a day in advance. Club rental is available for an extra $40. The Mayan Palace Golf Club, Geranios 22 (tel. 744/469-6000 or 744/466-2260), designed by Latin American golf great Pedro Guericia, lies farther east. Greens fees are $110 for visitors, and caddies are available for an additional $20. At the Club de Golf Acapulco, off the Costera next to the convention center (tel. 744/484-0781), you can play 9 holes for $52 and 18 holes for $70, with equipment renting for $10.

The Robert von Hagge-designed course at the exclusive Tres Vidas Golf Club, Carretera a Barra Vieja Km 7 (tel. 744/444-5143), is spectacular. The par-72, 18-hole course, right on the edge of the ocean, has nine lakes, is dotted with palms, and is home to a flock of ducks and other birds. The club is open only to members, guests of members, and guests at Tres Vidas or a few other participating hotels. Greens fees are $200, including cart; a caddy is $20. Also here is a clubhouse with a restaurant (daily 7am-10pm), as well as a pool. American Express, Visa, and MasterCard are accepted.

A few hotels have tennis facilities for guests; the best are at the Fairmont Princess, Mayan Palace, and Las Brisas hotels. The Fairmont Princess (tel. 744/469-1000) also allows nonguests to play for $20 per hour.

Riding & Bullfights

You can go horseback riding along the beach. Independent operators stroll the Hotel Zone beachfront offering rides for about $25 to $45 for 1 to 2 hours. Horses are also commonly found on the beach in front of the Fairmont Acapulco Princess; you go directly to the beach to make arrangements.

Traditionally called Fiesta Brava, bullfights are held during Acapulco's winter season at a ring (called Plaza de Toros) up the hill from Caletilla Beach. Tickets purchased through travel agencies cost around $25 to $40 and usually include transportation to and from your hotel. You can also buy a general admission ticket at the stadium for $6. Be forewarned that this is a true bullfight -- meaning things generally do not fare well for the bull. The festivities begin at 5:30pm each Sunday from January to late April.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.