March 27, 1998-Don't Bypass Acapulco
We heard several times as we cruised south down mainland Mexico's Pacific coast that there was no reason to go to Acapulco.
People said it was just a noisy, dirty city with high prices and too many tourists.
All that is true perhaps, yet they were still wrong!
Acapulco is wonderful and we love it. We think no cruiser should bypass this spectacular and exciting town.
First of all the scenery is stunning. Acapulco is on a beautiful protected bay surrounded by high mountains. It reminds us of the Bay area. The city springs from sea level and goes half way up the hills. Every direction you look, day or night, it is gorgeous, from the huge hotels on the white sand beaches to the mountainside houses of the rich and famous.
It is filled with wide avenues and tall shade trees, as well as once glamorous old neighborhoods dating from the forties or earlier which still retain thier quiet charm and rich history.
We med-tied to the new float at Club de Yate de Acapulco. This yacht club, which is equal in opulence to many of the finer clubs in the states, is beautifull and well maintained. The place is also filled with the most expensive yachts, with home ports like Guernsey, Georgetown, and Capetown. So glamor is not in short supply here, but still they make the cruisers feel totally at home.
The staff are professional, plentiful and helpful. Most surprising of all, the workers around the docks are not expensive to hire. This is the first Mexican marina where we felt we could afford to have our boat waxed. There are great restrooms, free showers, and a very nice club pool where on any afternoon and you will find it mostly used by cruisers who are swimming in the cool water and drinking margaritas from the poolside bar.
There is also have a big racing program here with a bunch of Optimists and a few dozen 40-50ft race boats which are dry sailed. Club de Yates de Acapulco has it's own travel lift and storage area. So if you like to walk the docks and look at race boats, or watch them sail in the bay, this is the place where you can do it.
Of course with all this evident wealth you could anticipate that the place would be expensive to stay for a while. It is. Marina space is at a minimum and what is available is very expensive. The rate here in March 1998 was $.62 per foot per day, but with reciprocal yacht club privileges you may get two days free.
The nearby Acapulco Marina is $.75 per foot per day, but they have side ties and lots of free services. There are buoys available which cost less, and anchoring out is a possibility but there is a problem with old junk in the harbor which has snaged some anchors. We haven't looked too carefully but we think there may be some other areas in which one could anchor and other ways to beat the costs. For now, we are treating ourselves and enjoying the luxury of the Yacht Club. By the way, the harbor bottom may be foul, but the water here looks clear and clean..
On our first day here, after checking in with Marcus, the harbormaster, we headed down town to do our own paperwork, (we could have paid $40 to have it done but we wanted to save the money for an extra night's moorage). We walked 100 ft from the club and caught a bus to town.
In a few minutes our heads were spinning. We saw broad avenues lined with palms, six lanes of speeding and honking traffic, high rise hotels, and thousands upon thousands of blue & white Volkswagen Beetle taxi cabs. These taxis clog the intersections and curbs like a swarm of insects. They also carry any number of people. We saw them with six or eight passengers and the rear wheels splayed out at 45 degree angles. They also cost $20 pesos to go just about anywhere but the airport. The buses are $2.50 Pesos and they run about every two minutes. After completing our check-in we did some shopping and sight seeing and wound up at the Gran Plaza Mall which is amazing with it's high gloss shopping and wonderfully complex and beautiful interior architecture. We ate at a fast food place there, $12 pesos.
The movie theater was a 9 screen affair and we watched "As Good as it Gets" with Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. (In English with Spanish Sub-titles) for $20 Pesos. So the moorage is costly, by Mexican standards, but the other costs seem pretty reasonable.
At the end of a busy first day we headed back to the Yacht Club for a quiet night's sleep. Yesterday afternoon after morning chores and a quick dip in the pool we took a trip to old town to visit the Mercado and make some other stops. We decided to take a cab. Right outside the Yacht Club gate we hopped into a blue & white VW taxi. Off we went onto the main drag and past the "Oriental Taco Resturante", (hum, what could that be? I'll have to try it some time.)
Soon we were down by the cruise terminal where along side the road the cruise ship Xenia towers above the tour buses and taxi stands. Then we hung a right which curved back to cross over the main drag onto an elevated divided highway with the unlikely name of Prof. Diego Hurtado de Mendoza. It made for long street signs.
We headed north a few blocks in the fast lane, then pulled off onto the parallel access road which was jam packed with buses, taxis, and walking people. There were fish stands on the sidewalk and the smell was overpowering. We paid off the cab and walked along the street another block and then into the cavernous Centro Mercado building. We saw a typical Mexican market with aisles of stalls with all sorts of products, from fruits and veggies to pinatas, and wood chips. There were health foods and herbs in small bottles and sacks to huge chunks of meat and cheese. And of course there were rows and rows of all kinds of beans in bulk.But it was sort of sterile there, with clean concrete floors and tidy concrete and tile vendor stalls. Obviously this was a new market building, and not yet looking "lived in".
Then we saw out the side door that there is another part. We veered that way. Now we were in the Old Market. Blocks of crowded winding alleys filled with all kinds of stands selling all kinds of products, from food to clothes to hardware to cow dung and jammed with people, sights, sounds, and smells. It goes on in every direction. Into bright spots where the sun penetrates between two buildings and then back into shade of endless blue and green tarps hung overhead.
Total babble of sounds. We were instantly lost. Judy bought some Mangos, and I looked at shoes.
Finally we popped out onto a street, or at least it seems like a street since there were taxis honking their way through the crowds.
We followed the taxis back to their source and soon we are out onto another Acapulco main drag.
We got onto a bus and went back to the mall where I dropped into the Internet Cafe to get a weather picture of El Nino. Then we hopped another cab and told him "Restaurante Talaquepaque".
Off into the old downtown, past Woolworth's and Sears and a building with a round front and a sign with big blue letters which spelled CANADA.
The sound of traffic police whistles and honking horns were everywhere. By then it was dusk and rotisserie chicken seemed like the national food of Mexico, the air was thick with the smoke of it. The taxi turned a corner and we joined a string of other taxis and buses roaring in second gear up a long steep hill into the high neighborhoods of Acapulco. There are no lanes painted on the road and everyone is weaving as they try to pass, try to block a potential passer, or simply to try to avoid a pothole.
We got up high, where the harbor is a jewel and the cruise ship is a toy, and at the huge IMSS hospital (new, and it would do justice to itself anywhere) we turned left onto another major road which wound along the hill side.
Finally another turn into a quiet side street and there was the restaurant. We had a great long slow meal there and talked with the owner, who speaks four languages, owns a quail ranch where they harvest 4000 quail a day he said, and who grew up in Ajijic outside of Guadalajara where my Dad now lives, for an hour. Finally, at nine PM, we wound our way down the hill to the boat. We slept well again that night.
Today we walked a few blocks from the Yacht Club over to an old seaside resort area called Caleta and saw beachside restaurants, old hotels, and small neighborhood stores. Funny, no T-Shirt shops here. But there are a lot of Mexican vacationers. There was a traffic jam where we watched a crowd watching the police and emergency people deal with some sort of accident or crime scene. The news cameras were there. We skirted the crowd and walked on, bought some Creme of Coconut and headed back to the boat to make Pina Coladas.Wonderfull Acapulco.
We did leave here briefly to make a run down the coast to Huatulco, which was beautiful, but we came back to do our final provisioning and boat projects before heading west to the exotic islands of French Polynesia. Acapulco has a lot of good grocery stores, including some huge warehouse stores they call "Bodegas". There are also some USA stores like Price Club, Sam's, etc. We plan to pack Wings with a lot of food and other supplies which are reputed to be pricey in the Pacific. And while we are doing it, we'll continue to enjoy the big city life, as well as the luxury of the Club de Yate de Acapulco.
Fred Roswold & Judy Jensen, SV WINGS, Acapulco, Gro. Mexico