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I’ve been visiting Acapulco, Mexico’s grandmother of tourism
resorts, regularly since 1995. There’s a lookout point perched on
the edge of the Pacific where the perfect moon-shaped bay of Puerto
Marques glitters beneath you. I go there often but on my most
recent trip my jaw dropped when I saw the view.
Far to the left, where less than two years ago there was only
jungle, is a glinting new landscape of hotels, condominiums,
superstores, golf courses, shopping centers with deluxe cinema
complexes and a towering new entertainment forum creeping up into
the cloudless sky.
The hotels and villas stretch far beyond the huge Tres Palos
Lagoon, one of two lagoons that mark either end of the classic
beach resort, where you can now take boat trips, bird-watching
tours and go fishing.
By the beginning of this year, nearly $5 billion had been spent
on the new face of Acapulco, and it shows. A further $2.5 billion
is planned for the next three years, bringing a cliff-top Banyan
Tree hotel, a mammoth Mansion Imperial hotel with wave pool and
white, silicon sand and a project called Mayan Lakes.
This is the brand-new Acapulco, “Diamond Acapulco” as it’s
called, announcing that the Pearl of the Pacific is back on the
Once a hotbed of elegant impropriety, Villa Vera was the swanky
hotel famed for the world’s first topless, swim-up bar. Now it’s
opening an open-air museum paying homage to movie stars. Large
white boards are on display with photos of celebrities that stayed
and played there.
While Acapulco’s glory days are undisputed, there were serious
doubts as to whether it would have
a future after the creation of Cancun in the mid ’70s. But after
a shabby period in the eighties, Christmas hotel occupancy is back
to 100 percent.
The tropical city of about a million always had untapped
potential, but now Mexican, Asian, U.S. and European investors are
aiming to attract discerning, upmarket visitors with a range of
Geographic and climactic advantages have brought it to the
notice of Asian investors like the Banyan group, looking to
diversify after the 2004 tsunami destroyed a number of their
properties on the Indian Ocean.
The ambitious Banyan Tree project includes oriental-style
cabanas tapering down Diamond Point to the craggy Cabeza de Leon.
Six architects from Singapore are joining a team of Mexican experts
in rock-clamping to create a teetering restaurant called Vertigo,
reachable by cable car.
Next to it Remanso, a small hotel and residential project, has
its show house open to the public already.
Meanwhile, Las Brisas, the notorious dream hotel where everyone
travels in pink and white Jeeps, has allocated $1.5 million to
extend its signature private pools bobbing with hibiscus into some
of the suites.
In Bambuddha, a new hotel near Tres Palos Lagoon, you get family
packages, yoga, airport transfers and reiki. For about $100, the
owner will take you up in her light plane so you can see all the
changes to the city from the air.
The most established Diamond zone hotel, the elegant Pierre
Marques built by Jean Paul Getty, is also rushing to remodel. Here,
I enjoyed shrimp quesadillas with pineapple and papaya, overlooking
the refurbished pool and fountains.
Further along, the Grand Mayan hotel that opened last year, has
a four-month-old, Mayan-themed spa, called Brio Spa.
Other hotels in the Gold Zone of Acapulco that have remodeled or
are currently in the throes are the Emporio, Copa Cabana, Avalon
and Crowne Plaza.
Even La Quebrada, world famous for cliff divers, is seeing a hum
of building activity.
Caleta, the picturesque little beach of the ’50s, started its
own face lift in 2004 with new eateries lining the beach while
dining favorites like Las Cabanas remain.
Fun-loving Acapulco has always appealed to the clients who like
adventure as well as mingling with the locals. With the appearance
of Diamond Acapulco, you can have the best of both worlds, pristine
luxury and affable chaos. Experienced tour operators will help take
the edge off the latter for clients who do not speak Spanish, or
who do not feel up to the heat, dust and negotiations necessary in