For centuries, Mexico's blissful Gold Coast was little more than an idyllic expanse of coastline spanning thousands of miles between the boundary of North California and Southern Guatemala. Fishing pueblos punctuated the ribbons of caramel sands and sheer slate-grey cliff formations. The “Mexican Riviera” was a term attributed by Princess Cruises during the 1950's to label the vast expanse of Mexican coastline (inclusive of 20 individual towns). Amidst the quaint collective of coastal gems was a town fronted by a huge oval bay, with a backdrop of misty mountains and lush rain-forests – the perfect location for the Gold Coast's first tourism development plan in 1951.
Acapulco, in the quiet South West of Guerrero State already bore the essentials - soft caramel sands; exclusive tranquility and a ready-made bay for parking up yachts and cruise vessels. Featuring stylish beach-front resorts with their own exclusive pockets of sun-baked sandy beach and dazzling amenities to quench the adventurous spirit of teens, the South Bay area blends luxury with affordability, retaining a few coastal treasures for the masses - such as Manzanillo Beach. South Bay includes the tourist planned areas of Punta Diamante and Puerto Marqués where you'll find a distinctly urban nightlife and gargantuan clubs such as Palladium.
Upscale Acapulco still flourishes beyond the estuary of Papagayo River; the affluent “Nautica” area of the bay is set aside for Acapulco's “jet-set”. Located near La Quebrada at the far North of “Nautica” sits the cliff-side Hotel Los Flamingos, once owned by the charismatic John Wayne and business partner Johnny “Tarzan” Weismuller. Little has changed about its character since the 70's, influencing its appeal as one of the premier historic tourist attractions in Old Town Acapulco.
Blessed with pristine peroxide beaches, the former millionaire's playground of Mazatlán is an escapist's dream. Centro Historico resonates with the historic craftsmanship of bygone eras, boasting palatial buildings such as the Angela Peralta Theater and the Immaculate Conception Basilica. Famed for its ambient mercados and labyrinthine alleyways, the “Golden Zone” has propelled Mazatlán to global recognition as a prime shopping destination. Drawing the eye for a very different reason is Mazatlán's coastline. The prosperous port city has become known as the “Pearl of the Pacific” for its contribution to national economy, yet also for the blaze of fire across the horizon as the sun sets nightly across Las Gaviotas Beach. If you're willing to put in the legwork and climb the hill of Cerro Creston, the birds-eye vistas are out of this world!
Nestled upon the Southernmost point of the Baja California Peninsula, the vivacious party hub of Cabo San Lucas stirs curiosity among cruise passengers taking the Pacific approach. A mirage of mountains creates a dramatic horizon, while arid desert creeps up behind the town like a great undulating blanket. El Arco, Cabo's landmark natural rock formation juts out from the sea, often decorated with basking sea-lions. Cabo Dolphin Center on the Eastern flank of the Marina is a great place to discover the wealth of native marine life, while scuba diving at El Arco is an equally enriching experience. Back on terra firma, Cabo continues the fascination with exotic species within the Museo de las Californias, housing a huge whale-shark skeleton among its many fossilized relics. Cabo San Lucs unveils her alter ego by night, filling the streets with up-tempo rhythms and beautiful people headed to fashionable bars like Hard Rock and Cabo Wabo Cantina - owned by “Van Halen” legend Sammy Hagar.
Beset within the arc of Banderas Bay with a backdrop of majestic mountains, Puerto Vallarta wraps the best of the Gold Coast into a picturesque Jalisco package just ripe for adventure. With its mild year round climate and natural wonders, Puerto Vallarta extends the welcome to thrill-seekers and water sports junkies, offering canopy zip line tours among the Sierra Madre mountains and dazzling dive sites just minutes from town.
Encased within a boundary of jagged rocks to the North of the town is Puerto Vallarta's defining beach – Playa del Oro. With smooth sands, accessible resort pools and the welcome shade of lustrous palm trees, bliss can be found within just a few yards of your sun lounger. Head South if you prefer your beaches with a little tangible history. Mismaloya was the setting of “Night of the Iguana” in 1956, starring Ava Gardner and Richard Burton. If you feel the niggling urge to get out and explore, El Pitillal (the main plaza) should be high on your itinerary. Dominated by the 17th Century Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadelupe, El Pitillal gently embraces with a distinctly Mexican ambiance and tiny nooks yielding all manner of colorful tianguis (outdoor markets). Should you find shopping saps your strength, head to Hacienda Doña Engracia, Puerto Vallarta's only government certified tequila factory to put a little fire in your soul!