The new Boca Chica is just the beginning. Couturier says other hotels in the Traditional Zone—including the legendary Casablanca, where Stauffer opened a rooftop club with 360-degree views in 1945—have just been purchased by mysterious investors. The hope is that they will continue what the Habita partners and second-generation residents have started.
But thankfully, right next door to Boca Chica, little has changed at La Cabaña de Caleta, an unpretentious old-school joint on Caleta Beach where piña coladas, ceviche in tall cocktail glasses, and baby-shark quesadillas are still served on the sand. Just a few yards away, rickety tables are piled high with fresh shellfish, ready for local bathers to buy for their lunch, shucked on the spot.
Acapulco’s establishment watches all of this hopefully, despite recent news of drug-related violence. Even though they live behind well-guarded gates, they want to open their city to the world again. “There’s more to Acapulco than beaches,” says Paty Molina, a leader of local society, at a small lunch in an opulent villa behind the gates of Las Brisas. The event is being hosted by her mother, Lupita, the ex-wife of the Mexico Pepsi distributor who sold his company for $1.5 billion. A philanthropist, she has invited local business and government leaders over to raise money for the Fort of San Diego, which once fought off pirates, but now welcomes all comers with museum exhibitions dedicated to the history of Acapulco and, especially, its roots in that triangle trade with the Philippines and the Far East. “I do whatever I can because I love Acapulco,” Lupita says, as her friends finish lunch at 5 p.m.
Esteban, one of the guests at Lupita’s luncheon, suggests that no visit to Acapulco is complete without a meal at Barra Vieja and a trip into Tres Palos, one of the two huge lagoons that bookend the city and are, Baby’O notwithstanding, the town’s greatest attraction. Down the coastal road to Oaxaca, open-air restaurants serve pescado ala talla y mariscos (spicy grilled fish and seafood) on picnic tables set below palapas. At Beto Godoy, one of the largest, sunbathers in swimsuits pick their own fish from a sink in a shack; it’s weighed, whisked away, then returned, cooked to perfection. Rental boats stand ready to take visitors on a voyage into the lagoon, where the only company is red crabs, storks, egrets, and nighthawks.
Tres Palos is a far cry from the discos and fast-food restaurants of Acapulco Gold, and even older than the fishing village that first attracted Errol Flynn and John Wayne. It’s yet another Acapulco, perhaps the most extraordinary of all.
Michael Gross, a T+L contributing editor, has just finished his latest book, Unreal Estate, about the mansions of Los Angeles and the people who live in them.