The port city of Veracruz makes a strategic base for discovering the Gulf of Mexico’s ruins, beaches, and towns. Three days give you ample time to go city sightseeing, experience Veracruz’s nightlife, and take one or two day trips. Here’s how.
Day 1: Sightseeing in the City
It’s possible to tick off Veracruz’s central sights in just one day; start with a visit to the island fortress of San Juan de Ulúa, which affords panoramic harbor views from its ramparts. Afterward, stroll around the historic center and stop to admire the white-fronted Veracruz Cathedral and the craft markets along the seafront boardwalk.
In the afternoon, visit Veracruz Aquarium to see giant manta rays, sea turtles, and nurse sharks. Latin America’s largest aquarium does get busy, so book admission tickets in advance to save time. A sunset boat cruise or kayaking tour through the mangroves of the nearby Manginga Lagoon is the perfect way to end the day. If you’ve still got energy to spare, the Zocalo—Veracruz’ central square—is the place to be after dark. Grab a seat at one of the terrace cafés as musicians, dancers, and street entertainers take to the streets to perform.
Day 2: UNESCO Sites and Beaches
Less than a 2-hour drive from Veracruz, you’ll find the city of Tlacotalpan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its colonial-era architecture and plazas. Day trips from Veracruz typically include a walking tour of the historic center—with plenty of stops to photograph the brightly painted buildings—and give you time to glimpse local life in Zaragoza Square. Many Tlacotalpan tours also include a visit to the historic town of Alvarado.
Alternatively, spend the afternoon exploring Veracruz’s beaches. Just north of Veracruz, Chachalacas Beach is fringed with towering sand dunes; adventurous travelers can go sandboarding and quad biking, while the coast is lined with coral reefs that prove ideal for swimming and snorkelling.
Day 3: Mexico’s Magic Towns
There are numerous other options for day trips from Veracruz. If you’re a naturist, visit the lakeside city of Catemaco and explore the Los Tuxtlas Biosphere Reserve; to get your history fix, take a day trip the ancient Mesoamerican ruins of Cempoala or the pre-Columbian archeological site of Tajin; or for a relaxed wander, head to the Spanish colonial town of La Antigua.
If you have to pick one, opt to immerse yourself in Mexican culture in the Magic Towns (Pueblos Magicos) of Xalapa, Xico, and Coatepec. Tours typically stop in the Veracruz capital of Xalapa, where you can visit the excellent Museum of Anthropology and admire views of the Macuiltepetl volcano, and include a coffee tasting session Coatepec, renowned for its coffee production. Finally, Xico is a vibrant cultural hub, where highlights include its cathedral and numerous handicrafts markets.