Things to Do in Honduras
Cross the rope bridges to Gumbalimba Park on the jungle island of Roatan, Honduras, and step into a botanical garden and animal preserve, home to more than 200 rare species of plants and orchids. Cool off in the freshwater swimming pool, wading pool, cave, and sandy beach where you can rent kayaks and snorkeling gear, among other attractions.
This fascinating archaeological site provides insight into how the ruling families lived in the heyday of the Maya people. It also explains how long periods of peace were not sustainable: the number of elites grew faster than the taxes and tribute to support their lifestyle. They ate well and lived long lives, while each of their many children grew up expecting the same.
In Las Sepulturas (“the tombs”) area of the archaeological park, archaeologists found over 500 skeletons, so this area served as both living quarters and graveyard, new homes built on ancestral tombs. Don’t expect elaborate mansions though: most living was done outdoors and meals were prepared in a communal kitchen. This is a spot where a good guide can bring sense to it all.
Many of the adornments from the area are housed in area museums, but some carvings and reliefs are still in place.
This beautiful little neighborhood of boat houses on stilts lies on the southern end of the island, just east of French Harbour. A small restaurant, beautiful bay, and a lot of peace and quiet mark the area, where the main pastime is sit back, relax, and enjoy the leisurely pace of island life.
El Picacho Mountain, located within the relatively new Parque Naciones Unidas El Picacho, is famous for the 65-foot (20-meter) tall statue of Christ the Redeemer at its peak. Visible from almost anywhere in Tegucigalpa, the statue has been watching over the city since it was erected in 1997. An old white-lettered Coca-Cola sign on the side of the hill has led to the nickname “Coca-Cola Christ” among the less religiously inclined residents of the city.
A fairly easy walk to the top brings visitors past a small zoo, but the main reason to make the journey is for the panoramic views of Tegus from the top.
One of the cleanest and best-maintained beaches on the island of Roatan, Sandy Bay Beach is quieter than the West End, with enough restaurants, shops, and resorts for a comfortable stay. A reef just offshore offers excellent snorkeling right from the beach.
Great trees, great paths, great scenery – Roatan’s Carambola Botanical Gardens and Nature Trails offer it all. The beach is undoubtedly Roatan’s most obvious attraction, but getting above and beyond it offers untold pleasantries for those willing to enter into the heart of this beautiful place.
Running creeks, a rich jungle full of rare orchids, wild fruit, birds of paradise and more meet you at every glistening, fern-gullied step. Natural iguana and parrots roam the gardens, while an optional local guide will take you up the mountain to show you unparalleled views of the islands rich inner depths. Stop by the popular Chocolate Tree, take pictures of wild animals, and learn about the biological diversity of the island. A welcome pace from the beach and diving scene, heading into the Carambola Botanical Gardens and Trails will give you a totally different perspective on lovely Roatan.
At its peak in the ninth century, the ancient Maya city of Copán was a densely populated agricultural settlement of 20,000 inhabitants across 250 acres (100 hectares). Explore the well-preserved site to see Maya art and architecture, including several temples and pyramids, detailed hieroglyphs, and stone-carved stelae.
Located near the town of Tela on the Caribbean coast of Honduras, Lancetilla Botanical Gardenhas a history dating back to 1925, when it was founded by the United Fruit Company as an experimental garden for plantains and other fruits. Today, it’s one of the largest tropical botanical gardens on the planet.
The garden encompasses 4,151 acres (1,680 hectares) with more than 1,200 species of flora representing four continents. The Wilson Popenoe Arboretum houses the world’s largest collection of fruit plants — 636 species — as well as a germplasm bank for developing fruit cultivars. An experimental plantation grows 60 species of timber and fruit trees and doubles as a laboratory for teaching forestry.
A huge swathe of the gardens is occupied by the Biological Reserve, an area divided into tropical and subtropical humid forest. This is the best area of the park to view wildlife, including 250 species of birds, as well as howler monkeys, deer, puma and several types of reptiles, fish and insects.
Located in the heart of Tegucigalpa’s historical center, the Museum for National Identity (Museo Para La Identidad Nacional) summarizes the nation’s historical and cultural identity through its collection of art and artifacts from around Honduras. The exhibits, housed within a nineteenth century hospital that once served as the Palace of Ministries, begin with the geological formation of Honduras and continue through to the present day.
Highlights of the second floor permanent collection include a virtual tour of the Mayan ruins of Copán, shown several times throughout the day. The first floor host temporary exhibitions. While informational within the museum is only presented in Spanish, it’s possible to rent an English audio guide or take a free guided tour in English.
The wilds of Roatán are as diverse as they are romantic. From beautiful beach vistas to dense jungles teaming with macaws and monkeys, Roatán is indeed a special place. And while the time seems to just slip away on the white sand beaches, there’s little more intoxicating than seeing the natural jungles that make Roatán the beautiful nature preserve it is.
The Roatán Butterfly Garden is this serene escape. Full of wildlife, the Roatán Butterfly Garden is home to boa constrictors, parrots, lush tropical plants and, of course, the beautiful butterfly. Let the tame deer lick your hand, feed some toucans, and have your guide show you around the grounds as you’ll get an experience here like no other.
More Things to Do in Honduras
With a coconut palm-lined stretch of white sand and a colorful coral reef just offshore, West Bay is one of the most popular beaches on Roatan and among the prettiest in all of Honduras. The area around the beach offers a wide range of accommodations as well as restaurants, cocktail bars, and shops.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982, the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve protects one of the last areas of tropical rainforest in Central America — 1.3 million acres (525,000 hectares) in total. The mountainous landscape along the Río Plátano watershed is home to some 400 species of birds, 40 mammals and 120 reptiles and amphibians, a number of which are threatened or endangered.
Travelers hiking the reserve’s mountain trails or rafting along the Río Plátano or Río Seco might spot colorful harpy eagles, colorful macaws, howler monkeys, sloths and maybe even a puma or jaguar crouched in the undergrowth.
Besides its natural attractions, the biosphere reserve is also home to a population of about 2,000 indigenous Pech and Miskito residents who have largely preserved their traditional way of life.
The Garifuna are groups of indigenous people who live along the coast of Honduras. Among the most accessible Garifuna villages is Miami, within the Punta Sal National Park. The people of Miami live along a spit of sand stretched between the Caribbean Sea and a placid lagoon. They reside mostly in straw huts, living off fish from the sea. A visit here offers the chance to learn about the locals and their way of life, as well as nature tours to spot crocodiles, birds and other wildlife. Most visitors also partake in a local meal of fish steamed in banana leaves under hot stones, along with plantains and cassava bread.
This small interactive Casa K’inich Museum (Museo Casa K’inich) is a worthwhile visit for families, though opening hours can be more of a guide than a reality. It contains musical instruments and clothing items, as well as lessons on how to count in the ancient language and play their ball game.
The non-profit museum provides insight into the advanced astronomy and math knowledge of the Mayan elite, as well as a look into how the regular people lived their lives. All 34 exhibits have explanations in English and are meant to be touched.
This building was originally a barracks, so if you climb the ladders into the turrets you’ll be rewarded with an expansive view over the town and the Río Copan Valley.
La Tigra National Park, also known as Parque Nacional La Tigra in Spanish, is the oldest national park in Honduras. It is named after the female puma, which is called la tigra, and true to its name, there are actually several of the elusive creatures around. Other rare animals that can be spotted with some luck are the iridescent red and green quetzals, ocelots, peccaries, hawks and toucans. The wet cloud forest is the ideal habitat for those animals and the condensed moisture and enveloping clouds allow for a lush vegetation to grow. Bromeliads, ferns, colorful mushrooms, orchids, avocado trees and the great ceibos, the sacred trees of the Mayans, are a common sight.
The park can be explored on eight trails leading through the 240 square kilometer big territory and visitors get to experience the climate as it existed before the spread of the city and heavy logging caused most of the cloud forest in the region to disappear. Today, La Tigra is the largest remaining natural area near Tegucigalpa and covers almost a third of the city’s fresh water consumption. It is not only the most visited national park in the country and a wildlife sanctuary, but is also used to educate about the importance of protecting the environment.
Ceramics, stone fragments, and other artifacts from the Mayan Ruins of Copan are on display at this small museum. While outdated when compared with the newer—and very impressive— Sculpture Museum, it’s still worth a stop. Highlights include the complete burial of a female shaman, which offers a fascinating glimpse into Maya death rites.
The attractively designed and well-run Macaw Mountain Bird Park and Nature Reserve grew out of a mission by a couple of American expatriates to care for stressed-out birds that had been mistreated as pets. Biologist Lloyd Davidson and business partner Pat Merritt purchased nine acres containing old-growth mahogany, Spanish cedar, fig trees, and other local species. They opened to the public in 2003 and now take care of more than 100 birds.
In a wooded area interspersed with coffee plants, the residents stay in large aviaries visitors can walk through, but get out in controlled sessions to climb on visitors’ shoulders. Tropical birds, owls, and hawks recover from past abuse while eating a proper diet. Butterflies and wild parakeets make a regular appearance while orchids line many of the trails. If the tropical heat gets to be too much, there’s a cool natural bathing hole on site.
Appropriate to the name, there are five kinds of Macaws at this bird park, though occasionally some leave to go live on their own. Many species of parrots and toucans make this a colorful—and noisy—place to visit.
Part of the property was previously a coffee plantation, so those plants live on and are harvested for shade-grown coffee. Beans from here and another farm the owners have go into the coffee brewed and sold by the bag on site. There’s also a historic coffee roasting house for demonstrations.
Roatan’s Cruise Ports are located off the Caribbean coast of Honduras and offer access to the Bay Islands’ fabulous beaches, beautiful coral reefs, and upland forest. There are two cruise ports in Roatan—Mahogany Bay and Coxen Hole—and each serves different cruise lines.
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