Acapulco // © 2010 Acapulco Tourism
During a recent Carnival cruise along Mexico’s Pacific coast, I had the opportunity to spend a day touring Acapulco and getting up to date with recent tourism developments.
My first stop was the new Hotel Encanto in Acapulco’s Diamond Zone. Acapulco is divided into three main districts, the Traditional Zone (the Old Acapulco district), the Golden Zone (the Dorado district) and the Diamond Zone (the Diamante district). Most of the new construction is taking place in the Diamond Zone.
It was an exciting time to visit the Hotel Encanto, since it was poised to open in a few days (Hotel Encanto officially opened on Nov. 28). The 44-suite hotel overlooks both Puerto Marques Bay and the distant cityscape of Acapulco. Every suite has an ocean view. Rooms have minimalist decor with white, custom-designed furniture, color customized lighting and shades that open and close at the push of a button. Room rates range between $400 and $1,200 per night.
The hotel’s pool was really stunning. I really liked the way existing trees were preserved and incorporated into the pool’s architecture. During my walk through, guests were busy tasting Mexican-Asian fusion cuisine at the hotel's signature restaurant, Flor del Mar 360 Degrees.
Hotel Encanto and the newly-opened Banyan Tree Cabo Marques, where all villas have private pools, are expected to raise Acapulco’s profile among international travelers, something the destination greatly needs. I didn’t have the opportunity to tour the Banyan Tree property, although I could view it from the Hotel Encanto. From what I could gather, it is an intriguing-looking property consisting of thatched-roof luxury villas on the tip of a peninsula that overlooking the Pacific.
Later, as we drove back toward Acapulco, we noticed that Hotel Encanto was flooded in blue light, making it really stand out on the peak of the hill. I predict that this bold new hotel will become one of the city’s signature landmarks.
We also took a quick stroll through the Diamond Zone’s La Isla Acapulco Shopping Village, a plaza of 144 high-end retail stores, restaurants, nightclubs and movie theaters. It’s all very reminiscent of luxury malls in the U.S. and is probably more appealing to domestic travelers visiting Acapulco or the residents of the numerous condo high-rises in the area.
The shopping center is across the street from the massive Mundo Imperial project, which includes the 350,000 square foot Il Duomo convention center. Mundo Imperial is currently on hold due to the economic downturn and is scheduled to restart construction in 2010. The 4,000-seat Forum at Mundo Imperial Theater is the only component that is fully operational, hosting concerts and shows on a weekly basis.
I capped off my Acapulco visit with dinner at The Mirador Hotel Acapulco’s La Perla restaurant. There, I was led to my seat, which had a birds-eye view of the Le Quebrada Cliff Divers. (There’s also a less expensive option to view the divers from an observation deck below the restaurant, where it will only cost a few dollars.) In this age of Cirque du Soleil and over-the-top theme parks, there’s something minimalistic and nostalgic about watching the divers. It was gratifying to see their simple skill and bravery, and I definitely recommend the experience to anyone visiting Acapulco. Here’s a little tip: If guests book dinner for the sunset show at 7:30, they can enjoy a cocktail while watching the diving show. Then, linger over dinner to enjoy the nighttime 8:30 show, which adds a different element, with divers making dramatic dives while holding lit torches.
On my ride back to the cruise ship, there was one more surprise awaiting. My tour guide, Manuel Barrera, drove a couple of blocks from La Perla to the weed-strewn parking lot of a seemingly abandoned hotel. He told us it was the historic Casa Blanca Hotel, which was built in the 1930s. Allegedly, a family squabble between brothers has prevented the hotel from being sold or operated at full capacity. Now, it rents only a handful of rooms for approximately $20 a night. After checking in with the reception clerk, we entered a pitch black stairway. Our guide had a flashlight, which was the only illumination as we climbed three flights of stairs. We eventually came out onto a wide terrace that afforded spectacular views of the bay from the vantage point of Old Acapulco. It was an amazing insider experience, and the terrace looked as though it hadn’t been used in decades. I immediately started having fantasies of hiring a mariachi band and a caterer and throwing a retro-Acapulco party. I definitely recommend the experience to those travelers who want a taste of the old days. Just make sure they bring a flashlight and check in with the front desk.
Acapulco Convention and Visitors Bureau
Banyan Tree Cabo Marques
The Mirador Hotel Acapulco