The coast of Catemaco stretches 11 miles along the Gulf of Mexico from  Playa Escondida
to El Carrizal, in southeast Veracruz, Mexico

The most prominent feature is the estuary and lagoon of Laguna Sontecomapan.

The Laguna is fed by mountain streams descending from Volcano San Martin Tuxtla and
Catemaco from Laguna Sontecomapan.

Its surrounding wetlands, sand dunes and forests contain one of the last well preserved
growths of mangroves in the coastal region of the Gulf of Mexico.
Sontecomapan and the Coast
Catemaco, Veracruz
The laguna waters are brackish, aided by a deep canal at La Barra permitting the tidal exchange of salt and fresh water.

The beaches and sand dunes are nesting sites for many endangered marine turtles such as Leatherbacks and Kemp´s Ridleys.

The laguna flora is composed of a large diversity of species including several unique in the world. It supports 3 of the 4 species
of mangroves in Mexico, many species of orchids, and bushes and trees never seen north of the Texan border.

Nationally protected or threatened fauna includes the Mexican protected Black Hawks, Uniform Crakes, Bare-throated Herons
and Muscovy Ducks,  Howler Monkeys and Neotropical Otters. Also Moreletti's crocodiles, green iguanas, snapping, mud and
slider turtles, Blue and other crabs, several endemic fishes and snails galore.
Climate in the area is hot and humid averaging above 83 degrees F, and averaging annual rainfall of almost 13 feet mostly
during the rainy season and in the hills surrounding the Laguna.

There are no traces of historical occupation, although earthen platforms may indicate a pre-hispanic presence. Unconfirmed
claims assert that the the Laguna was used as a hideout by buccaneers. During the late 1800's steamships called on the port
of La Barra to transport bales of locally grown tobacco, and during the Mexican revolution navy ships used the port to
In 1848 the Sontecomapan Hacienda was founded by French owners and stretched to include the entire Gulf front from La
Barra to Montepio. By the early 1900's the Sontecomapan area was sold to Mexicans. A few remnants of the old hacienda are
still in place, but not worthwhile finding.

In 1938 the hacienda was officially expropriated and the
ejido (co-op community) of Sontecomapan was constituted. Earlier in
1931, 400 families of settlers from Mexico City had arrived.  As of 2005, the town claimed  2374 inhabitants.
In 1998 the Laguna was included  in the Los Tuxtlas Biosphere, but for some unknown reason the ecologically highly sensitive
areas of Laguna  Sontecomapan were not included in the nuclear zones of the  Los Tuxtlas Biosphere.
Acces is via a speed bump encrusted road from Catemaco to Sontecomapan, or a few miles further north via a
potholed  dirt road to La Barra.

Pirata and taxi service is available from the Catemaco north end several times per hour.
The best option to visit the lagoon is via the
water taxi  to La Barra available at the Sontecomapan embarcadero
(dock), otherwise it is an 18 kilometer drive to the nearest coastal village (La Barra).  
The town Sontecomapan is one of only two entrances to the northern Los Tuxtlas coast. In addition the town is the only door to
the eastern coastal half of Catemaco. Its boat docks are  the center of activity in the lagoon and on the coast, including
excursions, water taxi service and cargo to isolated communities along the lagoon and the coast of the Sierra Santa Marta, as
far south as Arrecifes and Perla del Golfo.

The economy of the area concentrates primarily on cattle ranching, some agriculture, fishing and limited tourism. A good size
aquaculture breeding center exists and a private fish rancher is providing most of the local restaurant

Until the Mexican military built a dirt road in 1927, communication with Catemaco was only via horse trails.
Paving of the road took another 60 years.

An extension of the Tuxtlas coastal highway from Sontecomapan to Arrecifes and connecting to the rest of the Sierra Santa
Marta is in the wishful thinking stage.
Size of the Laguna : 900 hectáreas
Depth: average 2 m,  deeper canals up to 5 m deep are near the entrance to the Gulf at the village of  La Barra.
Dimension: about 12 km at its longest axis and less than 3 km at is widest axis.
Size of the watershed: 8,921 ha
Coast Line: 18 km
Book - Sontecomapan - Cabeza de ríos
Coordinadora: Irma Juárez González
Atzcapotzalco, Mexico: Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, 2007, 112pp. available in the Catemaco area
Plan de Manejo - de la Reserva Veracruzana, 2004
RAMSAR - Ficha Informativa - Manglares y humedales de la Laguna de Sontecomapan
Gulfbase - Laguna Sontecomapan - English
SMN - normas climatologicas  de Sontecomapan links
For visitor information you are better off clicking
tourism above.
The following pages are not particularly interesting for short term tourists.
The population of the Sontecomapan area is estimated at 6,000 inhabitants as of 2005. Almost the majority of
inhabitants live in the village of Sontecomapan.

The only other population on the Gulf are the villages of La Barra and Capulteotl.
Ejidos occupy most of the land, including Coxcoapan, Los Morritos,  Dos Amates, Sontecomapan plus the colonia
agraria La Palma and the wannabe ejido El Real.

For more info about many of these villages, please open
Laguna Sontecomapan Pueblos.
For all the information about the Laguna and coastal attractions,
such as Poza de Enanos, the Mangrove Tour, the beaches, etc, see:
Catemaco - Attractions
For photos of Laguna Catemaco and the coast, see
Catemaco - Photos
external links