Catemaco's 275 square miles (710 square kilometers) stretch along the Gulf of Mexico between the foothills of Volcano San Martin Tuxtla and the Sierra Santa Marta, and incorporate Laguna Catemaco and Laguna Sontecomapan plus a large part of the Los Tuxtlas Biosphere preserve.
The 2000 census counted 45,383 inhabitants in the county including 23,631 in the city. Ethnic composition is primarily of mestizo origins. Indigenous language speakers number less than 500.
The city of Catemaco resides against Lake Catemaco at 340 meters (1,115 feet) altitude and is surrounded by numerous taller volcanic peaks. To the north, Laguna Sontecomapan occupies a large flood plain and joins the gulf at La Barra de Sontecomapan, Catemaco's most accessible beach.
Economically Catemaco depends on a mix of tourism, cattle ranching, fishery and agriculture. Statistically the municipio ranks as one of the poorer counties of Veracruz.
One of the featured attractions of the town are the "Monkey Islands", populated by abandoned research monkeys originally imported from Thailand. Almost 100 boats compete to ferry tourists out to see these Macaque monkeys, uncared for by the locals of Catemaco and frequently starving and lacking medical care.
Historically an isolated community, the city now has an international reputation for Catemaco Brujos, a local phenomena of witchcraft practitioners with commercial interests. Mel Gibson recently filmed parts of Apocalypto (2006) in the vicinity. He joined Sean Connery's Medicine Man (1992) and many others who have used the Catemaco vicinity as a backdrop for jungle scenes.