Mexican Beaches Fun Vacation for All!
Acapulco - Puerto Vallarta- Cancun - Family Fun at Mexican Beaches
Everyone - even if they've not the remotest idea where it is - has heard of Acapulco, but few people know what to expect. Truth is that, as long as you don't yearn to get away from it all, you'll find almost anything you want here, from magnificent Mexican beaches by day to clubs and discos by night.
What Acapulco undoubtedly has going for it, is its stunning bay and Mexican beach : a sweeping scythe-stroke of yellow sand backed by the white towers of the high-rise hotels and, behind them, the jungly green foothills of the Sierra. And, even though there are hundreds of thousands of people here throughout the year - the town itself has a population approaching one and a half million and even out of season (busiest months are Dec-Feb) most of the big hotels remain nearly full - it rarely seems oppressively crowded on this Mexican beach. Certainly there's always space to lie somewhere along the beach, partly because of its sheer size, partly because of the number of rival attractions from hotel pools to parasailing and "romantic" cruises. Hawkers , too, are everywhere - there's no need to go shopping in Acapulco, Mexico simply lie on the beach and a string of goods will be paraded in front of you. Most of the hawkers are easy enough to handle, but they can become irritating and at times heavy. For women, and women alone in particular, the constant pestering of would-be gigolos can become maddening, and for anyone the derelict downtown backstreets can be dangerous at night - remember that this is still a working port of considerable size and in the midst of all the tourist glitz real poverty remains: don't leave things lying about on the beach or temptingly displayed in hotel rooms
By reputation the second of Mexico's beach resorts, PUERTO VALLARTA is smaller, quieter and younger than Acapulco. In its own way, it is actually every bit as commercial - perhaps more so, since here tourism is virtually the only source of income - but appearances count for much, and Puerto Vallarta, while doing all it can to catch up with Acapulco, appears far less developed and retains a more Mexican feel with spectacular Mexican beaches.
It lies in the middle of the 22-kilometre wide Bahía de Banderas , the seventh largest bay in the world, fringed by endless sandy beaches and backed by the jungly slopes of the Sierra Madre. Its hotels are scattered along several miles of coast with the greatest concentration in Nuevo Vallarta , north of the town and sliced through by an eight-lane strip of asphalt. Just south of Nuevo Vallarta is the new marina , where you can stroll along the boardwalk and have a look at how the other half live, on beautiful boats. Despite the frantic development of the last decade, the historic town centre, with its cobbled streets and white-walled, terracotta-roofed houses, sustains the tropical village atmosphere, an asset assiduously exploited by the local tourist authorities. A great Mexican Beach destination!
There's little to see in downtown Cancún . Most visitors head straight for the zona hotelera and the Mexican beaches . Though you're free to go anywhere, and signposted public walkways lead down to the sea at regular intervals, some of the hotels do their best to make you feel like a trespasser, and staff will certainly move you off the beach furniture if you're not a guest. To avoid being eyed suspiciously by hotel heavies, head for one of the dozen or so public Mexican beaches : all are free but you may have to pay a small charge for showers. Entertainment and expensive water sports are laid on all around the big hotels; if you venture further, where more sites await construction, you can find surprisingly empty sand and often small groups of nude sunbathers.
To catch a bit of culture while you're out here, the Sheraton boasts a small Maya ruin in its grounds, above the pool, while the Museo de Antropologia , located behind the convention centre (Mon-Sat 9am-8pm, Sun 10am-7pm; US$2, free on Sun), has a small but absorbing outline of Mesoamerican and Maya culture and history, with information in English and Spanish. Cancún's largest Maya remains, the Ruinas del Rey (daily 8am-5pm; US$1.70, free on Sun), are at Km 17, overlooking the Nichupté Lagoon. They're not especially impressive - and, if you decide not to take one of the guides at the entrance, there's no information available to explain them - but the area is peaceful and very good for bird- and iguana-watching.
The best snorkelling in Cancún is at Punta Nizuc, next to Club Med territory which also has one of the best Mexican beaches You aren't allowed to cross the grounds unless you're staying there, so you have to get off the bus at the Westin Regina Resort , cross their grounds to the beach, then turn right and walk for about twenty minutes until you reach the rocky point. Walk across the rocks and snorkel to your heart's content. To join a snorkelling tour or go diving , contact Aqua Tours (tel 883-0440) or Aquaworld (tel 885-2288, www.aquaworld.com.mx ). A one-tank dive costs about US$50 and a full PADI open-water certification course around US$400. To view the colourful underwater life in a more leisurely fashion, take a trip on the Sub See Explorer , a glass-bottomed boat that leaves from the Aqua World centre at Blvd Kukulkan Km 15.2 every hour from 9am until 3pm (US$35).
Both jet-skiing (US$50 for 30min) and parasailing (US$40 for 10min) are very popular on Cancún, Mexico beaches and operators are dotted at frequent intervals in front of the big hotels on the beach.
The Zocalo, Mexico Cit.The heart of the modern city, of ancient Tenochtitlán and of Cortes' City, surrounded by the oldest streets, the Cathedral, Aztec ruins and the Palacio Nacional.
Best of Mexico - Tours and Attractions
TulumAn important Maya spiritual and cultural centre and one of the most picturesque of all the sites, looking out across the Caribbean Mexican beach from its clifftop setting.
XochimilcoGet punted around the canals here, taking in the carnival atmosphere and dazzling colours while serenaded by mariachi bands, then wander the streets of Xochimilco town and visit the flower and fruit market.
Whale watchingEcotourism has taken off big time in Baja California, and with good reason. From December to April, you can see some of the thousands of Alaskan gray whales that have come to mate in the lagoons of Guerrero Negro, San Ignacio and Bahia Magdelena.
PalenqueThis Maya site is remarkable not only for its distinct architectural style but also for its setting - surrounded by hills covered in jungle, right at the edge of the great Yucatán plain.
Sian Ka'an Biosphere ReserveOne of the largest protected areas in Mexico, this stunning coastline comprises tropical forest, fresh- and salt-water marshes, mangroves and a section of the longest barrier reef in the western hemisphere.
Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico CityThe museum to see in Mexico - an enormous collection of artefacts from all the major pre-Columbian cultures.
The Bonampak MuralsHidden deep in the forest until 1946, the ancient temples at Bonampak are home to the renowned murals depicting vivid scenes of Maya life - and sacrifice.
Chichén ItzáThe most famous of the Maya sites, although its history remains uncertain. The impact of the ruins and carvings is undeniable, however, and it's well worth staying nearby so you can see them over a couple of days.
Silver jewellery from TaxcoNo matter that this attractive town is an interesting place in itself, Taxco is the place to come to in Mexico for exquisitely produced silverware.