Destin-Nation Honduras: Central American Travel on the Cheap

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Destin-Nation Honduras: Central American Travel on the Cheap

Micah & Erin, flickr

Honduras is the in the middle of a massive tourism infrastructure build out, which makes now the time for budget travelers to take advantage of increasing accessibility and still low prices.

Honduras is the in the middle of a massive tourism infrastructure build out, which makes now the time for budget travelers to take advantage of increasing accessibility and still low prices. Though the islands offshore have long been a favorite among divers, the rest of the country is experiencing a tourist surge that could significantly reshape many of its quaint towns and bring up prices.

The Central American country, which is slightly smaller than Ohio, packs a punch, offering Mayan ruins, virgin jungle, and pristine beaches.

As it stands, the U.S. dollar trades for just under 19 Honduran lempira. To put that in more concrete terms: Cocktails cost $1.50. The cocktail lounge? A handful of pleasant small towns dotting the Caribbean coastline.

About 3 hours by air from Texas, Honduras is also convenient and perpetually warm - a little humid perhaps, but its a privilege to whine about such things come winter. The San Pedro Sula airport is a convenient entry for beach goers, who may want to rent a car given the recently paved highways that run across the northern coastline.

Tip: Make sure to look into travel safety tips when visiting Honduras.

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Destin-Nation Honduras: Central American Travel on the Cheap

The second largest city in Honduras is the country's major tourist gateway. And San Pedro Sula does roll out a hell of a welcome. The buzzing city is dominated by a traditional Spanish church and, for visitors, the Mercado Guamilito, a massive traditional handicraft market where enterprising bargain hunters can find goods from all over Central America before picking up a cheese and cream filled "Baleada" tortilla.

The idyllic Pulhapanzak waterfall and the stalactite-crowded Taulabe Caves are a daytrip from town. Canopy tours and spelunking expeditions are available through Jungle Expedition (from $130 for one).

Where to Stay: The small Casa de los Arcos is an excellent budget option for visitors who want a little more personal service. The hotel offers homey room from $60. Because San Pedro Sula is a travel hub there are larger, more establish options like the Intercontinental with its $165 rooms.

Getting There: San Pedro Sula is a lovely town in its own right, but also central enough that travelers wind up here whether they want to or not. Non-Stop flights from New York, Miami, Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale and Houston arrive a the Ramon Villeda Morales International Airport outside of town. The 3 hour flight from Houston on Continental runs daily.

A short ride out of the capital, the small town of Valle de Los Angeles is known for its Spanish colonial architecture, terrific carne asada and traditional crafts. For the budget traveler, this town offers a chance to splurge on gifts. The many souvenir shops that line the main drag headed towards the town's church and plaza offer carved leather, baskets, wooden furniture and durable hammocks and reasonable (ie negotiable) prices.

Because the town has been declared a tourist zone it is quiet and safe, the perfect place to take long walks and take in views of the tile roofs from the parks and trails at the edge of town. 

Where to Stay: Most visitors to Valle de Angeles do not stay in the town, but take day trips here from the Tegucigalpa, the bustling capital, which has better hotel options. Travelers in the know book rooms at the Humuya Inn (from $85).

Getting There: Fly into Tegucigalpa's Toncontin International Airport from Miami or Dallas on TACA ($687), but do be careful as the airport is renowned for having a dangerous approach and short runway

The town of Copan Ruinas, located only a few miles from the Guatemalan border in western Honduras, is one of the best staging posts in Central America for Indiana Jones style adventuring. The Copan ruins just outside of town once formed one of the largest cities in the New World and still offer visitors a chance to see incredibly well preserved Mayan carvings. The complex features several separate temples and is shaded by a lush forest. Though the ruins were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, but are not as heavily trafficked as similar attractions in Mexico. 

Where to Stay: For budget travelers, the Hotel Buena Vista is a good bet with its $40 single rooms and $47 doubles. A slightly more expensive option is the Plaza Copan (from $57 for singles), which offers a more colonial feel.

Getting There: A number of tour companies, including Trifinio Tours, offer shuttle service between Copan Ruinas and Tegucigalpa, Managua, and San Pedro Sula airports. The best bet is probably San Pedro Sula. 

The largest of Honduras' Bay Islands is a popular Scuba destination, and for good reason. The waters here are alive with sharks, turtles, rays and healthier coral than in most places in the Caribbean. Lucky divers can find seahorses and flamingo tongues on expeditions with Native Sons dive shop (call ahead for prices.)

Another big draw here is Anthony Key Resort, an all inclusive hotel that is also the home of the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences, which offers tourists the chance to go snorkeling and diving with friendly dolphins ($50 for a basic encounter). This is perhaps Honduras' ultimate family attraction.

Where to Stay: Anthony's Key is a bit expensive, with basic rooms starting at over $120. A better option for those watching their wallets is the Luna Beach Resort (from $77), which has a pleasant castaway feel.

Getting There: Non-stop flights to the Coxen Hole airport just outside of town leave occasionally from Atlanta (from $650 on Delta), daily from Houston ($700 on Continental) and frequently from San Pedro Sula.

This port city in Honduras' north is named for the giant trees that grow along the salt-weathered waterfront. The old shipping town has kept a decidedly laid back feel, but it isn't so small any more and the more industrial parts of town should be avoided. The main attraction here is the over 7,000 foot tall Pico Bonito, a forest covered wedge of a mountain that looms just outside of town. Canopy tours through the jungle here let adventurous tourists slide through thick foliage on zip lines. Jungle River Lodge offers tours that include a 660 foot long flight over the Rio Cangrejal for $40. 

Travelers who time their trips well may also be rewarded by La Ceiba, which explodes into a massive street party for two weeks every May when Carnaval comes to town. 

Where to Stay: The recently renovated beachside Diving Pelican Inn offers safety and amenities like a pool and a movie library for $60 a night.  

Getting There: The easiest way in is the bus from San Pedro Sula, which departs four times a day and costs about $20. 

This increasingly popular mainland beach town offers visitors a chance to laze on white sand beaches and explore a thriving ecosystem. The town center is charming, colorful and quite sandy thanks to the beach, which isn't content to stay by the water and creeps towards the main square, a people watching hotspot. This area of Honduras is dominated by the Garifuna people, who share a lingua franca and a strong musical tradition, so impromptu performances spice up lucky visitors' days.

The Micos Lagoon, a short boat ride from town, is teaming with birds that nest in the mangroves and the Jardin Botanico Lancetillo ($6.00 entry), which is easily walkable from town, is packed with exotic plants. 

Where to Stay: Visitors to Tela have a reputation for staying longer than they initially intended, so consider booking that extra day at the Maya Vista Hotel (from $45 for a double). This playfully decorated tree houses of a villa overlooks the beach from the hills outside town. 

Getting There: Tela is about 56 miles from the International Airport in San Pedro Sula, so traveler's can choose between various taxi and bus services, including the ever-popular Hedman Alas coach line.

The historic town of Trujillo on the Caribbean coast features not only a central district packed with colonial buildings, but also a well preserved fort overlooking wide bay. Though the El Castillo Fort is over three centuries old, the real attraction here is the beach, which makes a good case for itself as Honduras' nicest.

The water here is calm and the san is never packed with tourists. No wonder Christopher Colombus decided to land here while exploring the coast in the early 1500s. "Champas," thatched roofed snack bars, offer sunbathers food and drink near the water. Garifuna fishermen here can be prevailed upon to offer fishing trips. Always negotiate.

Where to Stay: The lovely Banana Beach Resort 20 minutes from town offers cabanas for around $70 a night and a lovely sliver of jungle-back sand.

Getting There: Cheap local buses and taxis run continually from Trujillo to nearby Tela and La Ceiba, but a more interesting option for getting out of town the ferry to Guanaja, one of the smaller Bay Islands, that runs irregularly. Ask at a hotel for times.


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