Veracruz Coast Trip Report

May 7th, 2019, 09:33 AM
  #1  
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Veracruz Coast Trip Report

Just a brief Veracruz coast trip report.
With good reason, popular coastal areas such as PV and surrounds, Cancun and the Riviera Maya, get plenty of love. But the Gulf Coast has some 2,000 km of coastline to explore. This is about just small section of it. I'll start from El Tajin; we drove there from near Pachuca but pretty much any decent hotel along the coast could arrange a tour if think. El Tajin is unique in Mexico for its architectural style. The main pyramid boasts some 365 niches, unlike any other in Mexico. Nice museum on site. Few tourists when we were there. I'd think that if one were to visit Veracruz, it'd be a must if you're even semi-interested in pre-Columbian sites, as it's hard to get to, and you may never get back, even if it means an all day tour. We spent about an hour and saw what we wanted to see. We're not huge ruin fans, but do enjoy them in moderate doses.
From there we continued on to the Costa Esmeralda, arguably the most popular beach area outside of Veracruz city. It's a stretch of beach some 25 miles long that reaches from Tecolutla to Nautla. My research showed it's popular with RV'ers from Canada and the US, but I didn't see any. Although there were a couple of RV parks and campgrounds. The lack of any RV sightings may have been due to the season (December?) or it may have due to increased insecurity in Tamaulipas in recent years. The beaches are not the white sand of the Caribbean, nor golden like the Pacific coast. More of a grayish tan-brown. The waters are, as you'd suspect, more 'emerald', hence the name Costa Esmeralda. We stayed in Monte Gordo at the Hotel Taboga which calls itself an "Eco-Boutique" hotel I guess because some rooms consisted of thatched roofs and bamboo and no A/C. We opted for a room with A/C. The grounds were very nice, as was the restaurant. I think that if/when we go back, we'd say at Azucar, part of the Groupohabita hotel chain out of Mexico City.
AZÚCAR
https://taboga.com.mx/
They've got a handful hotels there as well as the nearby Maison Coututier in San Rafael. Some of their properties are quite upscale, so I'd imagine the food at the 2 locations in Costa Esmeralda area would be quite good, the latter having a number of French-influenced dishes according to their menu. Speaking of the French influence, this link gives a little bit of history about the area:
https://trans-americas.com/jicaltepe...h-town-mexico/
:::: MAISON COUTURIER ....
There are of course numerous other hotels (no hi-rises) in the area, both in Monte Gordo/Nautla and Tecolutla. The 'better' hotels are on the beach side of the highway, while the more budget-type places are on the western side of the highway. Though beach side bargains can be found too. The beach, while we were there, (midweek) was deserted. We saw absolutely no one as far as the eye could see. Again, that may have been due to the season. I'm sure on holidays it gets much busier. One side note, we saw a number of German-language magazines and books in our hotel's lobby. no doubt because of the large number of German expat businessmen living and working in Puebla, which I think has the largest VW plant in the world.Continuing on towards Veracruz, there are plenty of other beach areas with mostly mom& pop type budget hotels. We also passed Mexico's only nuclear power installation at Laguna Verde, where I read that they store their radioactive waste under water. Probably not good for snorkeling?Another popular beach area as you go towards Veracruz is Playa Chachalacas, where there are giant sand dunes popular with 4-wheelers, ATV's and the like. Close by, only some 6km from the beach, is the archeological site of Cempoala, or Zempoala.On to Veracruz City. We really, really liked Veracruz. So much so we stayed an extra 2 nights. It's a hot, gritty, bustling port city, but there's plenty of things to see and do for the tourist that wants to get away from the more touristy resort areas. Highlights would be the fort of San Juan Ulua, the aquarium, the Baluarte de Santiago and its small museum,and of course Son Jarocho music and dance. There are 2 classic cafes, Gran Cafe Del Portal and La Parroquia, where in both, a clink of your glass with your spoon will get you a refill of your cafe con leche or 'lechero'. The architecture is an eclectic mix of Spanish colonial with a French influence, with a few crumbling buildings mixed in here and there. We did the touristy stuff, the port tour (so-so) and the city tram (tour only in Spanish), which is a good way to see the city. A few people we met on the street took the opportunity to practice their English with us as gringos are rare. We stayed at the Hotel Las Diligencias for about $50 US. Charming, classic hotel, right across from the zocalo. Probably the nicest and best value in centro. Something I was unaware of before we visited was that Veracruz has some excellent diving sites, with a number of historic wrecks to be explored, not to mention a large reef system.
Diving in Veracruz
Although I mentioned Xalapa, Xico and Coatepec in a previous TR, that area is easily reached from Veracruz city and worth a few nights too.Overall, the area is one or our favorite places in Mexico.So much for a brief report!
baldone is online now  
May 7th, 2019, 11:02 AM
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Thanks baldone.

The trip I'm planning will include Veracruz, Papantla (?) for El Tajin, another small city in the mountains the name of which escapes me right now, and Xalapa in some order, before heading to Mexico City via Puebla. I had originally thought of including Palenque, then busing to Veracruz via Villahermosa, but I think that would require more time, which I haven't got. I'll get there someday! I'd appreciate your thoughts on how much time I should plan to spend assuming at least three days in MC and the end. Thanks again.

FD
Fra_Diavolo is online now  
May 7th, 2019, 11:11 AM
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Thanks you, Baldone. Would you expand, please, on the ambiance of Veracruz the city. Would it be conducive to a longer stay, or maybe better put, could YOU imagine hanging out in the city for a couple of weeks or more?
MmePerdu is offline  
May 8th, 2019, 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Fra_Diavolo View Post
Thanks baldone.

The trip I'm planning will include Veracruz, Papantla (?) for El Tajin, another small city in the mountains the name of which escapes me right now, and Xalapa in some order, before heading to Mexico City via Puebla. I had originally thought of including Palenque, then busing to Veracruz via Villahermosa, but I think that would require more time, which I haven't got. I'll get there someday! I'd appreciate your thoughts on how much time I should plan to spend assuming at least three days in MC and the end. Thanks again.

FD
It's kinda hard to say since everyone's tastes and travel styles vary. But I'd think that if you're heading to El Tajin, then of course Veracruz makes perfect sense. It's only a couple hours to Xalapa from Veracruz and Coatepec and Xico are right next door and you could get a good taste of all 3 in with a couple nights, 3 would be better. Xico and Coatepec are almost within walking distance of each other (well, not quite!). I would think 3 nights in Veracruz too would give you a good feel of the city.
Speaking of Xalapa, I just realized I never finished a trip report that included it. Ugh. I'll finish it.
baldone is online now  
May 8th, 2019, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by MmePerdu View Post
Thanks you, Baldone. Would you expand, please, on the ambiance of Veracruz the city. Would it be conducive to a longer stay, or maybe better put, could YOU imagine hanging out in the city for a couple of weeks or more?
That's an interesting question. The thing is that since we live in Mexico, we drive everywhere we go and our trip to Veracruz was part of a 2 week road trip, so that's different than what most people do. I think 2 weeks or more of just staying in the city itself might be a bit much? But if you used Veracruz as a base to explore the area, I think 2 weeks would be OK, I could do that. One place we didn't get to but wanted to, was Tlacotalpan, south a bit. Nor did we spend much time (just dinner) in Boca Del Rio, a more upscale and ritzier than the centro area.
The general ambiance? Well, that's kinda subjective. Like I said, being a port city, it doesn't have the glamour of resort areas, although Boca is nice. It doesn't drip the colonial ambiance of say like Oaxaca or Guanajuato. It has a decidedly French influence unlike anywhere else I've been in Mexico except for maybe Tampico. It's very lively, especially at night in the zocalo. Only place in Mexico I heard a harp played by a sidewalk cafe.It's truly a working city, if that makes sense. Some wanting a more beachy experience will likely be put off with the port zone right by the malecon, but it is what it is. I hesitate to use the term "I felt safe" but neither my wife nor I ever felt uneasy. To me, the city oozes history. Pretty much everything that made Mexico what it is today came through Veracruz. Don't know if that makes any sense?

Last edited by baldone; May 8th, 2019 at 01:11 PM.
baldone is online now  
May 8th, 2019, 02:14 PM
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Thanks baldone! I noticed that you'd ended your last report before getting to Xalapa. Glad to hear you'll be continuing the report. Coatepec had escaped my radar, I'll look into it. I've wanted another view of Pico de Orizaba since catching sight of it years ago on the bus to Oaxaca -- magnificent. Do you know anything of Cuetzalan?
Fra_Diavolo is online now  
May 12th, 2019, 02:54 PM
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I wondered if Cuetzalan was the mountain town you were referring to. And no, we've not visited. When we took the above trip, I really wanted to figure out how to include it and then go through San Rafael to the coast. Hopefully next time? We opted instead for Mineral Del Monte and Huasca and then El Tajin before the coast.
I find it curious that a loop through Veracruz state doesn't get anywhere near the foreign tourist love as does the Bajio, Oaxaca/Puebla and Morelia/Patzcuaro.
PS I did finish the other TR.

Last edited by baldone; May 12th, 2019 at 03:12 PM.
baldone is online now  
May 14th, 2019, 04:49 AM
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>>>I find it curious that a loop through Veracruz state doesn't get anywhere near the foreign tourist love as does the Bajio, Oaxaca/Puebla and Morelia/Patzcuaro.<<<

Not having been there I don't have any idea -- though I hope it stays that way at least through February! I found the overwhelming Americanization of Oaxaca a bit off-putting. When we first visited in 2000 there were already 3,000 US expats living there. By 2017 there were 16,000 and god knows how many this year, (plus, of course, tourists like me). I find as we gringos increase, the charm factor goes down.

>>>PS I did finish the other TR.<<<

Great -- I'll take a look.
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