Acapulco vs. Puerto Vallarta

Two of the Mexican Pacific’s biggest cities, Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta are two distinct and equally interesting cities. Their varied landscapes may give avid travelers confusion. However, you can be sure to have that proverbial Mexican seaside city experience whichever you choose.
Acapulco vs. Puerto Vallarta

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Acapulco’s varied history and long-standing fame is Mexico’s original tourism giant. But despite the bygone heydays, Acapulco never lost its charm. Puerto Vallarta, on another note, is the city that best demonstrates how to perfectly harmonize the old, the new, and the magical.


Acapulco has been waving its proud flag even before the days of seaside resort cities in Mexico. So when it comes to the first of Mexico’s iconic cities, Acapulco is in the front lines. The legendary city has seen developments in Mexican history, and it has continued on way beyond its heydays.

Acapulco’s varied history and long-standing fame is Mexico’s original tourism giant.  It’s one of the first of Mexico’s roster of Mexico’s tourism-driven cities. It features golden beaches, rich history, and resort developments. The city has set to go down in history as one of Mexico’s most enduring cities.

What Makes Acapulco Unique?

The Original Jet-Setter Beaches

A time long after the revolutionary Pan-Pacific trade, Acapulco has seen the best of the golden era along its famed golden sands. The city was one of Hollywood’s favorite playgrounds. And its beaches, the best attraction.

Acapulco’s despite being dimmed down by time hasn’t lost its classic charms. Now tourists and a slew of Mexico-loving backpackers can easily descend upon the city’s golden beaches. Right where the “stars” used to.

Check out some crowd-favorites:

Pie de la Cuesta

Pie de la Cuesta is the go-to beach in Acapulco because of its beautiful golden sands and proximity to the main harbor. The famous beach has a trademark bohemian feel to it, famous among visitors looking to have downtime.

At the beach’s entrance, a wide range of restaurants and accommodation options await you. Pie de la Cuesta is the perfect spot if you prefer peace and quiet or relaxing in a completely natural tropical setting. The beach is also famous for its stunning sunsets.

Playas Caleta and Caletilla

The main beaches of the Acapulco resort are Caleta and Caletilla. Soft beach, clean and warm water, varied entertainment, and a bright environment will make you fall in love with them.

You can find one of the most colorful Mexican markets nearby as well. The beaches also have many chic restaurants, comfortable bars, and cafes with the world’s greatest tequila.

These beaches are ideal for unwinding while listening to good live music, drinking, massage, or swimming in the gentle sea. Back when Acapulco was only a peaceful fishing village, it was discovered by Hollywood’s rich and famous.

Playa Condesa

This beach draws a considerable number of people, many of them are partygoers, and it provides excellent views of the hotel district. Playa Condesa is known as “Golden Zone Central,” the crossroads of hedonism and tourism.

Playa Condesa had seen the roaring 50s, the glory days of Acapulco where the streets and beaches were constantly graced by Hollywood stars. While that may have long been gone, Acapulco is still a roaring place to marvel, and Playa Condesa stands at the front.

History Itself

Acapulco is undoubtedly one of the most historically interesting places in all of Mexico. This quirk is evident in its interesting changing points in history. The city has seen the establishment of the colony, global trade, Hollywood stars, and now, a tourist hotspot.

The Spanish

The conquering Spanish came across Acapulco Bay and found a great potential for the location. On the west edge of the continent, it is an ideal natural harbor for Spanish ships. Acapulco is not only protected from all but the most severe storms, but it also boasts a deep harbor.

Thanks to its natural port being the largest on the Pacific Coast, Acapulco reigned as the “Pearl of the Pacific” for over 300 years. The Acapulco’s port enabled Asian trade as well. By the mid-1650s, galleons were sailing to the Orient for a full year’s worth of trade products.

These products include silks, spices, and other luxuries. Much of this wealth would end up in Spain, but Acapulco had its share of its luxury as well. This has made many locals wealthy.

But Spain’s hold to Mexico won’t last long as attested by history. Spain lost the majority of its colonies in the Western Hemisphere in a very short period of time. The decline was roughly between 1800 and 1820. And Mexico was already yearning for independence from the Spanish Crown.

Acapulco was crucial to the insurgency since it was Mexico’s only significant port on the Pacific coast. Acapulco then fell back into loyalists’ hands for a while in 1815. In the Treaty of Córdoba, the Spanish crown finally relinquished its claim in 1821.

Hollywood and Money Descend

The first vehicle route to the city was established in 1927, and the first beach vacation hotel was erected in 1938.  Miguel Alemán, as President of Mexico, fostered the further development of tourism in Acapulco. A paved four-lane highway was built in 1955. Acapulco quickly became a prominent tourist destination.

As the economy expanded, so did international investment. The 1950s marked the start of Acapulco’s golden period. It quickly became the ‘it’ spot for billionaires and Hollywood celebrities.

One of Elizabeth Taylor’s weddings was held at Acapulco. Several other stars were also regular faces such as Eddi Fisher, Frank Sinatra, and Brigitte Bardot were seen on Acapulco’s beaches. The late former US President Kennedy was also seen there.

Modern-Day Tourism and Crime-Ridden Streets

After continuous development, Acapulco and many of Mexico’s tourist cities thrived. Despite many economic crises. More and more hotels were built, as tourists keep pouring into the city. The recent resort development of Punta Diamante also cemented Acapulco’s standing as a Mexican tourist city.

However, with development also came other changes that weren’t so appealing. At one point, Acapulco became Mexico’s murder capital due to an increase in organized crime, drug violence, and many others.

With local government’s confidence that the worst days had passed, tourists pour over Acapulco’s streets and beaches. Acapulco still remains to be popular among both Mexicans and foreign tourists. Thanks to its dry winter, diverse population, and enduring charms.

Isla de la Roqueta

Isla del a Roqueta is the imposing island just off the harbors of Acapulco. It is easily one of the best, and go-to excursions off the city’s main areas. Isla de la Roqueta offers a rustic charm and a plethora of activities.

Enjoy plenty of water activities such as diving, snorkeling, and even kayaking. You can also find restaurants and cafes lined across the famous Playa Roqueta.

Visitors can reach the island via Playa Caleta. Tourist boats and public ferries are the only means of getting there.

Other notable sights include the Virgen de Los Mares. A submerged image of the Virgin Mary provides a rather peculiar take on marine features.

If you’re up for snorkeling or diving on the island, you have Piedra Hierbabuena and Piedra Elefante reefs. Expect to encounter rich marine life around these spots.

Punta Diamante

Punta Diamante is a recent resort development in Acapulco, aimed to boost its tourism appeal. A tourist firm together with the government has committed to developing southern Acapulco’s value.

This development project has given Punta Diamante and Acapulco a leg-up in their tourism game. Thanks to its new infrastructures, hotels, and amenities. Now, the area is packed with modern metropolitan charms, such as upscale restaurants, hotels, and shopping centers.

Punta Diamante also boasts its beautiful golden beaches. And that’s on top of its modern metropolitan appeal. Its sandy expanse is notable for its characteristic shallow waters with gentle waves that are safe for everyone.

Puerto Vallarta

It’s clear at this point that Mexico has a rich arsenal of seaside cities that can rival the entire Caribbean and Southeast Asia put together. And one of these is the well-loved Puerto Vallarta. If you’re looking for a more authentic Mexican seaside experience, PV (Puerto Vallarta), is the best place to start.

PV’s ability in preserving its authenticity despite being in a tourist-saturated country is the city’s most enduring charm. From its modern hotel zone, down to its cobbled-street heart, Puerto Vallarta is a city that endures and embraces. Regardless of where you’re from, or who you are, you can be sure to find warmth here.

What Makes Puerto Vallarta Unique?

The City’s Beachside Heart

Despite not having reputable beaches like Cancun or Cabo, PV has its own unique twist for its beach scene. With its location on the Pacific coast of Mexico, the city sports beaches that seem to gleam a golden glow under the sun.

PV’s gilded beaches are even more prominent and characteristic. Its charm has often separated the beaches from several of their “whiter” counterparts. The city’s beaches require a special kind of appreciation and an eye for beauty.

Apart from its golden hues, PV has an iconic Malecon. A waterfront boardwalk teeming with cultural appeal. PV’s Malecon provides every willing visitor a glimpse of what an authentic Mexican seaside city is.

The Malecon is a mile-long stretch that spans from the city center to the Zona Romantica. The boardwalk is filled with interesting sites and features. You can find local cafes and restaurants that best represent what PV is about.

Also expect to catch some homegrown pop-up stores, food stalls, and plenty of statues as you walk around the iconic landmark. The Malecon is also a pedestrian-only area so you can freely stroll around, just watch out for bikers.

Marine Denizens

Mexico’s Pacific coast is blessed with rather underrated marine phenomena and features. While the Caribbean may have its reefs and marine life. Puerto Vallarta has congregations of larger marine animals. You can also see the same phenomenon across different Mexican Pacific cities.

If you’re a fan of whales, whale sharks, sharks, dolphins, turtles, and manta rays, expect to see plenty of them out into the open sea of PV. Find sea excursion tour companies in PV that offer close encounters with these marine animals.

On top of the marine animal extravaganza, the waters around PV also have conditions suitable for diving. Thanks to the mild temperatures, gentler currents, and visibility.

Magic Towns

Teeming with charms in itself, Puerto Vallarta is worth exploring for days. However, one thing that makes Puerto Vallarta worth staying in is its proximity to little charming places perfect for day trips. In a way, getting out of the city proper is a draw in itself.

The city sits close to small quaint towns that have preserved the authentic magic of Mexico. The federal government has dubbed them “Pueblos Magicos” or “Magic Towns”. With over 121 of them scattered all over the country, you can check out some of them just hours away from PV:


Famous among backpackers, digital nomads, and surfers, Sayulita is charming, rustic, but far from quaint. The magic town north of Puerto Vallarta is home to the free-spirited, simple, and slow-living folk.

You can have surf-worthy beaches, boutiques, decent wifi, good food, and lots of good times in Sayulita. The town is best for a day’s trip, however, with its easy-going atmosphere, you might stay longer than you expect.


From the name itself, the magic town east of Puerto Vallarta is the birthplace of Tequila, the drink. And that’s all the marketing the town needs, honestly. You can take a tour around the agave files that were used in concocting the famous drink.

You can also learn a bit of the history of how Tequila came to be. And as a bonus, all tours include a quick sample of the town’s homegrown tequila. Not to mention, the location of the town is one saved for travel magazines as well. Downright beautiful.


A break from the beaches and seas of coastal PV, Mascota provides a contrasting landscape. Just two hours away from the waterfront sights of Puerto Vallarta, you can revel in the highland escape of Mascota.

Here you can savor the much colder climate of the mountains along with some sights of colonial houses. Mascota’s buildings and streets can transport you to colonial times, thanks to their well-preserved magic and beauty.

The LGBTQ+ Welcome

Puerto Vallarta has been dubbed “The Friendliest City” in the world because of the warmth the locals constantly offer. This same warmth is even more evident as the city itself extends warm acceptance to the LGBTQ+ community. PV is probably the most LGBT-friendly place in all of Mexico.

LGBT folks can find a plethora of places to enjoy themselves in the city. An abundance of beach clubs, nightclubs, bars, and hotels cater to the LGBT, especially during Pride Month. They can find themselves having the freedom to be who they are without prejudice and violence.

The Zona Romantica is littered with over 20 LGBT-friendly establishments. These businesses provide both entertainment and acceptance. Whether you’re a part of the community or a loving ally, you’ll find PV to be an ideal place to be.

Which Is Better – Acapulco or Puerto Vallarta?

While Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta are both Mexican Pacific jewels, they offer distinct flavors. This variation offers an even-colored landscape for Mexican tourism. But what ultimately decides Acapulco or Puerto Vallarta is what a tourist wants to experience on the Pacific coasts of Mexico.

Acapulco, boasting a long varied history, and crowd-favorite beaches, is best for the classic tourist. The city is perfect for those looking to have a classic experience from one of Mexico’s classic seaside cities. If you want a simple, uncomplicated, classic take on tours, beaches, and nightlife, then Acapulco is best.

Puerto Vallarta, on the other hand, is best for those looking to have a plethora of twists and takes on tourism. The city itself balances authenticity and mass appeal, alongside the Pacific’s unmatched charms. PV is best reserved for the open-minded, adventurous, and ever-curious.


Is Puerto Vallarta Safer Than Acapulco?

Given Acapulco’s criminal history, Puerto Vallarta is the safer option. Once dubbed as Mexico’s “murder capital,” Acapulco has drawbacks and one of them is its high levels of crime. Littered with gang violence, and drug crimes, Acapulco has a bad rep.

But local authorities are confident that the worst days are over, and that the city has seen the dawn. Acapulco is still one of the most visited cities on Mexico’s Pacific coasts. If you want lesser worry about your travel, Puerto Vallarta is one of the safest cities in Mexico.

Is Acapulco Near Puerto Vallarta?

With a sheer distance of 701 km or 436 miles, these two cities sit pretty far from each other but are easily accessible. Both Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta fronts the Pacific Ocean and can only take less than a day to drive.