Rich in biodiversity and culture, Honduras is another of Central America’s gems. It is also the second largest country in Central America, so you can expect a great range of landscapes on your trip.
From turquoise beaches to untouched rainforest, Honduras is a nature lover’s haven. It also has a fascinating culture that is multilingual and multiethnic. The country isn’t a popular tourist destination, but if you want to explore destinations off the usual tourist trail, then Honduras is exactly what you’re looking for.
The most popular travel destinations in Honduras are the islands that surround the mainland, the Bay Islands. There’s incredible snorkelling and diving opportunities are abundant here thanks to the world’s second largest barrier reef which stretches along the coast and further north to Mexico. But tropical beaches and snorkelling aren’t for everyone. If you want to discover the history, culture, and mountainous landscapes of Honduras then stay on the mainland instead.
Diverse and unique, here are just some of the things you can get up to in Honduras.
Diving in Roatan
Why not hop over to the island of Roatan, the biggest of the Bay Islands? It’s far from being off the beaten track nowadays, and many tourists come here throughout the year to enjoy the white sand beaches, glistening ocean, and lush green mountains that run through the centre of Roatan.
That said, the main reason people come to Roatan is the incredible coral reefs that surround the island and fringe its shores. The minute you submerge your head underwater and see all the brightly colored exotic fish and eye catching corals of all shapes and sizes you’ll know you made the right choice.
Diving isn’t just for the experts either! If you’ve never done it before don’t feel shy to give it a go. You’ll likely feel a bit silly as you waddle in your flippers and catch a glimpse of yourself in goggles, but the ridiculous gear just adds a little humour to the experience.
These ancient Mayan ruins were occupied for more than two thousand years, though most of what we see today was built between 400 and 800 AD. Copan is the most studied of the abandoned Mayan cities in the world.
As you wander around you can feel the site’s past coming to life, and imagine the traditional ways of life the communities that lived here followed; their deep sense of connection to the Earth and the Gods is evident in the relics they left behind.
There’s lots of different elements to explore at Copan, but some of the most notable are the Hieroglyphic Stairway (a temple where the longest known Mayan text is held!) and the old ball court. The ball game pitz was a fundamental part of the political, social, and religious lives of the Mayan people. The objective of the game was to get the hard rubber ball through stone hoops built on the walls around the edge of the court, without using their hands. Players mostly relied on their hips and waist to keep the ball in the air, and the games were so important they were even used to settle disputes.
After visiting the ball court, head to the immense plaza and wander through the stelae and altars that were built here around 711 and 736. Finally, don’t miss the Acropolis. This ancient temple was found to be the resting place of members of the royal dynasty, most astonishingly the founder of the Copan dynasty, K’inich Yax K’uk’ Mo.
Museum of Mayan Sculpture
The dazzling Museum of Mayan Sculpture is at the Copan Ruins Archeological Site, so you can tie it in with your visit to Copan. It houses an array of ancient sculptures, as well as altars and stelae that were recovered from the site during archaeological excavations.
Personally, I’m a big fan of sculptures, as they often represent civilization in a range of forms, from scenes that depict the most ordinary tasks and life-like figures, to deities that mix the characteristics of numerous animals and represent the most sacred figures in Mayan culture. The Mayans also believed that many of the animals in their surroundings were sacred beings, so expect to see carvings and sculptures of macaws and bats dotted around the museum.
With more than 3,000 original pieces, there’s plenty to keep you busy. Bear in mind it’s worth going to the museum after you’ve been to the ruined city of Copan itself, that way when you read the placards you’ll have a sense of where it was that the sculptures were unearthed.
Hike in La Tigra National Park
There’s nothing like a day submerged in nature to get you in a holiday mood. This high altitude nature reserve is perched some 2,300 metres high in the mountains. The bird watching here is unreal, and with over 200 species known to dance within the park’s borders there’s plenty to keep you looking up between the tree branches. Some of the most famous birds within the park are toucans, quetzals, and trogons.
The park is also home to cheeky monkeys that bounce amongst the trees, elusive ocelots, and wild pumas. Sadly, much of the cloud forest that once covered the country has been spoiled and devastated by logging, which makes La Tigra National Park even more special.
There are also some epic hiking trails at La Tigra National Park, so make sure you pack your hiking boots for your time in Honduras!
Spend the Day Reminiscing at Lake Yojoa
Lake Yojoa is the country’s largest natural lake. It’s situated between Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. You can get there with a tour from either of these cities or you can take a bus there, though it’s a little out of the way (some three hours away from San Pedro Sula and around four from Tegucigalpa).
Another alternative is to stay in one of the small towns around the lake, like Peña Blanca or Santa Cruz de Yojoa — they have lots of cute wooden cabin style accommodations!
The lake is immense and serene. You can enjoy it by walking along the shore or head out onto the water on a kayak or canoe and fully submerge yourself in the glistening waters. As there are two national parks that border the lake, Santa Barbara National Park and Cerro Azul Meambar National Park, with stunning mountain views in the distance.
Pico Bonito National Park
This lush national park is a must-visit for keen hikers and nature lovers. Not far from the coastal city of La Ceiba in the north, it has become an iconic attraction in Honduras. The summit of the park’s tallest peak, Pico Bonito (which translates to Pretty Peak from Spanish), stands at 2,489 metres and can even be seen from the Bay Islands!
Dense canopy opens up amongst the forest, revealing gushing falls like Bejuco Falls that drop down the sheer rock cliffs. Whilst many of the waterfalls are hidden deep in the rainforest, a handful of them can be seen from the road, so if you’re not up to hiking or being eaten alive by mosquitos you can visit those!
A popular hike through Pico Bonito National Park is the La Roca loop, which takes about an hour and is pretty straightforward. Along the way, you walk over a swinging bridge that is suspended over the Cangrejal River, just to add some adrenaline to the walk!
Take a Food Tour
Like most countries in Central and South America, Honduras has great street food! Lots of their dishes involve a few key ingredients, namely tortillas, refried beans, and fried plantain. As you wander around the cities, stop at different stalls in the plazas and fill up on a cheap lunch or snack.
There are some unusual dishes in Honduras that you just have to try too, like their “sopa de caracol” which translates to snail soup! It’s most common in the coastal areas of the country, and the main ingredient (snail) is mixed in with an assortment of vegetables (like cassava and plantain) and simmered.
Other must-try dishes include tapado olanchano (stew with dried beef), mondongo soup (tripe soup), and ayote with honey (a pumpkin squash dessert that you can only get your hands on around Easter time and during the summer).
If you’re not sure where to start and what’s worth trying, why not go on a food tour with other travellers and a local who can take you straight to the best dishes in town?
Sip on the Local Drinks
The national drink of Honduras is pinol, a delicious corn based delicacy that is blended with cocoa, spices like cinnamon, and agave syrup or honey. The name comes from the Nahuatl word pinolli, which translates to cornmeal. It’s thick, warm, and delicious.
Enjoy their refreshing “agua frescas”. Yes, agua does mean water in Spanish, but in Latin America it often refers to a refreshing blend of fruit, water, and a little sugar. You can ask for the “agua del dia”, which means “water of the day” and will be a different flavour depending on what fruit they have that day. Aguas are the perfect remedy for a hot day.
Another drink you have to try before ending your trip is horchata. Some people love it, whilst others aren’t so sure about it. Whether you decide you love it or hate it, it’s an iconic drink enjoyed across most Latin American countries that you can’t miss.
Horchata was brought over by Spanish colonists and was usually made from rice. However, in Honduras they do it a little differently. They often make it from a mix of either almonds, cashews, sesame seeds, and morro or jicaro which is blended with milk and sugar.
Try out Windsurfing
Windsurfing looks so cool from the shore, that I figured I had to try it out. It’s a little tricky at the start — be prepared to get thrown around a bit and fall into the water — but once you get the hang of it and you’re gliding over the water at full speed, with the wind blowing your hair back, you get swept over by a sense of profound freedom.
There are a few different spots where you can windsurf in Honduras. The island of Roatan is definitely one of the better known destinations, and Utila Island (the smallest of Honduras Bay Islands) is a majestic place to spend the day windsurfing. If you’re planning on staying on the mainland then Trujillo and Lake Yojoa are great options too.
Spend the Morning at a Local Market
Outdoor markets are something you’ll encounter across Honduras. They’re a totally epic experience that will overwhelm all of your senses at once and give you a proper look into the local culture.
Plus, they’re the best place to find all the cheapest and often most authentic souvenirs from across the country and even different products shipped in from Guatemala. The markets in Honduras are loud, chaotic, fascinating, and very crowded.
If you’re in small towns you’ll find even they have a local market a few days a week or a market area with stalls and little shops. In the bigger cities, they’re a hub for locals and tourists, though I suggest you visit some of the less touristy ones to get a more authentic experience of Honduras’ market culture.
Some of the most famous and iconic markets in Honduras are the Mercado San Isidro in Tegucigalpa, which is the largest in the country, and La Ceiba, which is also in the capital along Calle Avenida 14 de Julio.
Lounge on La Playa for the Day
Every holiday needs a lazy beach day (or two!). Luckily, Honduras has 470 miles worth of coast (counting the offshore islands). The paradise-like Caribbean islands off the shore of mainland Honduras are spoiled by glistening waters and white sand beaches that look like they’ve been plucked out of brochures, whilst back on the mainland there are miles of rustic and tropical beaches.
The West Bay beach on Roatan Island is definitely worth a mention, it’s quintessentially Caribbean (although that unfortunately makes it quite touristic) and it has calm waters and spectacular sunsets. I loved most of the beaches on Utila Island, but Water Cay captured me the most. Bring your book and spend the day here relaxing under the shade of a palm tree before going snorkelling amongst the bright corals. Utila is also known as the shark capital of the Caribbean, but don’t worry — luckily they’re mostly just friendly whale sharks.
Back on land I’d recommend an escape to Omoa, which has beaches to die for and was an important port during colonial times so it has a fascinating history too. Though less brochure-like, I felt right at home in Sambo Creek, a scruffy little fishing village with a tropical forest as a backdrop.
Go to a Temazcal
Temazcals have been practised by indigenous communities for only the God’s know how long. They’re thought to have originated as a Mayan ritual and are best described as a sacred steam bath. They’re essentially a sauna with a spiritual twist.
To begin you’ll step into a clay dome that has a space in the middle which is filled with hot coals. You’ll then pour water on the hot coals, producing clouds of hot steam that are sure to get you breaking into a sweat. If you do it with someone who knows how to lead a temezcal, the steam will be accompanied by chants and moments where you give gratitude, connect to the higher powers, and honour the old ways.
They’re great for the mind, body, and spirit! Temezcals are a really beautiful ritual that are evidence of how traditions can be carried throughout the ages, changing and transforming, but keeping their essence. It can feel a little strange being sat on a cold mud floor in your bikini with chants seeping through the door, but let yourself go a bit and get into it — it really can be such a magical and touching experience.
Try the Local Alcohol
We’ve had a look at some of the most popular drinks across Honduras, but we haven’t talked about the best tipples! Whether you’re planning on having a drink or two and then heading home, or staying up till the sun rises, it’s always good to know what you’re drinking!
Honduras has a few different beer brands that you’ll find at most bars, most notably there are four lager-style brands that people drink; Barena, Imperial, Port Royal, and Salva Vida (which actually translates to life saver!).
If you’re less interested in the popular choices and more concerned with finding intricate craft beers, there are a few breweries you can visit. Alquimia Cervecera and Cerveceria La 20 are worth a visit if you’re in San Pedro Sula, whilst the Casa de Puros and Honduras Brewing Company were my favourites in the capital.
Not a beer fan? Don’t worry, Honduras’ alcohol repertoire goes beyond lagers. One drink that caught my attention is chicha, as it has alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions. It’s usually made from purple corn and served warm, it’s particularly popular around Christmas and Easter time. In Honduras you get a variant made with corn and pineapple, called chicha de piña.
If it’s a glass of wine you’re looking for, get your hands on the notorious coyol wine that is made throughout Central America. Curiously, it’s made by fermenting the sap of the coyol tree in the sun for around a week. It’s known to give people pretty nasty hangovers so be careful!
There’s one more drink you absolutely have to try — guifiti liquor. It originates from the Caribbean Garifuna descendants that were brought to Roatan in the 1700s. It’s a complex blend of up to forty different herbs and spices that usually has tons of chamomile, anise, and cloves. According to the locals it is medicinal, so you can enjoy a guilty-free tipple!
Go on a Walking Tour of the City
Whilst I’m usually a fan of exploring independently, I’ve found that walking tours are a great way to get to know the main areas of a capital city. They set you up with all the basic facts and highlight the sights of interest, which can save you hours of doing online research. Plus, they’re a great way to meet other travellers who you can go exploring with after.
Tegucigalpa, Honduras’ charming capital, has a few neighbourhoods worth spending some time in. The first is the Colonial Center, or downtown, which is admittedly pretty chaotic and dirty. It’s not one of the fancy areas of the city to say the least, but it has an authentic and local feel that I loved. If you can look past the chaos, you’ll find there are intriguing museums and churches around the Parque Morazan worth visiting.
A bit further east of downtown there’s the fancier neighbourhoods, Colonia Palmira and Colonia San Carlos, where the richer residents of the capital live. The area is dotted with hip nightclubs, luxury hotels, cute boutique shops, and restaurants that serve up exquisite dishes. I recommend exploring along Boulevard Morazan.
Comayaguela isn’t a safe neighbourhood to explore alone, nor is there much reason to. But there is one thing that brings people to this side of town, the famous San Isidro Market that stretches out along the streets surrounding Comayaguela. As long as you don’t go at night and you’re a little alert, you shouldn’t have any problems. The market is spectacular and well worth a visit if you’re a culture geek.
There’s also the Southern Districts and Boulevard Juan Pablo II, but they’re very lacking in Honduran character and best described as the fancy business areas of town, not my cup of tea.
To get a sneak peak of the different neighbourhoods and all the best facts, find a walking tour in the city centre and go exploring!
Stay at a Luxury Hotel for a Night
Most of the time when I travel I do my best to save money whenever I can (that way I can travel for longer!). But every once in a while, splashing out on a luxurious hotel can be so rewarding. The lack of people snoring in the dorm around you, the soft sheets, the fantastic views from your bedroom window, and the occasional massage at their on-site spa are sometimes too tempting to resist.
There are luxury hotels dotted around Honduras and the little off-shore islands that surround it. The Grand Roatan Caribbean Resort had a stunning setting on the soft white sand of a tropical beach, whilst my night at the Ibagari Hotel was intimate, romantic, and secluded. There are plenty more I haven’t tried out, like the well reviewed Xbalanque Resort and the Lodge and Spa at Pico Bonito. After weeks of budget travelling, you deserve it!
Visit a Coffee Region
Honduras has become increasingly famous for its rich and flavourful arabica coffee. The country’s coffee regions are full of local culture, stunning landscapes dotted with coffee plantations, and age-old coffee roasting traditions that have been used throughout generations.
There are a few different coffee regions across the country, namely Agalta, Comayagua, Copan, El Paraiso, Montecillos, and Opalaca. You probably won’t have time to visit them all, so let me help you make a decision.
Copan is in the west and it’s known for its sweet and lightly chocolatey coffee, it’s arguably the most famous coffee region in the country. Opalaca is to the east of Copan and it produces fruity and slightly acidic coffee blends. Montecillos stands out because of its high altitude plantations and weather that are the perfect combination when it comes to producing sweet coffee that goes down nicely with a biscuit on a cold morning.
Next, let’s head to El Paraiso in southern Honduras where the temperatures are warmer and there are lesser known coffee blends that have all sorts of subtle aromas. The Oscar Ramirez Valerio’s Parainema blend produced here won the Cup of Excellence and was even described as having aromas of white wine!
Agalta is in the southeast and it has a lush tropical climate, their coffee is said to be chocolate like and sweet. Finally, Comayagua in central Honduras is the place to go if you want to get your hands on a fruity mountain blend.
Take on an Extreme Hike in Honduras
Honduras is extremely mountainous, although it doesn’t have any active volcanoes. For avid explorers, the highest peaks in Honduras offer a rewarding challenge. The peaks of the tallest mountains in Honduras that you can climb are the Cerro de las Minas (also known as Celaque) in Western Honduras, and the Santa Barbara in Central Honduras.
The tops of these mountains are covered in dense cloud forest that are often covered in fog and thick vegetation, a unique landscape few have the opportunity to explore. The tallest peak in the country, Cerro de las Minas, stands 2,870 metres above sea level and sits in the National Park and Biosphere Reserve.
It’s not a single day hike, so if you don’t have time to go to the top you can also head on a hiking tour through the national park instead! If you’re going to take on getting to the summit, you’ll need to spend a night at a campsite the night before you make the last push and climb to the summit.
The Santa Barbara peak is in the Santa Barbara National Park. The area is a coffee growing region to the north of Lake Yojoa. The summit stands at 2,777 metres above sea level. Hikers set out from the City of Santa Barbara, and it’s an easier summit than Cerro de las Minas as you can get pretty close to the top by car.
Take a Day Trip to Suyapa
Suyapa is a small city to the east of the capital that has slowly been absorbed by the expanding metropolis. There’s one thing in particular that brings people here, the Santuario Nacional and Basilica de Suyapa.
This old temple in Honduras is considered the holiest of all the Catholic shrines across the country. There are two different buildings that make up the Shrine of Our Lady of Suyapa, the modern Basilica and the much more quaint church that was originally built on the site. If you head to the Ermita de Suyapa you’ll find the tiny wooden sculpture of this revered saint.
Many pilgrims have travelled by foot to the shrine, asking that the saint bless them or their family. The most known of all the pilgrims to visit the shrine is Pope John Paul II. He came during his visit to Honduras, and there’s a statue of him to commemorate the event.
The Lady of Suyapa is the patron saint of Honduras. The story began when two farmers sleeping out in the cold came across a little statue that appeared under their makeshift bed. They took the statue home and gave it to their mother, who made a little altar. With time, people came and prayed at the altar, and many believed the little wooden sculpture blessed them with incredible miracles.
Sometime in the 1770s an army captain, who promised to build the saint a chapel if she cured him of his pain, did just that. The day after visiting the statue his pain miraculously disappeared, so he set out to build the chapel, which held its first service in 1777 and was the original chapel at the Shrine of Our Lady Suyapa.
Visit the Mosquito Coast
Nicknamed the “Little Amazon” of central America, the Mosquito Coast stretches across Nicaragua and Honduras. Don’t be put off by the name of the region either, there’s no more mosquitos than you’d expect in any tropical rainforest landscape. The land is home to the Miskito Indians, which is in fact where it gets its name from!
There are various national parks you can venture into along the Mosquito Coast, like the renowned Rio Platano Biosphere reserve, the Patuca National Park, the Tawahka Anthropological Reserve, and parts of the Sierra de Agalta National Park.
It’s logistically a bit complicated to explore this area of the country, so I’d recommend saving yourself time and energy – book a trip with La Moskitia Ecoaventuras. The tour company is owned and run by locals who know the land and understand the local culture and languages.
Whether you want to go hiking through thick jungle canopy, raft down rapid rivers, climb up the tallest mountains, or explore cultures that resisted the Spanish reign, the Mosquito Coast will quench your curiosity and sense of adventure.