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baldone Sep 29th, 2017 07:28 AM

San Luis Potosi & La Huasteca
I’m not a big trip report guy, but I’ve never read one about this area on Fodor’s. So here goes, from about a year ago.
Left San Miguel for San Luis Potosi with a stop in Santa Maria Del Rio to check out the Cuna Del Rebozo, or birthplace of this shawl or scarf-like garment. The finer ones are made of silk and quite expensive. You can buy these all over Mexico, and the town itself is not particularly attractive. It’s easier to access if you’re southbound, as going north you have to navigate kind of a tricky retorno.
Next stop San Luis Potosi city. Maybe our favorite large colonial city, with probably the nicest example of colonial architecture north of Mexico City, one exception being maybe Zacatecas. Stayed as usual at Real Plaza, about 3 blocks from the historic center. It’s a business class hotel, but at under $35 US, it’s a great value. 7 floors, I think, so you get a good view of the city. Onsite free parking. SLP is great for it’s museums or just wandering around enjoying the sights and people watching. A number of pedestrian walkways. Our go-to restaurant is La Cebada y Oruga, a brewpub that has a surprisingly adequate menu. We like the Cochinta Pibil pizza, and the place is located on the andador Aranzazu, a pleasant pedestrian alley/walkway next to the Convent of San Francisco. There are often craft/jewelry vendors selling their wares and a couple of other pubs. Another, more lengthy stroll, was down the Calzada De Guadalupe, (which, not surprisingly, leads to the Sanctuary of Guadalupe) with a short stop in the Mercado La Merced, which was nothing special, just another Mexican market. Along the way you’ll pass the Caja De Agua, a cool but quirky symbol of pride for Potosinos. It’s basically an ornate water tank carved out of pink cantera. Another place to visit is the Centro De Las Artes, a former prison immaculately restored and converted into an arts center. Francisco Madero, while imprisoned here, drafted the Plan De San Luis, which basically started the Mexican Revolution, though he implemented it from San Antonio, TX. So some history there.
Next, on to the Huasteca Potosina. We visited in January, which made some swimming kinda cold; summer would be better but then the water can lose it’s turquoise color due to rain runoff. The hot season of April or May might be better for swimming, but then the entire Huasteca gets pretty hot too. First stop at Huasteca Secreta, a non-budget hotel consisting of several bungalows for lodging. Kinda pricey @ $100 US, but worth it as they offer the only access to Salto El Meco, and their good restaurant is perched right on the falls. I failed to trust the GPS, but rather followed some local signs that took us on back roads through cane fields and following trucks full of sugar cane, which added about 40 minutes to the trip. Some pics from the grounds of the hotel:
Next stop, Cascadas Minas Viejas. About a half hour after leaving Huasteca Secreta is the turn off from the main highway, then another 10 minutes on a dirt road. The falls are accessed walking down some 280 steps, but worth the trek. You can swim by renting vests, but it seemed the main attraction was rappelling the cliff face. There were at least 3 tour groups participating.
Next stop, Tamasopo. These are probably the falls most easily accessed in the area, and as such it can get pretty busy on the weekends. There are a number of taquerias on site, some pretty good. The falls were used to power a mill back in the day. We met the boyfriend of the daughter of the owner who informed us that locals thought the old man was crazy for trying to develop the area into a more touristy attraction. We stayed Hotel Real Tamasopo, about 5 minutes from the falls. The hotel itself consisted of a number of pleasant, if unspectacular bungalows on beautiful grounds with a large pool. The restaurant was not open for breakfast that day, so a quick trip to OXXO for coffee and pan dulce was in order. The town itself is nothing spectacular, but you can buy water shoes and other gear for use in the area (as you can in other towns) if you don’t bring your own. After a 10 minute uphill drive from town you can hike down to either the Puente De Dios or El Nacimiento where the Tamasopo falls originate. We chose the latter and were disappointed, and time didn’t allow us to backtrack. Next time?
Next stop, Tampico. Called by some the “New Orleans of Mexico”, because of some of the architecture (not because of crime); the Gulf Coast of Mexico has a history of French influence. Not regarded as a gringo tourist destination, but attractive enough for a couple nights; we stayed at Mansion Real Tampico ($40 US right on Plaza Libertad, one of 2 attractive plazas in centro). One kind of surreal scene was listening to a marimba band in front of the downtown Sears store. Cuidad Madero just north of Tampico boasts a 10KM long beach, (Playa Miramar, regarded by some as the nicest on the Gulf) largely deserted during the week. It’s refreshing to visit a beach with no hi-rise condos or hotels in sight. We had dinner at El Porvenir, a Tampico institution for almost 100 years. We both had Jaiba a la Frank, crab meat in a rich, white creamy sauce, served with thin cheese tortillas. No Nicoise salads in this place. After dinner we enjoyed a tour of the upstairs (where they treat local business folks to a weekly luncheon; lots of historic photos of Tampico and the tavern) and visited with the owner and his son, the chef, as the place had pretty much emptied out. I think I’d rank it as one of my favorite restaurants in Mexico. Some are put off by Tampico being a refining center, but it’s simply a busy, gritty, working Mexico port city; we liked it.
From Tampico we had planned to head to Xilitla and Tamul falls, but a cold front passed through overnight, so we opted to drive back to San Miguel, about a 6 hour trip, so not too bad.
Anyway, that’s my boring report. The falls we visited are not easily accessible via public transportation, but pretty much any hotel in the area can arrange tours. Ciudad Valles is where most tourists opt to base themselves to explore the area.

Fra_Diavolo Sep 29th, 2017 11:41 AM

Not boring at all.

I have an ex-pat friend who has lived in SLP for nigh on 20 years. He is also very fond of Zacatecas. I'll run some of your destinations by him -- he may get some new ideas.



Rohelio Oct 4th, 2017 02:15 AM

A refreshing and informative read... thanks.

ekscrunchy Oct 4th, 2017 08:03 AM

Thanks for the report. I love the music from La Huasteca...will try to get to SLP and Zacatecas one of these days.

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