The City of Veracruz (Spanish) is best known for its large open downtown area near the harbor and its nightlife. In February, the annual carnival celebrations bring many celebrants to the city, and hotel rooms can become scarce. The Port of Veracruz also contains some wonderful historic architecture from the Spanish colonial period and several interesting marine museums. There are a few beaches around the Port of Veracruz, but the water is not as clean as most visitors would prefer. For information on accommodations and attractions in the Port of Veracruz, please visit the city's tourism website.
Lying on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, the Port of Veracruz's climate is warm and humid. The Port of Veracruz receives about 173 centimeters of rain a year, most of it falling from July to September. Temperatures range from an average high of 31 °C (88 °F) in August to an average low of 14 °C (57 °F) from November through January.
Visitors to the Port of Veracruz will want to see the San Juan de Ulua Castle, the Spanish Empire's last fortress. Later, it was known as one of the cruelest prisons during the Porfirio Diaz administration. Located near the Port of Veracruz, it within walking distance of the piers. The Castle is a large complex containing prisons, fortresses, and a former palace located on island that overlooks the Port of Veracruz. In 1569, the Spanish Navy trapped Sir John Hawkins and his English fleet (including Sir Francis Drake) at the complex. The English barely escaped, and the incident was an embarrassment to Drake for many years. Spanish troops continued to occupy San Juan de Ulua until 1825, some four years after Mexico won its independence. In 1914, the United States occupied the complex for the last time. San Juan de Ulua has been the presidential palace several times, once home to Benito Juarez. Recently, the complex has been renovated, and it is now a museum that attracts many tourists. Everything but the presidential palace, which is now being renovated, is open to the public.
El Acuario (Spanish) is one of the Port of Veracruz's most popular attractions. It's the biggest aquarium in Latin America, and it has nine freshwater and 15 saltwater tanks. About two kilometers south of the city center, El Acuario features a donut-shaped tank with sharks, rays, and turtles that surround visitors. Other tanks hold fish, reptiles, amphibians, river otters, and manatees. Visitors can get a big thrill when they enter the Tiburoneria, a safety cage lowered into the pool while the staff feeds the sharks.
Although it is some distance from the Port of Veracruz (240 kilometers north), El Tajin is well worth the time and trouble. This pre-Columbian archaeological site was one of the biggest cities Mesoamerica's late Classic era from 600 to 900 AD. Most of the site lies within the Papantla and Coatzintla municipalities. Early Tajin reveals influences from Teotihuacan, and the Toltec are evident in Post-classic features. Construction at El Tajin continued until the early 13th Century when legend tells the city was conquered and burned by the Chichimec. People continued to live at El Tajin, but ambitious building ceased. Archeological excavations by Jose Garcia Payon began in 1943 and continued to 1963. The Mexican Institute of Anthropology and History has been restoring buildings since the 1980s.