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Hotels in Acapulco, Mexico

Witheringly hip, attitudinal hotels—the kind with fun-house designer guest rooms that look great in magazines but are hell to sleep in—would do well to check out the Princess's accommodations. Standard doubles are exceedingly pleasant and larger by a third than my quite respectable New York City apartment, with big entrance halls, walk-in closets, efficient if plain bathrooms, and dressing rooms conveniently fitted with second sinks. The decoration isn't going to win any awards, but neither is there anything to object to. Materials run to bamboo, cane, and wicker, and the palette largely (and wisely) skirts the hot, hysterical, south-of-the-border colors you'd expect in favor of browns and beiges you barely notice. Louvered panels roll in front of the terraces, filtering the light, the breeze, and the lulling surf sound track.
Playa Revolcadero; 800/866-5577 or 52-7/469-1000, fax 52-7/469-1012; doubles from $139.

THE FAIRMONT PIERRE MARQUES
Half a mile down the beach from the Princess, the Marques is everything its sister resort is not: relatively intimate (343 guest rooms), unshowy (if it weren't for the fountains, you wouldn't know you were pulling up to a hotel), and low-slung (while the Princess plays the vertical card, the Marques plays the horizontal—no building is higher than five stories). Only the accommodations and service are in the same mold.

The Marques's very human qualities have particular resonance with Mexico's professional and privileged classes. The languid early-summer weekend I spent there, it was packed with members of the country's bourgeoisie basking in the low rates—and in the absence of foreigners, who find Acapulco intolerably steamy at this time of year. It was not unusual to see three generations of the same Mexican family (plus nannies) whooping it up in one of the hotel's three swimming pools, breaking just long enough to dip warm chips into some divinely chunky guacamole or to down an icy Coco Loco. The house cocktail is made with gin, vodka, rum, tequila, Kahlúa, and coconut milk from coconuts grown on the premises. No one ever accused the Mexicans of not knowing that living well is the best revenge.

Guests can board a shuttle bus to use the more spectacular pools at the Princess, as well as its other facilities. Shared, too, is a private water purification plant capable of producing a million gallons a day—with Mexico's notorious potability problems, water is on every traveler's mind—and an 18-hole, par-72 championship course designed by golf greats Percy Clifford and Robert Trent Jones.

What became the Marques was begun in 1958 by J. Paul Getty as a hideaway—cum—country club, a place where he could draw the shades against the world or receive friends, family, and business associates in industrial quantities. More than 40 years later the property retains the civilized flavor of the time in which it was built. Public areas are furnished with smart white cast-iron sofas and chairs with claw feet and crisp hunter-green cushions. El Tabachin, one of two restaurants, has the stagy sophistication of a theater set by the English scenic-design legend Oliver Messel. The poles that hold up the awning between the biomorphic Ixtapa pool and the Pierre Bar are topped with tole lanterns and angled inward, which no one would think of doing today. What's the big deal?If the poles were straight the awning wouldn't even register. The chic is in the minutiae.

Just as I knew they would, the Marques management looked at me like I was crazy when I questioned them about such details. For the hotel, it's business as usual.
Playa Revolcadero; 800/866-5577 or 52-7/466-1000, fax 52-7/466-1046; doubles from $265.

VILLA VERA HOTEL, SPA & RACQUET CLUB
How can you resist the hotel where Elizabeth Taylor married Mike Todd (with Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher as attendants)?Or where the Nixons celebrated their 25th anniversary?Wait, it gets better. Lana Turner lived at Villa Vera for three years. And Elvis, who would still have the Mexican tourist board kissing his rings if he were around today, filmed part of Fun in Acapulco at the resort.

Like the Pierre Marques, Villa Vera started out in the fifties as one man's retreat. It was built for Carl Renstrom, the American inventor of the modern hair curler, who was known as "Mr. Acapulco." Renstrom launched what remains the city's greatest attraction, cliff diving at La æuebrada. He sited his getaway on a vertiginous 15-acre plot in a residential neighborhood just behind Costera Miguel Alem·n, Acapulco's famously hectic main drag. The location isn't everyone's idea of heaven. But for those (especially young club hounds) who insist on being in the thick of things, only the Vera will do.

While a third of the 69 accommodations have private or shared swimming pools, most guests make use of the main pool, which is watched over by a campy sculpture of King Neptune. Guest rooms are unfortunately rather generic, a fact many regulars seem willing to overlook. They're much less interested in the furnishings than they are in the red-clay tennis courts and the 1,500-square-foot spa (try the paraphango mud-and-paraffin wrap). Service regularly descends to the level of a dog-and-pony show, though housekeeping did an excellent last-minute job of wrapping a beautiful rope hammock I'd bought on the beach for next to nothing.
35 Lomas del Mar; 52-7/484-0333, fax 52-7/484-7479; doubles from $145.

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