What's Going on in Honduras, and What to See if You Go
The recent murder of an American heiress, post-election protests and an armed hold-up of cruise-ship tourists on the island of Roatan have brought Honduran criminality back into the headlines and set would-be tourists on edge.
Will it get better soon? If so, when?
Corrupt politicos and police officers, together with a convenient mid-point location along the drug route from South America to the United States, mean that crime is rampant in certain parts of Honduras and impunity rules. The president may have just changed, but the real rulers of the country never do.
Where you can still go
And yet... statistics and headlines often obscure reality, as crime is concentrated in communities affected by the drug trade. The heiress worked with recovering drug addicts and alcoholics, and a young man whom she was said to be helping was charged with her murder. Each week Roatan receives seven to ten cruise ships, plus 14 flights from the United States, Toronto and Milan. That's thousands of visitors weekly enjoying the island's spectacular crystalline waters and white powder beaches, inexpensive fresh lobster and lively nightlife.
Scuba diving is popular and reasonably priced in Honduras´s Bay Islands, all of which use English as the first language. Utila is renowned for its cheap diving, whale shark sightings and rowdy party scene, and it is nearly crime-free. Visitors to Guanaja have dive sites to themselves, and those who head to the Cayos Cochinos snorkel, swim and scuba in waters that are the envy of the Caribbean.
On the mainland, adventure travelers thrill at the cloud forest hikes and white-water rafting near La Ceiba. The ancient Mayan ruins of Copán boast exceptional carvings on the pyramids and stelae. Those looking to get off the beaten path can head to the sleepy town of Gracias to check out its colonial churches, the tiny indigenous Lenca villages nearby, and the lush foliage of Celaque National Park.
Across the country there are many excellent opportunities for volunteer vacations, from teaching English or crafts to children, to conservation of sea turtles, iguanas, or coral reef (and much more).
Where you should avoid
The Moskitia has become a haven for prop planes unloading packages of white powder. Independent travel in the region is best avoided, but it's still entirely possible to raft and hike the biosphere if you reserve with a reputable tour company such as La Moskitia Ecoaventuras or Omega Tours. Walking around the busy downtown areas of La Ceiba, San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa is fine, but spring for a taxi after dark. Public transportation within these three cities is not recommended. On Roatan, check with locals about security before heading to the less-populated eastern end (beyond Juticalpa), and avoid walking on deserted streets or paths after dark.
Twitter handles to follow:
- @LaGringaLaCeiba -- expat observations about Honduras
- @TravelingHN –- everything from weather updates to beach recommendations
The US Embassy is located on Avenida La Paz in central Tegucigalpa. Emergency calls are accepted at any time: telephone 504-2238-5114 ext. 4400 (during business hours) and 504-2236-9320 ext. 4100 (after hours). Although there is a consulate in San Pedro Sula, U.S. citizens needing a replacement passport for immediate travel must apply in Tegucigalpa.
Amy E. Robertson is a freelance travel writer and author of Honduras and the Bay Islands and Volunteer Vacations in Latin America, both published by Moon Handbooks. She has traveled in more than 60 countries and lived in six, including Honduras for five years. She is currently based in Beirut.