If you’re planning a beach vacation in Mexico, you should consider the beautiful city of Veracruz. It has something for everyone!
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The province of Veracruz, on the Mexican Gulf coast, is my all-time favorite place to go on vacation. And the port city of Veracruz is definitely worth a lengthy visit. Here’s why!
A Brief History of Veracruz
In ancient times, this natural port on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico was called “Chalchihuahuecan”, which means “the place where all things are beautiful”. If you come to visit the province of Veracruz, you’ll find the name is truly befitting.
The port city of Veracruz was founded on April 22nd, 1519 by the Conquistador Hernan Cortes. The day was Good Friday, day of the True Cross, which is the meaning of “Vera Cruz”.
Veracruz is actually the first European settlement on the American continent. Back then, it was only a humble cluster of wooden houses with palm roofs. But in spite of its lowly condition, the Spanish emperor Charles I granted the city a royal coat of arms in 1524.
Veracruz quickly grew and became an important port city. From there, Spanish ships set sail to Europe loaded with riches. For centuries, it remained as the only way in and out of Mexico.
Since its foundation, ships bearing people and goods arrived in and set sail from Veracruz for hundreds of years, and the city remains the most important port and naval base in Mexico to this day.
Veracruz has also been witness to most of Mexico’s long history. It resisted pirate attacks and invasions by the French and the Americans, it sheltered two Presidents during two separate wars, it was put under siege, it welcomed an Emperor, and it bid farewell to a dictator going into exile. It was also the first destination of the first train in Mexico.
History is thick in Veracruz. You’ll stumble across a historical site every two steps you take on each of the city’s streets.
What to do in Veracruz
Since there’s so much history condensed in this single place, there are tons of sightseeing attractions to keep you busy.
The Fort of San Juan de Ulua is an ancient fortress built to defend the city against pirate attacks. Built in the 16th century, it makes for a fascinating visit.
The Veracruz Aquarium is another must-see. You’ll see all the marine species found in the Gulf of Mexico and beyond, plus a free dolphin show. For an extra fee, you can even pet the Adelie penguins or swim with the dolphins in their tank.
Inside the Aquarium building, you’ll also be able to visit the Ripley’s and Wax Museum (complete with likeness of Donald Trump), a 4-D ocean screening, a food court and plenty of stores so you can shop to your heart’s content. Perfect for a family outing.
For a more traditional experience, tour the historic city center and take a walk on the boardwalk, or malecón, overlooking the ocean. You can shop, take some very Instagram-worthy pictures in multiple historical sites, and breathe in the city’s ambience. Keep in mind the city center truly comes alive during the evening hours.
After your walk, have coffee at the most traditional coffeehouse in Veracruz. Café La Parroquia opened in 1808 and has been serving the most delicious milk coffee in the country ever since. Plus, you’ll be serenaded with a traditional Veracruz music trio or marimba.
If you are more nature-oriented, head down to the nearby town of Boca del Rio and take a boat ride through the mangroves to a get a close look at the local wildlife. When you’re done, visit the old warship museum and have a seafood dinner at a riverside restaurant.
Have a beach vacation in Veracruz
Did I mention Veracruz is also the perfect place to enjoy a beach vacation?
You can stay at a hotel near the downtown area so you’ll be able to enjoy the most popular beaches, and the nightlife and excitement of Veracruz.
If you prefer a more laid-back experience, you should stay in the Boca del Rio area. There, you’ll find luxurious beachfront hotels and tranquil beaches for a more relaxing vacation.
On our most recent vacation there, we spent four nights at the Hotel Mocambo in Boca del Rio.
Hotel Mocambo is the most traditional hotel in Veracruz. It was built in the 1930s and was the place where celebrities and presidents used to stay. After spending years in disrepair, it was recently remodeled and now provides an extremely pleasant stay!
Hotel Mocambo sits overlooking the ocean and has a wide selection of rooms and suites to choose from. What I loved best where the ample terraces with tropical gardens and the wide outdoor and indoor pools, jacuzzi area included. The restaurant provides a breakfast and lunch buffet and dinner a la carte, and every dish is delicious. Seriously, you can’t go wrong here.
The hotel is close to the chic Boca del Rio area, with gourmet restaurants and luxury shopping malls nearby. It’s also a short way to downtown Veracruz, so you can go anywhere you want within minutes. It’s all very convenient!
How to get to Veracruz
If you’re in Mexico, most airlines and airports will fly you directly into Veracruz. From Mexico City, you can also take the bus to Veracruz and enjoy looking at the breathtaking landscapes.
If you’re in the United States, the best way to get there is through a direct flight from Houston. Other options would be a connecting flight with a layover in Houston, or a connecting flight with a layover in Mexico City.
What we did was take a road trip from Mexico City all the way to Veracruz. Depending on the route, this can take about 4 to 6 hours. However, I don’t recommend driving unless you have experience travelling in Mexico. Roads can be tricky and you can get lost easily unless you know where you’re going.
Why you should vacation in Veracruz
Veracruz is my family’s absolute favorite place to vacation. It has everything you need to spend your summer or winter break: fabulous beaches, delicious food, friendly people, comfortable hotels, and plenty places to go sightseeing and shopping. It’s also a lot less expensive than beaches like Los Cabos and Cancun.
To be honest, I’ve always been partial to visiting Veracruz because my dad was born in the nearby city of Cordoba, so a beach vacation there is like coming home for me.
You should know Veracruz is not a glitzy tourist destination where everyone speaks English and international tourists abound. This would be more of an off-the-beaten-path destination, a place where you can enjoy more of the authentic Mexico experience instead of the same old places you see everywhere on social media.
The air in Veracruz is thick with history, romance, and adventure with a laid-back atmosphere. It may not be as glamorous as Cancun and Los Cabos, but it is definitely richer and more unforgettable.