A generation ago, Acapulco was a Hollywood jet set playground; today, it’s the celebrity homes, high-end resorts and picture-postcard beaches that account for the city’s glamour. Popular sightseeing excursions include those elements along with juicy celebrity history and the iconic cliff-diver performance.
History buffs choose the tour to the important Tehuacalco archaeological site, which dates back to 650 A.D. and is the first explored and excavated site of the ancient Yope civilization. The site includes pyramidal structures, petroglyphs and caves.
Other options: scuba diving, horseback riding on a beach and an all-day tour to Taxco, Mexico’s silver capital.
Cabo San Lucas
Located at the tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, Cabo has the clear waters that make it ideal for active passengers who want to snorkel, kayak, paddle-board, parasail or jet ski. It also has some of the best sport-fishing in the world (marlin, mahi mahi, wahoo and tuna), good whale-watching from late December through March and glass-bottom boat tours for those who just want to comfortably observe marine life.
Overland tours include ATV adventures in the Baja outback, camel rides in the desert, explorations of virgin beaches, zip-lining and rock climbing. Culinary tours are available
Cabo’s party face is best represented by Sammy Haggar’s Cabo Wabo, where table-dancing and similar fun is fueled by tequila shots and margaritas.
Shoppers will find plenty to buy, including blown glass, jewelry, clothing, pottery and art work; in addition to dozens of boutiques and stalls, there is also a flea market.
Cabo is always photogenic, especially El Arco (“Land’s End”), the rugged rock formation that erupts from the sea at the tip of the peninsula.
Man-made and resembling one of those private islands owned by various cruise lines, Costa Maya has plenty to engage and entertain passengers. Some choose to simply hang around enjoying sun and surf at the various beach clubs in Mahahual; some opt for kayaking and swimming in the turquoise waters of Laguna Bacalar, the Lake of Seven Colors; others take excursions that combine a visit to the Mayan ruins in 4th century city Chacchoben along with lunch of Yucatan specialties in a nearby village.
For active passengers, tour options include sport fishing, stand-up paddle-boarding, bike-and-kayak explorations, snorkeling and scuba diving.Cozumel
Perched atop a coral reef, Cozumel is a favorite with scuba divers, snorkelers, deep sea fishers and fans of swimming with dolphins. For less active enjoyment of Cozumel’s waters, there are glass-bottom boat tours and the Museum of the Island of Cozumel, which houses exhibits on the reef eco-system and underwater life.
The principal city of San Miguel is where souvenir shoppers (silver and Mexican crafts) can easily spend a day, at the modern Villa Mar mall and Los Cino Soles, to name just two favorites.
History buffs will visit such Mayan sites as San Gervasio and El Cedral. Full-day tours are offered to Tulum and Chichen Itza, the Yucatan’s most renowned site, where 7th and 8th century carvings, pyramids and temples can be found.
Thanks to its proximity to Hollywood, this port, too, was once a popular getaway for A-Listers.
Today, movie buffs can take a tour to Rosarito and the Baja Studios, a 45-acre complex built in 1996 for James Cameron’s epic film, Titanic. Since then eight more films (including Master and Commander and Pearl Harbor) have been shot here, along with assorted commercials and television shows. At Xplorations, visitors can learn about movie making in an interactive way.
Nature lovers choose to visit La Bufadora, one of the world’s three continuous blowholes (tour can combine wine tasting or kayaking), and golfers try their luck at Bajamar, nicknamed “Pebble Beach South of the Border.”
There are jeep and bike tours, culinary tours and various options for visiting resorts and relaxing on the beach.
Ixtapa is another of those “created” destinations, rich with high-rise hotels, restaurants and upscale boutiques. “Zihua,” as it’s known by locals, preserves its village looks by law; no building can rise higher than four stories. So - cruise passengers can sample both man-made attractions and those created by Nature.
Tours of Ixtapa cover the hotels on the beach and include time to enjoy drinks and shopping.
The zipline tours start with a coach journey and include a hike to the Majuahual Caves and a soaring adventure above the treetops to three different platforms.
Deep sea fishing excursions include equipment and are generally successful in bringing in the big fish: marlin, bonita
Snorkeling can be combined with a catamaran sail or simply enjoyed on one of the beach excursions.
The name means “peace” and this tranquil port, a favorite with eco-tourists, lives up to its name. Though marine creatures are the stars here, this capital of Baja California Sur also has plenty of natural beauty in its desert-meets-the-sea landscape and man-made beauty in its gracious colonial homes and inviting waterfront promenade.
Extraordinary experiences are available: snorkeling with whale sharks or swimming with sea lions at the island rookery of Los Islotes. Not for everyone: an excursion to the El Serpentario Reptile Center and Cactus Nursery, home to snakes, lizards, crocodiles and turtles; some can be touched.
The city tour covers such attractions as the Anthropology Museum and the cathedral of Our Lady of Peace and includes a stroll on the Tecolote beach and time for shopping.
Subject of a popular cowboy song, Loreto, with its cave paintings and petroglyphs, is believed to be the oldest human settlement on the Baja Peninsula.
Jesuit missionaries founded the first mission here and established the Our Lady of Loreto church, which still anchors the town. Nature has provided dramatic cliff-top vistas and beautiful beaches.
Active outdoor excursions include kayaking, snorkeling (at the World Heritage Site, Coronados Island), sailing, sport-fishing and off-road adventures.
A popular tour option is the clambake and fiesta combination, which includes local delicacies, margaritas, live music, dancing and a piÒata.
This port had its 15 minutes of fame in the 1970s, when Bo Derek displayed her charms along with the luxuries of the Las Hadas resort in the move 10. Other celebrities along with folks who were simply wealthy followed. Today their million-dollar homes and upscale hotels can be seen in the area called La Audienca.
Time has marched on, but the port still has its charms - as does the Las Hadas Resort, where cruise passengers can pay a fee to use the pool and beach.
With an abundance of big fish - marlin, sailfish and dorado - deep sea fishing is a popular option, as are water sports and relaxing beach excursions along Manzanillo’s volcanic sand.
After a series of high-profile drug crimes, the “Pearl of the Pacific” fell out of favor with cruise lines in 2011. Following a strong push by officials to create not only a safe environment, but also an attractive one, the port began its comeback last year.
Like some other Mexican ports, Mazatlan shows travelers two personalities. The Golden Zone (Zona Dorado) houses upscale hotels, bars, restaurants, souvenir shops, trendy clubs and familiar tourist favorites like Senor Frogs, as well as miles of inviting sand and surf.
Beyond the Zona Dorado is historic Mazatlan, with its Moorish cathedral, photo-worthy Spanish mansions, Italian-style Teatro Angela Peralta, Central Market, Museo de Arta (art museum) and Museo de Arqueologia (archeological museum).
Shore excursions include city tours, all-day excursions to the colonial villages of Sierra Madre and various
Blame Hollywood director John Huston for transforming a scenic tranquil village into an international resort - by choosing it the location for his 1964 film Night of the Iguana starring Richard Burton and Ava Gardner.
So today this port shows passengers two faces: the modern beach resort made famous by Hollywood and other rich and famous types (“Gringo Gulch”) along with the natural wonders that invite passengers to hike in the jungle, whale-watch, dive with manta rays, swim with dolphins, ride on horseback and zip-line through tree-top canopies, over jungles or rivers or even the area where scenes from the movie Predator were shot.
Various city tours are available, either on foot or with scooters, as are countryside tours, botanic garden tours, pirate ship adventures and tequila and hacienda excursions.
Thanks to all these options - and the exceptional shopping - Puerto Vallarta experienced a 43% increase in cruise ship arrivals in 2014.