The bus ride to Tlachichuca was pleasant- as was the bus ride to Veracruz. Both trips are very scenic and the people very friendly. Renting a car, however, could offer some flexability I suppose...
I actually spent 2 days walking
the truck route to Piedre Grande. Believe it or not, I think it was the most enjoyable part of the trip.
Veracruz is far from Cancun. The city itself is a bit charming but there are no beaches in town. I traveled north from Veracruz to a town called Chachalacas. There are some interesting Olmec Ruins there. It seems that few Americans travel there too. I have never been stared at in such a sustained and unrelenting manner in all my life. There are also some sand dunes in Chachalacas that meet the ocean. The water was cold in January- but it is likely to be pleasant this time of year.
Here is a link to some photos of the Chachalacas area:
http://www.outdoorsatuva.org/gallery/v/ ... ?g2_page=3
I have heard that if you head south of Veracruz, near "boca rio"(?) that the beaches become nice.