Tecolutla is a beach town 190 km north of the city of Veracruz along the Gulf of Mexico coast in Veracruz state. It has the closest beaches to Mexico City, and much of its economy is based on tourism, as it is only a four- or five-hour drive from the capital. It is the northern end of a tourist corridor along the Gulf of Mexico called the "Emerald Coast", which extends down to the city of Veracruz.
Tecolutla's biggest attraction is its natural settings of wetlands with estuaries, canals and mangroves associated with the river.
The beach tourism is mainly concentrated during peak seasons, such as Christmas and Easter holidays, and special events such as the annual fishing tournament.
The local language is Spanish, and little English is spoken by locals.
It is near Papantla and Poza Rica, cities placed near interchanges of highways that link to Tampico to the north and Mexico City to the west. Tecolutla is easily accessible by car or by buses linking to Papantla or nearby Zamora de Hidalgo. Bus tickets are available online. The town can be reached in one day's drive from Brownsville or Mcallen, Texas.
The town is very walkable with a small downtown core.
The town square has some picturesque colored buildings and a small park. On the far end of the beach locals operate short boat tours of the nearby mangroves, where a few exotic birds can be seen.
- 1 Museo Marino Comunitario, Calle Matamoros, ☏ . W-M 08ː00-14ː00, 15ː00-20ː00. Small museum where you can see some different crustaceans, fish, and other marine species mulling around in aquariums, and a lot of other exhibits relating to the Gulf of Mexico. One unique feature are the adult and baby crocodiles. M$20.
- 2 Acuario Tecolutla, Alvaro Obragon, ☏ . 09ː00-21ː00 daily per info listed. Kind of a mediocre aquarium because the critters are in some rather pitiful confines. Crocodiles and raccoons on premises. M$40.
- El Tajín archeological site, built by the same people who have inhabited this municipality, the Totonacs. Tecolutla is the closest beach to this site, which is about 40 km away. This was the most important ceremonial center in the area and it still host celebrations each year at the spring equinox.
- Cultural attractions include the Hueytepec archeological zone, the Parish of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, the old lighthouse, the Hotel Tecolutla, the Municipal Palace and the Marine Museum, which contains an exposition of river and ocean products. This museum on Matamoros Street has more than 300 aquatic species both alive and preserved.
The town has about 15 km of beaches which face directly onto the Gulf of Mexico. These beaches generally have gentle waves and warm water, except during storms called nortes. These are strong cold fronts that come down from the north along Mexico's Atlantic coast between December and February and can cause sudden drops in temperature and winds. This fickle weather keeps Tecolutla and many other Gulf coast communities from becoming major resort areas like Cancun.
Do swim in the ocean water, which has a gentler surf than most Pacific Mexican beaches, and which is warm enough for swimming almost all of the year, although hotel pools can be chilly in winter months. Beach umbrellas can be rented for the day.
The beaches of the town are divided into North and South beaches, each with its own hotel zones, restaurants, and camping areas. Both offer boat rides and bicycle paths. At the South Beach, where breakwaters protect the mouth of the Tecolutla River, there are also beachside cabins. Docks serve boat rides up the river, and fishing expeditions on the river and in the Gulf. A type of boat often used to navigate around the estuaries is called a panguita, which looks like a very long canoe.
- From April to September each year, the beach known as Vida Milenaria is reserved for sea turtles returning here to breed. This project is led by Fernando Manzano, better known here as "Papá Tortuga" (Daddy Turtle). This group hatches and frees between five and six thousand baby marine turtles each year. The returning turtles lay about this number of eggs which volunteers collect and protect. Tourists are invited to help free the baby turtles when they hatch.
- The annual fishing competition in May draws many visitors locally, from Mexico and even beyond. There are events for shad, sea bass and tarpon and take place both on the sea and on the Tecolutla River. This is one of the few times of the year the resort is packed.
- During the Coconut Festival in February, local restaurants and hotels get together to make "the world's largest coconut custard in the world." After it is presented and measured, locals and tourists are invited to have some free.
The main streets are full of knick-knack stores selling cheesy souvenirs, although there are some local crafts and vanilla liquor from nearby Papantla.
Tourist restaurants abound, although it's mostly fish dinners. A local specialty is fish with Veracruzana sauce, a delicious sugary, spicy tomato-based topping. Another local favourite is Mojo de Ajo which is a garlic sauce that is very tasty on fish or shrimp
- 1 Restaurante El Caracol, Carlos Prieto, ☏ . Serves breakfast, lunch and dinner on the river, with a parrot in the background.
There are a few bars or nightclubs. Most tourists tend to drink on the beach, which is well served by people pushing carts with food or drink. On weekends there are often street bars.
Tecolutla can be crowded during Semana Santa (Easter), when it is popular with Mexicans on holiday. At other times the small town is fairly quiet, and finding lodging in one of the many small hotels which line the beach is not difficult. With the exception of Easter you can just show up and easily find accommodation ranging in price from US$18-55 a night, and even less expensive for longer term rentals.
Leaving possessions unattended on the beach isn't wise, but generally this is a safe place and the locals are friendly. Even the hawkers are usually quite laid-back. Camping on the beach at night is not recommended.