Acapulco was named by the Náhua tribe; the name means 'where the reeds stood' or 'place of giant reeds.' Archaeological finds show that when the Spaniards arrived, people had been living around the bay area for about 2000 years, and had moved from being a hunter-gatherer society to being an agricultural one. The Náhua were conquered by the Aztec empire about a hundred years before it in turn fell to the Spanish conquistadors.
By order of Hernán Cortés, Spanish sailors took the Bahía de Acapulco in 1521. Port and shipbuilding facilities were established here because of the substantial natural harbor, and it was the jumping-off point for further explorations and conquests, such as that of Perú. Acapulco became the only port in the New World authorized to receive Spanish galleons from the Philippines and China. It was therefore an important link in the trade route between Europe and the Orient, the longest and most profitable commercial route in the world, and remained so until the early 19th century. Goods transported through its port included spices, silks, ivory, jade, porcelain and slaves. During the annual Acapulco Fair, lasting three to eight weeks after the galleons arrived from Manila in spring, traders converged on Acapulco from Mexico City, Manila and Peru.
All this treasure was an invitation Dutch and English pirates could not resist, and by the 17th century their ships abounded in the Pacific and along the coastlines of México from California to Guatemala. To ward off the pirates, Fuerte de San Diego was built atop a low hill overlooking the bay.
Because of the sea port's strategic importance to the Spanish crown, Fuerte de San Diego became a focus of rebellion in 1812, when the discontented population rose up against their Spanish colonial rulers in the War of Independence. The royalists were besieged in the fort for four months before finally surrendering to the Mexican troops. Much of the city was subsequently destroyed, and as independent Mexico severed most of its trade links with Spain and Spain's colonies, Acapulco fell into decline for the next hundred years.
Its isolation from the rest of the world ended when a paved road was built in 1927 linking it with Mexico City. As the capital grew larger its citizens began flocking to the Pacific coast for vacations. A new international airport was built, and by the 1960s Acapulco was a booming resort, its reputation as a playground for the rich and famous set.
Today Acapulco is the favorite destination for tourists from the whole world, but mainly from Mexico City.