Honduras Travel Guide – Top 10 Vacation Highlights

Snuggled between Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, Honduras is one of the largest countries in Central America which boasts a long Caribbean coastline and an array of beautiful offshore islands, not to mention the second largest barrier reef in the world. A tropical paradise in Central America, Honduras attracts many tourists with its diverse attractions.
Honduras Travel Guide
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For a sampling of fun festive celebrations, modern attractions, nightlife, dining and shopping options, your best bet would be to head out to the capital city Tegucigalpa. Other large cities such as La Ceiba and San Pedro Sula also offer their own share of attractions worth seeing.

However, if you fancy the charm of an old town, a visit to Comayagua will be well worth your while with its history and architecture. Another thing that Comayagua is famous for is its street carpet tradition. During the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, the quiet village bursts into activity and color by laying out huge carpets with great artistic beauty made out of natural materials.

Santa Rosa is a cozy mountain town that boasts arguably the biggest attraction in the country: the impressive ancient Mayan ruins of Copan. Copan is famous for its remarkable series of portrait stelae and sculptured decorations on its buildings, which comprise some of the very finest surviving art of ancient Mesoamerica. Some of the stone structures you will find here date from the 9th century BC.

Other coveted destinations such as the Rio Platano Biosphere are home to the natural attractions of Honduras and present opportunities for hiking through tropical forests and exploring unspoiled ecosystems that teem with wildlife, including a number of endangered species.

A boat ride out to the Bay Islands of Roatan and Utila will afford you a taste of Caribbean paradise that you can enjoy while swimming, snorkeling or diving. With its immediate access to the Mesoamerican Reef, Honduras boasts some of the best snorkeling and diving opportunities in the Caribbean. Visitors to Utila can also hike through the jungle, explore caves and enjoy panoramic views.

On the other hand, Roatan is popular for its beautiful scenery and diverse range of activities to enjoy. In addition to the fascinating coral reef and gorgeous beaches, visitors to Roatan can also enjoy a visit to the Butterfly Garden and the Caramola Gardens.

Cayo Cochinos offers a peaceful retreat for those who wish to experience the natural beauty of Honduras without the crowds of tourists in tow. You will appreciate the fact that there are no roads or automobiles allowed here, but instead hiking trails that link the quiet villages to the beaches. Go hiking up to the lighthouse for some panoramic views of the area or lay back on the stunning beaches.

From enchanting tropical forests and palm-lined sandy beaches to ancient Maya ruins and picturesque mountains, Honduras has everything a tourist would seek in Central America. With so much to see and do, there really is no end to the fun and adventure you could have in Honduras.

1. Comayagua

Situated in central Honduras, Comayagua was for a long time the capital of Honduras, during the period of Spanish colonialism; the time of the Central American Federation as part of the Mexican Empire, and when the country became an independent republic until 1880. A large city, Comayagua lies along the main highway between Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula.

The old Colonial capital of Honduras features so many pleasant sites that are quite close to each other, which makes it a perfect place for a city walking tour. The prominent past of Comayagua is very much on display. Around the city you will encounter an assortment of historic churches, squares and palaces, among other renowned monuments.

Comayagua has several churches of artistic value, particularly Baroque-influenced ones that boast outstanding altar images. The most important of these is La Iglesia de la Immaculada Concepcion.

Situated at the northern end of Parque Central, La Iglesia de la Immaculada Concepcion or the Cathedral of Comayagua is widely regarded as the most beautiful cathedral in Honduras. Construction began on the towering structure during the late 17th century and ended in 1711.

Among the main features of La Iglesia de la Immaculada Concepcion are the detailed façade projecting outwards; a tower with one of the Americas oldest clocks which was made in 1100; 4 original altars made from hand-carved wood and gold-plated.

Other historic sites include Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco and Iglesia Nuestra Senora de la Caridad. Visit the San Francisco Church and Convent to view the oldest bell in the Americas dating from 1460, as well as La Caridad, the site of the only church for Indians in Honduras. The oldest church in town, Iglesia La Merced was built in 1550.

You will also enjoy a visit to the museums of Comayagua including the Museo Colonial de Arte Religioso and the Museo Regional de Arqueologia.

Situated opposite City Hall is the Casa de La Cultura de Comayagua which features rotating exhibits on Comayagua, in addition to a host of cultural events. The renovated building is set within a lovely interior courtyard. Plaza Leon Alvarado is the central park which is the most popular gathering spot for locals in Comayagua. Go here to experience its lovely gardens and a kiosk which hosts musical presentations.

In addition to the religious art and relics found in its museums, Comayagua also hosts the Semana Santa festivities. During this time, the streets of the Old Quarter are carpeted with colorful sawdust designs, laid out where the religious processions will pass. Semana Santa is the most passionate religious celebration in the country.

2. Copan

Deep in the heart of a tropical jungle in western Honduras lays Copan, an ancient Mayan city. At its peak, the ancient city was once home to almost 30,000 Mayans, until around 800 AD when the city was abandoned mysteriously. Regarded as one of the three most important cultural sites of the Americas, Copan was for centuries home to the Maya who arrived around the year 100 AD.

Home to intellectuals and artists for hundreds of years, Copan is a testament to the beauty and skill of the Mayan people. The site features column-shaped stone carvings that depict humans and animals, in addition to portraits of the rulers of the ancient city.

Over 4,500 ancient structures have been uncovered and preserved at Copan to date. Some of the main highlights at Copan include the largest known Mayan text in existence, which comprises over 1,800 glyphs that are carved into a staircase.

The site provides the best opportunity to go back in time to the Maya world and an age when buildings were covered in stucco or painted with lively scenes whose original pigments are still visible today. Unlike with modern day construction, during the time of the Maya, what they had on their pyramids was far more important than how high they rose.

The Main Site of the ruins features a handful of grassy plazas and the ball court surrounded by pyramids and temples, mostly decorated with lively carved stone symbolic figures and former kings. Almost every surface has been covered in some sort of carving or relief. The stone stelae illustrate the different rulers who reigned over the centuries, while telling fascinating stories that span over 600 years.

Several miles of ancient tunnels run beneath the archaeological park, two of which are open to visitors. The two tunnels are situated underneath one pyramid and offer insights into how a pyramid was built on top of another, in addition to the evolution of the civilization over time to its sophisticated peak.

The Sculpture Museum features original sculptures and painted sections of the ruins that are on display. You can also view a brightly colored reconstructed pyramid covered in painted figures to give you an idea of what the temples looked like during their heyday.

Las Sepulturas is located about a kilometer from the main archaeological park and is the site at which the Mayan elite lived and buried the dead. The site features some elaborate tombs for the royalty and the spiritual leaders of the ancient city.

Throughout the ruins and recorded in the stelae, glyphs and monuments of Copan is the Scarlet Macaw. Today still revered by Hondurans, the bird can be found in its natural habitat among more than 330 identified bird species in the area.

The abundance of wildlife makes for good bird watching. You should spot plenty of Scarlet Macaws at the site, which are regarded as the sacred bird of the Maya, as well as the national bird of Honduras.

Copan’s archaeological park is situated within a lush jungle and features tropical flora and pristine skies that offer a true breath of fresh air and plenty of photo taking opportunities.

Visitors can easily spend a week at Copan, visiting the ruins, exploring the surroundings, the countryside and the Copan Ruinas town center. In addition to these main attractions, there are also butterfly farms, coffee farms and hot springs to be enjoyed.

Famous for its Mayan ruins, Copan Ruinas is a quaint town with cobblestone streets that offers visitors plenty of history, archaeology, adventure and a unique experience. An interesting mix of ancient tradition with new world savvy, Copan Ruinas is a charming, attractive town with great restaurants, bars and spas.

Town locals have achieved that delicate balance in being able to show their beautiful world to visitors, without destroying what makes the town so unique.

While you’re in the neighborhood, you can also visit the Macaw Mountain Bird Park and Nature Reserve situated just outside of Copan. Here you can stroll along forest trails viewing brilliant multi-colored macaws, parrots and toucans, as well as other rare and endangered birds.

3. Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve

The national parks of Honduras are fast becoming some of the great eco-tourism destinations in the world. Ideal for travelers seeking tropical variety and hiking adventure, the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve is one of the earliest protected areas of Honduras. Declared a biosphere reserve in 1980, the site is currently Honduras’ largest park.

Situated in the Mosquitia region, Rio Platano features a mountainous area and a planar area. The mountainous area is characterized by topography of mountains and hills with strong slopes. The planar region on the other hand has gentle slopes, marshy zones, savannahs and plains.

One of the main attractions of the biosphere is its diversity of ecosystems, which visitors can go here to enjoy. These include coastal beaches, marshes, lagoons, forests, brooks, rivers, coastal savannahs of pine, forests of pine, as well as tropical forests. Wildlife comprises of the green iguana, turtles, red deer and the white tail deer.

4. Utila

Utila is laid back and popular with tourists to Honduras. Touted as the Whale Shark Capital of the Caribbean, Utila offers the best glimpses of the majestic marine creatures during the months of March, April, August and September. The smallest of the three major Honduran Bay Islands, Utila is easily accessible from La Ceiba.

Honduras’ westernmost isle has die-hard devotees who patronize it for its thriving nightlife and great backpacker camaraderie. And divers will love the fact that the island of Utila is internationally touted as being the cheapest place in the world to obtain the PADI Scuba Diving Certification.

Your visit to Utila wouldn’t be complete without some snorkeling or diving. After all, the island sits proudly alongside the second largest barrier reef in the world which is just teeming with varied and marvelous marine life for you to explore.

Professional divers can book a bed on the only live-aboard boat on the island for the ultimate scuba diving experience. Here you will spend a whole week on board, exploring remote dive sites that have rarely been seen by human eyes. Chepes Beach is the most popular beach in Utila which offers great shore diving opportunities.

A great deal of attractions lie in store once you surface as well. You can take a boat out to Water Cay, an uninhabited tropical paradise situated just half an hour away. Wander along the shoreline for hours or just lay out on a deserted beach. Grab your snorkel and giggle at the little barracudas that gather around the docks of Utila.

While Utila does not have many beaches, there are a number of small cays with good beaches that you can easily access by boat. The largest of the keys are Suc Suc and Pigeons Keys. Water Key is arguably the prettiest of Utila’s keys and a great spot for camping out. Be sure to visit the Utila Cays for a completely different view of the island.

Pumpkin Hill is the only mountain on Utila Island, from which you can enjoy views of the entire island, as well as of Roatan further east. You can visit some of the caves around Pumpkin Hill where legend has it pirates would hide their treasures.

During the nocturnal hours hit up the clubs for an unforgettable night out on the magnificent island of Utila. Plan your visit during the first week of August to attend Sun Jam, the high-energy outdoor extravaganza that features live DJs, spirited dancing and cold drinks.

5. Roatan

Many people dream of taking a vacation near the beach and the island of Roatan is one of the best spots for fulfilling that dream. When it comes to value, culture and even good looks, the Caribbean fantasy that is Roatan is worlds ahead of the competition. The Roatan coastline features outstanding white sandy beaches, iron shore bluffs and mangrove forests that surround the island.

This almost perfect combination offers the very best of all 3 worlds: tropical beaches such as the one at West Bay which is regarded as the best beach in Central America, and one of the best in the world. The iron shore bluffs provide some of the island’s best ocean front views, while the mangrove swamps provide insights into the tropical wetlands of Central America and the Caribbean.

A gem in the Honduran Bay Islands, Roatan is long, narrow and hilly with rolling hills and mountains, all of which offer unique ocean views. Stretching at an impressive 40 miles long, Roatan attracts all types of travelers, from the budget backpacker to the luxury cruise-shipper. Most are united in their passion for scuba diving on an island that is surrounded completely by the Mesoamerican Reef System.

Extending from the Mexican Islands of Isla Mujeres, Cozumel and Contoy to the north, all the way to the Honduran Bay Islands in the south, the Mesoamerican Reef System boasts the world’s largest marine diversity.

If you’re looking for the perfect tropical vacation, look no further than Roatan. The island is full of white sandy beaches, surrounded by magnificent coral reefs that make it a snorkeling and diving haven. The island also offers plenty of attractions and activities. This is just the place to go for water sports of all kinds.

Roatan boasts beautiful beaches almost everywhere on the island, the most famous being West Bay and West End. Here you can spend a lovely day along the shore at places to lunch or grab a tasty cocktail right on the beach.

For a little privacy, head over to Paya Bay which is the most secluded and farthest beach from downtown Roatan. The white sands, warm tropical waters and gentle breezes of Roatan make it an ideal setting for sunning, reading or just napping during your Honduran vacation.

To sample the life and flavor of Roatan, you will need to mingle within the island’s principal communities. Head over to Sandy Bay where most of the cultural attractions of Roatan are located, including the Carambola Gardens and Marine Reserve, as well as the Institute of Marine Sciences.

The Carambola Botanical Garden is yet another Roatan attraction. Untold pleasantries await those willing to enter into the heart of this beautiful paradise, from great trees, nice paths and amazing scenery. Running creeks, a jungle rich in rare orchids, wild fruit, birds of paradise, parrots and iguana roaming freely and glistening fern gulley are just some of the marvels you can expect to find here.

A guide can take you up the mountain to enjoy unparalleled views of the islands and their rich inner depths. Take photos of the indigenous fauna and learn about the islands amazing biodiversity. The gardens offer a welcome change from all the diving and beach activities that are synonymous with Roatan, giving you an entirely different perspective of the lovely Honduran island.

Another serene escape on the island is the Roatan Butterfly Garden. In addition to the beautiful butterfly species found here, the butterfly garden teems with other wildlife such as boa constrictors, parrots and lush tropical plants to be admired.

Part of the Bay Islands of Honduras, Roatan has endured centuries of transformation under the island’s indigenous ethnic groups and Afro-Carib settlers. Add onto this the Spanish, American and British influences and what you get is an island which is home to some of the most diverse peoples in Central America.

The core of Roatan’s fishing trade lies on the lively French Harbor, which is also home to the only iguana conservatory on the island. Punta Gorda is Roatan’s only Garifuna settlement boasting a dynamic culture that’s remained relatively unchanged since the late 1700s.

Lucky for you, there’s really no end to Roatan’s diversions. In addition to snorkeling and diving, you can also enjoy the beautiful waters of Roatan by kayaking or going on glass-bottom boat tours. Roatan’s inland attractions include cycling, visiting museums and canopy tours.

If you’re up for a little bit of exercise, rent a kayak and glide along the Caribbean coast. The calm sea makes paddling here quite an enjoyable experience. The more active traveler will appreciate water sports such as parasailing and water skiing which is available at most of Roatan’s beaches.

Dinner is always an adventure on Roatan. While lobster and fresh fish is the most obvious choice, don’t shy away from local Caribbean cuisine such as coconut bread and conch fritters. And keep an eye out for the fascinating little Jesus Lizard which is native to Roatan and famous for its amazing talent of walking on water.

6. Bay Island Underwater Museum

Thanks to its proximity to the second largest coral reef system in the world, Honduras boasts underwater adventures that are of international acclaim.

A true marine sanctuary, the Mesoamerican Reef System is home to millions of underwater creatures including lionfish, manta rays, sea turtles and moray eels. The reef also offers amazing shipwreck diving with artifacts of the Mayan, colonial and Honduran history finding a resting place there over thousands of years.

The Bay Island Underwater Museum offers a museum experience unlike any other. Hear about the colorful history of the islands, slave revolts and the Afro-Caribs, before you jump into the water to swim with the marine life and marvel at the artifacts. Littering the ocean floor you will find artifacts that tell the story of the Mayans, colonization, as well as the struggle for independence.

Situated in Sandy Bay on the northwestern side of Roatan Island, the Bay Island Underwater Museum combines history with entertainment, by transforming snorkeling into a treasure hunt. Upon arrival, you will be given an introduction to the site and facilities to prepare you for your snorkel adventure.

During your underwater tour, you will see replicas of Mayan statues and masks. Snake your way through the coral heads where you will encounter parrotfish, snapper and other fish. You will then enter the colonial era and swim over a replica of a sunken pirate ship with treasure chests and coins all in place. If you can dive down, try to get close enough to pick up a coin.

Your adventure will end among shallow coral heads at which you can get up close and personal with other colorful marine life, including lionfish and turtles. The crystal blue waters combined with the Mesoamerican Reef System make for one of the most perfect spots for snorkeling.

The Bay Island Underwater Museum tour lasts about an hour. In addition to the snorkeling adventure, there is a pizza oven, bar, plenty of beach chairs and hammocks where you can relax after your snorkel adventure.

7. La Ceiba

“Ceiba the beautiful” is just that: beautiful. With its beach, monuments, fountains and statues, the city makes for a great site for the best carnival in Central America. Each May, one of the main events – not just in Ceiba but in the entire Honduras – takes place here.

Also known as La Feria Isidra, the La Ceiba Carnival has both locals and visitors from all around the world participating. It begins with mini carnavalitos in every barrio, culminating in a single spectacular parade that takes place on the final day.

La Ceiba is also home to a number of beach destinations including the popular Cayo Cochinos. Also referred to as the Hog Cays, Cayos Cochinos comprises a lovely set of 2 small islands and 11 cays. A true Caribbean paradise, Cayos Cochinos is easily accessed from La Ceiba and is great for snorkeling and beach activities.

There are two interesting villages worth a visit on the Cayos: East End a permanent Garifuna outpost and Chachahuate, a lovely community on the key. Plenty of restaurants line the beach at La Ceiba, offering typical Honduran food. Here you can sip on a fruity drink while gazing at the sea.

Regarded as the “Capital of Ecotourism” due to all the nature oriented activities on offer, La Ceiba does not disappoint. The city offers nature lovers fantastic opportunities for their pleasure.

The geography of Honduras’ northern coast is dominated by an abrupt, massive and extremely lush mountain chain stretching incredibly upward, as if in an attempt to touch the sky. No other region along the central or North American Atlantic coastline has such an impressive mountain range situated so close to the coast. Dominating the magnificent mountains is the massive peak, Pico Bonito.

An icon of the city of La Ceiba, Pico Bonito is a majestic, triangular shaped peak that towers high over the Nombre de Dios Mountain Range. On a clear day, you can easily see the peak from the islands of Roatan and Utila. The peak is situated within the Pico Bonito National Park, which is the second largest park in Honduras.

The geography of the Pico Bonito National Park makes for a number of unique habitats starting from the narrow coastal plains of the Caribbean shores to the low lying valleys on the back of the mountain range. Tropical rain forest, cloud forest and dry forest can all be found within the Park.

Arguably the most biodiverse area in Central America, Pico Bonito boasts a combination of tropical rainforest in the lower regions, tropical cloud forest in the higher elevations, and tropical dry forest on the backsides of the mountains. The Pico Bonito National Park is also home to the lovely Rio Zacate waterfall hidden in the jungle.

Next to Pico Bonito are the Nombre de Dios Mountains, a mountain range that has managed to retain its natural lush tropical vegetation and look, thanks to the fact that its steep slopes make it almost inaccessible.

You will need to hire a guide to walk through the Pico Bonito National Park along the Cangrejal River. There is a nice trail here going into the forest which offers interesting insights into the tropical rain forests.

You can also enjoy some nice bird watching opportunities while here. The guides are very familiar with the tropical jungle and can help you easily spot birds, lizards, snakes and whatever else you are looking for.

Adventure lovers visiting La Ceiba can also enjoy some white water rafting on Rio Cangrejal. The Cangrejal River Valley is nestled between the Nombre de Dios and the Pico Bonito National Parks. The river valley provides the perfect settling for a great active adventure or eco-tourism trip.

The journey to the river valley is just as intriguing as the final destination. The road will take you into the mountain communities, following the river. Here you can marvel at the incredibly lush mountains covered with dense tropical rainforests. The pristine area is truly spectacular with green mountains, a river with blue-green waters rushing through massive boulders as they race to the nearby Caribbean sea. And then there’s the waterfalls that drop down 200 feet into the canyon. Is there really a more clear definition of paradise than this?

The spectacular natural setting of the Cangrejal River area offers many jungle trails that lead into the parks. Take the most exciting of all – the El Mapache Trail which will take you over a spectacular 400 foot long hanging bridge up to the El Bejuco Waterfall, a unique 200 foot waterfall. Access to the trails is via a magnificent 120 foot long suspension bridge that will take you high across the river into the Pico Bonito National park.

8. San Pedro Sula

If you think that partying at the La Ceiba Carnival is something, wait until you party a full month at Feria Juniana! Feria Juniana is the June Fair of San Pedro Sula, which features carnivals, fireworks, float parades and other cultural events. The fair focuses on the art and culture of Honduras where visitors can sample the typical Honduran fare of baleadas, enchiladas or deep fried tacos.

The city of San Pedro Sula derives its name from the local dialect Usula, which means “valley of birds”. The second largest city in Honduras, San Pedro Sula is also the main gateway into the Central American country. Honduras’ financial and industrial center, San Pedro Sula is an important hub that provides outstanding travel opportunities around the country.

A point of interest in the area is the Parque Nacional El Cusuco. One of Honduras many wonderful national parks, the Parque situated west of San Pedro Sula is worth a visit for its natural attractions.

9. Tegucigalpa

The second largest city in Central America, Tegucigalpa is also one of the oldest capital cities in the region. Founded in 1578, Tegucigalpa boasts numerous picturesque areas with old-world charm that make for unique points of interest.

Begin your tour of Tegucigalpa with a visit to the shrine of Our Lady of Suyapa, Honduras’ national patron. The Virgin is celebrated in February when hundreds of thousands arrive from every corner of Honduras to pay their respects, so plan your visit at this time.

A visit to this shrine will give you insights into typical Honduran folklore, as you observe locals paying their respects to their holy patron. You can also purchase local goods such as candles, flowers and even food items from the small plaza situated at the front of the church.

Also visit the National Art Gallery that operates as a museum. Here you will find a complete collection of Honduran art dating from colonial times to the modern day. The museum also holds exhibitions on a regular basis. Despite being modified over the years, the museum has retained its original architecture and offers a fine example of Spanish colonial architecture in Central America.

The National Identity Museum is also worth a visit. One of the main museum highlights is the virtual presentation of Copan, which represent life during the peak of civilization in the ancient Mayan city.

You can also visit La Leona Park for spectacular city views, including those of the Choluteca River that flows through Tegucigalpa. The park is well-maintained with pleasant gardens and a small kiosk. Around the park are numerous grand buildings of old residences. Near the park are many different narrow cobblestone streets with old colonial style homes.

La Tigra National Park is another Tegucigalpa attraction worth visiting that boasts tropical cloud forest vegetation in a unique habitat.

Valle de Angeles is a small community situated about 18 miles from Tegucigalpa which is very popular on weekends among city-dwellers in search for a more pleasant rural atmosphere. There are many restaurants and shops available here.

The town is a really nice place to have a walk around before sitting down at one of the many street side cafés or restaurants for a bite to eat. There are also many artisans producing a large variety of handicrafts which make for great souvenir items. You could take home a finely carved mahogany chest or a small hand-made souvenir key ring.

Santa Lucia is another picturesque town that seems to cling onto a mountain top overlooking the Tegucigalpa valley below. With pine clad mountains and a nice small town atmosphere, Santa Lucia makes for a pleasant detour.

Just south of Tegucigalpa, you can visit Ojojona, a lovely mining town with a handful of small eateries. This is a great spot to buy some locally made ceramics, as well as some good artwork. Visitors can also tour its pleasant churches on Sundays.

10. Tela

Situated about an hour and a half drive from San Pedro Sula, Tela is regarded as one of Honduras’ premier beach destinations. The most popular beach on the northern coast of Honduras, Tela is a favorite among both locals and tourists alike. The beach at Tela is large and ideal for swimming, water sports or simply lounging.

Just south of town is the Lancetila Botanical Garden which you can also visit. Go here to admire trees and plants from all around the world. If you are interested in Honduran birds or are an orchid lover, you will thoroughly enjoy a visit here.

The Lancetila Botanical Garden is the second largest tropical botanical garden in the world, and the largest in the Americas. Established in 1926, the Garden stretches over 1,681 hectares and includes an arboretum, experimental plantations and a biotic reserve designed to preserve the natural vegetation in this part of the country.

The Garden is also part of the Honduran biological corridor, a series of protected areas lining the northern coast of Honduras that seek to preserve the natural environment and allow for the migration of larger mammals throughout the area, including the endangered jaguar and other feline species that are native to Honduras.