Copan’s First Tourism Entrepreneurs

A Tribute to Copan’s First Tourism Entrepreneurs:

Copan is one of the shining stars of Central American tourism destinations. And although it is relatively easy to get to these days, it was truly isolated and hard to get to in the old days. Perhaps the first famous visitor to Copan was John Lloyd Stephens. He is one of the first true adventure travelers, who came to Copan in 1839. Stevens was traveling with his companion, Frederick Catherwood. Together they brought international interest to the Mayan Civilization, which was virtually unknown if those days. Catherwood traveled through Guatemala, crossing over the communities of Jocotan and Camotan before making it over the border. He bought the site of Copan for $50 US Dollars, making them Copan’s First Tourism Entrepreneurs! Of course both Stephens and Catherwood were forced to camp in the jungle surrounding the archaeological site, as there was virtually nobody living in the area.

Copan´s First Tourism Entrepreneurs

Copan’s First Tourism Entrepreneurs
Wedding foto of Doña Marinita and Don Raul Welchez.

With the passing of time, the town of San Jose de Copan came to be. It is now better known as Copan Ruinas. This is because it next to the main acropolis of the old city of Copan. The first travelers to Copan Ruinas to follow the footsteps of Stephens and Catherwood, where archaeologists who had read the famous book that Stephens published: Incidents of Travel in Central America. The book, which features the famous drawings made by Frederick Catherwood. These are still an inspiration to archaeologists and historians to travel to Copan Honduras. They want to see for themselves this magnificent ancient city. Thus in the first half of the twentieth century, world renown archaeologists, such as Silvanus Morley traveled and began the first truly scientific studies of Copan.


These adventure scientists needed a place to stay in Copan. They found hospitality at the house of Mr. Villamil. There, his pretty daughter, Dona Marinita, would accommodate in their home. Thus the Pension Marina, the first lodging alternative in Copan Ruinas came to be. This was almost 75 years ago. Today, Dona Marina and her husband, Don Raul Welchez are no longer with us. But their spirit of hospitality is carried on by their sons, Raul, and Juan Angel. They still personally manage the Hotel Marina Copan. The hotel, is right on the corner of Central Park in Copan Ruinas. It stands as a tribute to Copan’s first tourism entrepreneurs!

The Hotel Marina Copan is a jewel of a hotel, and is in my personal opinion, the best hotel in Copan Ruinas. There is a lot of tender loving care that is put into running this charming hotel. Some of the most renowned World Archaeologists have stayed here. It is not easy to find a property or a family business that survives over 7 decades. After more than three generations, the Marina Copan is still a leading business after all these years. Congratulations to the Welchez Villamil family for their continued dedication and leadership in the development of tourism in Honduras.

La Llama del Bosque, the Oldest Restaurant in Copan

I cannot finish this short note without mention of another person that has given a lot to tourism in Copan and Honduras in general: Dona Albita Marroquin. Dona Albita opened one of the first “comedores” or eateries in Copan Ruinas. Over the years, her effort to upgrade and improve her services has made her one of the few eateries in Copan that have been around for more than four decades! Her restaurant, La Llama del Bosque, is featured in all of the travel books and guides that talk about Copan, and the quality of her food and cleanliness of her establishment are a legend in town.

The good example and continuous effort of these people has left an important legacy. They have set the pillars for one of the most important tourist attractions in mainland Honduras. There is no doubt that this short tribute to Copan’s first tourism entrepreneurs is long overdue. Personally, it was an honor to meet them all!

Fortunately for you, the traveler who is in the process of visiting Copan Ruinas, it is possible to stay in the charming Hotel Marina Copan. Who knows, you might even spend the night in the same rooms where some of the leading world archaeologists have stayed in. If this is the case, you will find that the rustic, basic conditions of yesteryear have been replaced by the comfort of our modern world. Amenities include a pleasant pool, an outstanding restaurant,  and even a small spa area with a sauna and gym. Broadband wifi internet service and many other amenities are available in this unique hotel. Heck, people like John John Kennedy, the princess of Japan, as well as many presidents and actors have stayed here. The Marina Copan is truly a Hotel for special people like you!