Photo: Kieran Reeves Photography/Shutterstock

11 Things You'll Miss as a First-Time Traveler to Honduras

Honduras Insider Guides
by Joe Batruny Jul 23, 2014
1. Cayos Cochinos

With Roatan’s installation of a cruise ship terminal several years back, the island isn’t the haven it once was for divers and beachgoers seeking seclusion. That experience now belongs to the Cayos Cochinos, two tiny islands (and 13 small cays), which sit a stone’s throw from Roatan.

Cayo Grande, the larger of the islands, has no roads; a hiking trail connects the residences and beaches. The only accommodations you’ll find are the Turtle Bay Eco Resort and the local Garifuna villages, and it’s this lack of development that makes for some of the best diving in the world.

2. Lago de Yojoa’s fisheries

Lago de Yojoa (Lake Yojoa) sits along the highway that connects the two largest cities in Honduras, Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. The lake, home to many fishing communities, is a welcome rest stop on the journey. Visitors often stop at one of the 50+ lakeside restaurants, many of which are owned by local fishermen.

Fresh pescado frito (whole fried fish) is served alongside pickled onions, pickled red cabbage, and tajaditas, or deep-fried sliced plantains. Travelers in the know make sure to enjoy their lunch at one of the restaurants with hammocks available, in the event a nap is needed post-meal.

3. A sip of gifiti

The Garífuna people, descendants of the Carib, West African, Central African, and Arawak peoples, mainly reside along the Caribbean coastal areas of Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. One of their best-kept secrets is gifiti, a traditional Garífuna tincture of rum and a closely guarded assortment of herbs, spices, and roots. The medicinal concoction is said to have strong healing powers, including “enhancing sexual drive” and “calming the nervous system.”

4. Cueva del Rio Talgua

Also known as “Cave of Glowing Skulls,” Talgua Cave is located in the Olancho Valley. While residents have visited the cave for decades, the ossuary chamber was only discovered in 1994 when human skeletal remains were found 2,000 feet into the cave. The cave earned its “glowing skulls” name due to the manner in which the light reflects off the bones. The site has yet to attract mass tourism, due much in part to its location.

5. Sunjam at Water Cay

Starting in 1997 as a 50-person beach party, Sunjam is now a near-2,000-person, 24-hour event chock full of drinking, drugs, loud music, and debauchery reminiscent of the early days of Koh Pha Ngan’s Full Moon Party. Taking place every August, it’s an ideal retreat for travelers looking to get (very) loose between diving and sightseeing.

6. Lancetilla Botanical Garden

Less than 5km south of Tela (another of Honduras’ best-kept secrets), you’ll find the Lancetilla Botanical Garden and Research Center. After enjoying fresh-caught fish beachside in Tela, make your way to the gardens.

Spanning an area over 1,681 hectares, the gardens have played an important part in Honduras’ economy — many of the crops that Honduras currently exports, including the African palm and rambutan, were introduced to the country through the Lancetilla gardens. Puma, deer, howler monkeys, and several other rare mammals can be found in the biological reserve.

7. Amapala

Located on Isla del Tigre, Amapala is a small municipality that sits on a bay shared by Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador. Complete with black-sand beaches composed of volcanic rock, the area is only accessible by boat. Amapala, known to many as one of the most beautiful places in the country, has yet to become a major tourist attraction due to its lack of modern infrastructure. Visitors navigate the island by moto taxi or pickup truck.

8. The plato típico

Literally translated as “typical plate,” the plato típico is an impressive, traditional Honduran meal comprising a laundry list’s worth of ingredients: carne asada, spicy chorizo, roasted platanos (sweet plantains), olanchano cheese, tortillas, refried beans, and chismol, a fresh salsa consisting of tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, lime juice, salt, pepper, and lots of cilantro. If you’ve already had your fair share of platos típicos, give the baleadas (tortillas filled with quesillo and refried beans, among a million variations), pupusas, or sopa de caracol a try.

9. Honduras’ first microbrewery

Located on the northwest side of Lago de Yojoa is the D&D Brewery, Lodge, and Restaurant. The rotating taps provide a refreshing break from the Salva Vida, Barena, Imperial, and Port Royal beers you’ll be drinking at nearly every other establishment in the country. If you plan on having one (or 10) too many, D&D also has accommodations available for those who prefer to wake up, treat their hangover with some hair of the dog, and go for a swim.

10. La Tigra National Park

In close proximity to Tegucigalpa, La Tigra National Park is the most popular spot on this list, but there are still many travelers who miss Honduras’ national park on their first visit. The arduous hike to several waterfalls transports visitors from Tegucigalpa’s urban feel to a tropical forest ecosystem within minutes.

A diverse number of amphibians, birds, reptiles, and mammals can be found within the park, not to mention the bromeliads, moss, fungi, and giant trees (including the ceiba, the species of tree revered by the ancient Maya). If you plan on roaming around for a long while, hire a guide. Or get lost. Your pick.

11. Dancing punta with the Garífunas

Many visitors to Honduras end up spending sizable periods of time on the Caribbean coasts, but few stay long enough to experience all the customs of the Garífuna people. One of the most memorable is dancing punta, known as “banguity” to the Garífunas. Typically performed at celebrations, the traditional style of music and dance involves musicians playing various percussion instruments and dancers swaying their hips in circular motions. If you manage to join in, it’s an experience you won’t forget.

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