Is Acapulco Safe? According to Researched Travelers

Uncover the truth about Acapulco's safety as we navigate its vibrant neighborhoods, from stunning beaches to hidden gems.

West Parker
By
West Parker
July 18, 2024

Ah, Acapulco. The name alone conjures images of sun-soaked beaches, cliff divers, and glamorous resorts. But let's be real - it also brings to mind some less savory associations. Drug cartels, anyone? If you ask our parents, they'd probably say we're crazy for even considering a trip there. "You'll get kidnapped!" they'd warn, visions of Narcos episodes dancing in their heads.

But here's the thing - ask seasoned travelers on forums like TripAdvisor or Reddit, and you'll often get a very different take. "Use common sense and you'll be fine," they say. "It's no more dangerous than any big city in the U.S."

So which is it? Is Acapulco a crime-ridden danger zone or a misunderstood paradise? As a middle-aged couple (though I prefer to think of myself as perpetually 29) who've explored everywhere from Cambodia to Chile, my wife Sarah and I decided to find out for ourselves.

We spent a week in Acapulco, balancing remote work with plenty of exploration. Our mission? To share an honest, well-researched take on Acapulco's safety situation - and of course, to eat ALL the tacos along the way. Here's how we determined if Acapulco felt safe for us, along with a no-holds-barred account of our experiences. Buckle up, amigos - it's going to be an illuminating ride!

3 Safety Factors to Consider

Before we dive into our on-the-ground experiences, let's look at the key factors we used to evaluate Acapulco's safety. Think of this as our pre-trip homework (yes, we're those kinds of travelers).

01 - State Department Travel Advisory

First things first - what does good ol' Uncle Sam have to say about visiting Acapulco? The U.S. Department of State uses a 1-4 rating system for travel advisories:

1 = Exercise normal precautions (white)2 = Exercise increased caution (yellow)3 = Reconsider travel (orange)4 = Do not travel (red)

Now, here's where it gets interesting. Mexico as a whole is a patchwork of different advisory levels. Some areas are a comfy Level 2, while others are a nerve-wracking Level 4.

So where does Acapulco fall? Brace yourselves - it's currently sitting at a Level 4 "Do Not Travel" advisory, along with the rest of the state of Guerrero. The U.S. Department of State cites crime and kidnapping as the main concerns.

I'll admit, this gave us serious pause. A Level 4 advisory isn't something to take lightly. But we also know these advisories can sometimes paint with a broad brush. So we dug deeper, looking at the specific reasons behind the rating and comparing it to other popular tourist destinations.

We found that while the advisory is certainly concerning, it's largely due to cartel activity in rural areas of Guerrero state. The advisory itself notes that "U.S. government employees may travel to Acapulco by air only. They are limited to the Hotel Zone and to La Isla."

So while we couldn't in good conscience give this factor a full "PASS", we also didn't feel it was an automatic deal-breaker. Instead, we filed it under:

State Department Advisory Check: PROCEED WITH CAUTION

02 - Latest News

Next up, we dove into recent news about Acapulco. This is crucial for understanding the current situation on the ground, beyond just general travel advisories.

The biggest recent event affecting Acapulco? Hurricane Otis, which slammed the city in October 2023. This Category 5 storm caused massive damage to infrastructure and seriously impacted tourism.

But here's the thing - natural disasters, while devastating, don't necessarily make a place unsafe in terms of crime or personal security. In fact, we found several positive developments in the aftermath:

  1. Major rebuilding and recovery efforts are underway, showing the city's resilience.
  2. International flights are resuming, with United Airlines restarting service between Acapulco and Houston.
  3. The city successfully hosted major events like the Mexican Open tennis tournament in early 2024, showcasing its ability to bounce back.

We also looked for news of crimes specifically targeting tourists in popular areas. While Acapulco certainly has its share of crime, we didn't find any recent major incidents involving visitors in the main tourist zones.

That said, we did come across some concerning reports:

  1. An explosion in Acapulco's main square in June 2024 injured nine people, including a baby.
  2. Acapulco continues to struggle with high crime rates overall, ranking as one of the most violent cities in the world in recent years.

So while there are positive signs of recovery and a commitment to tourism, it's clear that Acapulco still faces significant challenges. We felt this warranted a cautious approach:

Latest News Check: PROCEED WITH CAUTION

03 - Community Forums

Finally, we turned to the wisdom of the crowds. TripAdvisor and Reddit can be goldmines of recent, real-world traveler experiences - if you know how to sift through them.

We focused on posts from the past year, looking for detailed accounts from tourists who had actually visited Acapulco recently. Here's what we found:

  1. Many visitors reported feeling safe in the main tourist areas, especially in the Zona Dorada and around major resorts.
  2. There was a consistent emphasis on using common sense - not flashing valuables, sticking to well-lit areas at night, and using official taxis or ride-sharing apps.
  3. Several travelers praised the visible presence of tourist police in popular areas.
  4. Some visitors noted feeling uncomfortable in certain areas outside the main tourist zones, especially at night.

One TripAdvisor user, MexicoMike, summed it up well: "Acapulco, like any big city, requires common sense. Stick to tourist areas, don't flaunt valuables, and you'll likely have a safe, enjoyable trip."

We also found valuable insights from expats and longer-term visitors. On Reddit, user ExpatExplorer shared: "Acapulco has its challenges, but the tourist areas are well-patrolled. I've lived here for years and feel safe in my daily life."

Overall, while opinions varied, we found enough positive recent experiences to feel cautiously optimistic. The key seemed to be staying aware and making smart choices about where to go and when.

Community Forums Check: PASS (with caveats)

First Hand Experience in Acapulco

Alright, now for the juicy part - our actual week in Acapulco! We arrived with our research in hand, a healthy dose of caution, and an appetite for adventure (and tacos, always tacos).

Here's a neighborhood-by-neighborhood breakdown of our experiences:

Zona Dorada (Golden Zone)

Tourists enjoying dinner at an outdoor restaurant in Acapulco's Zona Dorada at night, showcasing the area's vibrant atmosphere
The Zona Dorada comes alive at night. We felt safe enjoying the bustling restaurant scene, though we always stayed alert in busy areas.

The Zona Dorada is Acapulco's main tourist strip, and it's where we spent most of our time. Think high-rise hotels, pristine beaches, and more restaurants than you can shake a margarita at.

Walking around during the day felt completely comfortable. The beaches were clean, well-maintained, and patrolled regularly by tourist police. We saw families, couples, and solo travelers all enjoying the sun and surf without any obvious concerns.

At night, the energy picks up with bustling restaurants and bars. We did notice a heavier police presence after dark, which was reassuring. While we stayed alert and avoided any super late nights, we never felt unsafe grabbing dinner or drinks in the area.

Some highlights:

  1. La Quebrada cliff divers: An absolute must-see. We felt totally secure watching this incredible spectacle, though we made sure to book through our hotel for an official tour.
  2. Playa Condesa: Gorgeous beach with plenty of activities. We rented jet skis and had a blast, though we were careful to use a reputable vendor recommended by our hotel.
  3. El Cabrito: Amazing goat tacos. The restaurant was lively but not rowdy, and we had no qualms about walking back to our hotel afterward.

Is Zona Dorada Safe? YES, with standard precautions

Diamante Zone

Luxurious pool area at a Punta Diamante resort in Acapulco, highlighting upscale and secure accommodation options
The resorts in Punta Diamante felt like secure oases. Perfect for travelers seeking a more controlled environment without sacrificing luxury.

The Diamante Zone is Acapulco's newer, more upscale area. Think luxury resorts, golf courses, and high-end shopping. It's a bit removed from the traditional tourist areas, which has both pros and cons.

On the plus side, it felt incredibly secure. Many resorts here are like small cities unto themselves, with controlled access and 24/7 security. We spent a day at one of these resorts and it was like being in a bubble - in a good way.

The downside? It feels a bit isolated from the "real" Acapulco. You'll need to take taxis or hire a driver to explore other areas, which adds to the expense.

Some standout experiences:

  1. Playa Revolcadero: A beautiful, less crowded beach. We felt safe walking along the shore, though swimming isn't recommended due to strong currents.
  2. La Isla Shopping Village: An open-air mall with both local and international brands. Very secure, though prices are higher than in other parts of town.
  3. Punta Diamante viewpoint: Stunning views of the bay. We went during the day and had no issues, but I'd be more cautious about visiting at night.

Is Diamante Zone Safe? YES, very secure but somewhat isolated

Traditional Zone

Vibrant fruit stalls in Acapulco's traditional market, displaying local produce and culture
Exploring the local market was a feast for the senses. We stayed aware of our belongings but had no issues immersing ourselves in the lively atmosphere.

Acapulco's Traditional Zone offers a glimpse into the city's history and local culture. It's less polished than the tourist areas, which means more authentic experiences but also a need for increased awareness.

We explored this area during the day, both on our own and with a local guide (which I'd highly recommend). The vibe here is much more "real Mexico" - think colorful markets, historic churches, and local eateries where your high school Spanish gets a workout.

Some memorable stops:

  1. Zócalo: The main square was lively and felt safe during the day, with a mix of tourists and locals. We enjoyed people-watching and snagged some amazing street food.
  2. Mercado Central: A feast for the senses! We stayed alert with our belongings but had no issues exploring the market. Pro tip: go hungry.
  3. Fort of San Diego: This historic fort-turned-museum offers great views and interesting exhibits. The area around it felt secure, with several police officers visible.

Is the Traditional Zone Safe? YES during the day, exercise more caution at night

Pie de la Cuesta

Couple enjoying sunset at Pie de la Cuesta beach in Acapulco, showcasing the area's natural beauty
The sunsets at Pie de la Cuesta were unforgettable. While beautiful, we made sure to head back to busier areas before dark.

Pie de la Cuesta is a quiet beach area northwest of the main city. It's known for its laid-back vibe and stunning sunsets. We took a day trip here, curious to see a different side of Acapulco.

The area definitely feels more remote than the main tourist zones. This has its charms - fewer crowds, more natural beauty - but also means less infrastructure and fewer obvious security measures.

We stuck to daytime hours and stayed in the main beach area, which felt reasonably safe. However, I wouldn't recommend wandering too far off the beaten path here, especially not at night.

Highlights of our visit:

  1. Coyuca Lagoon: We took a boat tour of this beautiful lagoon. The tour operator seemed reputable, and we felt secure throughout.
  2. Sunset watching: Absolutely breathtaking, and the beach was calm and peaceful. Just be sure to head back to the main tourist areas before it gets too late.
  3. Seafood at Tres Marias: Delicious and fresh catch-of-the-day. The restaurant was full of both locals and tourists, adding to our comfort level.

Is Pie de la Cuesta Safe? MOSTLY, but stay alert and avoid nighttime exploration

Costera Miguel Alemán

Tourists strolling along Costera Miguel Alemán in Acapulco, showcasing the main thoroughfare's appeal and safety
Walking along Costera Miguel Alemán was our favorite way to take in Acapulco's energy. During the day, it felt safe and vibrant.

This main thoroughfare runs along Acapulco Bay, connecting many of the city's key areas. It's essentially Acapulco's lifeline, buzzing with activity day and night.

During the day, we found it lively and generally felt secure walking along the street. There's a constant flow of tourists and locals, and the ocean views are hard to beat. At night, the energy ramps up with restaurants, bars, and clubs coming to life. While it still felt relatively safe, we were definitely more cautious after dark.

Some experiences along Costera Miguel Alemán:

  1. Papagayo Park: A nice green space to relax. We saw families and joggers enjoying the area, which added to our sense of security.
  2. Diana the Huntress roundabout: A popular meeting point. Well-lit at night, but we were extra vigilant with our belongings in this busy area.
  3. La Casa de Toño: Amazing pozole (a traditional Mexican soup). The restaurant was busy even later in the evening, and we felt comfortable dining here.

Is Costera Miguel Alemán Safe? YES during the day, USE CAUTION at night

Acapulco by Foot

Now, let's talk about our experience hoofing it around Acapulco. Walking is our favorite way to explore a new city - you see so much more than from a car window!

In the main tourist areas like Zona Dorada and along Costera Miguel Alemán, walking felt safe and comfortable during the day. Sidewalks were generally in good condition, and there were always plenty of other people around.

We did have one slightly unnerving experience while trying to find a metro station to buy a card for bike rentals. Google Maps led us to a less traveled area, and we quickly felt out of place. We trusted our instincts and backtracked to more populated streets. It was a good reminder that even with the best planning, you sometimes need to adjust on the fly.

Some tips for safe walking in Acapulco:

  1. Stick to well-populated areas, especially after dark.
  2. Be extra vigilant when using your phone for directions - it's an easy target for theft.
  3. Carry only what you need and keep valuables hidden.
  4. If you feel uncomfortable, don't hesitate to hop in a taxi or Uber.

Acapulco by Uber

Tourist getting into Uber car in Acapulco, highlighting safe transportation options for visitors
Uber was our go-to for getting around Acapulco safely, especially at night. The drivers were friendly and the cars well-maintained.

Speaking of Uber, we found it to be a godsend in Acapulco. The service was reliable, affordable, and felt much safer than hailing random taxis on the street.

All our Uber drivers were professional and friendly. Many were happy to chat about their city, offering local insights and tips. The cars were generally in good condition, and we appreciated being able to track our routes and share our location with each other.

We primarily used Uber for:

  1. Airport transfers (definitely the way to go for peace of mind)
  2. Traveling between neighborhoods, especially at night
  3. Returning to our hotel after evening activities
  4. Day trips to areas outside the main tourist zones

One tip: While we normally love using public transportation to get a feel for a city, we avoided buses in Acapulco based on advice from locals and other travelers. Uber was so affordable that it didn't feel like we were missing out.

Final Thoughts

So, is Acapulco safe? Like so many things in life, the answer isn't black and white. Based on our week-long stay, I'd say it's safer than its reputation suggests, but it still requires caution and common sense.

Here's our final safety assessment:

  • Tourist areas are generally safe during the day and early evening
  • Impressive police presence in main tourist zones
  • Using Uber or official taxis is very safe and reliable
  • Violent crime against tourists in popular areas seems rare
  • Petty theft and scams are still a concern, as in many tourist destinations
  • Areas outside main tourist zones require extra caution, especially at night

Some key tips for staying safe in Acapulco:

  1. Stay in well-established tourist areas, especially after dark
  2. Use Uber or official hotel taxis instead of hailing cabs on the street
  3. Don't flaunt expensive jewelry or electronics
  4. Keep a low profile - dress like a local when away from the beach
  5. Be cautious when using ATMs - stick to ones inside banks or hotels
  6. Stay alert in crowded areas and on public transportation
  7. Avoid walking alone at night, especially on the beach
  8. Keep important documents and valuables in your hotel safe
  9. Stay informed about local conditions and any travel advisories
  10. Trust your instincts - if a situation feels off, leave the area

Would we go back to Acapulco? Absolutely! Despite the concerns, we had a fantastic time. The beaches are stunning, the food is incredible (those tacos al pastor... drool), and the local people we met were warm and welcoming.

That said, we'd probably stick to the main tourist areas on a return trip, at least until the overall security situation improves. There's plenty to enjoy in Zona Dorada and Diamante without venturing into riskier areas.

For families or more cautious travelers, I'd recommend staying in one of the all-inclusive resorts in the Diamante area. You'll sacrifice some local flavor, but gain an extra layer of security.

Adventure seekers can still find plenty of thrills (hello, cliff diving!) while being smart about safety. Solo travelers, especially women, should take extra precautions but can still have a great time in Acapulco.

Remember, no destination is 100% safe, and many of the precautions we took in Acapulco are just good practice for any unfamiliar city. Stay aware, use common sense, and don't let fear keep you from experiencing the beauty and vibrance of this iconic Mexican beach town.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go find some tacos. Writing this has made me seriously crave Acapulco's incredible food!

About Us

Hey there! We're West and Sarah, a middle-aged couple (though I insist I'm "29 forever") from sunny Florida. We tied the knot recently and decided to combine our love for travel with our careers by working remotely while exploring the world.

Our goal? To bring you honest, well-researched travel insights with a focus on safety, food (we're major foodies!), and creating unforgettable experiences. We've explored six continents and countless cities, from the bustling streets of Phnom Penh to the serene beaches of Zanzibar.

Sometimes one of us works while the other explores solo, so we can offer perspectives for both couples and independent travelers. We believe that with the right information and precautions, everyone can travel safer and smarter.

By reading our articles, you get:

  1. Balanced safety assessments based on thorough research and personal experience
  2. Food recommendations that go beyond the tourist traps (we'll try anything once!)
  3. Tips for remote work-friendly destinations
  4. Insights for various travel styles - budget backpacker to luxury seeker

We're all about finding those win-win situations where you can step out of your comfort zone while staying safe and savoring every moment (and meal) of your journey.

Got questions about Acapulco or any of our other adventures? Drop us a line - we'd love to help you plan your next safe and delicious escapade!

Happy and safe travels, amigos!

P.S. If you're wondering about our next destination, we're eyeing a certain city famous for its coffee and salsa dancing. Stay tuned!

West Parker
West Parker
Article updated:
July 18, 2024 8:22 AM

West Parker, a Cornell University School of Hotel Administration graduate, has spent two decades as the secret weapon of the jet-set elite, crafting bespoke adventures that redefine luxury travel. Now a resident writer for Town & Tourist, this 45-year-old "Architect of Extraordinary Journeys" combines razor-sharp insights with unparalleled industry connections to deliver experiences that even the most discerning globetrotters can't help but rave about. West's expertise spans from exclusive real estate to fine dining, making him the go-to strategist for those who demand nothing but the extraordinary in their travels.

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