Is It Safe to Travel to Acapulco?

When I found out my next assignment was going to be in Acapulco, I immediately felt wary. I’m still a newbie to travel in Mexico, and I couldn’t remember exactly what I had heard about Acapulco but I had a feeling that it hadn’t been good.

Some online research only worsened my concerns, as I skimmed through articles talking about high levels of violence and blood-stained sand dunes. Part of me knew it was scare-mongering-hype, but some of the images were difficult to shake off.

So let’s cut through the fear-driven headlines and get real: Is it safe to travel to Acapulco?

The Short Answer

Basically, yes, it’s safe to travel to Acapulco. Although the surrounding state of Guerrero is listed on US and Canadian travel advisories, Acapulco remains excluded from these lists. I spent 12 days alone in Acapulco, and I never felt like I was in any danger.

The Long Answer

Acapulco and I didn’t get off to a good start. As my taxi from the airport turned onto Avenida Costera Miguel Aleman (the Costera), the city’s main tourist road, we pulled up directly behind a police vehicle.

The uneasiness this caused me wasn’t because the vehicle had six officers standing in the back of it; or because they were dressed in full uniform complete with rifles – but because they were pointing those rifles squarely at the surrounding traffic. So that’s how we drove down the street: Behind this mini-army and literally staring down the barrel of one officer’s rifle the entire time.

This wasn’t the last time I saw one of these police convoys during my visit, and it was always the same- guns never holstered, instead out and ready as if the officers might need to open a barrage on rush hour traffic at any moment.

In addition to these aggressive-looking vehicles, police presence in Acapulco was high across the board, with officers also standing watch over most beaches. I’m not sure if it’s all designed to make tourists feel safer, but it definitely has the opposite effect. Seeing all those officers created a tension that I don’t think I would have felt otherwise – an edgy sense that things could descend into chaos at any moment.

The beaches were packed with tourists, but I only saw maybe one or two other foreigners in almost two weeks. A few of the hotel managers I talked to told me that more Canadians and Americans visit during the winter, but I have a feeling that was just overly optimistic talk (particularly since Isla Mujeres, for example, was filled with foreign tourists only a few weeks earlier). Everything I read before visiting indicated that foreign tourists have been avoiding Acapulco over the last few years and everything I saw confirmed that.

Safety Tips

When I was researching for the trip, the main piece of advice I received from other travelers was “don’t go into the hills” (a rather ominous-sounding recommendation). So that’s what I did – I stuck to the touristy area of the city that runs along the coastline. This road was busy with bars, restaurants, shopping malls, families with little kids, women in track suits doing calisthenics in the park, and all the other trappings of a normal city. I felt totally comfortable walking along this road to find a place to eat or pick up drinking water at the convenience store.

Acapulco has a few bus systems that run along the Costera, which are the easiest way to get around. I mostly stuck with taxis because I was changing hotels every night for my assignment, and dragging a lot of expensive camera gear around. I asked the hotels to hail taxis for me, so that I could be sure they were licensed.

There are a lot of places in the world where I feel ok having a beer with dinner and then walking back to my hotel, but Acapulco isn’t one of them. I didn’t feel unsafe, but I did feel I needed to have my guard up 100% at all times. This was a subjective decision, of course, and it’s best to trust your own instincts.

Should You Go?

I wanted to come home telling everyone how beautiful and misunderstood Acapulco is, but the truth is that I can’t see myself ever going back.

For one, the beaches just don’t measure up, with their coarse sands and border of aging hotels. Acapulco’s other main draw is nightlife, which is not something I seek out as a traveler – particularly when I’m traveling alone. With so many people advising me to stick to the main streets, I couldn’t really do the aimless wandering I like to do when exploring a new city. It also meant that most of the restaurants I ate at were geared towards tourists – maybe I was just unlucky, but pretty much all the meals I had in Acapulco were overpriced and not that good.

That doesn’t mean Acapulco doesn’t have anything going for. Although I found the beaches a bit disappointing up close, the classic view of curved Santa Lucia Bay bordered by hills dotted with houses of all shapes and sizes is undeniably striking. Every time I looked at that vista, I understood why Acapulco became a hotspot for celebrities in the mid-20th century. Also, with so few foreign tourists, it’s definitely a perfect place to practice Spanish and chat with locals. And if you are into the clubbing and partying scene, there’s a lot of it.

So is Acapulco safe? Yes. Is it worth the trip? Maybe not.


9 Responses to Is It Safe to Travel to Acapulco?

  1. Deepti August 3, 2015 at 4:30 PM #

    Good to know! Your pictures of Acapulco look beautiful but it’s definitely important to be able to relax and feel comfortable while traveling!

  2. Erica August 4, 2015 at 3:26 AM #

    I have been in Acapulco for three months and never had problems with anyone. I went to eat in restaurants where the food was so delicious and cheap, I guess it’s because you stack with tourist area like you said. The people I met were so nice to me that you won’t believe. I think you ‘ve just been unlucky. I’ll be definetly coming back!!

  3. Emma @ August 4, 2015 at 3:20 PM #

    It sounds like Acapulco is a relic of what travel and tourism used to be, and will struggle to compete for travellers looking for the cultural richness Mexico has to offer elsewhere. However, it’s great to hear you didn’t have any problems there.

  4. Hannah August 5, 2015 at 3:24 AM #

    Seems like there’s nothing special in Acapulco. I am not a nightlife-kind-of-person for sure I won’t be enjoying what they offer.

  5. Tristan August 5, 2015 at 3:35 AM #

    I definitely do one day want to travel around Acapulco and the neighboring regions, but I’m just afraid that right now isn’t the best time. It’s unfortunate, but a friend of a friend of mine from my university was recently murdered there this summer. I wish all the best to travelers heading over there.

  6. Wesley December 23, 2015 at 7:14 PM #

    Heading over there in the next coming months. In Mazatlan they had a lot of police presence too and it definitely made us feel better. Thanks for the great tips!

  7. Henry January 11, 2016 at 2:48 PM #

    We just came back from Acapulco and I want to say that it was a wonderful experience. We are lucky that we know some people the frequent Acapulco and they recommend excellent restaurants and the price was more than affordable.

    My wife even commented that she felt safer in Acapulco than how she feels back home in Dallas but yes we just stayed in the tourist area as advised by our friends, all the people we dealt with were more than friendly and helpful trough out the whole week we stayed there.

    We are definitely going back to Acapulco but I will recommend staying in the Acapulco Diamante zone since all the new hotels and restaurants are on that area and traffic was really heavy every day to go to the area from Las Brisas where we rented a house which by the way had an incredible view of the bay.

  8. Mackenzie March 25, 2016 at 2:57 PM #

    I just returned from Acapulco a few days ago and the trip was great. The views were beautiful, and there are quite a few things to do on the beach (though me and my family stayed poolside the majority of the time). When we were there, there were lots of marines and police, and soldiers. To see them with bullet proof vests and helmets and huge rifles did seem quite terrifying at first and for the first two days of my trip I did not want to go out walking. On the third day me and my father went out for a walk at night, which I found very lovely, and it was quite relaxing. I’d see the police with their guns and I wouldn’t worry because you can look around on the street and see that everyone is just doing their own thing. There was no trouble on any of the nights that followed either. I do believe Acapulco is a place that you should definitely consider traveling to. I think that you do just need to use common sense. We were walking one night, and we were coming up to a part that was dark (the streets are very lit up at night ) and looked sort of grungy. Common sense told us to turn around and walk in an area that feels more safe. This doesn’t make Acapulco any more dangerous than New York City or Toronto. You’d do the exact same thing if you were in one of those cities. If you feel more safe staying at your hotel and not walking around at night, do that.

    Some people are worried about family vacations, and bringing their kids. At the hotel I stayed at (Crowne Plaza) which I really recommend, there were plenty of families with little children staying there. And again at night there were plenty of parents out with their children. But I believe that if bringing your children to a place like Acapulco is a good way to teach them a lesson. Mexico is not the wealthiest country. Some people there are very poor, and try to do anything to make money, and I found that everyone I met while I was in Acapulco were very kind. If you let your children witness this struggle, they will hopefully learn to be great-full for everything that they have, and to appreciate the hard work and dedication of these people.

    So yes, I believe Acapulco is a great destination for traveling, as long as you use common sense and make sure YOU always feel safe.

  9. Ramiro Quezada April 3, 2016 at 5:03 PM #

    How about Brussels. And Paris????? At least we know to be careful in Acapulco but in Europe could be anytime, we do cruise ships, first you can be very sure when the ship is moving it hard to to be a target, now they are really big and tall, video Camaras everywhere and so many cabins and decks to try to get everybody, somebody will take hours just to walk the ship, the food is great, music, shows… is not for everybody but We are happy, if the port is not safe, like in el callado en Peru , we just not go out, one thing to remember, if the country is very poor, the people will do anything to feed their families, and so the crime is high. Good luck to all of us.

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