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366km (227 miles) S of Mexico City; 272km (169 miles) SW of Taxco; 979km (607 miles) SE of Guadalajara; 253km (157 miles) SE of Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo; 752km (466 miles) NW of Huatulco

In its glitzy heyday in the 1950s, Acapulco was best known as a getaway for Hollywood stars like John Wayne and Frank Sinatra. The glitz and glamour of those days may be long gone, but Acapulco never really lost its sizzle. This Mexican port city's flashy discos are packed nightly, and hotels rise up along miles of sandy beaches that trace beautiful Acapulco Bay for more than 6km (3 3/4 miles). Mountains ring the city, providing a spectacular backdrop for candlelight dining and the famously fearless La Quebrada Cliff Divers.

No first-time visit is complete without seeing La Quebrada Cliff Divers plunge from high cliffs into a narrow gorge, much as they have since 1934. You can see the show from public viewing areas or the terrace at El Mirador Hotel. The Fuerte de San Diego, built in 1616 to protect Acapulco from pirate attacks, has a museum tracing the port's history. Nearby, the city's zócalo (main square) is lined with cafes and shops.

Acapulco's renowned nightlife kicks off around midnight and stays in high gear until the wee hours. Younger crowds flock to the Hotel Zone where rowdy beachside Paradise/Paraíso and the cavelike Baby-O are favorites. Big, upscale clubs catering to the chic are on hilltops in Acapulco Diamante, including Palladium, with breathtaking bay views, and the multi-leveled Mandara, with a mammoth dance floor.

For romance and panoramic views, head for the hills. Overlooking Puerto Marqués, Zibu mixes Mexican and Thai influences; try the shrimp in ginger and mango sauce. Set in a hot-pink hillside home, Su Casa offers big margaritas and shrimp with garlic and spices. More casual eateries, many specializing in fresh-caught snapper and bass, are packed into the Hotel Zone. Among them, El Zorrito serves local fare such as pozole, a white hominy stew that's a Thursday lunch tradition in Acapulco.

You can play any number of ways on Acapulco's 19km (12 miles) of beaches, from the south end at oceanfront Punta Diamante to the north at low-key Pie de la Cuesta. Go scuba diving, set out for some deep-sea fishing for marlin and sailfish, or float above the bay by parasail. Glass-bottom boats depart from Caletilla for Roqueta Island, where you can snorkel, sun, and hike to an old lighthouse. All kinds of sailing vessels run sunset cruises on the bay and into the open ocean.

Safety

Acapulco has been getting a lot of attention lately, much of it negative. Because it's the most familiar destination in the area, it's often cited as the location of crimes that take place throughout the state of Guerrero. The dreadful stories you hear about gruesome crimes have nothing to do with international tourists and involve disputes between rival drug cartels. We're perfectly comfortable in Acapulco, but we still take precautions. Most important, stick to the known tourist areas around the coastline and don't venture into city neighborhoods, especially not alone. Hotel taxis, though expensive, can be more secure than those on the street. Don't wander around alone at night on the beaches or the streets. Keep your wits about you -- it's never wise to wander around inebriated in any city. For up-to-date info on safety issues and complaint forms if you sense something's wrong, check out www.seguridadgro.gob.mx.

Visitor Information

The State of Guerrero Tourism Office operates the Procuraduría del Turista (tel./fax 744/484-4416; www.guerrero.gob.mx), on the street level of the Convention Center, set back from the main Costera Alemán, down a lengthy walkway with fountains. The office offers maps and information about the area, as well as police assistance for tourists; it's open daily from 8am to 11pm. The state also has a public safety website with live chat, Twitter, and informative articles at www.seguridadgro.gob.mx.

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.