Orcas play near Groovy.
Shrimper or bird taxi?
Sunrise begins over our bow.
Acapulco's mountains in the distance.
Villas perch atop cliffs on Boca Chica Channel.
Sailboats race towards us.
Acapulco's main beach.
Downwind spinnaker run.
The "fake" lighthouse at La Marina.
The Yacht Club grounds.
Club de Yates de Acapulco.
Racing yachts waiting for the next race.
Waterfront near the yacht club.
Looking across Acapulco's inner harbor.
Puffer and angel fish at the docks.
I took these from above water.
Wonderful daysailing in Acapulco Bay.
A few of the many highrises on the beach.
Navy warships and a tall ship.
Acapulco has several picturesque
Vacation homes overlooking Puerto Marques.
A little mermaid near our
The lightly visited resort where we anchored in Puerto Marques.
"Barrido Marino" - the "Sea Sweepers"
These cheap little taxis are everywhere.
The rock cliffs of La Quebrada.
Cliff Diver Alejandro scales the rocks.
Alejandro (left) and Aurelio (right)
A peek inside...
The Zócalo has amazing trees.
Acapulco's town beach.
Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico
Mid-January, 2012 - We finally pulled ourselves away from Zihuatanejo/
Ixtapa and resumed our travels south. Papanoa is a 35-mile daysail
away, and as we motor-sailed we were very surprised to see some
Shamu-shaped fins ahead of us. It turned out to be several small orcas
playing in the water.
Papanoa is a small shrimping village, and we passed a few
shrimpers trolling the depths as we approached the harbor.
Countless birds were catching a ride on the booms of one boat.
The frigate birds took most of one boom and the seagulls
spread out on the others.
We arrived in mid-afternoon and watched the activities of this quiet port
town. Several shoreside cantinas had the music going, and a group of
kids were laughing loudly and burning up energy as only kids can, diving
off a pier and cannonballing each other out of a small dinghy that was
tied to a piling.
Acapulco is another 75 miles
south of Papanoa, which
required us to get a pre-
dawn start. We were now
traveling more east than
south and we watched the
sky lighten ahead of us until
the sun rose over our bow.
Acapulco has a mixed reputation these days,
and we weren't sure what to expect when we
arrived. Our first glimpse of this legendary port
had us grinning excitedly, however, and set the
tone for a fantastic stay. We decided to enter
Acapulco's expansive bay through its narrow
westerly channel "Boca Chica" ("Small Mouth")
rather than through the main entrance further
east called "Boca Grande." We slowed way
down as the rock walls rose to wonderful
heights on either side of us in the channel.
"This is just like Cabo!" we said to each other.
The towering cliffs were
covered with fancy homes,
hotels and highrises.
As we emerged on the other side of the channel, Acapulco's
vast beach suddenly came into view. Our eyes widened in
amazement. The beach was backed by an endless stretch
of highrise buildings, and the hillsides were littered with
homes and communities that rose in waves towards the
horizon. There was more humanity in front of us than we had seen in months. Forget Cabo. This was like Miami. Or like
sailing into Las Vegas. It was a huge, massive city built for tourism. We puttered around the bay taking way too many photos
that all looked the same -- highrises on the water -- and then backtracked to a lovely little anchorage in Boca Chica next to a
small beach on Isla de la Roqueta.
Gazing across the bay at the mammoth city in the distance, we were
anchored in our own small paradise next to a busy little beach where
the Sunday crowd was swimming, snorkeling and imbibing at the
beach bar. Suddenly on the horizon we saw some incredibly sleek
sailing yachts headed our way in a race. Within moments Groovy
was perched in a front row seat of a spectacular sailing race.
The streamlined boats flew towards us at top speed. Ladened with
both skilled crew at the helm and winches and "rail meat" crew that
sat on the high side facing out, feet dangling over the side, the boats
bore down on us until I was sure we'd be broadsided. Just at the
last second each boat would tack, within arm's reach of our cockpit.
All hell would break loose as ten people scurried over the deck,
furiously turning winch
handles and wrestling the boat into submission on its new tack. A few commands
would be yelled here and there, but the most prominent sound was the creaking of
lines and groaning of each boat as it was tensioned and tuned for max velocity on its
These guys are really good at this stuff
and they do it all the time, so when
one boat looked like it was about to T-
bone another and Mark said, "They're
gonna hit!" I said, "Nahhh…" Then we
both heard a loud CRUNCH and the
sound of very expensive boat parts
grating against each other. Seconds
later the lead boat dropped its sails
and turned around to head home. I'm
not sure if they were disqualified or
had sustained too much damage to
continue, but none of the other boats
paused for one second!
In no time the race began its downwind leg, and one yacht after
another breezed past Groovy in the opposite direction, their
colorful spinnakers flying. As each boat slowly vanished
into the horizon of skyscrapers our hearts gradually
stopped pounding. What excitement, and what a
By sunset our little anchorage had whittled down to just
us and the noisy birds in the trees. Like Isla Ixtapa and
Las Gatas Beach in Zihuatanejo, this place is heavily
visited by water taxis, banana boats, jet-skis and
snorkelers during the afternoons, but by dusk it is
deserted and is an ideal, remote tropical anchorage with
no swell. We slept like babies that night.
The heart of the Acapulco yachting scene is the "Club
de Yates de Acapulco," or the Acapulco Yacht Club.
This beautiful marina and yacht club would be ideal for visiting cruisers, but
it is so popular with local boaters that there is seldom room for anyone from
out of town. Next door "La Marina" is being renovated and will soon
accommodate visitors, but it isn't yet finished.
We wandered into the Club de Yates and found all
the beautiful racing boats we had watched sailing
the day before already lifted out of the water and
put up in dry storage to wait for the next race. We
found out that hauling our boat would cost nearly
$600 US. Imagine having to fork that over every
time you wanted to race your yacht?! But this is a
place where money is no object. The captain of a
megayacht parked at an end-tie told us his owner
likes to zip from place to place burning a cool 180
gallons per hour at top speed. He laughed out loud
when we told him we needed to top off our 66
gallon fuel tank sometime during our stay here.
Getting fuel is not as simple as you might think in Acapulco. The fuel dock
is fairly short and has little turnaround room, and many megayachts come
calling, so you have to sign up to get fuel a day or two in advance. This
requires a trip to the Harbor Master's office where, to our surprise, he made
a copy of our US Coast Guard documentation papers as part of our fuel
registration process. The up-side of this minor inconvenience was that he
also issued us a temporary Yacht Club card which would allow us to come
and go from the pretty marina at will and use the dinghy dock and
swimming pool too.
The Acapulco Yacht Club exudes that noble air that wafts over
exclusive yacht clubs worldwide, and the whole place is dripping
with wonderfully elegant nautical decor. Trophies fill the trophy
cases, portraits of past captains and commodores line the walls,
names of local champions and legendery yachts are engraved
on beautiful plaques, and ancient bronze binnacles and helms
stand like museum pieces in the corners.
The little chandlery has goodies for boats, but the prices for
ordinary items are truly extraordinary ($100 US for four plastic drinking glasses!), but
the souvenir shop sold high quality ball caps with the yacht club logo embroidered on
the front for less that $10 US.
Acapulco is not a clean city, and we had watched the Pacific ocean transform from a
rich inviting deep blue to a sickly grey-green as we had entered Acapulco Bay. But
here at the dock the water was so clear that I could see angel fish and puffer fish
swimming just below the surface.
When we travel from place to place we always hope
to sail but usually end up motoring most of the way
because the winds are so light along Mexico's
mainland coast. However, Acapulco Bay is a terrific
spot for day sailing, and after watching the races the
day before, we got inspired to go out for a joy ride
ourselves. There were no other boats on the three-mile-wide bay, and we had just enough
wind, 10-13 knots, to put Groovy over on her side for a little romp in the breeze.
Exploring the outer reaches of the bay we saw more highrises (they are endless), and a Navy
dock that had two modern warships and a lovely old tall ship.
Other cruisers had found pretty anchorages
along the outskirts of this big bay, and as the
days of our stay wore on we
noticed that they weren't in a
hurry to leave Acapulco either,
obviously enjoying their time
here as well.
We left the inner harbor for
Puerto Marques, a small outer
bay, where we spent five
delightful nights. Billed in the
cruising guide as being open to
ocean swell, we got lucky and
enjoyed peaceful quiet nights
ancchored alongside a row of
nearly empty resorts. There couldn't have been more than ten
occupied rooms in the four resort hotels we were facing, but
new construction inexplicably seemed to be continuing.
Every day the bartender would arrive at the cute
dockside bar and serve perhaps one or two guests.
Every night the restaurant tables would be set and the
kitchen staff would get busy, all to serve just three or
Acapulco has a reputation for being past its prime, but there are
clear signs that its citizens don't want to let that prime slip away
too fast. Besides all the new construction, there is a fleet of
bright yellow boats bearing the words "Barrido Marino" ("Sea
Sweep") in large letters on their sides. These boats scour
the entire bay every day with nets to retrieve floating trash
and debris. At the far end of Puerto Marques a huge
project is underway with barges and cranes to install what
looks like a new pier or perhaps a marina.
Over in La Quebrada the famous dare-devil cliff divers began
flying headfirst off the cliffs into the sea back in 1934, and within a
decade or two were the superstars of Acapulco tourism. Eager to
see these guys, we took one of the little blue-and-white VW bug taxis and
zipped off to the cove of jagged cliffs where the diving action takes place. Both
Mark and I remember watching these divers on TV as kids, and we couldn't
wait to see them in action.
The cove is a spectacular craggy
coast of rugged peaks and
crashing surf, and the entire area
has been built up to show off the
divers. Elvis Presley's 1963 movie
Fun in Acapulco was filmed here
Restaurants overlook the diving gorge and trinket shops offer free
coke or beer for shoppers. El Mirador Hotel stands above it all,
having played host to many of the world's celebrities over the
years. There's a ticket sales booth at the top of a long set of
winding stairs that go down towards the water. Viewers can choose
any level for watching the divers. Five or so divers take the plunge
once a day in daylight and they dive again three more times after
dark (with torches). We opted for a daytime show and were thrilled.
To our surprise the divers start the show by walking through the crowd,
hopping over the fence to the rock face below, and then hot-footing it
down a ways and jumping into the water. After a quick wave to the
crowd above, they then free
climb the enormous cliffs on
the far side all the way to the
top. One young diver,
Alejandro, impressed us immensely
with his catlike agility as he zipped up
the cliff like Spiderman.
Once at the top, the divers each
offered a quick prayer to the Virgin of
Guadalupe, touched the shrine, or
even kissed the statue inside, and then
turned and waved to the crowd. One
by one they then took a position
somewhere near the top of the cliff
and, when the waves were right 125
feet below, launched themselves into
Alejandro warmed up for quite some
time, stretching, doing mock flip turns, and obviously preparing for some fancy twists and somersaults in the air. When
he finally soared off the rocks he rolled and turned and swiveled in the air like a shimmering fish, and gracefully slipped
into the frothing water below.
Another pair of divers leapt off the cliff together, one launching himself into a back
layout somersault before twisting and piking his way to the water. The last diver
climbed to the highest peak and flew over the rocks in a glorious swan dive.
Afterwards the divers mingled
with the crowd, happily posing
for photos with fans.
We were on such a high after
this that we nearly skipped
down the hill towards the
cathedral in the old town
square, El Zócalo. Acapulco is a grungy, busy,
crowded city, but there was something in the
earthy smells, the crush of people and the
sweat dripping down our temples and backs
that made it all very exciting.
A group of nuns emerged from the 1930's era
cathedral just as we approached, and the doors
were thrown wide for a peek inside.
Opposite the cathedral was a large, darkly
shaded city park filled with enormous trees
that have odd twisted trunks and roots.
Crabby old ladies sitting next to flowers
they were selling waved us off with nasty
frowns when we took photos of their
flowers. People sat on park benches
eating snacks or reading the paper.
Tourists and shoppers mingled in between.
Vendors sold everything everywhere and music pumped so loudly
from some speakers on the ground that an old lady put her fingers
in her ears as she walked by. Official tourism hosts wearing blue
shirts and numbered badges darted out from the crowd to help
bewildered tourists, and more than one suddenly turned up at our
sides asking if we needed assistance. It is not a warm, friendly
place, nor is it a place I'd want to hang around for more than a
brief visit, but we were glad to have taken a walk through that part of town, and equally glad to emerge back on the waterfront
malecón, or boardwalk, where the fresh sea breeze hit our faces once again, and the beach and boats filled our view.
Such is the faded lady of Acapulco. A previous cruiser's blog last
year described gunmen firing shots in a building near the marina at
night, and as we dropped our anchor in the city anchorage at ten in
the morning we heard a series of gun shots near the supermarket
where we had bought provisions the day before. But I've heard
gunshots in every city I've called home, and I've even watched a
well armed SWAT team take positions outside a house in a tony
Scottsdale, Arizona neighborhood. The anchorages on the fringes
of Acapulco Bay are all lovely, and we are glad to have experienced
the sweeter side of town. After a little more relaxing at Puerto
Marques we headed down the coast to Huatulco.
Find Acapulco on Mexico Maps
Visit Anchorages on Mexico's Southern Pacific Coast to see more cruising posts from this area!