Outside Magazine, November 1994
Access & Resources: Roaming Honduras
By Dianna Delling
Mention Honduras and the words tourist destination probably aren't the first ones that spring to mind. But soon they may be. Central America's second-largest country is home to lush cloud forests, jungly Mayan ruins, and crystalline beaches with coral reefs that rival any in the Caribbean.
Despite a turbulent history, today Honduras is considered safe and stable, its unspoiled outback ripe for exploring. The U.S. State Department, however, does advise travelers to avoid the Nicaraguan border, where land mines and "cross-border bandits" may lurk.
Be prepared for frequent showers in Honduras, especially during the May-to-December rainy season. Bring insect repellent and warm clothing for cool mountain nights. American citizens don't need visas for stays of less than 30 days, and no special vaccinations are required, but antimalaria medication is strongly advised.
American (800-433-7300) and Taca (800-535-8780) fly directly to Tegucigalpa from Miami; Continental (800-525-0280) flies there from Houston. Round-trip fares range from $348 to $788.
The Caribbean Coast and the Bay Islands
La Ceiba makes an excellent base for exploring the Caribbean coastal villages, the Bay Islands, and the Mosquitia wilderness. For about 30 cents you can take a bus to the villages of Corozal or Sambo Creek and soak up the traditional culture of the Garífuna, the mixed-race descendants of local Indians and African slaves. Clean rooms with fans cost $3.65 at the Hotel
Hermanos Avila (no phones, no reservations) in Sambo Creek; from there you can hire a motorboat for the one-hour ride to Cayos Cochinos. Isleña (011-504-43-0179) and Sosa (43-1399) Airlines fly to the Mosquitia region, a pristine jungle in northwest Honduras; flights depart six days a week and cost about $50.
The Bay Islands of Roatán, Utila, and Guanaja, off the northern coast, are Honduras's rustic answer to the Bahamas. The area's gorgeous reef system is a continuation of the one that parallels Belize, its turquoise waters perfect for diving, snorkeling, and sea kayaking.
From La Ceiba you can get to the islands by boat ($8) or plane ($10-$20). On Roatán, the largest and most developed island, Tyll's Dive (45-1314) and Off the Wall Divers (45-1460) can outfit you and provide instruction. Expect to pay about $20 per dive. Anthony's Key Resort in Sandy Bay offers open-water dives with trained dolphins, as well as horseback riding and tennis
(call Roatán Charter at 800-282-8932). Explore the volcanic caves off the north end of Guanaja (contact Hotel Alexander at 45-4326). On Utila, rent a cayuca canoe at Blue Bayou Hotel (no phone) and paddle the canal that divides the island. Tofino Expeditions in Vancouver, British Columbia (604-687-4455), now leads sea kayaking tours of the Bay
The national parks on Honduras's rugged mainland are ideal for hiking, boating, mountaineering, and mountain biking. Celaque National Park, near the village of Gracias in west-central Honduras, is an evergreen cloud forest that boasts ten major rivers, and abundant plants and wildlife--not to mention Mount Celaque, at 9,346 feet the country's highest peak. Pico Bonito National
Park, just outside La Ceiba, is Honduras's largest park, a spectacular reserve of virgin rainforest, rivers, and thundering waterfalls. Santa Bárbara National Park, in western Honduras, features some of the deepest limestone caves in the world. For information on any of the national parks, call the Department of Tourism in Tegucigalpa (31-4743).
Ruins at Copán
This ancient Mayan city, carved from the lush jungles near the Guatemalan border, is as spectacular as Tikal, Palenque, and other more frequented Mesoamerican ruins. Allow yourself at least a full day to explore the pelota ball courts, the Hieroglyphic Stairway, and the Great Plaza, where Mayan rulers such as Smoke Monkey and 18 Rabbit are honored in
stone. Camping is allowed outside the fence surrounding the ruins; food and lodging are also available in the village of Copán Ruinas, half a mile away. Hotel Marina Copán (98-3070) offers double rooms for about $80.
Alison Acker's Honduras: The Making of a Banana Republic ($12.95, from Between the Lines Publishing, 416-535-9914) thoroughly recounts the country's social and political history, while Honduras and Bay Islands Guide serves as an excellent travel primer ($13.95, from Travel Books, 800-220-2665). Paul Theroux's searing
novel The Mosquito Coast (Avon Books, $5.95) is an apocalyptic tale set in the Honduran wilderness.