The journey north from Acapulco to Puerto Vallarta, some 800km along the Pacific coast, is defined by languid, tropical beach life at its finest. There’s history here, to be sure, but it’s the buttery sands studded with palms, the makeshift bars on the beach, lagoons and torpid villages that dominate, topped off with heart-melting sunsets and a rich array of seafood. Separating these stretches of wild, untouched coastline – and in stark contrast – are some of the most popular and enjoyable resorts in Mexico.
Acapulco – the original, the biggest and, for many, the best of these resorts – is a steep-sided, tightly curving bay that, for all its excesses of high-rise development, remains breathtakingly beautiful. While tourists swarm the congested beaches, the city retains a local feel, with the coarse characteristics of a working port. Further north Zihuatanejo is an attractive, gentle resort where magnificent villas have popped up on the slopes overlooking inviting swathes of beach littered with palms, while the handsome colonial towns of Colima and Comala provide the allure (and dramatic volcanic scenery) inland. Further along the Pacific, the Costalegre contains some of the wildest and most beautiful stretches of coast anywhere, anchored by Barra de Navidad and its glorious sweep of sand surrounded by flatlands and lagoons. At the northern end of Jalisco state, international Puerto Vallarta feels altogether more manageable than Acapulco, with cobbled streets fanning out from a colonial plaza overlooking an oceanfront boulevard. With its party ambience and unbridled commercialism it’s certainly a resort, but if you travel far enough from the downtown beaches you can still find cove after isolated cove backed by forested mountains.