|Life is a beach,
but add beach-side pools and life is heavenly. A free, three-minute
shuttle ride offers bathers the best of both resorts.
Forget Montezuma's revenge. Fairmont’s two
the Acapulco Princess and Pierre Marques, offer sand, style and
deliciously safe food.
Text and photos by Toby Saltzman
"Dip the totopos (tortillas) in the guacamole, then in the
salsas," said Claudia, passing the tomato, onion, and pepper concoctions.
"Mexican food is for sharing a little this, a little that, a little
drink, a little laugh."
After our flight from chilly Canada, we ate eagerly, relishing
the piquant flavors, the warm air and the sensuous breeze that wafted
in from the ocean, ruffling the palm trees shading our beachside
table from the brilliant sun. Soon, two waiters appeared with crocks
of vegetables and a platter of whole fish.
"We call this 'la talla' - red snapper, simply grilled," Claudia
announced, scooping generous portions onto our plates. We ate lustily,
crunching the crisp veggies, devouring the plump fish under the
watchful eyes of a pair of red-capped birds who'd perched themselves
on the rim of our wrought iron table. After lunch, as we strolled
by meandering pools, waterfalls, and across a swinging bridge traversing
a lagoon, I couldn't help noting that, not too long ago, the mere
mention of Acapulco salsas spurred quips of Montezuma's revenge.
For all its seductive sunshine, one didn't dare visit without packs
of Pepto Bismol to line the stomach, or doses of Cipro to zap infections,
and promises to avoid fresh fruits and salads. Those who returned
home with golden tans sans nasty bugs in their cache of souvenirs
considered themselves lucky.
|An artisan displays
her colorful crafts.
Such luck was on my mind when I packed antidotes for my recent
visit to Acapulco. Little did I imagine that my destination - the
Acapulco Princess and Pierre Marques Resorts - had had given luck
such potent help that Montezuma didn't stand a chance, and that
I'd leave raving about the wonderful resorts that served deliciously
I'll start at the beginning. I'd arrived in Acapulco to meet Claudia
Cano, journalist turned media director. She facilitated my in-depth
research for a business report about the environmental program instituted
by the Fairmont-Canadian Pacific Hotels after the chain had purchased
the sister Acapulco Princess and Pierre Marques resorts. Admittedly
blasé at first, I was stunned in the end. It wasn't just the innovations
at the resorts that set new paradigms in all of Mexico, or the resorts'
24-hour medical clinic open to guests and staff. What really blew
me away was the impeccable standard of food and beverage services.
That made staying here as carefree as staying in any blue chip resort
in Canada or the United States.
The Princess and Pierre Marques resorts are private enclaves a
world apart from the famed horseshoe arch of Acapulco Bay, only
20 minutes away. The resorts are set side-by-side on hundreds of
lush acres bordering Revolcadero Beach, the longest swath of sandy
beach in Acapulco.
"In reality, there are three Acapulcos," explained Claudia, putting
the resort into geographic perspective. "There's the old Acapulco
Caleta of the '40s and '50s, where art deco buildings house cheap
rooms and little bars. The posh Acapulco of the '70s marked by the
las Brisas and Hyatt resorts, and eateries and discos overlooking
the bay. And now, even though the Princess and Pierre Marques have
been remote here for ages, we're the heart of the new Acapulco Diamante
that's developing around us."
the lagoons of the Fairmont Acapulco Princess.
Like sisters, the Princess and the Pierre Marques have unique personalities
and styles, yet compliment each other nicely. After a few days,
I found myself enjoying each resort for different reasons.
The Princess wowed me instantly with it's exuberant Mexican ambience,
open-air lobby, and gorgeous grounds where flamingoes, swans, and
iridescent peacocks inhabit a salt-water lagoon. The 1019 room resort
is like a grand city. It was built in 1971 in a style reminiscent
of a massive Aztec pyramid. It houses several bars and restaurants
(each boasting a different style of cuisine), a popular disco, and
five dreamy pools, some graced by waterfalls and swim-up bars. The
resort offers a full-service spa, a top-notch gym, several tennis
courts, and two 18-hole golf courses. Excellent children's facilities
include a wading pool (an asset considering the ocean's strong undertow),
sturdy playground equipment, and supervised games, sports and arts
The Princess' gloss makes the Pierre Marques seem slightly subdued.
That was exactly the intention when oil tycoon J. P. Getty first
envisioned the remote hideaway estate he wanted his celebrity friends
to enjoy. The secluded villas, bungalows and low-rise dwellings
were built in 1957. The Princess, set amid tropical gardens, lured
the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Mike Todd and the eccentric Howard
Hughes. Interestingly, Getty himself never came. More recently,
the elegant, 344-room resort housing its own popular restaurants
has attracted George Harrison, Anthony Hopkins, Kevin Costner, Neil
Young, Dustin Hoffman, and Tony Bennet, Placido Domingo, Julio Iglesias,
Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston.
|A hanging bridge
joins the pool and gardens near the al fresco restaurant at
Fairmont Acapulco Princess.
The Pierre Marques is accessible via a quick shuttle to all of
the Princess's amenities, pools, and restaurants. It's also ideal
for those who shy away from a constant hum of activity, and for
families with young children who prefer the "community park" feeling
of expansive lawns and fun-filled playgrounds.
Accuracy Counts for Golfers
For avid golfers, the resort is paradise. While Princess guests
pay to play, Pierre Marques guests (on Sunquest package tours) are
allowed one free round per day.
The courses are enjoyable, yet challenging. The Princess Course,
designed by Ted Robinson, is a friendly layout, short of championship
length. But length is deceptive, I quickly learned, and accuracy
counts on the narrow fairways fringed by tall palms. On my second
tee shot, distracted by a symphony of morning birds, I shot left
and shuddered upon hearing a thud. To my relief, I'd hit a coconut,
not a bird. The Pierre Marques Course is a tough, championship layout
redesigned by Robert Trent Jones Sr. for the 1982 World Cup Tournament.
Accuracy on the fairways and lay-up shots are essential to escape
the water. With luck you may beat undulating greens.
It took concentration to focus on work amidst this decadent tropical
milieu. But I managed to keep up with my research for this article
and learned that both resorts are trailblazers in Mexico. Their
own water purification plant re-purifies and monitors the Acapulco
city water. Used water is recycled to irrigate the golf courses
while creating a wetland sanctuary for birds. The resorts' composting,
waste management, and recycling initiatives are the best of any
resort or corporation in Mexico. Enthusiastic staff members donate
leftover foods and soaps to the community.
as the cliff divers of La Quebrada dive
from dizzying heights into a narrow cove.
As for resort food, the hotels are entirely self-sufficient, with
their own butchers, chefs, and bakers. Indeed, after rigorous government
inspections of the hygiene and security of food preparation, the
Princess and Pierre Marques each won the Mexico's first ever "Distinctive
H" Award for serving quality, safe food in all its bars and restaurants.
By the end of the week, I'd tasted interesting meals in the resorts'
various restaurants. At al fresco breakfasts, while overlooking
the mini-rainforest and lagoon, I sampled exotic fruits, tortilla
casseroles topped with cheese and onions, and Mexican eggs spiced
with peppers and tomatoes. I never even ingested Pepto Bismol, as
I managed to avoid Montezuma's wrath.
Exploring the Bay
One morning, I set out with Claudia and a 'trusty' guidebook to
explore the Acapulco Bay area. Claudia drove, following the main
road (Costera Miguel Aleman) past the towering stone fort, built
in 1616 to protect Acapulco from Dutch and English marauders, that
today houses a historical museum. After circling the bay, we pulled
into a narrow lane where Claudia managed to park the car after paying
off a man, who guarded a "free park zone", 50 pesos, about C$10,
"to watch it."
"That's life here: bargaining for everything is a Mexican sport,"
she said as we strolled through the zocalo, the pretty central plaza.
The warren of lanes was home to many booths brimming with handicrafts:
brightly painted pottery, papier mache masks and parrots, handwoven
blankets, heaps of silver jewelry, fanciful piñatas, and garish
sombreros. Back in the car, we drove to the height of La Quebrada,
where cliff divers dove from a 14-metre-high (136-foot-high) precipice
into a narrow cove. Later, I insisted we check out two places listed
as "musts" in my guidebook. The CICI Waterpark was described as
"a hive of entertainment with a wave pool, water slides, beach access,
plus a swim-with-dolphin experience." Dismayed by the untidy park
- the slew of children wading in a murky pool, silt lapping onto
the beach, the outrageously short pool where people clawed captive
dolphins - I noted: Avoid this.
|A wide variety of
whimsical handmade pottery can be found at local markets.
Playa de Caleta in old Acapulco was described as "a picturesque
beach with calm waters." After one glance at the hordes frolicking
in muddy water and crowding to buy poured drinks, I noted: Avoid
this place, too. Better to stick to the Princess and Pierre Marques.
Back at the Princess, I donned my swimsuit and raced down to the
pool to stand under the refreshing waterfall before settling under
a shady palapa (hut). "Aah," I thought while sipping a cool Pina
Colada. "Simply divine. Swim, eat, and drink all you want in Acapulco.
Forget Montezuma's revenge. Muchas gracias, Princess."
Affordable packages to the Acapulco Princess and Pierre Marques
Resorts are exclusive to Sunquest. The Pierre Marques package is
markedly economical (see below). Guests at each resort have full
access to the pools, beach, playgrounds, restaurants and bars of
both resorts. There's a free, 3-minute shuttle between resorts.
Both resorts offer upgrades to ocean views. Both resorts host concessions
that offer sailing, scuba diving, horseback riding, and deep-sea
For specific hotel details and rates (not on Sunquest package) call:
Fairmont Canadian Pacific Hotels: 1-800-441-1414
Pierre Marques: "Almost all-inclusive" with Sunquest.
Rates for 7 nights, per couple, room with balcony or terrace. C$1449
This includes a food and beverage credit of US$350 per person per
Golf: one 18-hole round of golf free per person, per day. Children
under 6 years stay free, but pay air fare: C$569 Transportation
taxes & fees: C$84.