A bustling beach resort on Mexico’s Pacific coast, Acapulco has been popular with travelers since the 50s. Back then, it served as a hideaway for California’s A-list celebrities, offering barefoot glamour and a chance to hide from the press.
The crescent sweep of sand on which the town is placed is edged by dramatic cliffs, leading to a famed cliff diving tradition in La Quebrada. What started as a bet between fishermen in the 30s is now a world-famous display of fearlessness, with daily shows occurring in an awe-inspiring demonstration.
The ‘Pearl of the Pacific’ soon grew into a much larger city, spawning a number of hit songs and even a movie starring Elvis Presley. Glitzy hotels sprung up all along the bay, including the infamous hot-pink Los Flamingos, and the town drew international jet setters in search of a vibrant nightlife. In recent years, however, Acapulco’s glittering reputation has been replaced with an unnerving notoriety for crime.
Is Acapulco Safe to Visit?
Corruption spawned by the cartel and drug trade has led to violence and other incidents in Acapulco, leaving some tourists wondering whether to avoid the resort altogether. Thinking about going loco down in Acapulco? Here we take a look at how risky it is to visit Acapulco, along with some tips for staying safe if you are planning a trip there.
Mexico’s crime rates have dramatically increased over the past few decades, and unfortunately, things are no different in Acapulco. The US government currently advises against traveling to Acapulco, stating ‘crime and kidnapping’ as reasons to avoid Guerrero state, where the city is located. Meanwhile, the UK government recommends travelers should remain ‘extra vigilant’ while visiting Acapulco due to instances of armed crime, and suggests traveling by air to any tourist destinations in Guerrero.
Is Acapulco Safe for Solo Female Travelers?
Acapulco is considered no more dangerous for female travelers than others. This is because the majority of the crime and incidents that take place in Acapulco are drug and gang-related, rather than sexually motivated.
Having said this, Acapulco is a relatively risky place to visit for any type of traveler, so precaution must be exercised. There is a risk of short-term kidnapping, where tourists are taken to an ATM and forced to withdraw money before they can be released. A solo female traveler could be considered more vulnerable to this type of crime.
It’s important to stay alert while walking anywhere in Acapulco as a traveler of any gender and avoid the more dangerous areas such as Ciudad Renacimiento, Progreso, Center, and El Coloso.
Is the Public Transport in Acapulco Safe?
Generally, travelers should be fine using public transport within the main tourist areas of Acapulco. However, there are some things to watch out for. Just like many other cities in Mexico and indeed the world, crowded public transport is a haven for pickpockets. Be sure to stay vigilant and keep a close eye on your belongings at all times.
In addition, bus hijackings and thievery are fairly common in Guerrero. This is when armed criminals board a bus and ransack the belongings of those on board, searching for valuables. They may even drive the bus to a more isolated location while they undertake their search. This kind of robbery most often occurs on long-distance buses traveling on highways in and out of the resort, which is why it’s best to fly into Acapulco rather than drive or catch the bus. However, bus theft can also occur around town.
To avoid this kind of frightening experience, only travel on official buses and routes recommended by hotel staff or from another trustworthy source. Try to take routes through busy parts of town, and let someone know where you’re headed if you’re traveling alone. Driving as a foreigner in Acapulco is not usually recommended due to excessive traffic and aggressive road users.
Unlicensed taxis can be a particular problem in Acapulco, with reports of muggings, assault, and robbery. If you do choose to take a taxi, get your hotel staff or accommodation provider to book it for you. If you have to get in a taxi on the street, make sure you check for a license and a meter. If there is no meter, you should negotiate and agree on a price for your entire journey before getting in.
Is Acapulco Safe at Night?
Acapulco’s energetic nightlife has long been a draw for travelers to the city. Since its heydey in the 60s, it has been associated with legendary after dark antics, with many clubs and parties raging on until the early hours. You’ll find everything from pirate-themed pubs to gay karaoke bars and old-school reggae clubs.
However, with this abundance of intoxication comes additional risks. While it’s fine to go out to the ritzy clubs of Acapulco to let your hair down, you should always exercise some caution. Never leave your drink unattended; both women and men are vulnerable to having their drinks spiked. Perpetrators will target victims for a robbery or assault. Of course, this is a worldwide problem that is not particularly unique to Acapulco. Look out for your friends and try not to drink too much. Never accept drugs if they are offered to you, or a free drink if you haven’t seen it poured.
Don’t go out alone at night if you can avoid it and stick to well-known, reputable bars and clubs with a good reputation. The bar at hotel Los Flamingos is a popular cliffside spot for a sundowner, while Palladium offers beautiful bay views and thumping music courtesy of international DJs.
Top 7 Acapulco Safety Tips
Stay in the main tourist areas.
The resort is divided into three sections popular with travelers, so you have plenty of choice. There’s the traditional area, Las Playas, where the city first came into its own. Then there’s the main area in the center called Zona Dorada, and upmarket Punta Diamante, on the south side. There’s plenty of places to stay, eat and drink in these areas, as well as lots to see and do, so you should have no cause to venture further afield.
Don’t flash the cash.
Try to keep any valuables hidden away, or leave them at home or in a safe in your hotel. Don’t walk around with your phone or camera in your hand. Otherwise, you may attract the attention of thieves and pickpockets. If you do find yourself the victim of a mugging or short-term kidnapping, always comply with requests and do not attempt to resist.
Don’t go it alone.
Individuals are always more vulnerable to crime than those in a group. If you are traveling solo, don’t go out at night on your own. Choose a hotel or accommodation with plenty to keep you entertained during the evening.
Respect local laws.
It goes without saying that you should abide by the law wherever you travel, but it is particularly important in Acapulco due to the number of police who are corrupt. If they catch you doing something illegal, however small, you could be expected to pay a bribe or else face Mexican jail. In addition, a huge proportion of violence that happens in Acapulco is drug-related. Experiment with drugs therefore, and you could be putting yourself in serious harm’s way.
You should also be wary of any police officer attempting to fine you for no obvious reason. If you’re unsure, ask to see their badge, identification, and patrol car number. A real police officer will be able to present you with a written fine, which can be paid at a later date. Don’t hand them your identity document, as some will use it as a bargaining tool to make you pay the bribe they’re asking for.
Don’t take a survey from someone on the street.
Anyone asking for your personal information on the street is likely to be a scam artist. Try not to engage with locals who approach you uninvited. Don’t give out any personal details to anyone you don’t know, and remain alert of your surroundings. Many con artists and pickpockets target tourists by distracting them, so always keep an eye on your belongings.
Take care when withdrawing money.
If you can, avoid it altogether. Most places in Acapulco will accept a credit or debit card. If you do need cash, be sure to use the ATM during daylight hours, and find one inside a shop or mall with security nearby.
One of the best things you can do to protect your safety in Acapulco is to prepare in advance for any risks you might encounter. Some people carry a dummy wallet for example while keeping their real cash in a money belt. Always leave a copy of your itinerary and details of your accommodation with a friend or family member back home. Make sure you know how to contact the emergency services, should you need to.