The state of Tamaulipas is located in northeast Mexico and is characterized by its commercial ports as well as by its 420 km (260 miles) of sandy beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. It’s an important Mexican state due to its close proximity to the United States, as well as its prosperous petrochemical, import, and export businesses. But, Tamaulipas also casts a lot of energy into its rapidly expanding tourism centers, and it’s attracting visitors from around the world.
While many of Tamaulipas’ cities are quite modern, most of them have retained a historic rural feel to them, in which you can kick back and enjoy many wonderful attractions at your own unhurried pace.
Tamaulipas’ progressive capital city of Ciudad Victoria is a commercial city with many museums, ancient architecture, parks, and sport centers to visit that will keep any visitor well entertained, such as the Anthropology and History Museum, the 19th century Municipal Palace, the Estefania Castañeda Infantile Park, and the Adolfo Ruiz Cortinez Sports Center.
Located 54 km to the northeast of Ciudad Victoria is the Vicente Guerrero Dam, which is extremely popular with sports fisherman and duck hunters. A noteworthy fact about this dam is that under its waters lies the ruins of the city of Padilla.
The Metropolitan Zone of Altamira, Tampico, and Ciudad Madero (The Zone) is considered one of Mexico’s most important water basins and tourist areas. The Zone is surrounded by the Pánuco and Tamesí Rivers as well as a fantastic lagoon system along the Gulf of Mexico. The cities are in close proximity to each other, allowing you to sort of mix and match your activities from one place to another.
Altamira is the largest city in The Zone. Its deep-water port is Mexico’s most important commercial center for petrochemicals, yet the city has some of the most amazing beaches in Tamaulipas. The fine-sand Altamira and Golden Dunes Beaches are great for hunting down incredible seashells and for reeling in a few fish.
The Champayan and Marismas lagoons are ideal places for water sports, boating, fishing, and enjoying the environment.
Also, don’t miss the incredible sea turtle nursery on Playa Tesoro, created by caring locals during the turtle’s migration and breeding season each year. The group gathers all the eggs from the beached sea turtles and plants them in little incubators in a protected environment. They are known to release around a 1,000 turtles into the sea each year!
Ciudad Madero’s claim to fame is Miramar Beach, a major tourism attraction in The Zone with its hotels, resorts, entertainment centers, beautiful Malecon Las Escolleras, and fantastic water activities. Miramar’s fine white-sand beach is ideal for swimming, and rustic palapas with refreshments are conveniently lined up along the shore. From this beach visitors can also view the entrance and departure of enormous ships.
Two other great attractions that you won’t want to miss are the Museum of the Huasteca Culture and the (circa 1833) lighthouse.
The beautiful city of Tampico in The Zone is a major exporting location and a Customs Station, but it is also an incredible tourism center with much to offer its visitors. It’s the site of international golf championship tournaments and is loaded with golf courses. Fishing tournaments are also found here as well as sport fishing excursions. With its great location on the Gulf of Mexico and close proximity to two rivers, beach and water activities of all kinds can be found here.
Tampico’s Plaza de la Libertad (Liberty Square) with its surrounding shops and 20th century architecture is a “must do”, as is taking a guided tour of the Edificio de la Aduana aka Maritime Customs Building and a Panuco River boat excursion with regional cuisine and live local music.
With the Laguna Madre to its north and the Laguna Morales to its south, the charming little fishing town of La Pesca is a rapidly growing tourist center. The beautiful beaches are excellent for water activities, and the town’s location near the Rio Soto La Marina and the Gulf of Mexico makes it ideal for fishing as well.
The municipality of Aldama, located on the southeastern part of the state has several natural attractions. La Barra de Tordo, one of the most beautiful beaches on the Tamaulipas coast, is located here, offering visitors great water activities and excellent fishing.
Ciudad Mante is characterized by it year-round ecotourism and adventure-tourism (rock climbing, rappelling, etc.) attractions in the foothills of the Sierra de Cucharas mountain range. Mante’s many other attractions include tours at La Gruta del Quintero and La Cueva del Abra (caves), the Ex-Hacienda El Naranjo, and the Napkin Canyon.
Ciudad Ocampo’s main attraction is the Archaeological Museum where pieces of pottery and stone from the Huasteca culture are exhibited, but nearby the city are the Parque de la Alberca and the archeological ruins of the Igollo Mission.
Near the city of Congregacion Quintero visitors can tour the Grutas de Quintero (grotto) with its stalagmites and stalactites formations and trenches filled by subterranean streams, as well as the enormous San Fernando Cave.
Reynosa is a commercial city that has retained much of its rural ambiance and Mexican tradition. Here visitors can tour ancient cathedrals and plazas, and shop for handcrafted items imported from around the world. The "Zona Rosa" is where visitors can enjoy a variety of shops, restaurants, and nightclubs. The Las Playas tourist park located just outside the city is also very popular.
The city of Matamoros shares a border with Brownsville, Texas. Matamoros is a modern city with a lot of remarkable 19th century architecture housing its tourist attractions, such as the Institute Regional de Bellas Artes and the Casamata Museums. The Juarez Market Square is also a popular attraction where visitors can find some great souvenirs. The Bagdad Beach (Playa Bagdad) is very popular here, and home to the city’s annual Festival of the Sea ("El Festival del Mar").
Near the city of San Fernando is Playa La Carbonera. It’s a relatively uncrowded beach with palapas for shade, food stands, and a small area at the edge of the lagoon with restaurants and other services. Boating and fishing are also popular activities here.
Nuevo Laredo is an important international trade and customs station. However, like most Mexican ports, the city has some great attractions that will more than satisfy your touristic spirit, such as the Hippodrome and Greyhound race tracks. Also, be sure to stop at the Maclovia Herrera Market, where you can get stunning handcrafted blown glass, furniture, and many other beautiful items to take home for souvenirs.
El Cielo Biosphere Ecological Reserve is a great place for those adventurous souls who don’t mind getting off paved roads and into the jungle for some extraordinary sights. El Cielo covers 144,530 hectares (356,989 acres) of isolated mountains and valleys, in which you can camp, hike, mountain bike, or simply observe dynamic views and diverse flora and fauna.
The town of Alta Cima within the Reserve offers rustic lodging and a few services.