Rainforests, cloud forests, beaches, jungles, lakes, islands, Mayan ruins, colonial cities, and buzzing metropolises come together in Central America’s least discovered country. Here is our pick of the best things to do in Honduras.
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Near the Guatemalan border is the Maya ceremonial city of Copán. The area around the ruins has been inhabited since at least 1400 BC. The town of Copán Ruínas is about 1km (0.6 miles) from the archaeological site. Tourism runs the town and within a few blocks of the cobblestone plaza are dozens of small hotels, ex-pat restaurants, and handicraft shops.
On entering the grounds of the archaeological site, a path leads to the claustrophobic Rosalia and Jaguar tunnels. The tunnels give an idea of how the Maya layered construction, building one temple over another. The trail continues to the Acropolis and Temple of Inscriptions. On the Great Plaza, diagonal from the Temple of Inscriptions, the city’s most important symbol is the Hieroglyphic Stairway.
If you are planning a backpacking trip to Honduras, check out our list of tips for backpacking in Central America.
Surrounded by misty pine-covered mountains and coffee fincas, the 89 sq km (55 sq mile) Lago de Yojoa is a premier eco-destination that somehow isn’t swarming with tourists. It’s the country’s largest natural lake and a hotspot for birders who come from around the world hoping to glimpse some of the 400 or so species that have been identified here.
Along the lakeshore are several fine hotels, which mostly attract Honduran families, and even a small craft brewery, the American-owned D&D which also runs guided boat excursions on the lake.
For a short time, the sleepy colonial village of Gracias a Dios – named after conquistador Juan de Chavez’s reaction after finding flat land after weeks in the mountains – was the capital of all of Central America. Today, with nearby Lenca villages and national parks luring visitors, the town has been capitalizing on its stock of 500-year-old churches and cobblestone plazas.
Much of the original Spanish grid, topped by a small fortification on a hillside called El Fuerte de San Cristóbal, has been reconstructed, with boutique hotels and cafés filling the whitewashed houses. Once the home of a wealthy colonial family, Museo Casa Galeano is a restored colonial house stocked with artefacts, old photographs, and a folk art collection. It’s adjoined by a botanical garden, one of the oldest in the region.
Most tourism to the islands rotates around Roatán, the largest of the Bay Islands at 64km long (40 miles). It’s here that the cruise industry has sunk about $100 million into modern ports, Mahogany Bay and the Port of Roatán’s Town Center, which have attracted waves of oversized cruise ships.
Most development has taken place on the Western half of the island. The crystal clear waters of West Bay Beach, the best in Honduras, has seen a surge in development over the past decade, and resorts and condo projects have bought up every last hectare. In the hills above West Bay is Gumbalimba Park an island adventure park with watersports, a monkey island, and a canopy tour that cruise travellers often visit.
Find more accommodation options to stay on Roatan Island
One of the best things to do in Honduras while travelling with kids is to visit Gumbalimba Park. The park is located in the West Bay of Roatan Island and can be reached by car or taxi from other parts of the island. In the park you can explore the rich flora represented by the lush gardens, featuring a variety of tropical plants. There are also several animals, including macaws, parrots, monkeys, iguanas and sloths.
The Gumbalimba park also houses a museum with artefacts from Honduras' pre-Columbian heritage, as well as examples of traditional Honduran houses and other cultural artefacts. In addition to all the above, one of the main attractions of the park is its popular swimming area, which includes a natural swimming pool with a waterfall and a beach. Here you can enjoy snorkelling and diving in the nearby coral reefs.
The largest tract of virgin tropical rainforest in Central America remains almost entirely unexplored. Only recently have archaeologists and explorers uncovered stone cities, revealing a lost civilization that remains a mystery. Covering the entire northeastern part of the country, La Mosquitia is sparsely populated, except for a few small towns and isolated Pech, Tawahka, Garífuna, and Miskitos villages.
Tackle Honduras’s most stunning and challenging terrain. Despite Olancho’s size – it makes up a fifth of Honduras’s total territory – tourist attractions are few, and its high, forested mountain ranges interspersed with broad valleys make getting from place to place difficult and slow.
However, these same ranges harbour some of the country’s last untouched expanses of tropical forest and cloud forest: the national parks of El Boquerón and Sierra de Agalta are awe-inspiring. Along the valleys, now given over to pastureland for cattle, are scattered villages and towns. Both Juticalpa, the department capital, and Catacamas, at the eastern end of the paved road, are good bases for exploring the region.
Originally called Punta Sal, the 782km (484 miles) Parque Nacional Jeannette Kawas was renamed after the environmental activist Jeannette Kawas Fernández, who was killed after establishing the park. Two distinct ecosystems are found here: the lagoon and the peninsula. Protecting the bay from strong winds called nortes, the peninsula is home to a combination of unspoiled coral reefs, dense jungle and stunning beaches.
Los Micos Lagoon is separated by a small sandbar near Miami, and canals here weave through the rich landscape where hundreds of species of migratory birds can be seen. Outside of driving to Miami and hiring a boat to enter the lagoon, private transportation here is difficult. It’s recommended to use Tela-based tour operators like Garífuna Tours, which have regular trips to the lagoon and peninsula.
Honduras, like all Central American countries, is a significant coffee producer, with many coffee plantations located throughout the country. Coffee production is one of the most important parts of the Honduran economy, and the country is known for producing high-quality Arabica coffee.
Some coffee plantations are open for guided tours where you can get an insight into coffee production. During the tour, you can see coffee plants, learn about the harvesting and processing of coffee beans, and taste different types of coffee. Some coffee plantations also offer accommodation for visitors wishing to experience life on a coffee farm.
Thanks to its rainforests, swamps and cloud forests, Honduras is a popular place for bird watching. The country is home to more than 700 species of birds, making it a birdwatcher's paradise.
One of the best things to do in Honduras for bird watching is to choose one of the popular destinations such as Pico Bonito National Park, La Tigra National Park, Selache National Park, or Copán Archaeological Reserve. All of these sites offer guided birdwatching tours and hikes led by local guides who will help visitors see rare and endemic species.
Named a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1980, the 525,000 hectares (1.3 million acres) Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve is home to a diverse set of rare ecosystems including wetlands, pine savannas, and tropical forest. The only inhabitants are a few Pech and Miskito communities who live in much the same way as they have for hundreds of years.
The array of flora and fauna is dazzling, with bucket list species after bucket list species: jaguars, harpy eagles, Baird’s tapirs, and many others. Despite its natural wonders, most of the park is almost inaccessible. For much of the rainy season, travel here is impossible, while during the dry seasons, running from February to May and August to November, it requires a series of air, boat, and overland connections to get into the interior.
Parque Nacional La Tigra is a 238 sq km (92 sq miles) tract of cloud forest that has been a national park since 1982. While much of the forest was cut down by loggers and the El Rosario Mining Company, it is slowly being recovered. Hiking trails run through the park, mostly from the western entrance at Jutiapa, where there is a small campground, cabins, and a visitor center.
The 6km (3.7 miles) Sendero Principal is the primary route across La Tigra, though a handful of other trails in various states of maintenance branch off it. Even though the park is so close to Tegucigalpa, it has a surprisingly rich collection of flora and fauna. Mammals like pumas and armadillos are rare, though more than 350 species of birds have been identified, including the resplendent quetzal and wine-throated hummingbird.
The capital of Honduras for more than three centuries before being moved to Tegucigalpa, Comayagua, 71km (45 miles) south of Lago de Yojoa, has the best-preserved colonial architecture in the country. Founded in 1537 by the Spanish explorer Alonso de Cáceres, much of the original city grid remains, along with palaces, churches, and squares.
At the north end of Parque Central, the Catedral de Santa María dates to the late 17th century and is a masterpiece of colonial architecture. Four of the original 16 hand-carved wooden altars have been immaculately maintained. Outside in the tower, the clock dates to around 1100 and was built for the Alhambra in Granada. Iglesia La Merced, four blocks to the south, is the oldest church in Comayagua.
Whitewater rafting (also known as river running) and kayaking are one of the best things to do in Honduras to observe the scenery and wildlife of the country. Dozens of professional outfitters around the region will provide all of the necessities. You can be assured that you are in good hands: guides have been through training in the classroom and on the rivers.
In Honduras, the Cangrejal River, on the border of Pico Bonito National Park, has Class III-IV rapids in turquoise water, dodging giant boulders as toucans fly overhead. The region’s longest rafting experience is in La Mosquitia, however, where 13-day expeditions run through the remote Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, giving spectacular views of rare wildlife.
Honduran cuisine is influenced by Spanish, African and indigenous cuisines. A distinctive feature of the cuisine is the variety of ingredients such as seafood, beans, plantain, maize and tropical fruits. The most popular Honduran dishes are:
It should be noted that apart from its exotic beauty Central America is also one of the cheapest destinations to travel to. Read our guide to budget trips around the world and find more places that combine excellent leisure activities with accessibility.
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