The Cayman Islands have a lot to offer in terms of water activities, an extensive beach, fancy parties. But as a small island of only a 100 square miles, 70% of that being mangrove forests, there’s only so much adventuring one can do. That’s why many Caymanians and expats alike choose to seek out new experiences in neighboring lands. Over the near 8 years that I’ve lived in Cayman, I’ve spent many of my holidays traveling to all the countries and islands in the area: Cuba, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Mexico, Miami, the Florida Keys, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and of course Honduras. Of this list, I’ve been to each country only once from Cayman, with the exception of Honduras — I’ve recently returned for the third time. Here’s why:
1. EASY ACCESS – ONE HOUR FLIGHT FROM GEORGETOWN to LA CEIBA: Cayman Airways is by far my favorite airline to fly with, and they offer direct flights for reasonable rates. $300 USD round-trip on average, the airline runs even cheaper specials throughout the year. Travel agents in Cayman are able to answer any questions you may have, and they offer package deals for popular long-weekend getaways, such as Pico Bonito National Park’s Eco-lodges.
2. ALL THE THINGS TO SEE AND DO: From La Ceiba, you have a multitude of options as to where to go. What are you interested in? Honduras is a sprawling country of green complimented by turquoise Caribbean seas, there’s something to suit every adventurous heart. And no shortage of hammocks for those that just want some peace. Long weekends often see Caymanians enjoying the islands of Roatan, Utila, Gunanaja. Or trekking up to the mountains of Pico Bonito. On my first 2 week trip to Honduras, I ventured from La Ceiba to Santa Rosa, to Copan, over to Lago de Yojoa, down to Tela, and then over to Utila. I just wanted to see it all!
3. CONVENIENT TRANSPORTATION THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY: Getting around is simple, once you select which mode of transportation suits you best. Chartered flights, boats, hired cars, private and public buses, there’s plenty of ways to get around. Headman Alas provides the most comfortable transportation by bus. Chartered flights and boats can be organized online in advance. Smaller family run companies are now using Facebook and group sites to coordinate with clients. In 2012, I missed the 6am ferry from Utila. Helpful locals at the dock contacted their friend Selim, who kindly flew me to La Ceiba, last minute.
For direct flights to the islands Contact Selim at (504) 9984-9944
Or Angelo Lagonia from Island Air (504) 9558-8683
4. LAGO de YOJOA: WATERFALLS, CAVES, BREATH TAKING SCENERY: Lago de Yojoa is located on the highway that connects the two largest Honduran cities, Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula.The original plan when traveling through this lake area was to stay at the well known D&D Brewery, but as fate would have it, a late arrival introduced me to the Lago de Yojoa Marina. Off the beaten path, basic accommodations in a quiet lodge, directly on the lake! With an antique pool. A long scrap metal pier leads out to a gazebo on the water. Fish were jumping. Bats swooped overhead. The fresh caught fried fish served at several road side, lake-view restaurants was delicious. The Taulabe caves just down the road, although over simplified with a path running through the center, could be used for a wedding; Property owners have installed concrete benches in a cathedral like center room of the caves. The sun sets over the mountains on the west side of the lake. Magnificent! I did still stay at the brewery for 2 nights, nestled in the forest, a 5 minute walk to the lake. On my visit there was 5 fruit inspired craft beers on offer, greatly enjoyed by savvy travelers from around the globe, it is a must if in the area. The Pulhapanzak Falls, 15 minutes up the road are a real treat. Not only can you swim beneath them, a guide can take you behind them, into a cave that watches the raging waters crash down. Other attractions in the area include the Los Naranjos Ecological & Archaeology Park and the El Paraiso Coffee Plantation.
6. LOCAL SPECIALTIES, GREAT PRICES: 2 tacos and a Salva Vida beer (as pictured) = 60 Lempira,s or $3USD. Many restaurants serving seafood have large jars of pickled local vegetables on each table: onions, carrots, beets, spicy peppers… If you like some heat on your plate, you’ll want to size up a jar at home to make your own when you get back.
7. EATING LOCAL HAS NEVER BEEN EASIER: Honduras boasts an active farming community, making use of the tropical climate and rich soil. Family run farms produce mangoes, papaya, indian almonds, noni, coconuts, breadfruit, plum, sapote, bananas, passion fruit, pineapple, cocao, lychee, starfruit, avacados, watermelon, strawberries; the list goes on and on. You can start every day off with a fresh smoothie from a local stand, only 40 Lempiras, $2 usd.
8 !!! WHALE SHARK CAPITAL of the WORLD !!! Plus swim with wild dolphins, pilot whales, harmless nurse sharks: The island of Utila is world famous for it’s year round Whale Shark sightings. Snorkel with these delightful creatures for a guaranteed experience of a lifetime. I was looking out past a boil (frenzy of feeding fish) last month and thought I saw dolphins (again), but it turned out to be the very similar pilot whale. Honduras is a divers paradise, with the world’s second longest barrier reef protecting many of the small islands, the Mesoamerican reef .
9. COMMUNITY EVENTS: Festivals, parades, street parties, carnivals – be sure to check the events calendar so you don’t miss out on any of the many exciting community activities that take place throughout the year.
10. RIVERS for RAFTING, BOULDER JUMPING, RAPELLING: Below the tall canopies of Pico Bonito National Park, you can take the plunge to experience the thrills of rafting down the Cangrejal River, only a 20 minute drive from the La Ceiba airport. When they say “Adventure is out there”, pretty sure they were talking about this. I went for the rafting, but fell in love with jumping off of boulders into swirling pools created by the rapids, safely monitored by a certified guide from Omega Tours.
11. “PINK POM-POM” TREES, THINGS YOU MAY NEVER HAVE SEEN BEFORE: Seriously, have you ever seen one of these before? Fluffy fuschia pom-poms on a tree, that produces plums? This thing is straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. Just yesterday I saw a Atlantic Black Sea Hare for the first time. What a strange creature that is.
12. SAIL, KAYAK, CANOE, CRUISE: Be it a chartered sailing trip around the islands, a kayak through the mangrove canals, a speed boat to a private island; there’s a variety of destination ideas that will keep any boater busy hopping from caye to caye. Be sure to pack a snorkel!
13. PRIVATE ISLANDS for DAY or OVERNIGHT TRIPS: Yes you read that right. A 30 minute boat ride from Utila, I have had the pleasure of staying on the private island called Little Caye, featuring a large 70’s style cabin that could sleep up to 14 comfortably. Only $150 usd a night for up to 6 people ($25 each for additional people). You have the whole island to yourselves! I was able to snorkel around the entire island in an hour, saw an octopus in the process. It was pretty much the coolest thing ever. Spent a few other fabulous days on Water Caye: $10usd boat ride and $4 park entry fee, great place to see red starfish! Looking for “Solitude in Euphoria”? Check out the reefs of Cayos Cochinos, it’s now high on my must do list.
14. RELAX IN THE HOT SPRINGS: Whether you’re up in the hills of Pico Bonito, or down in the rolling green fields of Copan — how can you not treat yourself to a rejuvenating soak in the natural hot springs? I was skeptical about smearing mud on me, but watching others made it too tempting not to try! Think it really helped clear up my skin after many days on the road.
15. COLD DRINKS with a SENSE OF HUMOR: Brandy is considered a snack! Spicy Margarita’s are to die for. And the bill at the end won’t sober you up again. Throughout Honduras, you’ll find Beer is $1-2 usd on average. Mix drinks about $2 usd. Specialty cocktails made with seasonal ingredients $5 usd. Uno mas por favor!
16. HILLS, MOUNTAINS: ACTUAL HIKING TRAILS !!! This is a big deal, if you’re coming from a country that’s highest point is a garbage dump.
17. LOCALLY GROWN ORGANIC COFFEE FROM FAMILY FARMS: Mornings never tasted so good. Rich flavorful beans that rival any overpriced specialty coffees, fresh from the farm, a pound is only $5 – $10 usd.
18. GAMES YOU’VE NEVER PLAYED BEFORE: Throw a ring over the item you desire. Might be a can of coke, a child’s toy, a deck of cards, bottle of rum, a pack of smokes… Whatevs. Step right up and give it a go! For birthdays, the island tradition is to smash eggs on the special person’s head and cover them in flour. Easier than baking a cake! Good times, good times.
19. PERFECT SUNSETS & SUNRISES: Over the water or over a mountain, it never gets old.
20. RANDOM SIGHTINGS: Spotted in the La Ceiba airport in 2012, in town on business to promote tourism between Cayman and Honduras: McKeeva Bush. Former Premier of the Cayman Islands, and a big fan of Honduras! Who can blame him? Honduras has so much to offer!