No one comes to Acapulco for the sights. By day, if people aren’t at the beach, drinking cocktails with umbrellas or asleep, they’re mostly scouring the expensive shops. If you only do one thing in Acapulco, though, make sure you see its most celebrated spectacle, the leap of the daredevil high divers.
In the old town the zócalo is a shady, languid place, but other than cheap places to eat and drink, lacks character – even the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad is a modern construction from 1950, with a slightly bizarre blue dome that resembles a Russian Orthodox church. About the only place in Acapulco that gives even the slightest sense of the historic role the city played in Mexico’s past is the Museo Histórico de Acapulco (Tues–Sun 9am–6pm; M$41, free Sun) a short walk away inside the Fuerte de San Diego. This impressive, if heavily restored, star-shaped fort was established in 1616 to protect the Manila galleons from foreign corsairs but was severely damaged by an earthquake in the eighteenth century – what you see today dates from the 1776 reconstruction. The building’s limited success in defending the city against pirate attacks is charted inside the museum, where displays also extend to the spread of Christianity by proselytizing religious orders, Mexico’s struggle for independence and a small anthropological collection. Air-conditioned rooms make this a good place to ride out the midday heat, and you can pop up on the roof for superb views over Acapulco.
The only other cultural diversion in the centre is La Casa de los Vientos (“Exekatlkalli”), on Cerro de la Pinzona, near La Quebrada, where Diego Rivera spent the last two years of his life with his former model and partner, Dolores Olmedo Patiño, who bought the vacation home in 1951. Rivera spent eighteen months working on five grand murals here between 1955 and 1957, several preserved in his studio on the grounds; sadly the house has remained in private hands since Olmedo’s death in 2002 and off-limits. At the time of writing, the government was trying to buy the property – the tourist office should know the latest. In the meantime, fans traipse up here to see the twenty-metre mural that covers the entire outside wall of the house, made of seashells and coloured tiles, depicting Tlaloc, the Aztec god of rain, fertility, and lightning and various other figures from Aztec mythology.
Acapulco also has two mildly entertaining cultural centres, both of which host temporary art exhibitions and various cultural events with a regional bias. The more absorbing is housed in a lovely old property near the zócalo at Juárez and Felipe Valle, the Central Cultura Casona de Benito Juárez (t744/483-5104). At the other end of the bay, the Centro Cultural Acapulco (t744/484-3814) at Costera 4834 (next to the CiCi Waterpark) is a small complex of galleries and a crafts store set around a garden just off the main road.