The International Writers Magazine: Mexio Travel

Habeeb Salloum

trolling with my daughter in the early morning hours during the first day of our Mexican vacation, along Tampico’s Miramar Beach, I was amazed. Every man and woman that we passed would smile as they greeted us with buenos dias (good morning). It was an atmosphere that I did not often encounter in my travels. "It’s true what travellers have written about the inhabitants of Tampico! They’re the friendliest people in Mexico!" I remarked to my daughter as yet another smiling couple greeted us. It was an inspiring experience into the attributes of Tampico - once Mexico’s number one resort city.

The city was established, a short distance away from the present town, in the 16th century atop the remains of a Huastec Indian village plundered and destroyed by the Spanish conqueror/explorer Hernando Cortes. Tampico’s name is derived from a combination of the Huastec terms –‘tam’ meaning ‘place’ and ‘piko’ meaning ‘water dogs’, which once teemed in the edging waters.

The proud Huastecs or Huastecos, the only Mexican native peoples that attained civilization yet wore no foot-ware, were contemporaries of the more famous Mayans and Aztecs. They held off the encroaching conquistadors for more than two centuries before they succumbed. Theirs was the last area of Mexico to be officially dominated by the Spanish.

Situated on the northern shores of the Pánuco River on the Gulf of Mexico, 400 km (248 mi) south of the American border, the present Tampico, is surrounded by a complex river and lagoon system, mingling together to give the town a unique setting. Together with the sister cities of Altamira and Madero, forming a metropolitan zone of some 800,000, in the State of Tamaulipas, it is a traditional Mexican urban centre, replete with history and traditions. The city is noted for its petrochemical industry and for its historical downtown, full of architectural elegance, lively markets, fine parks and historic structures that date back to the beginning of the 1900s - the golden era of the city.

An important trade centre and the second most important port on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, it was once the original ‘Mexican Riviera’ - the choice resort area of royalty and the rich. Here they came to spend their winters, long before the concept of tourism was invented. However, by 1960, Tampico was all but forgotten as a desirable destination. Oil tankers from the nearby port facility fouled the once-gorgeous beaches and tourism almost died out.

Today, Tampico's tourist fortunes are beginning to return, thanks to a new-found awareness in environmental protection, and a change in government priorities. This has given the city a new lease on life and has retrieved some of its touristic allurement from the past. Even though its present day economic mainstay focuses around oil, which began to be produced at the turn of the 20th century, tourism is again beginning to become one of the main industries.

Still unspoiled by mass modern tourism, Tampico, a city of some 307,000, remains the place where a traveller is able to see, feel and experience the real Mexico. Here, not only are the people courteous and kind but also helpful. On our first tour of town, my wife, who makes use of a walker, struggled, at times, to climb stairways and curbs as she toured with us the city. Without hesitation, it seemed that every second person would stop and ask her if she needed help. Noting this humanistic concern, my daughter remarked, "They must be the kindest people in the world."

Even though I had read that the city was littered with garbage, we found the downtown clean, only the empty spaces along the beaches and outskirts were marred by rubbish. Traffic moved gently without much honking of horns and as a crowning appeal was the safety felt by visitors. On a foot-tour through the heart of old Tampico, my daughter hanging on to her handbag, worrying about purse-snatchers, asked our guide, "Is it safe to carry my purse in these crowded streets?" He smiled, "Don’t worry! Tampico is a safe city. I have not heard of any woman who had her handbag stolen."

It was the same on the beach. Spending hours on the 10 km (6 mi) and hundredS of feet wide Miramar Beach, we never felt unsafe. We enjoyed the sands that slope gently into the sea where anyone can wade out for a lengthy distance with the water reaching only the waist. Considered to be one of the best beaches in Mexico, the sands reach to the horizon and are perfect for strolling or jogging.
However, the beach, some 20 minutes away from the colonial city centre, is only beginning to be developed. At present there is only one developed resort, the Club Maeva Miramar, which caters to international and national tourists. The remainder of the beach is edged by empty spaces, some cheaper hotels, time-sharing apartments and a few bars and restaurants, mostly offering seafood. Immense stretches of the sands, lapped by clear blue water, gently rolling surf and a sea leaping with fish are still undeveloped.

However, there are plans to make the beach tourist friendly within the next 5 to 6 years. According to René Benavidides, one of the managers at Club Maeva, " Plans are in the works to build new hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and other tourist facilities on the edge of the sands."
Staying at this best resort hotel on Tampico’s number one beach, which includes in its all-inclusive deals golfing in the city’s only 18 hole golf course, is relaxing and pleasant. Its friendly and obliging staff, often excel in their zeal to please customers. One of our acquaintances staying at the hotel, annoyed that the bar had run out of ice for the moment, in anger rang up the reception to complain. He was astonished when a few moments later a bellboy appeared at his door with a huge bag, the size of those used in trash bins, of ice. "It’s an overkill in trying to please in this friendliest city in Mexico." I thought to myself when I heard the story.
Facts About Tampico
1) To enter Mexico, visitors only need a tourist permit (tarjeta de turista) which is free and available through airlines or Mexican consulates and government tourism offices. Also a, customs declaration form must be completed by all incoming travelers.
2) Currency can be exchanged at banks or exchange houses (casas de cambio) or banks. Acceptance of US dollars is not uncommon, although change may be given in pesos - currently US$1. around 10.70 pesos.
3) The simplest and easiest way to reach the city centre from Miramar Beach is by taxi - cost 50 pesos or collective taxis – cost 4 pesos
4) Two worthwhile tours to take are a half day City Tour - cost US$30.00; and the full day visit to the Ruins of Tajin - cost about US$80.00.
6) If one likes to try typical Tampico cuisine, try the Mexican fast food mall called the Centro Gastronomico (The Gastronomic Centre) - cost of the meal of the Day 15 to 25 pesos. For fine dining, the cost of a meal at the restaurant in the Espacio Cultural Metropolitano is 180 pesos. Located edging the Plaza de la Libertad at the Troya Restaurant - cost 150 to 200 pesos; and at the Vips, the cost is the same for an American meal. For the finest coffee in town try the coffee shop in the Plaza de Armas - cost Expresso Cortado - 10 pesos. In the seafood restaurants along Miramar Beach - cost of a seafood meal about 50 pesos. While in Tampico be sure to try the famous TampiqueZa steak for which the city is noted.
7) 50% of the tourists who come to Tampico are Canadians.
8) When you leave Mexico there is a ‘Departure Tax’ of about $18.00 US per person but
this tax is usually included in your airline ticket.
Important Sights to See in Tampico - all part of the City Tour
The Cathedral - edging the Plaza de Armas, it is noted for its façade of Neoclassic Style, its Corinthian style columns and three enormous doors.
The Plaza de Armas or Plaza de la Constitucion - noted for its impressive gazebo and the edging town palace.
The Plaza de la Libertad (The Liberty Square) – the plaza is surrounded by some beautiful buildings, most of them "Art Noveau".
The Piramide de las Flores (The Flower's Pyramid) - dating back to back to the year 1000 AD, it is a sample of the indigenous Tampico.
Edificio de la Aduana (Maritime Customs Building) - is the pride of the Tampico people due to its beauty and for its high historical value. It houses the Museo de Aduana.
The Espacio Cultural Metropolitano - it houses the Grand Metropolitan Theatre, a fine new classy restaurant and the Museo de La Cultura Huasteca (Museum of the Huasteca Culture) - a museum dedicated to the Huasteca Culture and housing important archaeological and ethnographical collection.
For Further Information, Contact: For Further Information, Contact:
In Canada contact the Mexican Tourism Board - 2 Bloor St. West, Suite 1502, Toronto, Ontario M4W 3E2. Tel: (416) 925 0704. Fax: (416) 925 6061. E-mail: Also Toll free number: 1-800-44 MEXICO.
Web: or E-mail:; in the U.S.A. 375 Park Avenue, Floor 19, Suite 1905, New York, NY 10152, USA. Tel: (212) 308 2110. Fax: (212) 308 9060. E-mail:

© Habeeb Salloum May 10th 2006

Habeeb Salloum in Mexico

Old Montreal
Habeeb Salloum in Canada's most romantic destination

Montreal Winter
Habeeb Salloum underground

More World Travel in Hacktreks 2 and Hacktreks 3


© Hackwriters 1999-2006 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibiltiy - no liability accepted by or affiliates.