As the U.S. Dollar takes a pounding in some countries, Central Americans are still loving the greenbacks. Promoting these “third-world” destinations is daunting – but do-able. The advertising slogans concocted by many tourism boards sound forced and downright silly, but one that Honduras espouses in some of its materials is simple and rings true: “One small country, three big worlds.”
While the price of traveling through it may be a steal, in this small country you can do it all – from diving great reefs to exploring ancient history – in a nation that has roughly the same land area as Tennessee.
Reefs and Dive Bargains on the Bay Islands
If you are a scuba diver, you probably already know about Honduras. The Bay Islands are right on the second-longest coral reef in the world, the same one that stretches up along the coast of Belize and Mexico. Utila Island is one of the most inexpensive places in the world where you can earn an open water PADI scuba certification, with the five-day course coming in at under $200. Lodging there is just as reasonable, making it a magnet for divers on a budget.
Roatan is more upscale, but it’s still an unpretentious, laid-back island where a hotel’s room amenities almost always take a back seat to a the dive center and the bar. The positive side of this is that very few hotels are over $200 a night and at many of them, that includes a couple of dives and your meals. You’ll seldom pay more than $2 for a local beer in a bar and a fruity rum cocktail might set you back a buck or two more at a fancy place – umbrella and slice of pineapple are included.
All this value is not lost on traditional vacationers, so more families are drifting in to play on the beach and go snorkeling. Delta, Continental, and TACA have direct flights to Roatan from several U.S. gateways, mostly on the weekends, with plenty more options to two cities on the mainland.
Honduras does have a tremendous amount of protected public land. Hard-core adventurers spend a week or more in the Miskito region (of the famed Mosquito Coast book and movie), going into the jungle on the Rio Platano waterway. The best accessible national park, however, is Pico Bonito, near the city of La Ceiba. A direct flight to here from Roatan is only $60, or you can catch the comfortable 1.5-hour ferry over instead for just under half that amount.
Pico Bonito National Park draws plenty of birdwatchers, who get a combination show of migratory birds and tropical permanent residents. On a two-hour hike in the mountains of Pico Bonito, I spotted 18 different birds, including a mother White-crowned Parrot and her babies, two types of toucans, Pygmy Owls, Bat Falcons, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, and the iridescent blue Lovely Cotinga.
Many visit this region for more heart-pumping pursuits though, such as white-water rafting around boulders the size of a house on the Cangrejal River. This is one of the most thrilling and picturesque rafting trips you can take in Central America, yet many La Ceiba companies set up half-day trips for less than $50, transportation from your hotel included.
In the far western corner of the country, near the border with Guatemala, lies the ancient city of Copán. This was one of the greatest Maya kingdoms, rivaling cities to the north such as Tikal and Palenque. In 700 A.D. the city had a population of 27,000. Copán was the most artistically advanced by far, however, so while the ruins here won’t wow you with colossal high-rise pyramids, they are a treasure trove of astounding carvings and statues. One especially interesting feature is in the accompanying archeological museum: a replica of a temple that lies under a visible one discovered here intact. It is covered with stucco and painted bright reds, greens, and yellows, just as the original Maya temples were before centuries of weather and erosion took their toll.
Admission to the park about $15 and another $10 covers two museums, one here and one in town. An English-speaking guide for up to 9 people is $60 for several hours.
The adjoining town of Copán Ruinas is almost as big a draw as the ruins themselves. It’s attractive and walkable, with cobbled streets and red clay tile roofs branching out from the central square. A double room at the best hotel in the town center lists for $85 a night, and if you go for an all-out splurge at dinner, you’ll have a really hard time spending more than $30 each with drinks. If you end your trip here, you can move on to Guatemala overland or fly back to the U.S. from the city of San Pedro Sula.
If you think the outlook is all gloom and doom for the U.S. travel dollar, you’re probably not looking at the right destinations. Like many of the best bargains for Americans now, Honduras is only a quick flight south – with bargains galore and no jet lag.
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For those of you who prefer our native Spanish Language which is prevalent on the Honduran Mainland; we offer you Honduras en Español. On the Bay Islands of Honduras English is the prevailing language; however you will encounter Spanish speaking Hondurans during many of your activities at the various Honduras Hotels and Resorts and Honduran Restaurants. So this handy Guide to Honduras Slang to ease you in understanding the meaning of many Honduras sayings and can go a long ways during your travels in Honduras. Consider it your homework!
We also the Scuba Enthusiast our very own Honduras.com Scuba Instructor who maintains the Honduras Diving section of our site. The best Honduras Scuba Diving Guide you will find catering to the Advanced and Beginner Scuba Divers. Keep in touch with the Scuba Section so you know when the elusive Whale Shark Season is in full action so you can swim the biggest fish in the ocean.
An easy way to check what is going on in the areas you visit during your travels of our country is to check the Daily Honduras Newspapers for which we have provided you with this handy one stop Honduras Newspapers page to assist in maximizing your Holiday time in Honduras.
The Honduras.com Team.