If you’re determined to travel between the Yucatán, Veracruz and the US by the shortest route, avoiding Mexico City altogether, you’ll need to follow the coastal route. North of Tuxpán, there’s plenty of sandy beachfront, but access is difficult, beaches tend to be windswept and scrubby, and much of the area is marred by oil refineries. Several small-scale resorts have grown up here (such as La Pesca and the villages around Laguna Madre), but these tend to be popular with nearby city-dwellers and have little to offer compared with the beaches further south. It’s also very, very hot. Another issue is drug violence – Tamaulipas, the homestate of the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas, had become just about the most dangerous part of Mexico by 2012. If you have time you’d be well advised to cut inland from Tampico to Monterrey, where there’s plenty of metropolitan diversions and a larger choice of routes to the border.