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It’s not often that the tiny Central American country of Honduras steals its way onto the outside world’s front pages. But most of the turmoil surrounding the June 28 ouster of overreaching president Manuel Zelaya seems to be roiling more outside the country than inside, in places like Caracas, Managua, and even Washington DC. Most Hondurans, by contrast, seem relieved by recent events, and it’s been largely business as usual within the country, including its growing tourism industry. In my opinion, this will likely remain the case whatever happens, whether the new government stays in control or there’s a negotiated return for Zelaya.
But I’m not here to talk politics — my brief is more about what Honduras has to offer to the vacationer. And as I discovered firsthand not long ago, while still poor and rough around the edges, this country delivers riches in terms of ecotourism, beaches, and ancient history.
You’ll fly into political capital Tegucigalpa or business capital San Pedro Sula, but unless you desperately need a semblance of a dining and nightlife scene (in which case you should be visiting another country), there’s little point sticking around in either of these rather dumpy burgs.
Many head instead to the Caribbean’s Bay of Islands, where tiny Roatán and even tinier Utila have been moving beyond just the diving and fishing types that used to consider them their golden little secret. Lately, they’ve been attracting ever more sun-, sand-, and surf-seekers not into the overbearing resorts and duty-free shopping malls of the commercialized Caribbean. That’s not to say there aren’t a handful of medium-size resorts, and even several fairly upscale complexes, but by and large that barefoot feel of yore is still alive and well out here.
Meanwhile, over on the coast, the city of La Ceiba serves as the anchor for soft adventure (totally kick-ass river rafting on my last visit) and eco-lodges. Heading north, the Tela coast has been adding some resorts of its own. But its most fascinating feature is without a doubt the villages of the Garinagu (a.k.a. the Garifunas), a unique culture and people born of the intermarriage of Caribs, Arawaks, and African immigrants.
Honduras’ jewel in the crown, though, for me is and will always be majestic Copán, one of the great cities of the Maya civilization dating that had its heyday between the 5th and 9th centuries A.D. Its exotic stelae, statues, ballcourt, and soaring temples conjure up a connection to the distant past that can feel positively mystical. Alongside the ruins you’ll also find a postcard colonial town with sloping cobblestone lanes and charming restaurants and hotels.
Now, much of the above is also on offer elsewhere — for example, Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. But if you’re looking for bargains, you’re more likely to snag them in Honduras. At least outside the grittier cities, it’s pretty safe, the price is right, and the payoff undeniable. So at a time when you might be asking yourself whether you can afford an adventure like this, Honduras is adamantly worth a look.
For more info, check out Tripatini’s Honduras group.