Xalapa is a city in Mexico. It is the capital of Veracruz state, up in a hilly, forested area. It's an important university town, so there's always lots of cultural events going on, as well as many students, parties and everything a university town entails. It is also a pretty cheap city: it's quite possible to find a comida corrida for 25-30 pesos (as of April 2015). There are many interesting small villages in the mountains surrounding Xalapa, most famous among them are Xico (famous for mushroom hunting, amongst other things), Coatepec (one of the best coffee areas in Mexico) and Jalcomulco (very good rafting, supposedly).
West towards Puebla, Mexico City
From city center, you can take a bus saying "Banderilla" (9 pesos, as of March 2015), which is the last urban part before the highway. In Banderilla the free (libre) and paid (cuota) roads separate, and there's a traffic light right before the division, so you can try and hitch there, but it's not the best spot as cars are going fast and those going on the paid road will be on the inner, farther lanes. Another option is waiting for the bus to cross Banderilla and let you off right on the free highway - there's a great place to stop here, but since it's the free highway you're less likely to catch a long ride. Try to get a ride at least to Las Vigas (see below).
Another option is to catch a local bus direct to Las Vigas (around 20 pesos, as of March 2015). It's a small town around 25km after Banderilla. The paid highway passes very close to town, and there's a tollbooth (caseta) within easy walking distance. Once you're in the tollbooth, rides all the way to Puebla or Mexico City should be easy to get.