I first learned of Acapulco, in the 1970s, home sick from school, the overzealous Price is Right announcer declared the final showcase prize as “A Fabulous Trip to Sunny Acapulco!”. The Love Boat pulled into port more times than I could count and I’m pretty sure the Flintstones took a trip to Rocapulco. Sadly, in recent years the media’s main focus has been on the city’s episodes of drug gang violence, thus the demise of Acapulco’s tourist industry. Because of the latter, many boaters don’t stop here, but damn it, I’ve been waiting to see cliff divers since the 2nd grade. So cliff divers we saw.
We decided to go to the night show, which is great for the drama, but not great for our camera, so sorry for the grainy photos.
FYI, there are many ways to watch the clavadistas (divers); free from the road, pay $4 for the viewing platform or pay a $15 cover fee for a table (fee includes two drinks) at La Perla bar at the El Mirador hotel. Guess which option we picked?
Peter and I had the place to ourselves and watched the divers from the best seat in the house. From our vantage point you could see the whole spectacle; the divers parading down the stairs, jumping into the narrow cove and swimming across to scale the steep jagged cliff wall (which in hindsight seemed like the most dangerous part), praying to the Virgin of Guadalupe, to the big dives from as high as 130 feet. Pretty spectacular, but there were only 4 divers and 2 of them dove in tandem. Don’t get me wrong, it was impressive, but for some reason I thought the show would last longer. Luckily there was another dive at 9:30pm, so we decided to move down to the viewing platform for round two. Here you are right where the divers hop over the wall to enter the water, making you feel part of the action. The one thing we noticed was that after 80+ years of this tradition, how simple and old school of an event it is. The divers walk down by themselves, no handlers, no cheesy music, no corporate sponsors, no “senor y señoras please direct your attention” kind of announcement. It is just the divers and their bravado.
This time there were six divers and with each one the height of the dive and difficulty increased, culminating in the final diver landing into a ring of fire in the waters below. “ooohhh, awwww” We loved it.
Since it was late we jumped in a cab back to the boat. No yellow cabs here, another charming part of Acapulco is that almost all the cabs are VW Bugs. No, not the brand new, plenty of leg room Beetles, but the old ones that they thankfully refuse to let die. Since our family had a 1964 Bug in my youth, they are near and dear to my heart and it was great to ride in one again. The city is much like San Francisco with its many hilly, curvy streets, so the driver’s stick shift ability was almost as impressive as the cliff divers.
With over 1.5 million people Acapulco is a real city and a much needed contrast from the many small beach towns we’ve experienced. We need that balance or it all starts to seem the same and god forbid we become jaded 😉 On the approach to the harbor you have a great view of how large of a place it is, sprawling up the hillsides and around the enormous bay. This is a house divided as the mega rich live and vacation on the North side in areas like Diamante. We stayed in a rather nice newly
renovated marina on the South side and decided to stick to this area and explore the older historic part of town. As we walked around you could definitely feel the character of a city that once was and glimpses of it trying to come back.
The traditional main square, the Zócalo, is lined with banyan trees, cafés and pedestrian only streets.
At one end of the square is the Nuestra Señora de la Soledad cathedral, with a surprisingly non-Mexican architectural style of blue onion-shaped domes and Byzantine towers.
We stopped for a bite to eat and people watch in the square. Although I have never been somehow I feel like this is what parts of Cuba look like.
Then with map in hand we set out on a walking tour of the city and to hunt for the “La Casa de los Vientos” (House of the Winds). So up and down and around the streets we went seeing one beautiful view of the city after next. The hilly streets really reminded us and our leg muscles of San Francisco.
We couldn’t get over the stunning grand old stone homes that have been abandoned, but our itch to buy up investment property was left unscratched. I’m sure we will be kicking ourselves in a few years when this place is booming again.
Finally, we arrived at the “La Casa de los Vientos”, where the famed artist Diego Rivera lived out his final years and although the home is now a private residence, you can see his tile mosaic mural depicting Aztec gods on the wall outside.