Honduras is one of the least visited of the Central American countries, and consequently has much to offer the intrepid traveler. Unfortunately, it often gets a bad rap for its high crime rate, but the fact is many areas of the country are perfectly safe to visit. As long as you use common sense and take certain precautions, you can have the time of your life in this beautiful country.
Not only is Honduras cheap to travel in, but fewer tourists means there is less hassle from touts and more opportunity to make friends with the locals. Most travelers are surprised at how safe they feel in Honduras.
From the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean and the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef to the lush jungles thronging with incredible wildlife, from the Mayan ruins of Copan to the dramatic mountainous landscapes, Honduras is the perfect destination for anyone seeking an off-the-beaten-track adventure.
The best spot for white water rafting in Honduras is Cangrejal River Valley. With its Class III and IV rapids, the rafting here provides not only a heart-pumping adrenaline rush but a chance to take in the lush jungle landscape and huge granite boulders. Tours vary in length from half a day to a week and are excellent value by comparison to most other countries. Half day tours are approximately $50, a real bargain, and the best time to go rafting is between July and March.
History & Archaeology Tours
The ancient city of Copan was abandoned in the 10th century, only to be buried by the jungle and rediscovered in 1839. Today it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the country's most popular tourist attractions. Close to the Guatemalan border, there's a ballcourt, temples, pyramids, and plazas to explore. Nearby Copas Ruinas is a cute colonial town with cobblestone streets and red tile roofs.
Honduras is one of the cheapest places in the world to earn a PADI scuba diving certificate. The Bay Islands, comprising of Roatan, Guanaja, and Utila are rich in marine life, including whale sharks, barracuda, octopus, turtles, and moray eels. The El Aguila wreck was sunk specifically for divers and Mary's Place is a spectacular dive site with canyons and crevices to explore. The best time for scuba diving is during April and May.
Wildlife in Honduras is protected in national parks and biosphere reserves, and the country is fast emerging as an important eco-tourism destination. Spider monkeys, howler monkeys, and white-faced monkeys can be seen (and heard) in the jungles. Jaguars, ocelots, and pumas are numerous, especially on the Mosquitia Coast. Honduras is also a birdwatchers paradise where toucans, parrots, and other brightly-colored birds are a common sight. Tapirs and anteaters are two of the country's more unusual inhabitants. Honduras is heaven for wildlife enthusiasts!
Hiking & Trekking Tours
In addition to its beautiful beaches, Honduras has a variety of landscapes and an abundance of trails to explore. Pico Bonito National Park offers moderate to difficult trails and the opportunity to spot some colorful wildlife. Trekking in Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve takes you through the jungle near the Caribbean coast and is home to a host of endangered species. A hike in Cususco National Park is akin to being in Jurassic Park with its waterfalls, majestic trees, and mountain views.
Planning Your Trip
Best Time to Visit Honduras
The dry season between November and April is generally the best time of the year to visit Honduras. On the Caribbean coast, the most pleasant time is between March and May. In much of the country, it only rains a few hours of the day even in the wet season, but Mosquitia can be wet year round.
What to Look for in a Tour to Honduras
The type of tour that you choose will depend on your interests and preferences. Specialized tours include wildlife and birdwatching, diving vacations, and hiking tours. More general tours visit the highlights of Honduras such as Copan, La Ceiba, Roatan, Utila, and Tegucigalpa.
It's important to look into factors such as the group size, accommodation style, and cost. You want to find out exactly what is included, whether it be meals, local guides, or entrance fees. Other questions you may need answering include:
- Does the company give back to the local economy and place emphasis on responsible travel?
- Is the itinerary balanced? Will you have enough time in each of the destinations you visit? How many activities are arranged and how much autonomy will you have?
- Does the company have a good reputation? Make sure you read some reviews so you can be confident that the tour you are thinking of booking has a proven track record.
Typical Tour Cost
Due to the countries of Central America being in a relatively compact area, most tours take in at least a couple of other countries in addition to Honduras. Typical 15-day tours leave from Antigua, Guatemala, cover the highlights of Honduras, and finish up in San Jose, Costa Rica, and cost around $1,300.
Packing Tips & Rental Gear
A backpack is definitely the way to go in Honduras as wheeled suitcases don't travel well on cobblestone streets! Travel as lightly as possible -- a 40-liter pack is perfectly adequate. Being in a tropical zone makes it easier to pack light. Packing a light-weight foldaway backpack means that you can simply take what you need to when you go out for the day.
Packing cubes keep everything compact. Other useful items to take might include zip lock bags (for snacks), a travel towel, and wet-wipes. You can rent snorkeling equipment in Honduras, but depending on how much snorkeling you are planning to do, it may be worth taking your own gear as it can work out expensive to hire equipment on a regular basis.
Other Tips for Travel in Honduras
Save money by eating at local restaurants rather than those aimed at tourists. One of the most popular local dishes is baleada, a tortilla stuffed with any number of items including beans, meat, cheese, avocado, eggs, tomato, and lettuce. It's filling and excellent value if you are traveling on a tight budget.
Try to keep a stash of bills in small denominations. Shops often don't keep much change in and a large denomination note could be the equivalent of a week's wages to someone in Honduras!
Be patient. Things don't always go according to plan when you are traveling in Honduras. Power cuts are frequent and roads are often closed in the rainy season. Relax and go with the flow.
Health & Safety
You should obtain medical advice before heading for Honduras. Generally speaking, the following vaccinations are recommended: Typhoid, Tetanus, and Hepatitis A. It is necessary to have a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate if traveling to Honduras from an infected country.
Malaria is not a high-risk in Honduras, but if you are planning on exploring off-the-beaten-track, it may be wise to obtain professional advice on whether or not you will need antimalarials. Wherever you are in the country, use insect repellent and cover up when possible.
It is not advisable to drink tap water in Honduras. Either buy bottled water or purify water by boiling or using purification tablets.
Unfortunately, Honduras has a reputation as being dangerous due to the gang and drug cartels that infiltrate the country. The good news is that tourists are not usually a target. Most of the main tourist attractions, such as Copan, Roatan, and Utila have a large police presence and are safe to visit. There are, however, sections of the capital Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula that tourists should definitely avoid.
Always be aware of your surroundings and keep your personal belongings secure, especially in bus stations and on city streets. Avoid traveling at night and if you can, try to arrange journeys so that you arrive at destinations (especially big cities) before nightfall. By doing this, you are cutting your chances of being ripped off or mugged.