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Honduras – The Hidden Gem of Central America

Paradise islands, beautiful beaches, lush forests, diverse and unique flora and fauna, and important Mayan sites – Honduras has it all! It’s the most underestimated country in Central America, I find. It has so much more to offer than just the famous Bay Islands ‘Utila’ and ‘Roatan’. This blog post is an ode to a country that amazed us grandly, yet unexpectedly, with stunning natural and cultural sites! Keep reading if you want to know more about Honduras’ highlights and which places impressed us the most! And check out our Video for more images of this gem!

Natural Highlights wherever you look
There are so many beautiful things to see in Honduras!!

Before I started my trip in 2011, travelling to places like India or South America made me nervous. I didn’t know better back then. Most of the info I heard about these places was crime-related and people would always tell me to be careful when they heard I was about to go there alone. Thanks to my curiosity, I visited them anyway. Today, I know that most news is extremely blown up and can have a crucial impact on a country’s reputation. A good example is Honduras: we heard so many bad things about this country that we actually hesitated for a moment…we briefly talked going straight from Guatemala to Nicaragua or even all the way down to Costa Rica, the seemingly safer nearby options.

The tourists' fear of being in danger seems to be the biggest enemy of the tourism in Honduras.
Watch out, there are crocodiles in Honduras! 😉

Why you should visit Honduras

The first remarkable stop when coming from Guatemala is right after the border of Honduras. Make sure to read all our posts about our stay in Copan and our day exploring the impressive Mayan Ruins. From Copan, we went by bus to San Pedro Sula (3hrs, for 140 Lempiras/around 6 USD ). This city appears to be the country’s capital, which is actually the unpronounceable city ‘Tegucigalpa’. In general, I am not a big fan of cities, and since this post focuses on points of interest that are, in my opinion, better than average, I will keep it short: if you stop in San Pedro Sula, make sure you stay in ‘La Hamaca’. This is a centrally located hostel that has an amazing staff, a great vibe, loads of arts and paintings on the wall, and very decent rooms!

'La Hamaca': great hostel in San Pedro Sula
Cool and funky: ‘La Hamaca’ Hostel in San Pedro Sula

Be sure to move on quickly to the more interesting areas of Honduras. Let’s have a look at La Ceiba, the first large stop after San Pedro Sula and a stop-over to get to the Bay Islands. La Ceiba is the third important city of Honduras and is also a great starting point for exploring the destination ‘Atlantida’ which means ‘Atlantis’ in English. This Honduran state has chosen its name wisely. Exploring this area is like hunting down countless hidden treasures. I have been to many impressive places around the world, but in ‘Atlantida’, I’ve seen some of the most virgin nature spots of all.

Beautiful Honduras

La Ceiba and its surrounding area

Most travellers use the city ‘La Ceiba’ to break up their trip to or from the Bay Islands Utila and Roatan. Few tourists stay longer in La Ceiba than one or two nights. The city’s reputation causes most people to skip the nearby national parks and outdoor activities, which is their great loss! We gave it a closer look and were amazed by fantastic hiking trails through the jungle with waterfalls. We spent a gorgeous day Wild Water Rafting on the Cangrejal River.


To read more about La Ceiba and it’s surrounding area, check out our blog post about ‘What to do in Honduras’ Pico Bonito National Park’.


Pico Bonito National Park
Beautiful waterfall in Pico Bonito National Park in Atlantida

When in La Ceiba make sure to walk around the city centre and take a stroll along the old train rails. There you will find countless food stalls that are open 24/7 and offer, amongst other yummy things, one of the most typical dish in Honduras: “La Baleada”. It is a tortilla folded in half to hold a bean paste, shredded cheese and your choice of scrambled eggs, avocado, chicken or simply with the bean paste only. You can add onions, red cabbage or spicy sauces.

Baleadas and fruits of Honduras
Traditional plate: two ‘Baleadas’, two lychees and a Mangosteen, the Honduran super fruit due to its richness in vitamin C, zinc and antioxidants.

The food stalls were one of our favourite lunch places. We enjoyed the fact that they were close to the hostel where we stayed in La Ceiba, which we highly recommend: When you stay in the city, a vibrant place to stay is the ‘Hostel 1877‘! Such a great, modern and eco-friendly place with new facilities and big love for details made us feel absolutely welcomed in La Ceiba. Built in 2015, the hostel is run by two very helpful and super friendly Honduran owners who will make your stay in La Ceiba pleasant and memorable.

La Ceiba has one great hostel to stay at: 1877 Hostel
1877 Hostel is your best choice when in La Ceiba

Things to do in Atlantida

  • Have lunch in the Garifuna Community in Corozal

When you leave La Ceiba and start to explore the surrounding area, you cannot miss the little Garifuna community in Corozal, which is about a 20-minute drive east of La Ceiba. There you will find traditional food of the Garifuna, the mixed-race descendants of West African, Central African, Island Carib, and Arawak people. Living off the ocean, most of their dishes include fish and seafood. We had lunch in one of the restaurants called ‘Chamorros‘.

Lunch in Corozal in one of the traditional Garifuna restaurants
Great food and great company!

We tried several dishes that are typically cooked with loads of garlic and include variations of bananas. The main dish was a heavenly mixture of shrimp, sea snails, lobster and fish. Fried bananas and little balls made out of banana to dip in garlic sauce come as a side dishes. To round it out, we tried the traditional ‘Guifiti’, which is a high-percentage digestive made from roots, spices and schnapps. It is also known for its medicinal benefits…

restaurant garifuna - 5

restaurant garifuna - 7

Garifuna Restaurant
Small banana balls as a side…
Mixed fish platter in Garifuna style
‘Mariscada’ is a mixed seafood platter with loads of garlic…yummy!!!
  • Visit the second largest Botanical Garden in the World

‘Lancetilla’ is the name of the botanical garden that is really worth visiting. It lies on the road to ‘Tela’, just a view minutes before you get to the city. It has its origins in the 1920’s when it was a research centre for a banana company. Today, you are able to see trees and plants native to Oceania, Africa and Asia. It is also one of the principal bird watching spots of Honduras, where over 300 species have been identified. The entrance is 2 USD for foreigners. If you go, make sure to walk through the impressive bamboo tunnel and go with a guide in order to learn all about the different species.

Bamboo Tunnel in the Botanical Garden Centanilla
One must-see: The Bamboo Tunnel in the Botanical Garden ‘Lancetilla’
  •  Welcome to Miami!

No, you don’t have to leave Honduras in order to visit Miami! It is the name of a village that is home to another Garifuna community close to the city of Tela. It’s inside the Jeannette Kawas National Park, whose name is dedicated to the ecologist that fought for the eco-balance of this area. The whole village lives in a secluded way, isolated from the rest of the world and society. The locals preserve their culture and keep up with the traditional fishing and way of living.

Small Garifuna community close to Tela
There is a ‘Miami’ in Honduras! 🙂

Miami is also where you can catch a boat to cross the Mikitos Lagoon that separates Miami and little peninsula that houses another hidden gem of Honduras: Los Olingos. If you need a place to recharge your batteries, make sure to stay at this amazing lodge and simply relax in a peaceful surrounding next to the water.

Relaxing at the shores of the Lagoon
Los Olingos have their own private dock where you can sit and relax with a coconut…

The lodge offers six cabin-style houses that are spread out on the property. It feels like walking around in a little village where palm trees are the natural fence to your neighbours. It’s a great place if you go in a big group, or you can soak up the tranquillity on your own. Those who seek action can choose between fun on the volleyball field, kayak on the lagoon, or explore the hills, viewpoints and coffee plantation on the property.

Los Olingos has six houses on the property with several rooms to lodge up to 12 people
Hidden behind palm trees: the small houses of the lodge are spread out on the property in a very idyllic style!
  • Take a train ride to the ‘Cuero y Salado’ Wildlife Refuge

This is a fun half-day tour that you can easily do from La Ceiba on your own or with a tour company. If you want to go bird watching, spot monkeys, and crocodiles then you’ll be right on the Cuero y Salado Lagoon. It is about 30 km east of La Ceiba and borders to the north with the Caribbean Sea. In this protected area, there are a few small communities residing. To get there, you have to jump on a real ancient looking train that takes you to the entrance of the National Park in about 30 minutes. From there, you board the boat and let the guide take you along the shoreline of the lagoon.

The old iron train brings us to our lagoon boat trip
Enjoying the ride on our jungle trip…

If the monkeys, crocodiles, and exotic birds are not enough to convince you, the ‘Cuero y Salado’ Lagoon is also home to the Caribbean Manatee. We weren’t lucky enough to see it that day but have learned that is an endangered species that lives within this protected area of creeks, lagoons, and the coastline.

Spot the monkey!
Next to Manatees and crocodiles, we spotted many monkeys up in the trees!

In total, there are 15 rivers that stream into the labyrinth of lagoons and canals, bordered by mangroves and a tropical jungle vegetation.

What a great natural effect!
When the sun sets, the lagoon turns into a mirror spectacle!

Honduras’ Largest Lake: ‘Lago Yojoa’

Leaving the Caribbean Coast you will still find amazing places that are worth stopping during your travels in Honduras. From La Ceiba, we took a bus back to San Pedro Sula where most of the country’s buses connect. From there, we took a bus to Santa Cruz de Yojoa, a small town just 30 minutes away from the lake. We spent the night before continuing our trip to the village ‘Los Naranjos’, which is right at the beautiful Lake Yojoa. There are few options to stay, but one great place is the D&D Brewery that  (obviously)has their own beer on the menu, great advice for tours in and around the village and several accommodation options.

The main street of 'Los Naranjos'
‘Los Naranjos’ is a small village surrounded by beautiful nature!

From the brewery, you can walk 10 minutes to the village’s river that will lead you to the National Park ‘El Jaral’. The walk to the park is already so beautiful, along the river and crossing the bridge you will get a glimpse of the lake in the distance. The park does not have an official entry point on one side, so you just walk in and if you want to search for the other end to exit and pay you can do so. Friendly armed soldiers will remind you on their patrol that you will need to go and buy a ticket on the other side…

River next to Lago Yojoa
On your way to the park entrance, you’ll cross this gorgeous river…

Inside the park, you can stop and listen to an ongoing concert of birds. It is incredible what sounds come out and how different they sound from the birds where I come from. One, for example, reminded me of dropping water whereas others sound as if someone drums a stick on a bamboo trunk.

View inside the National Park.
Walking through the park brings many different views of this area…

The park makes a small loop, which leads you past some bridges and archaeological sites. You can easily make the full loop in less than an hour, unless, of course, you sit down and enjoy the sounds of the tropical birds…

  • Cerro Las Nalgas

For best views of the whole area, hike up to a viewpoint on top of ‘Cerro Las Nalgas’. It is a bit tricky to find the path, but the locals are very friendly and helpful. Make sure you get at least two or three different opinions on where the trail starts, some people sound very convincing but actually sent us in the opposite direction…

On top of 'Cerro Las Nalgas'
After a hot and humid trail hike, you’ll get a refreshing breeze on top of the mountain ‘Cerro Las Nalgas’ and a fantastic view onto the lake!

After 3 days of hiking and beer sampling, we moved on to our next adventure: Nicaragua. The easiest way to get to Nicaragua is by bus from Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. We took the bus at 6:30 am from Lake Yojoa and got to Tegucigalpa within 3 1/2 hours (150 Lempiras). From there, we hopped on a local bus to the border at Guasaule (another 3 hours from the capital, 100 Lempiras). The bus doesn’t cross the border, but you can simply do your paperwork at the immigration office and walk across a bridge that leads you to Nicaragua… from there, you have several options to get to Leon, one of the first spots of interest according to our research.

Welcome to Nicaragua!
DANGER!!! …and welcome to Nicaragua! 😀

After 3 1/2 weeks in Honduras, we can say that it was one grand trip! For all those in doubt and fear about their safety, hesitate no more, it is as safe as any place in Central America and will strike you with beauty, delicious food and friendly people!

 


NOT DONE READING YET?

Check out our guide for the islands of Roatan and Utila which you can easily reach from La Ceiba.

If you’re headed to Guatemala and stop by Copan here is what to do while visiting the Copan Ruins!

Or perhaps you’re moving on to Nicaragua? Then make sure to plan a sailing trip at Playa Gigante!

While you’re still in Honduras, don’t skip one of their most beautiful corners, the Pico Bonito National Park!


 

Thank you Visite Atlántida for this great trip to Atlantida.
Like always, all opinion are MY OWN. So, to everyone else, no worries on biases or BS, you won’t find that here. I keep this real. Thanks for the support!

 

By Julia Jerg

Julia is the founder and chief editor of Jey Jetter, a site that showcases the option of working remotely and travel as much as you like. Julia is a former PR/marketing consultant who turned into a remote working social media manager, travel writer and public speaker living location independently since 2011. She has been to 86 countries on all 6 continents and lived in several different countries for more than six months. Her laptop is her office and the label 'digital nomad' fits best to describe her lifestyle. On this site, she writes about personal freedom, remote work and her passion for travelling.

25 replies on “Honduras – The Hidden Gem of Central America”

Thank you for portraying my country in such a beautiful light. Even us locals don’t appreciate the beauty that lies within our mountains. I hope you had a great time and I hope you come back cause there’s plenty more to discover! Thank you again, as you said we are used to being in a dark light because of our crime related issues but its nice to stumble upon the greatness that we have! THANK YOU!

Thanks a lot, for your comment, Jennifer! Great to know that you liked the post and I can absolutely say that I would go back any time! I hope other travellers read my post and get inspired. It’s a shame how prejudice and oneway media can destroy a country’s reputation! All the best and thanks again for stopping by! 😀

You missed out the old colonial town of Trujillo and the surrounding Garfuna communities, not mention Santa Rosa de Aguan. Honduras is truly a beautiful country, which we have visited frequently over the past 20 years.

Hey Newston, great add-on, you truly are an expert! I bet I missed out on many more beautiful places…isn’t there always too little time to see it all!?! 😀

Thank you for your wonderful insight into the country of Honduras! Beautiful pictures and of some places I haven’t been to as yet. It’s inspiring and a great reminder of how easy it is to cover this entire place cheaply and easily. All of the negative reports can be applied to any major city and the same basic rules apply anywhere whether it be in the US or Canada.
I’m looking forward to hearing and seeing more of your travels.

Hey Charlene, thank you so much! And yes, I think you are right, it might even be applied to places all around the world…. Glad you enjoyed reading this post and happy to hear that you are following! 😀

Honduras looks amazing, so much to do! We discovered mangosteen last year in Thailand and my kids fell in love with it, had always loved lychee 🙂 would love to plan a vacation here, maybe in a few years time!

Friends of ours also wrote a post about how Honduras is a beautiful and amazing place to go! I’m happy you’re sharing your experiences too and that it isn’t unsafe like people make us believe. What a stunning destination! And ‘Miami’ looks like my kind of thing! It’s a destination that we put on our list now!!

Hey Rob, thanks for that! I would say more time is always better, but if you have 9 days focus on 2-3 spots only and enjoy them rather than stressing to see ‘all’ of the country. I loved the area of Atlantida a lot as we did great outdoor stuff, and you might also want to add one of the islands and relax at the beach… Keep me posted if you go!!

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