Access and Resources
Get the lowdown on getting to the real Veracruz.
I DIDN'T COME TO VERACRUZ as a tourist—but, hey, what American does? The economy of Mexico's third-most-populous state, which curves between the rugged eastern Sierra Madre and a 425-mile coastline on the Gulf of Mexico, is driven not by gringo hordes but by a gaggle of tropical crops—from sugarcane in the sweltering lowlands to coffee in the mist-shrouded mountains—and a significant chunk of the nation's oil reserves.
Which is why, after nearly a year living in the state capital, Xalapa, I'm wearing an impish Dr. Evil smile. I know the big secret: For the adventurous traveler, Veracruz is a find, its wonders known to Mexicans but mysterious to most outside the country. Hike a trail, climb a mountain, or paddle a river here and your comrades, if any, will be vacationers hailing from Mexico City or Puebla.
Wherever I go—from a raft on the burly Río Bobos, threading the state's western mountains, to a lost stretch of the Costa Esmeralda beach north of the city of Veracruz—I'm always one of the very few norteamericanos around, if not the only one. So dust off your traveler's Spanish and come south to Mexico's travel frontier to enjoy these essential attractions of Veracruz; when you get back, your friends will want to know what the hell you're grinning about.
:: RÍO BOBOS
A 40-square-mile preserve, Filo-Bobos marks the confluence of whitewater and history. Here, the thrill-inducing Bobos and six intriguingly mysterious archaeological sites, including Vega de la Peña and El Cuajilote (both abandoned after 1200), share a verdant valley.
The Río Bobos rapids are Class IIIII during the dry season but work themselves up to memorable Class IVV in September and October. The river's upper section has sheer limestone walls, while the lower stretch winds past orange and banana groves and the omnipresent bougainvillea in rich purples, magentas, and oranges.