Let’s face it; Central America is a small region. It has a total of 7 countries and most people think they are all quite alike. Oh, but how mistaken are those who think so! Each country is unique, and each one has its special attractions that make it interesting. Except that Honduras definitely has more than the other countries in the region! Now there, you will claim that I am biased, but I am convinced that this is true! Honduras is special and offers many things to do that you cannot do in the other countries.
Perhaps the biggest asset that Honduras has as a travel destination is its people. Catrachos, as their neighbors call us, are friendly, hospitable souls that will go out of their way for you. Their genuine smiles will make you feel welcome, and they will respect you for what you are. Believe it or not, Honduras has the largest English speaking population in Central America. This means that it will be easier for you to communicate in English when in Honduras. This is especially true in the Bay Islands of Honduras and the Caribbean coast of the mainland.
This is part of the legacy of American Banana Companies that came to Honduras at the turn of the Twentieth Century. The establishment of these companies turned Honduras into the first real Banana Republic in the World! The term, Banana Republic was coined in Trujillo, Honduras by American author O Henry around 1900! Honduras has a bustling economy that has diversified from Bananas. Both the Standard Fruit Company de Honduras (Dole) and the Tela Railroad Company (Chiquita Bananas) have operations in Honduras. These two companies shaped modern Honduras.
Today Honduras also exports pineapples, shrimp, African Palm oil and many other products. The county also produces some of the finest coffee in the World. But there is no doubt that tourism is the backbone of the economy that can propel Honduras towards a brighter future. By traveling to Honduras, you are helping to create a brighter future for the country and its population!
Honduras is the one Central American country that offers the best of two worlds. It has the Charm of Central America and beauty of the Caribbean. Yes, you can find the best of both worlds in one small country! The most popular and visited areas are along the corridor between the town of Copan Ruinas and the Bay Islands of Honduras. This is in itself the best reason to visit Honduras when you travel to Central America!
Are You Into Archaeology? The Most Artistic Mayan Site is Copan! Do not Miss it When you Travel to Central America!
Copan is home to the most artistic Mayan Archaeological Park in the World. It also happens to be the most studied site, which means that we actually have a history of who ruled this city state and when! For those interested in Archaeology, this is a dream come true! There are four different museums in Copan Ruinas, and each will offer you a unique vision of the life here during the peak of this civilization.
But there is much more to Copan that the Archaeological Park! Imagine a colonial town with cobble stone streets and red tile roofs. Boutique hotels and inexpensive hostels coexist here. Chic coffee shops and gourmet restaurants offer a variety of foods. Discover the traditional Mayan Cuisine that in a fusion of tastes that will thrill your taste buds. Yes, life is good in Copan Ruinas and you will feel the charm of Central America at its best.
As you hike the nearby archaeological park, you will experience the thrill of hearing the magnificent scarlet macaws that live in the park fly over your head. You will almost feel their wings flutter as they sweep just over your head and then land on the tree branches ahead of you. The magnificent jungle that surrounds the park offers an introduction to the tropical rain forests of Central America.
But there is much more to see in do in Copan than visit the Archaeological Park and walk the cozy streets of town. Copan is in the midst of some of the best coffee growing areas in Central America. You can visit several different coffee estates, and buy some of the best coffee in the World while you do so. If you visit during the harvesting season, which is between November and February, you will see the harvesting and production process. Many of these coffee estates have a coffee shop in town, where you can sample and buy the coffee that you like the best! For your convenience, they are open year round.
One of the highlights of your trip to Copan is the unique Macaw Mountain Bird Park. Here you will see many of the most beautiful tropical birds and parrots that are native to Central America. Originally, all these birds were pets or where confiscated from illegal bird trafficking. Some are tame and you will be able to interact with them and get some pictures that you will cherish for a lifetime. Many of the birds that you will see at the Copan Archaeological Park were born in captivity at Macaw Mountain and released in the park.
When you are making your plans to visit Copan Ruinas, allow for at least three full days there. You will be happy you did! Most people that visit Copan do so by crossing the border from neighboring Guatemala. Copan is only 12 km. from the border with Guatemala. It is on the route that adventure travelers follow when they are getting to know Central America.
After you visit Copan Ruinas, you should be on your way towards the Bay Islands of Honduras. This archipelago was once under British rule, and the locals are proud of their English heritage and still speak English. There are actually 6 islands and many small cays in the Archipelago. Of these, only three have a permanent community: Utila, Roatan and Guanaja. The easiest way to get to the islands is to drive to La Ceiba, on the Caribbean Coast of Honduras. This city has an airport and port facilities with regular service to the islands.
National Parks and Adventure Travel are Outstanding in Honduras!
You can get to La Ceiba in time to catch the ferry or a plane to the islands. But I recommend staying a couple of nights and getting to know the Pico Bonito National Park area. Most travelers stay within the Cangrejal River Valley area. This is about 10 km. South of La Ceiba, between Nombre de Dios and Pico Bonito National Parks. There are several different hotels and lodges in the Cangrejal River area. All are small and intimate, many have raving reviews for both their location and their service. This is your chance to get up close to the tropical rain forests of Central America.
You can hike in trails to both National Parks. Adventure activities, such as great white water rafting and rappelling down a waterfall are just some of the many things to do in the area. My absolute favorite hotel in the Cangrejal River area is La Villa de Soledad B&B. This is a charming, family run property with great food and outstanding hosts. Plan on spending at least two days in The Cangrejal River Valley. Any one of the lodges in the area will be happy to help you arrange transfers to the ferry terminal to continue your journey to the islands.
The Bay Islands are the Perfect Reason to Include Honduras in your Travel to Central America
Most travelers visit the Bay Islands of Honduras to dive or snorkel their reefs. They are part of the most bio-diverse reef system in the World. The Bay Islands reefs are some of the healthiest in the Caribbean! Three of the islands offer services to tourists. These are Utila, Roatan and Guanaja. Each one of them is unique and different. Travel between the islands of Utila and Roatan is easy. The Utila Dream Ferry offers service four times a week between West End in Roatan and Utila. Service from Roatan to Guanaja is less reliable. Many times you will need to travel to La Ceiba in order to get from one island to the other.
The Island of Utila is World famous for its many dive shops that offer some of the most affordable scuba certification courses. It is also popular because it is home to the largest fish in the world: the whale shark. This shark is a gentle giant that feeds on tiny fishes and plankton and is thus harmless. Utila offers a relaxed, informal atmosphere that caters to the younger crowds. Most travelers here enjoy bar hopping at night, and many have a hard time leaving the island. They just fall in love with it and don’t want to leave!
Utila is also the most affordable of the three Bay Islands of Honduras. It offers affordable dining, drinking and lodging. If you add to this some competitive scuba packages, you end up with a great destination to enjoy without breaking your wallet! Utila is definitely on the backpacker trail in Central America. To be fair, I must say that there are also some nice higher end diving resorts in Utila. You do not need to be a party animal to enjoy the island!
Roatan, the largest of the Bay Islands has become a popular Cruise Ship port of call. With two world class cruise ship passenger terminals, it can get busy on cruise ship days. These are are usually between Tuesday and Thursday. However, the island is long, and you can escape the cruise ship crowds if you wish to! The most popular area in Roatan is the West End. This consists of a small, eclectic beach front community of West End, as well as the more resort area of West Bay Beach. West Bay offers what is arguably the most beautiful beach in Central America, and one of the top in the World.
Of the three islands, Roatan is the only one that has a golf course. This is one of the top designer golf courses in Central America! The island offers some of the best resort communities in Central America. Real estate is competitive if you compare it to other islands in the Caribbean. The Roatan International Airport (RTB) offers non stop flights from several US gateways make it easy to get to! American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines and Avianca all offer service to island on a scheduled basis. From La Ceiba, there are both, air and ferry service to Roatan. The Ferry is a state of the art water jet catamaran that is fast and confortable. The trip is less than two hours on the ferry, which has two daily departures.
On a personal note, I much prefer the East End of Roatan. This is the authentic part of the island, where you will be away from the cruise ship hordes. Small, intimate properties, lovely beaches, and old island communities with much charm are all to be found here. If you stay in the West End, you should plan on at least a day trip to the East End to get a feel for the “real Roatan”.
East of Roatan
To the east of Roatan you have four more islands. Helene, is an extension of Roatan. Technically, it is a different island because there is a natural canal that separates it from Roatan. It is a swampy island, and has few people living in it. There are no facilities for tourists in Helene. Next to this island you will find Morat. Morat is a small island with a salt water lagoon in the center. This island is not inhabited and there is not much to see here. Further east of Morat is Barbareta. This is a beautiful island that is private. It is quite mountainous and has some pristine beaches. Around the south shore if the island you will find the Pigeon Cays. These are picturesque sand cays that offer the perfect Robinson Crusoe setting for a day trip.
Finally, on the Eastern end of the Bay Islands Archipelago you will find the Island of Guanaja. Columbus himself landed in Guanaja back in 1502, during his fourth and last voyage to the “Indies”. Guanaja is less developed than Utila and Roatan, and thus has more nature. It is the most mountainous if the islands. With no roads on the island, the only way to get around is by boat. Resorts are small and rather isolated in Guanaja. Because of this, they are pretty much self contained, offering diving and meals packaged with their rooms. Because of its relative isolation, Guanaja is more expensive. Getting to Guanaja from La Ceiba is only possible by air; however there is also ferry service from Trujillo to Guanaja.
As you can see, there are many reasons why you should visit Honduras when you travel to Central America! It offers the best of both worlds: Central America and the Caribbean. Just imagine that you can enjoy both in one small country in Central America!