It's almost daybreak on Acapulco Bay, and the throbbing discos along "la costera" are winding down.

From the balcony of my hotel room on the 10th floor, I see a few early birds are already out jogging on the broad flat beach that had been carefully groomed by machines during the night.Across the street, black-and-white Volkswagen bug taxis that scuttle around like busy ants are lined up outside an after-hours club. I was warned not to ride in one without negotiating the fare ahead of time. They carry no meters.

The sky to the east is starting to turn pink but the lights on the encircling mountainsides still twinkle like Christmas decorations.

It was in those mountains in early October that Hurricane Pauline sent torrents of water and mud crashing down on the miserable hovels of Acapulco's poor, killing 150 and leaving tens of thousands homeless.

But the high-rise tourist hotels, restaurants and shops along the beach, the playground of the well-off, were largely spared serious damage.

This strip of resorts is generally considered safe for tourists, but Acapulco was back in the news Dec. 9 when 10 heavily armed men dressed in the black uniforms of the federal police kidnapped Vincent Carrozza, manager of the Princess Hotel, one of the city's leading hotels.

One police officer was killed and another wounded in an exchange of gunfire with the kidnappers fleeing in a stolen van.

On this morning, as the sun started to peek over the mountains, I set out in search of a cup of coffee. Fat chance, I found out. It would be a few more hours - around 9 a.m. - before the grand hotels laid out their lavish alfresco breakfast buffets.

Out on the costera, the main drag, there wasn't a coffee shop in sight; no Starbucks, either. A cup of coffee in this coffee-producing country is hard to come by - at least early in the morning in Acapulco, a city of 1.5 million people.

Acapulco is an all-night party town, where mornings are meant for sleeping. Well, afternoons, too. Shops close from 1 p.m to 4 p.m. for siesta time.

One Mexican businessman told me there is a stigma attached to coffee shops, the way some Americans view pool halls. Go figure.

There was a wet bar in my time-share hotel suite, but no coffee maker. I bought one at a Wal-Mart store, an enormous market that never closes and has reasonable prices.

Coffee aside, I was delighted to find that this dowager queen of Mexican resorts is not as frumpy as I had expected. In fact, she's rather spiffy.

Acapulco has a lot to offer lovers of sun, sand and scenery. The bullfights, however, are strictly bush league. (Imagine a bumbling Leslie Nielsen as a matador.)

"The bullfights are just for the tourists," a taxi driver confided. "If you want to see a real bullfight, you go to Mexico City. (That's a 3 1/2-hour drive on a new super-highway.)

If it's authentic derring-do you're after, there are the cliff divers of La Quebrada, made famous by Hollywood filmmakers of the '40s and '50s. The divers leap head-first off a 136-foot cliff into a narrow cove on the Pacific coast just west of Old Acapulco.

The dives must be timed with the shifting current to make sure there's enough water down below. Before taking the plunge, the divers kneel at a small shrine and cross themselves.

It's almost as exciting watching them climb back up the steep cliff.

My traveling companion and I watched from the nearby balcony of the La Perla nightclub and restaurant, clinging to the side of a cliff. While watching, we dined on a buffet dinner of barbecued chicken and some uninspired Mexican side dishes, refried beans and such.

Between jumps, the divers came up to the restaurant to pose for pictures with the tourists and to collect tips.

Acapulco's main thoroughfare, Costera Miguel Aleman, runs along the coast all the way around the bay. On the opposite side of the city from La Quebrada, it takes you to Las Brisa, an unusual world-class resort built up the side of the mountain.

Las Brisa is actually more like a village than a hotel. There are 300 private "casitas" or cottages nestled on the hillside - half of which have their own swimming pools.

Guests are ferried about the grounds in jeeps summoned by a call to the bell captain.

Fresh flowers are strewn into each pool during the night, and ev erything in the resort is pink - the jeeps, cabins, walls, bedspreads, sheets, refrigerators, bath towels and toilet paper.

Non-guests can take a jeep ride to the El Mexicano restaurant on top of the mountain and dine on an outdoor patio with a magnificent view of Acapulco Bay.

Other popular tourist stops in Acapulco include the zocalo or main plaza in Old Acapulco, which is dominated by a cathedral that looks like a mosque. The zocalo faces the dock, where you can watch fishermen unloading their catches, oceangoing freighters and brightly lit cruise liners.

Or you can shop for bargains in silver jewelry from Taxco or sundry other items at a nearby giant flea market. But be warned. In Acapulco you'll be hounded by someone trying to sell you something as soon as you step out of your hotel onto the sidewalk.

A glass-bottom boat tour - one of many - includes a view of the sunken statue of the Virgin of Guadeloupe.

The winter weather in Acapulco usually is perfect, warm and dry. One taxi driver, bragging on his town, said, "It only rains here in the summer - summers can get pretty humid - but then it only rains at night."

Temperatures in December and January average ranging from a low of 72 to a high of 88, with one day of rain a month.

Craig R. Pehlman, an American who retired to Acapulco, says it's probably the cheapest resort in all of Mexico.

Thanks in great measure to the devaluation of the peso, my traveling companion and I found it hard to spend more than $30 to $35 for dinner for two, even at one of the more pricey restaurants.

Furthermore, Pehlman says, "The government has been spending a lot of money cleaning up Acapulco and making it safer. You can go almost anywhere any time of day or night and feel secure. Police are everywhere, and they have tourist police that patrol constantly."

Most of the tourists in Acapulco seem to be from Latin America or Europe, with the number of Canadians - especially French Canadians - outnumbering Americans.

The water? Montezuma's revenge?

Most of the tourist hotels have their own purification systems and the lavatories are so marked. But you'd better stick to bottled water elsewhere.