HONDURAS TRAVEL GUIDE
Honduras – a land not frequented by the tourist for reasons of its tumultuous political upheavals and also the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 – is slowly limping back to normal. The lush rain-forests, the alpine ridges and charming little coastal towns all beckon the traveller to come and explore this land. Its rich cultural heritage found in the spectacular Mayan ruins of Copan are second only to Chichen Itza in Mexico.
Honduras is a Central American country with Caribbean Sea coastlines to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. In the tropical rain-forest near Guatemala, the ancient Mayan ceremonial site Copán has stone-carved hieroglyphics and stelae (tall stone monuments.) In the Caribbean Sea are the Bay Islands, a diving destination that's part of the 1,000 km-long Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.
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HONDURAS QUICK FACTS
- Capital: Tegucigalpa
- Currency: lempira (HNL)
- Area: 112,090km²
- Population: 9,588 million (2018)
- Language: Spanish, Creole English on the eastern coast, Amerindian dialects
- Religion:Roman Catholic 97%, Protestant minority
- Electricity: 110V, 60Hz (two-prong North American plug)
Hondurans are fairly easy-going, and it's unusual for them to be easily upset or annoyed by foreigners not knowing cultural norms.
It's polite to greet people in Spanish when you first see them each day: buenas días (in the morning), buenas tardes (after midday) or buenas noches (after dark). Men tend to shake hands when they meet. Women often embrace one another, but they tend to remain on nodding terms with men, unless they know them well.
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HONDURAS PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
- 14 April, Pan-American Day
- 1 May, Labor Day
- 15 September, Independence Day
- 3 October, Francisco Morazan Holiday
- 12 October, Día de la Raza
- 21 October, Army Day
Also, Semana Santa (Holy Week) from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, especially Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.
FESTIVALS IN HONDURAS
La Feria de San Isidro - (May) Honduras’ largest fiesta takes place in the streets and clubs of La Ceiba, culminating in late May with 250,000 people attending parades. Costumed dancers and revelers fill the city to bursting.
Sun Jam - (early August) This tech party, set on a tiny desert island off Utila, features electronic DJs of global repute.
BEST TIME TO VISIT HONDURAS
The climate in Honduras is hot and tropical in the coastal lowlands, with annual temperatures averaging 26°–29°C; it becomes more temperate in the highlands, where annual temperatures average 16°–24°C. Average annual precipitation is lowest in the central mountainous interior (800–2000 mm) and highest in the Caribbean coast (+2,000 mm), where rainfall is year-round.
The Pacific coast and interior highlands have a dry season (summer) from November to April and a wet season (winter) from May to October that experiences a short break (1–4 weeks) in July/August. The Bay Islands have a slightly different timetable from the mainland, with the rainy season running from July through January and the dry from February to July.
- October to February - Rainy season on the north coast and islands but dry in the interior.
- March to April - Hot and dry everywhere, with temperatures soaring inland.
- June to September - Peak season for viewing whale sharks in Utila.
HONDURAS WEATHER SYNOPSIS
The climate in Honduras is hot and tropical in the coastal lowlands, with annual temperatures averaging 26°–29°C; it becomes more temperate in the highlands, where annual temperatures average 16°–24°C. Average annual precipitation is lowest in the central mountainous interior (800–2000 mm) and highest in the Caribbean coast (+2,000 mm), where rainfall is year-round. The Pacific coast and interior highlands have a dry season (summer) from November–April and a wet season (winter) from May–October that experiences a short break (1–4 weeks) in July/August (the canícula). For the most part, El Niño events decrease rainfall and increase temperatures, while La Niña events decrease temperatures and increase rainfall.
HONDURAS TOURIST SEASONS
Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists.
Off Peak Season
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN HONDURAS
HIKING & CYCLING IN HONDURAS
The best time for outdoor activities in Honduras is during the dry season, from November to April. Don miss spotting a quetzal in the cloud forests around Lago de Yojoa or near the peak of Montaña de Santa Barbara.
BEACH OPTIONS IN HONDURAS
The beaches in Honduras are particularly beautiful from December to April when there is little to no rain, and the weather is just right. If you're visiting between May and November, you'll have better weather on the Bay Islands.
SURFING IN HONDURAS
KITESURF IN HONDURAS
There are a few great spots suitable for kitesurfing in Honduras: The beach at Roatan, the main kiting spot at Camp Bay Beach and Marble Hills Farm at Punta Gorda. The most consistent winds are from February to August. January and September could be quite good too, but with less wind.
For more details on kite surfing in Honduras expand this section!
HEALTH RISKS IN HONDURAS
Be aware of possible health risks in
Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.
Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.
Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.
HONDURAS TRAVEL COSTS
Honduras is almost two countries when it comes to cost of living – the mainland and the Bay Islands. Stating that the Bay Islands are 'expensive' is also somewhat relative when compared to the rest of the Caribbean. One should rather compare the Bay Islands to Barbados or St Barts than to the rest of Central America. The closest comparison the Bay Islands in terms of cost in the rest of Central America is probably Belize, and the Bay Islands are still cheaper. Barely.
That said, compared to mainland Belize, the Honduras Bay Islands are very expensive. Most visitors and expats reside in the Bay Islands and visits to the mainland offer a pleasant as to the difference. Island life in Honduras, like island life anywhere, comes at a price!
HONDURAS TRAVEL TIPS
Utila remains the biggest backpacker destination, beloved for cheap diving. Lago de Yojoa has a brewery, a great hostel and all manner of affordable activities.
The airport is 6.5km south of central Tegucigalpa and taxi from the centre of town costs around L120, though going into the city from the airport costs around L220 to L250. In Tegucigalpa it's best to avoid city buses (prone to ‘taxing’ by gangs) and most colectivos (shared taxis). At night, unless you're walking a short distance on busy streets, take taxis.
The Bay Islands are accessible from the mainland with a short flight from San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba, or Tegucigalpa, and also by boat from La Ceiba and other points along the coast. On the Bay Islands, the roads are good, and it’s safe to drive around. There are also plenty of bus and taxi options, all safe and easy to use.
On the mainland, self driving is an option but some roads can be in in horrible condition - even main roads like the Pan=American - drive with extreme caution. Luckily the the bus system on Honduras mainland is cheap and easy to make use of. From the main hub cities, you can get anywhere. Buses are either “economy” or “first class” in Honduras, and it’s recommended, for safety reasons, that foreign visitors always use first class.
In the cities, taxies are readily available. Fares are negotiated before setting off. It’s advisable to always get the driver’s name and plate number in advance as well and to ensure that he does not pick up others en route. Uber is being rolled out and as it currently stands you can make use of an UberX in Tegucigalpa.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF HONDURAS
- Marvel at the intricate stone carvings and epic ancient structures of the Copán ruins, which trace back to an extraordinary Maya empire.
- Cruise down the spectacular Río Cangrejal on a raft and take in some of Central America's best white water.
- Discover the forgotten Caribbean town of Trujillo, with its lovely beaches, quirky history and charming locals.
- Search for a quetzal in the cloud forests that rise above the stunningly undisturbed natural world around Lago de Yojoa.
- Snorkel wrecks and reefs then explore the remote far east of the fascinating island of Roatán.
- Go into the wild on an upriver adventure into Central America’s last untamed wilderness, the Moskitia.
- Immerse yourself in the diver’s paradise of Utila, with affordable prices, great parties and dramatic reefs all around.
If you enter Honduras via the El Florido border, you'll hit a key attraction immediately: the stunning ruins of Copán. Budget at least a couple of days in the area taking in the temples and surrounding sights before making a short hop west to the atmospheric highland town of Gracias with its hot spring and Lencan villages. Then it's a long day on the road to the coastal city of La Ceiba. Set sail from here for either Roatán or Utila and indulge in some serious beach and reef time, snorkelling or diving.
Back on the mainland, head out on a rafting trip down the exquisite Río Cangrejal - from there it's south to Lago de Yojoa for an artisan brew or two, hiking and boat trips. Finish your trip off with a night in either colonial, tranquil Comayagua or the bustling capital of Tegucigalpa.
TEGUCIGALPA & SURROUNDS
Ringed by forested hills in a highland valley, sprawling Tegucigalpa enjoys a relatively fresh, mild climate and a spectacular setting. It's a bustling and dynamic place, but one that many travellers minimize their time in or skip over entirely. This is a shame, as while Tegus (as all locals call it) is no beauty – streets are choked with traffic and its resultant pollution, along with high crime statistics – it's still a fascinating place, with some good museums, restaurants and the air of a place on the up. Downtown Tegus is the neglected heart of the nation, a cluster of once elegant but now faded streets where ropa americana (used clothing) outlets have replaced department stores. For a feel of the city, stroll the pedestrianized Calle Peatonal, visit a couple of the city's decent museums and grab a snack at the market. The countryside outside of Tegucigalpa is also worth checking out if you like pine forests and tranquillity. Don’t miss La Tigra National Park - one of Honduras' most impressive national parks. Santa Lucía, a charming old colonial mining town with a spectacular vista over the capital is 14km to the east and makes for a perfect daytrip. There’s a striking 18th-century iglesia (church) and historic streets to explore.
WESTERN HONDURAS & SAN PEDRO SULA
The heartland of Honduras, this mountainous, forested region encompasses some of the nation's most outstanding sights. The top attraction is easily the excellent Maya ruins of Copán, closely followed by the colonial charm of towns such as Copán Ruinas and Gracias. Hikers will love the spectacular trails inside the Montaña de Celaque cloud forest, while there's dazzling birdlife and wonderful scenery around idyllic Lago de Yojoa, which has in the past few years established itself as a major stop on the Central American backpacker trail.
If Tegucigalpa is the cultural heart of Honduras, then San Pedro Sula is the commercial heart. It’s big and modern and sprawling, but here is where you come to get things done. The former capital of Comayagua is also within easy reach, a colonial jewel that not many people know about.
More location information and points of interest are available in the above map
The lush, tropical northern region of Honduras has seduced visitors for centuries with its natural wonders and easy Caribbean vibe. Between the beaches are mangrove swamps and jungle reserves that scream out to be explored. Rafting the white waters of the Río Cangrejal is the big-ticket experience, but there's also fine hiking in Parque Nacional Pico Bonito and the unique flavour and rhythms of the coast's Garifuna villages. Finally, isolated Trujillo, the last stop before the Moskitia, is a charming slice of the old Caribbean, with some wonderful beaches nearby and superb mountain scenery behind it.
Despite all the region has to offer, many visitors simply travel through en-route to the Bay Islands or Belize, and see nothing more than the drab charms of Puerto Cortés, Tela or La Ceiba. More than anywhere else, northern Honduras is a place where you should avoid the towns and make a beeline for the countryside.
THE BAY ISLANDS
Spectacular diving and snorkelling draw visitors from around the world to the three Bay Islands (Islas de la Bahía) – Roatán, Utila and Guanaja – located between 25km and 50km off the north coast of Honduras. Their reefs are part of the second-largest barrier reef in the world, and teem with fish, coral, sponges, rays, sea turtles and even whale sharks. Life on the Bay Islands has more in common with Belize and Jamaica than with mainland Honduras.
Diving the Bay Islands is very affordable, but lodging and food on the islands are more expensive than on the mainland Honduras. Utila is the most affordable island (and very popular with backpackers), while Roatán has better beaches and a beautiful forested interior. Diving is also good on Guanaja, though prices there are prohibitive for most travellers.
The rainy season here runs roughly from October or November to February. March and August are the hottest months; at other times sea breezes temper the heat somewhat.
That vast part of Honduras you see on maps with very few roads, is one of the region's last frontiers of untamed wilderness. Huge expanses are virtually untouched jungle, and when combined with wetland and savanna habitats it's no wonder Moskitia is often dubbed Central America's Amazon. Manatees, tapirs and jaguars all still thrive here – they have learned to be circumspect around humans, and are not easy to spot. Crocodiles can be seen in the waters, while the birdlife, including macaws and fish eagles, is outstanding.
Not many people get out that far east and there’s a reason for that. The regions of Olancho and Gracias a Dios are virtually lawless with drug running and illegal logging part of daily life for most. You really don’t want to stick your nose in where it’s not wanted. But for the truly adventurous, this is a part of Honduras that is unmissable. Mountains, jungles, wide rivers, and rustic towns. A visit to this region is not for the faint-hearted – access is tricky and conditions on the ground rustic at best, making visiting as part of a tour the safest and easiest approach. Expect to up your normal budget considerably if you come here, and be sure to bring cash with you: there are no ATMs in this part of the country.
SOUTHERN HONDURAS & ISLA DEL TIGRE
Honduras touches the Pacific with a 124km coastline on the Golfo de Fonseca. This perpetually and often infernally hot coastal plain is dominated by agribusinesses: sugarcane, African Palm plantations and shrimp farms. While it's a much-travelled region (the Interamericana crosses through Honduras here), there's little of interest to travellers – except perhaps Isla del Tigre, which has some charm. But those who hang around get a treat. The city of Choluteca has its colonial charms, and the Pacific coast at the Gulf of Fonseca is stunning.
Isla el Tigre sits in the Gulf, in view of both Nicaragua and El Salvador. It’s a perfect desert island spot to lie in the sun on and decompress. It's a dramatic place covered in thick forest and with some decent beaches that attract droves of locals but very few foreigners. Its main town is Amapala, a scruffy fishing village with picturesque, crumbling clapboard architecture. Black-sand Playa Negra, in the north of the island, is arguably the island's best beach, though there are several other totally undeveloped stretches elsewhere here.
WHAT TO EAT IN HONDURAS
WHERE TO EAT
To keep costs down head to comedores (simple eateries) where a two- or three-course meal is virtually certain to be a bargain. Buy snacks from panaderías (bakeries) and markets. Cafes and restaurants in tourist towns have plenty of international dishes on their menus, including vegetarian choices.
WHAT TO EAT AND DRINK
Be sure to try Honduras' national dish, the baleada (a tortilla stuffed with myriad fillings, usually including refried beans and salad) available from street vendors, and also from national chain Baleadas Express. You'll find great grilled meats in the country's interior, including lots of pinchos (kebabs). On the coast seafood is superb: tapado is a legendary Garifuna fish soup prepared with coconut and spices; in the Bay Islands is a similar dish called bando. Fresh juices
LGBTQ IN HONDURAS
Honduras is a rather contradictory place for gay people. While on the one hand same-sex marriage and adoption are both banned in the constitution, it is also illegal to discriminate against people on the grounds of their sexuality. Gay people are visible in society here, though open displays of affection between gay or lesbian couples are unusual, and even risky in some situations. Despite that, there are small yet active gay and lesbian communities in all major cities, though most socializing takes place online.
WHERE TO STAY IN HONDURAS
Hotels vary wildly in Honduras depending where you are. In most towns you can get a decent, functional clean room with a bathroom and a fan for around L300 to L500. In the big cities it's very important to choose a hotel in a relatively secure neighbourhood, and these places tend to cost more, as do accommodations in the Bay Islands.
You'll find hostels with dorm beds where travellers gather, including Tegucigalpa, Copán Ruinas, Utila, Roatán, La Ceiba and San Pedro Sula. Costs vary considerably for dorms, from L200to L400 a bed.
In Tegucigalpa, the downtown area is generally quite safe during the day, although you should be on your guard at all times and always take taxis at night. Comayagüela is a much dodgier part of town: wandering around here, day or night, is not recommended. Some bus lines have terminals here, but otherwise there's no reason to visit. Colonia Palmira is a safer and pricier neighbourhood, but safety can always be an issue – taxis are the best option to get around after dark.
At Lago de Yojoa, nearly all visitors to this area stay at D&D Brewery, though there are several alternatives in and around the small town of Peña Blanca.
If you stay over in San Pedro Sula you will find aging budget hotels mostly in the downtown area south of Parque Central, an area that is dodgy after dark. Hostels and guesthouses tend to be in the more suburban areas of the city, and some way from downtown. Keep in mind that hot water is not that common in many budget places.
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