I must say, Veracruz took me by surprise in many ways. I expected that, as a rich historical town and as the home of premier beach resorts, Veracruz would be much better than Xalapa, and would warrant a longer stay than Xalapa. But I was wrong.
I got the impression that Veracruz is mainly a family destination, for domestic and nearby-country tourists; and that it fails to attract fun-seeking backpackers such as myself. Except during Carnaval, which I missed by 3 days.
Veracruz is one of the oldest cities in Mexico, and since it's the port built by Hernán Cortés himself, it has immense historical value. There are numerous museums, monuments, and heritage buildings throughout the city's 16th-century centre.
The beautiful heritage Zócalo of Veracruz.
However, the port of Veracruz has very little appeal. It's mainly an industrial area, and the container terminal has polluted the waters around the town. The swimmable beaches of Boca Del Rio are several km's south, away from the pollution.
The waters of Veracruz port are not so amazing.
There are plenty of good places to eat in Veracruz: if you keep yourself a few blocks away from the Zócalo, they're quite cheap, too. The torterias, and the (numerous) street torta stands, are both great value, and full of friendly locals. However, apart from a few small bars and dance clubs, there isn't that much to do at night around here.
Boca Del Rio is the glitzy, upmarket beach district about 0.5 hours south of Veracruz. Those who don't mind parting with some serious pesos may choose to stay in one of the resorts down here; I, on the other hand, stayed in Veracruz, and caught the cheap and frequent bus service there and back.
My accommodation in Veracruz, Hotel Amparo, was a pretty basic, budget lodging. When I was first shown to my room, I noticed that there was no shower in the bathroom. I just assumed that in Mexico, if you stay somewhere dodgy enough, you shouldn't expect to have a shower available. But it turns out that I should have underestimated a bit less, and observed a bit more.