Honduras is under the radar for a lot of people, but I had the chance to go and I can say this for certain: it’s excellent. It has mountains, dense rainforests, beaches and scuba diving, diverse ecology, Mayan ruins, a culture all its own, and much more. I understand why it made a bunch of must-visit lists for 2017. I’d return in a heartbeat — here’s why.

1

It's incredibly lush.

I mean, look at this place. It's carved up geographically, and the biodiversity is off the charts. You can swim with whale sharks on the sandy Carribean coast, then turn around and visit dry forests, rain forest, cloud forests, wetlands, caves, savannas, valleys, and peaks. And that's just the obvious stuff. This is all just a two-hour flight from Texas, people.

2

The Copán Ruins are awesome.

Learning about a place through its history is pretty important. So I spent a lot of time at ruins but Copán was one of the most impressive. It was occupied for - historians think - about 2000 years. It has an amazing acropolis as a gateway to the underworld, underground tunnels, skull carvings, crazy stonework all over, and a really good open-air museum on site.

3

And set apart from other Mayan ruins.

Copán has a distinctive sculptural style within the tradition of lowland Maya, perhaps to emphasize the Mayan ethnicity of the city’s rulers. Some of the sculptures have been painted to represent what they would have looked like when Copán was still inhabited.

4

I wanted to loiter around these towns forever.

The plazas were alive with families, kids, and friends lingering in the shade; they were ringed with food stalls and hole-in-the-wall eateries; and were sprinkled with hostels and BnBs... I could have stayed an awful lot longer.

5

The Honduran personality is magnetic.

Hondurans are proud, fun people. The country has been through a lot and yet I found the towns approachable and upbeat. This is Carnitas Nio Lola, a funky restaurant in the town of Copán that is covered in Christmas lights and serves delicious Honduran food, like baleadas (refried beans with Honduran-style sour cream, scrambled eggs, avocado, and sometimes a kind of chorizo or beef, in a tortilla).

6

Toucans are the bomb.

I was lucky enough to see this Keel-billed Toucan at a sanctuary at McCaw Mountain.

7

The. coffee. is. to. die. for.

Hondurans know their coffee. I visited Welchez Coffee Farm to get a tour and a taste. A cup of this joe will get you wide-eyed, no matter what you did the night before. A lot of the best coffee in Honduras is exported so I had to take time to visit a farm and make sure I got the real deal. It also supports community initiatives at the same time, so it was a win-win. Pro tip: take some home.

8

The eco-lodges are on point.

Much of Central America is on the eco-resort train. But I found Honduras to be a great balance between ecotourism and price point. I stayed at Pico Bonito Eco Lodge in La Ceiba, on the Carribean coast. The private cabins are rainforest hideouts. At night the mountain air would downdraft through the forest and cool things off just enough to keep the windows open and listen to the surrounding wildlife.

9

The national parks are diverse and packed with sites.

I took a day trip to Pica Bonito National Park. In a day we trekked, climbed up to waterfalls, tried to spot a jaguar, crossed rivers, and back again. I mean, look at all that green. It was refreshing to feel dwarfed, it made me grateful to be a guest in a place like this. I cannot wait to be a guest here again soon.

Editor’s note: This trip was sponsored by Pica Bonito Eco Lodge.

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