Veracruz Travel Guide

Photo of Veracruz

Veracruz Overview

Although being a city steeped in history, particularly famed for being the place where Hernan Cortes first arrived in Mexico back in 1529, asides from the waterfront castle and handful of museums Veracruz has little on offer with regards to its significant past. Instead this is a town that lives for today and captivates visitors with its happy-go-lucky outlook, effervescent zocalo (historic centre), al-fresco café scene and infectious Latin beats. Daily events pass by on Veracruz-time and those who land here soon adjust to the rhythm of town life. Stroll down the waterfront malecon at anytime of the day and mingle with the street performers and food and handicraft vendors, wander along the urban beaches or soak up the atmosphere at the zocalo, home to the finest array of colonial buildings and the heart of Veracruzs entertainment.

 
One thing that immediately strikes visitors to Veracruz is the importance of music. Wherever you go, and at whatever hour, you are guaranteed to hear the sweet sounds of Latin and Afro-Cuban influenced music, whether it is sensual salsa, the Cuban influenced son montuno or the sexually explicit jarocho. This is also the home of La Bamba, so it is easy to appreciate why music reigns supreme and once a year, at the beginning of March, town proceedings come to a standstill as the Carnaval de Veracruz lights up the streets for a week-long celebration of local music and dance.
 
Veracruz sits on the central coast of the Gulf of Mexico, 10-hours east from Guadalajara and 4-hours from Mexico City, with regular bus services running to the capital. Around 4-hours from Oaxaca and Villahermosa the town is also a good starting point for those wanting to explore the east of Mexico and travel on to Guatemala. Lesser traveled than other areas of the country this is the ideal place to immerse yourself in the resident culture and mingle with locals away from the popular tourist traps.

Things to do in Veracruz

Acuario de Veracruz - Excellently presented aquarium housing large tanks of both fresh and saltwater fish as well as a number of educational exhibits. Brave visitors have the opportunity to climb into a cage and get lowered into the shark tank for feeding time. Open daily from 10am to 7pm. Entrance MX$60/30 (adults/children).

 
Castillo de San Juan de Ulua - Veracruzs castle stands above the harbour as the towns protector, although its success has something to be desired. In 1519 this was the site where Cortes landed and opened the way for the influx of the Spanish into Mexico. Serving for some years as a ruthless prison, today tours of the fortress take in the battlements, bridges, tunnels and the now disused prison.
 
Outdoor Activities - Although the beaches of Veracruz are not the finest to be found in Mexico there are still an abundance of operators offering snorkelling, diving, rafting and kayaking tours. Veracruz Adventures and Dorado Buceo are both good for diving trips and PADI courses and Kayak Mexico is a good option for kayaking and rafting excursions. Non water based activities like hiking and abseiling can be arranged through either Club Amphibian or Aventura Extrema.
 
Museums in Veracruz
Museo de la Ciudad - Interesting museum covering local history and legends from pre-Hispanic beginnings up until the 1950s. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am - 6pm. Free entrance.
Museo Historico Naval - Fascinating journey through Veracruzs maritime history, from Mayan times to the landing of Cortes to US attacks of 1847 and 1914 to the present day. Check out the weaponry rooms. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am - 5pm. Free entrance.
Fototeca de Veracruz - Under the roof of a 3-storey colonial mansion are changing photography exhibits ranging from classic portraits to multimedia art.
 
Pico de Orizaba - About a 2-hour drive inland from town, remaining in the state of Veracruz, is a vast national park home to Mexicos tallest mountain. This is an excellent spot for both those wanting to explore the surrounding nature and those looking for some adventure. Take a horseback ride or gently walk around the base of the mountain or hire a guide and hike to the summit of the volcano.
 
Veracruz Nightlife - Veracruz is not especially synonymous with boisterous boozing parties, however, it is famed for being a centre for music and spread around the city are a good selection of live music venues and dancehalls where visitors and locals get their groove on. The zocalo is the heart of all nighttime entertainment with lively bars and cafés set amongst the old colonial buildings.
 
Carioca - One of the best spots for salsa at Hotel Lois.
Coco Beers - Rowdy bar serving giant sized beers to a mixed crowd.
La Casona de la Condesa - Large dancehall attracting an older crowd dancing to noteworthy Latin bands.
Rincon de la Trova - A great venue for listening to live trova, son jarocha and son montuno music whilst sipping delicious mojitos.
Kachamba - Come here at the weekend to listen to Cuban orchestras.

Hotels in Veracruz

Budget Hotels Veracruz

Hotel Amparo - Decent hotel close to the town market that caters towards backpackers. Tel (52) 229 932 2738.
Hotel Playa - Likeable hotel close to the aquarium and the city beach of Playa Villa del Mar. Tel (52) 229 937 2510.
 
Midrange Hotels Veracruz
Hotel Colonial - Comfortable hotel perfectly located to enjoy the music and atmosphere of the zocalo. Tel (52) 229 932 0193.
Hotel Imperial - Next door to the Colonial is a decent midrange option dating back to 1793. Tel (52) 229 932 1204.
Ruiz Milan - Close to the malecon this hotel offers liveable rooms and a host of business facilities. Tel (52) 229 932 3777.
 
Luxury Hotels Veracruz
Hotel Emporio - Stylish hotel overlooking the harbour with large rooms, 2 restaurants, pool and spa. Tel (52) 229 932 0020.
Hotel Veracruz Centro Historico - The best hotel in town offering bright, contemporary rooms and suites. Check online for off-season discounts. Tel (52) 229 989 3800.

Veracruz Weather

Veracruz Travel Resources

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