May 2008 Latin America Round Up Feature
Honduras is enjoying a boom in popularity, as travelers have found an untouristy destination.
A vibrant country, brimming with clear turquoise waters, pristine beaches, lush jungles, breathtaking mountains, challenging rivers, and fascinating ancient ruins, 2008 promises to be a landmark year in tourism development in Honduras. The first luxury villas in the La Ensenada Beach Villas and Resort are expected to be finished and ready to use before the end of the year.
Roatan will surely consolidate its position as a leading port of call for cruise ships as Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines begins the expansion of the current dock to convert it into a full fledged passenger terminal for cruise ships. Carnival Cruise Lines is expected to invest in another passenger terminal that will be located at Coral Cay, also in Roatan. In addition, the new Tourism Free Zone that was declared by the Honduran National Congress is expected to have a very positive impact in the generation of new investments on all three of the Bay Islands.
Without doubt, a continued strong growth will continue to be seen throughout Honduras, which has been growing at a faster pace that the rest of the world
Honduras is also home to a rather large Garifuna society, also known as the Black Caribs, which first originated in XVII in San Vicente, about a century after the conquering of Central America, South America, and the lower Antilles.
Ecotours, inexpensive scuba diving, river rafting, soft adventure tours and mountain treks are what Honduras is known for today.
February 2005 COVER Feature
'Hello' to Honduras
By Patricia Earnest
I f your clients are looking for a destination with miles of unspoiled beaches, unrivaled diving, friendly people, magnificent Maya remains, yet untouched by the hands of developers, then consider Honduras. It's the second largest of the countries that make up Central America and is also the least populated. Mainly mountainous, it also touches both Caribbean and Pacific waters, with 400 miles of gorgeous beaches on the Caribbean side and 78 miles on the Pacific. Until recently, the country was dominated by banana, pineapple and coffee conglomerates. Now that the whole Central American region has become peaceful, Honduras is reaching out for visitors and lucky early tourists are reaping a harvest of good things to do and see there.
Shaped like a large, hovering bird with wings outstretched, Honduras is the knee of Central America. Several airlines service the country through four international airports. From the capital of Tegucigalpa, known as "Tegus" by locals, you can travel to the cloud forests of the central highlands. Visit the Maya ruins of Copan, over near the Guatemalan border, from San Pedro Sula and reach the beautiful Bay Islands by air from La Ceiba or by boat.
National Parks and Rainforest
In the parks you will find over 700 species of birds, 500 types of fish and plants including many varieties of orchids. Cloud forests are magical places to visit and because Honduran parks are not yet overrun with tourists, you will have a good chance of spotting the elusive Quetzal in them. The bird's call is distinctive once you can recognize it, and this will help with identification. You may also see three varieties of monkey: Spiders, Capuchin (white faced) and Howler. You will hear the Howlers from afar as they roam in large groups, making hoarse roaring sounds. The coati, a cousin to the raccoon, may be rooting around in the ground or foraging in the trees, and ocelots, pumas and jaguars are moving through the growth. These latter will be most difficult to see though as they are extremely wary. It can be cool in cloud forests, so tell your client to dress adequately and bring comfortable shoes.
Just a 40-minute drive from Tegucigalpa is La Tigra National Park, one of the 15 national parks and several wildlife and biological reserves in Honduras. La Tigra was the first park to be established and was once the site of the El Rosario mines that operated at the beginning of the last century. America's first embassy to Honduras was also located here. A visitor's center is near the remains of the mine and there are hostel-like accommodations for overnight stays.
La Muralla National Park is an overnight trip from either Tegucigalpa or La Ceiba, but this is where you will have the best chance of spotting a quetzal. It's a three-hour drive either way to the town of La Union and the park is a further half-hour drive up a steep, but well maintained dirt road. A number of trails begin and end at the visitor's center. Camping spots are also available.
Over on the western edge of Honduras in Copan Ruinas, the Maya ruins have been called the Athens or Paris of the New World. This was the southern limit of the Maya world and was developed into a city-state to become its crowning artistic glory. At the height of its prominence, it was home to some 20,000 people, ruled by a dynastic lineage of 16 kings, whose rule spanned from 426 to 820 AD to form Copan's "Golden Age."
Mayas were skilled in arts and science, expert astronomers, they knew mathematics, calculated a perfect calendar, and realized that earth is not the center of the universe long before European scientists did so. In addition, they understood geometry and its laws, were wonderful architects and also fierce and ruthless warriors.
Most of the glyphs and carvings in the Park refer to 18 Rabbit (Uaxac Lahun Ubac C'Auil), the 13th king. Considered "King of the Arts," he was a Renaissance man who produced some of the site's most beautiful works of art and is said to have initiated the high relief style of sculpture for which Copan is famous. An athlete, he also is credited with construction of the grandest ball court of his time on this site.
Visit the park and you will see the Great Plaza, famous for its stelae and altars scattered around the immense area. The Hieroglyphic Stairway was erected by ruler 15, known as Smoke-Shell. The stairway is believed to be a lineage tree, recording the rulers from Yax-Kuk-Mo to Smoke-Shell. Wonderful names! There are also tunnels under the structures that reveal further details of Maya life.
Entrance to the Main Park is about $10, which also includes the Sepulturas Architectural site. This is where the inhabitants lived in low buildings. Make sure to stop by the Copan Archeological Museum in downtown Copan Ruinas to view additional artifacts from the site.
Copan Ruinas itself is a charming colonial town with red tiled roofs, cobblestone streets and a lively central park. From the town you can also enjoy horseback riding, tubing, bird watching or hanging out at the Hot Springs in Agua Caliente.
La Ceiba, sandwiched on a narrow coastal shelf between the Caribbean Sea and the Madre de Dios Mountain Range, is the jumping off point for the Bay Islands. These are a collection of three islands, Roatan, Guanaja and Utila, and over 60 islets and keys, lying some 30 miles off the northern coast of Honduras out in the Caribbean Sea. Once inhabited by swashbuckling pirates and settled by Garifuna, then British-descended settlers from the Cayman Islands, a sing-song English is the language you will hear.
The islands are best known for their outstanding diving and gorgeous beaches. Around them, you will find unspoiled diving with clefts and caverns, caves, ledges and tunnels and sheer walls as close as 20 feet below the surface.
You can reach the larger islands of Roatan, Guanaja and Utila by air or ferryboat from La Ceiba. Roatan is the largest, most populated and most developed of the islands. Here your client can rent a car, stay in a comfortable diving resort, visit the Roatan Institute for Marine Scientists, take a unique snorkeling trip, dive with the dolphins, or visit the Iguana Farm.
Guanaja, the second largest of the islands, lies to the west of Roatan. It's also the highest with prominent hills, which are great for hiking. This island is mostly roadless-you move around by water taxis. The island has upscale, secluded diving resorts on isolated points around the island.
Tiny Utila is known as the place to get the cheapest diving certification-$125-$150. It's also the closest to shore, and the flattest of the three. If you want to find the most authentic Bay Island culture, then visit Utila.
Where to Stay
Large hotel chains have not yet discovered Honduras. What guests will find are family run resorts, and modest establishments for the most part. On the Bay Islands, diving resorts with 800 telephone numbers include Fantasy Island (800-676-2826), Anthony's Key Resort (800-227-DIVE) and Cabana Roatana (888-626-9531). The Camino Real Inter-Continental hotels (800-327-0200) are located in San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa
Tucked away on the little-known tropical island of Roatan, Honduras, is Anthony's Key Resort, a paradise dedicated to diving and eco-adventure. From wooden cabanas perched above a sparkling lagoon, to the full-service restaurant and bar, and the most modern fleet of custom dive and snorkel boats in the Caribbean, nothing is overlooked. There's even a full-service dive shop, underwater photo shop, gift shop, snack shop and five-star PADI Scuba School offering instruction from novice to expert. Tel. 800-227-DIVE.
The Lodge at Pico Bonito Resort is a one-of-a-kind nature resort. Located just a 30 minutes drive from the airport at La Ceiba, the resort offers 150 acres of rainforest on the edge of the Pico Bonito National Park, with outstanding views of the peaks of Pico Bonito Mountain. From now until December 19, 2002 rates are $155 for a standard and $180 for a superior cabin. Call them at 888-428-0221.
CoCo View, famous for 24/7 barrier reef wall diving, and Utila Lodge, the Shark Research Institute's Caribbean field station for whale shark studies, are now offering helicopter tours through the Honduras Bay Islands. Prices start at $120 per person, based on six passengers. Call Roatan Charter at 800-282-8932.
World Dive Adventures is now offering a family program at Anthony's Key Resort in Honduras starting at $599 per person for seven nights. Commissions range from 10-15% and World Dive Adventures have bulk air rates to most destinations. Call Caribbean Adventures/World Dive Adventures at 800-433-3483.
Major airlines flying to Honduras include TACA International Airlines (800-251-1351) with daily flights to San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa from JFK. American Airlines (800-433-7300) offers daily flight from Miami to San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa. Continental Airlines (800-231-0856) flies daily through Houston to both San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa.