Southeast of Mexico City, on the Gulf Coast, you'll find the exuberant port city of Veracruz. Hernan Cortes, the Spanish conqueror, first landed here on Good Friday 1519 and, soon after, Veracruz became the first Spanish settlement and base from which the Spaniards explored and eventually conquered Mexico.
The city is an easy-going, friendly and bustling port-city. Locals are known as jarochos, and they have a reputation for partying. Its leisure fame stems from African-and Caribbean-influenced music, lively dancing and an annual Carnival that according to some, rivals Rio and New Orleans.
Veracruz is a coastal city which has a strong and distinctive colonial feel to it. Palm trees line the streets and the zocalo (main plaza) where, at night, Marimba (Afro-Caribbean) music fills the streets and people meet to talk, dine, dance and just watch the world go by.
This city is a hidden gem if you're looking for an experience which is distinct from the traditional 'tourist circuit' of colonial cities. Besides being a place of character, it's also colorful, lively and easy-going.