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10 Reasons to Travel to Honduras
There is no shortfall of the things to do and see in #Honduras. From island hopping, to #active mountain hikes and colourful Garifuna culture, Honduras provides a breathtaking and #adventurous vacation for anyone looking to get off the beaten path.
In fact, this whole stretch of land bridging the gap between Mexico and Colombia has been slowly coming into its own as a firm favourite with independent travellers over the past 20 years, as political and civil situations gain stability. As a result, safety concerns are less of an issue and Central America has embraced the backpacker crowd, giving the classic South American and Far East travel trails a serious run for their money.
Ok, there are still certain ‘unsavoury’ spots to be aware of – the big cities of Honduras have a terrible reputation with San Pedro Sula’s gang problem being one of the worst in the world. Savvy visitors tend to use it as a travel hub, somewhere to get in and get out (we arranged a ride straight from the airport out of town on arrival) but this shouldn’t stop you from uncovering the treasures the rest of the country has to offer.
Central America has embraced the backpacker crowd...
From the balmy, bath-tub waters of the Caribbean sea to lush jungle landscapes; from towering Mayan ruins to the unbelievable underwater world of the Meso-American barrier reef; from island communities to rugged mountain ranges – Honduras has certainly got more than a few tricks up its sleeve. And as it is much less developed than neighbouring Costa Rica and Panama, it not only offers a lot more bang for your buck but a hefty dose of adventure on the side.
Tempted to visit yet? Check out my 10 reasons to travel Honduras and let’s see if I can push you over the edge…
#1 The Bay Islands
These little babies are the big tourist draws of Honduras – namely Roatan and Utila. Both are worth a visit with their unique selling points and culture. Roatan is bigger, more family friendly and has a luscious beach of pure, white shores as well as the more rustic West End with its smattering of smaller bays and coves. In comparison, Utila only has a couple of beaches (one is private) and is characterised by quirky bars, restaurants and accommodations built on piers jutting out into the sea. However, bothersome sand flies can be rife in these parts so a good pier is sometimes all you need!
The thing I absolutely loved about Utila was its quietly bustling, backpacker culture – friendly bars, great places to eat, a range of places to stay and amenities such as the rustic island cinema and brilliantly stocked book shop. Chat to local fishermen and get a trip out to one of the nearby paradise islands like Water Cay, perfect for a lazy afternoon, relaxing on the sand, cut off from the outside world.
#2 Caribbean Beaches
A dreamy beach-scape can make or break a holiday destination for me and Honduras did not disappoint. It was my first experience of the Caribbean Sea and I couldn’t believe the warmth of the waters and dazzling, sugar spun shores.
The best Caribbean beaches are dotted along the north coast – small communities of local Garifuna people have set up villages that are a bubble of Caribbean culture, far from the worries of the outside world. We hopped on a big, yellow bus to make the trip to Tornabe and were rewarded with thick, white carpets of sand, wonderful swimming and plenty of coconuts on offer for a refreshing drink. And Trujillo with its nearby beaches of Santa Fe and San Antonio are also beautiful options with great seafood. Welcome to the Caribbean!
The best Caribbean beaches are dotted along the north coast
#3 Garifuna Culture
The Garifuna people are of mixed Amerindian and African descent and their colourful cultural influence can be felt throughout much of Central America and Honduras. Traditional dancing, music and delicious traditional foods like plantain, pan de coco (coconut bread) and tableta, a mouth-watering piece of confectionary made from coconut are highlights to experience during your visit.
Sambo Creek is a famous Garifuna settlement on the north coast and is easily reached by the big, yellow bus. An annual fair is held in June with plenty of music, dancing, soccer and children playing at the custom of El Indio Barbaro where a masked dancing figure will ask for a monetary contribution – refuse and you will be painted with oil. Apparently, if you don’t have money, you run!
From Sambo Creek you can also arrange a day trip or privately charter a boat out to the tiny and perfectly formed island of Cayos Cochinos. This palm-fringed sliver of sandy perfection is home to a small community of Garifuna people living in thatched huts. We swam in the sea and enjoyed a delicious seafood lunch before heading home but it is possible to arrange a stay with local people and experience what it is like when the morning tourists have gone home and this close-knit group settle into the natural rhythms of day-to-day life in paradise.
#4 An Unparalleled Underwater Kingdom
If diving or snorkelling is your bag then you will be in heaven. One particular day in Utila, just off the pier at Coral Reef, was the best day of snorkelling I have ever experienced in my life. The extensive reef breathes life into an incredible world below the surface, with so much to look at it was dizzying! Pulsing families of squid, rainbow coloured fish of all shapes and sizes, mean-looking barracuda, rubber-faced blowfish, huge clouds of tiny iridescent fish and should you drop in to one of the local dive shops, you can arrange a whale shark spotting trip – these gentle giants are a major draw of the surrounding waters.
If diving or snorkelling is your bag then you will be in heaven.
Plus, Utila is known for being one of the cheapest places in the world to get PADI certification with an assortment of reputable shops and instructors well versed in a variety of languages. This place is truly divers’ paradise.
#5 Copan Ruinas
And now for a bit of culture! The town of Copan Ruinas is an absolute must for anyone visiting Honduras. This breezy mountain town is so picturesque and so sweet it will make your teeth hurt. Cobbled streets, men tipping their stetsons your way, delicious coffee and some fantastic travellers bars such as Twisted Tanya’s for cocktails and Xibalba for live music and friendly folk.
Copán Ruins Tour, Honduras
Laguna Verde Adventure
Seven Waterfalls Tour
There are plenty of budget accommodation options and opportunities to explore mountain communities out in the verdant hills on horseback. Check out parrots and other exotic bird life at Macaw Mountain and explore the lovely, little markets and shops.
#6 Ancient Mayan Ruins
Copan Ruinas, as well as being a charming town in its own right, is also ideally situated as a base to explore the ancient Mayan ruins of Copan. The ruins may not be as massive as those found in Mexico or Guatemala, but are equally impressive with towering structures you can climb to the top of and incredible stone carvings featuring sacred animals that used to be prevalent in these parts many moons ago such as jaguars, howler monkeys and the ubiquitous scarlet macaw. Although a small community of macaws has been released near the entrance of the archaeological park, so go and see them.
Check out the Hieroglyphic Stairway, one of the earliest Mesoamerican ball courts and various ruins of temples and altars steeped in human sacrifice and legend. Hiring a guide to give you the lowdown on some of these highlights is well worth the dollar. This place is an Indian Jones playground!
#7 Rum O’clock
For a girl that’s not the biggest fan of beer, it’s often been a source of frustration that beer is usually the cheapest option in (not only backpacking) bars. So I was delighted to discover that in good old pirate fashion, the Caribbean was a goldmine of tasty rum for decent prices. The quirky, rustic bars of Utila tended to free pour over crackling ice and a cold rum drink was the ideal way to soak up the sunset.
A goldmine of tasty rum for decent prices
#8 It Won’t Break the Bank
Tearing down the myth that you need to pack suitcases of cash to travel the Caribbean, Honduras still offers up plenty of bargains. Negotiating for rooms is still worth a try but there’s not so much of a haggling culture as you’ll find in South East Asia. When picking up tasty fruit treats on the street in Tela, I listened in on a couple of conversations with locals and realised we were immediately charged the same, fair price despite clearly being the only foreign faces in the immediate vicinity.
You can pick up a decent sit-down meal for just a few dollars with street snacks like baleadas (filled flour tortillas) and pinchos (grilled shish kebabs) widely available on many street corners, cutting costs considerably. Travelling by local bus around the north coast was easy and cheap – you can usually flag one down at the side of the road and the money collector will wander down to pick up your fare.
#9 There is Still Adventure to be Found
There are a selection of national parks in Honduras from Punta Sal where you can relax on idyllic beaches and spot boas, tropical birds and sometimes dolphins to Cuero Y Salada, where the network of canals, mangroves and lagoons plays host to monkeys, bird, alligators and famously, the elusive Caribbean Manatee.
The awesome Rio Cangrejal is a stretch of rushing white water rapids and offers a fix to adrenaline junkies. However, the most famous park and one for the true adventurers is La Moskitia. This is a region completely unaware of the beaten track, a remote and undeveloped expanse to the northeast of the country. The Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve is one of the most impressive stretches of surviving tropical rainforest in the region with an assortment of monkeys, iguanas, jaguars and macaws thriving amongst the trees. It takes a lot of effort and good Spanish to get around so is best attempted with guides but the indigenous communities and opportunities to explore via kayak, raft and on foot will appeal to the explorers amongst us.
#10 It’s in a Great Location for Exploring More of Central America
Right smack bang in the middle actually! Go west, straight into the lush, rolling hills of Guatemala or head south for the pounding Pacific coasts of El Salvador. Venture north-ish for more beachy Caribbean culture in Belize or head to the east into Nicaragua, the land of lakes and volcanoes. From Honduras, Central America is most definitely your oyster!
So, strap on your adventure hat, start practising your Spanish (a basic phrasebook is an essential item) and think about adding Honduras to your 2015 destination list.