Heroica Veracruz is not on most travelers’ lists of places to visit when planning a trip to Mexico. On Mexico’s Caribbean coast, the city of around 600,000 was originally founded by Hernán Cortés in 1519. A wealthy city during colonial times, Veracruz continues to be Mexico’s principal port, but is not a major tourist draw. Is Veracruz worth a visit?
Below are the pros and cons of visiting Veracruz–read on and decide if you think Veracruz is worth visiting with your precious trip time.
I visited Veracruz as part of a GAdventures Central Mexico trip to Mexico City, Veracruz and Oaxaca. I would highly recommend them, and half of my other group members were teachers, too!
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The main square is gorgeous
Named for the arches of the colonial architecture, Los Portales is a magical spot at night when the heat cools down and people come out to enjoy music and dancing. We were lucky enough to see some traditional dancing right in the square, plus there are nightly mariachi and marimba performances. For tips they will take requests and play right next to your table as you dine. See the action in the video below.
It’s a good jumping off point
Veracruz makes a good base for harder-to-reach places and activities like whitewater rafting, waterfalls, and visiting ancient Olmec ruins like Tres Zapotes.
It’s relatively safe
Wondering if Veracruz is safe? Many people are rightfully concerned about safety in Mexico. According to the US Department of State travel warnings, the state of Veracruz is a 2: Exercise Increased Caution, which makes it one of the safest states in Mexico because no place in Mexico has earned a 1. I didn’t feel that safety in Veracruz was any different than in Mexico City or in Oaxaca. As in any big city, be smart, don’t flash around money and don’t walk alone at night.
It isn’t touristy
I spent two nights there in August and saw less than 10 people who weren’t Latino, which can be very refreshing after spending time in touristy cities like Cancun. The tourists that are here are mostly local tourists from other parts of Mexico.
There is a tourist bus
There isn’t much traffic and it’s possible to walk from the Aquarium and beaches to the main square. There is also a tourist bus that makes stops at all the sites to make getting around even easier.
It’s rich in history
Veracruz played a vital part in many decisive battles in Mexican history. In fact, the city’s name is officially Heroic Veracruz for its gallant actions in battle against a U.S. invasion in 1914.
Didn’t know the U.S. tried to invade Mexico? They did. Four times.
The navel museum is a hidden gem
The navel museum may have been the highlight of my visit. As a history nerd, I loved the beautiful museum building and the interactive displays that walked me through Mexican naval history.
The boardwalk is nice
There is a newer, wide concrete boardwalk that goes along the southeastern side of the shore for about a mile. It is a good place to run, bike or stroll.
You won’t be paying high prices here. A perfectly-located, swanky hotel with a rooftop pool for $65? Yes, please! Or choose a resort right on the beach like the Fiesta Americana.
You can try some unique ice cream
I’ve tried ice cream all over the world but the kind that Veracruz is famous for was definitely new to me. It’s very creamy and comes in lots of tropical flavors. Read more and see the video in my post here.
If you are traveling to Mexico, check out these book recommendations for all ages to make your trip more fun:
Veracruz is a long way from anything else that you’ll be planning on seeing. It’s a six-hour drive from Mexico City and seven hours from Oaxaca, more if you are taking a public bus. You may want to consider flying.
Ugly beach views
Veracruz is on the Caribbean coast, but the ocean views are obstructed by ocean shipping containers and oil tankers. The beaches right in town are fairly polluted and while there ARE good places to swim, you’ll end up driving out of town to get to the decent beaches.
There isn’t much to do
There aren’t many major tourist attractions in town, at least not on an international scale. There is an aquarium and a wax museum that seemed to be popular for local tourists. A guided city tour to the major sites takes under four hours.
Parts of the city are run-down
Every city has its less desirable areas, but I was surprised that even walking in the main tourist areas there were a number of places that looked abandoned.
There are some great things to see in and around Veracruz, but it’s well-off the beaten tourist path. I hope this information helps you decide if visiting Veracruz is right for you! Have you been? Let me know below in the comments.
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