Honduras — Attractions
The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef near the Bay Islands provides a major pull for Honduras, although the islands are worth visiting alone for their magnificent beaches and laid-back lifestyle. The area is easily accessed from the mainland by boat or plane. The Mayan ruins at Copan are an important archaeological site in Central America and a great day trip from any major city, or you can stay nearby to soak in the rustic Honduran charm. To visit the Rio Platano reserve you will need a few days, but the easiest launching point is from the coastal city of La Ceiba. If your schedule’s tight, there are plenty of other protected parks in Honduras that allow you to admire tropical nature attractions.
Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve
Rio Platano (literally translates to “Banana River”) Biosphere reserve is the largest rainforest in Central America. It was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1982 and home to a number of endangered species, including the jaguar, margay and ocelot; as well as the giant anteater and West Indian manatee. Other species in the area include monkeys such as the white-headed Capuchin, mantled howler and the spider monkey. Bird-life is extensive here and if you look to the tree-tops you may spot the colorful Macaw parrot, or on the forest floor, the ground-feeding Great Currasow. Rio Platano, the river for which the park was named in the center, winds its way down to the Caribbean coast, dubbed the “Mosquito Coast”. Also located here are 200 pre-Columbian archeological sites. Travel by waterway is possible, with areas you can disembark to explore further on foot. It is possible to reach the reserve by road from La Ceiba, although due to its remote location this can take a while; it is quickest and easiest to fly and there are regular flights available.
Address: Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve, near Palacios, North-Eastern Honduras
Mesoamerican Barrier Reef
This reef is the largest in the Caribbean Sea, and the second largest in the world after only the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. It stretches all the way north to the Yucatan peninsula off the coast of Mexico so Honduras is the very southern tip. The reef system is home to over 65 species of coral, 350 types of mollusks, four types of sea turtles, and more than 500 kinds of fish. Best access is from the bay islands, which provide a wonderful environment to relax on the golden sandy beaches after you have completed your day’s underwater excursion. You can reach the Bay Islands easily by boat from the mainland or you can fly directly into Roatan.
Address: Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, Bay Islands (Roatan, Utila, Guanaja)
Copan Archaeological Site
Copan was a major city for the ancient Mayan civilization that once thrived in Central America, and now the ruins provide an inspiring visit. Copan was occupied for over 2,000 years, and held special importance since it was the furthest south city of the empire, the center of control for the area. At the height of its glory, there were an estimated 20,000 inhabitants in an area of just 100 square miles, until its mysterious collapse. The remnants provide an interesting insight into the once-mighty empire, including many stone carved totems and pyramid-like buildings with giant steps to the top. Reaching Copan is easiest from the major city of San Pedro Sula in the north of Honduras.
Address: Copan Ruinas, western Honduras
The largest lake in Honduras, the area is popular for birding and other wildlife-spotting. If you take a hike up to the Pulhapanzak waterfalls you should be able to spot Macaws which freely roam the area, or if you look to the ground you may see a foraging armadillo. It is also possible to take a guided tour behind the falls, where you enter a cave and swim in the cool rock pools. The lake is also popular for boating, and you can rent a sailboat or row boats for a relaxing day on the water. Hiking the adjoining cloud forest at Cerro Azul Meambur park is a great way to take in the nature of the area, which has well marked trails for an easy walk. You can stay overnight in the cabins for an interesting variety of accommodation.
Address: Lago Yojoa, San Pedro Sula region, western Honduras
Cusuco National Park
Since this park ranges from sea-level to approximately 8,000 ft in the middle, visiting provides a range of climates and habitats. As you ascend in altitude, pass through a moist pine and cloud forest, reaching the curious dwarf forest near the top. Notably the park is protected as a bio-diversity hotspot since it is home to many endangered species. The dwarf trees themselves are considered rare, and protection of these is part of the conservation efforts. Cusuco Park is close to San Pedro Sula, and can be visited as a day trip, or it is possible to seek accommodation in rustic lodgings within the area.
Address: Cusuco National Park, Cortes, western Honduras.
Comayagua is located 50 miles northwest of Honduras’ modern capital, Tegucipala, and was once the seat of the Spanish Colonial capital. Around the city you will see notable 18th century Spanish architecture, including the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, which displays the oldest clock in the Americas. Founded in 1537, it remained the capital until the country gained independence. The city regularly hosts cultural attractions such as the Museum of Anthropology and the Museum of Religious Art, and is home to the annual show of the “little devils,” a traditional folklore dance performed once a year.
Address: Comayagua, central Honduras.
Website: http://www.municomayagua.com/comayagua/ (Spanish only)
Tela is a perfect beach town where you can spend a while soaking up the atmosphere of the Caribbean. Over recent years it has grown in size to provide many amenities and a range of accommodations, but it is also a good day trip from the city of San Pedro Sula. With white sand beaches swathed with tall palm trees, descent for a full day of relaxation. The area is also popular for its other natural and cultural attractions like Punta Sal national park, home to mangrove swamps, rainforest, reef, monkeys, and birds. Interestingly, the area is mainly populated by an Afro-Caribbean community called the Garifuna, and wandering along the shore you’ll be able to buy some of their traditional handicrafts like shell and coconut jewelry.
Address: Tela, Atlantia Department, northern Honduras.