Getting Lost in the State that Smiles

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Veracruz finds a well-deserved place in the adventure tourism niche.

With its languid coastline along the Gulf of Mexico and vast areas thick with nature’s exuberance jumping up to tickle the soul, Veracruz is intent on carving a spot in the adventure and eco-tourism landscape. Not many travelers know that this state is both versatile in its natural settings and generous in its outdoor pastimes, even for the most extreme of sportsmen. Clients who want some variety in their adventure vacation—mountain biking one day, rafting the next, hiking the day after that—will be overjoyed in this rich haven.

These days, “Veracruz is showing its bounty by enhancing and creating new tourism products,” says Cesar Deschamps of the Veracruz Convention & Visitors Bureau, citing the lush landscapes and warmth of its people as just two of the big draws in “the State that Smiles.” In fact, the destination recently unveiled a scuba diving and “submarine tourism” guide booklet—put together by Veracruzan Alberto Friscione, one of the foremost divers in Mexico and an old pro at displaying its beauty for the likes of National Geographicand the Discovery Channel—that details the coral islands, reefs and underwater destinations of each region of the state. The guide is available for download in the Veracruz CVB website. The Gran Hotel Diligencias has a Diving Vacation package priced at $271 per night for two people that includes accommodations, daily continental breakfast, two dives pp (with gear), and entry into the Veracruz Coral Reef System National Park.

Mountain climbers now also have their own guide booklet—also put together by the CVB—dedicated to mountaineering excursions, titled “Altas Montañas” (High Mountains), all part of a concerted move from the state to get its due as an ecological empire and share with others what Mexicans have long known—Veracruz’s topography allows for an eyeful at almost every turn, not to mention quick day trips or combinable excursions from any variety of reliable local outfitters. Aventura Extrema, for instance, can take clients on a 2-day trek to the Orizaba Peak, the tallest mountain in Mexico—a dormant volcano, actually—and the third highest in North America, as well known for its challenging climbs (tell clients not to go at it alone) as it is for its many microclimates. The view from the top is said to be unforgettable. Clients get picked up in the city of Veracruz and off they go to walk and climb, spending one night camping out (assisted by an expert, of course). The excursion is $90 pp with a 5-person minimum and includes three meals and necessary equipment.

This adventure getaway can be put together with short cultural tours such as a 5-hour discovery of the port city of Veracruz or day trips to Antigua, which holds the ruins of Hernan Cortes’ first home in Mexico and the archaeological ruins of Cempoala, or El Tajin, probably the most famous pre-Columbian site in the state.

into the thick of things Veracruz is blessed with quite a few rivers that are tailor-made for white-water rafting, with exhilarating currents of different strengths that, under the guidance of an expert guide and with the proper equipment, are chosen depending on each rafter’s experience. Well-known Mexico Verde allows clients great access to its own backyard with short and affordable programs that can be easily combined or just added to a jaunt to the Gulf of Mexico. For instance, its 4-day Adventurer takes travelers on two class III and IV river raft descents. They also get to enjoy a jungle walk and a rappel of more than 275 ft., as well as accommodations and buffet-style meals at base camp. At press time, the price for this package based on current rates is $330 pp, or $377 pp with upgraded accommodations.

The base camp of Mexico Verde is the pretty Mexico Verde Adventure Resort in Jalcomulco, where clients can choose between safari or suite tent-like accommodations that include beds and a terrace. The camp also has a swimming pool, temazcal, jacuzzi, climbing walls, and even a playground for the little ones. A 2-person suite is just $112 per night and comes with morning coffee and a full bathroom. Family programs combining easy rafting options and other activities such as ziplining are also available here.