When Andi and I first started planning our 2-month robust Central America trip, we had some serious aversions to heading to Honduras. Everything I had ever heard about Honduras concluded it was an unsafe, or even violently dangerous country to visit. And there didn’t seem to be much of an upside to Honduras.
What I experienced blew me away. I actually feel awful for judging a country before seeing it for myself. I was more wrong than I could have ever imagined.
In the end, we actually decided to stay longer than we had originally planned. Out of all the countries we visited in Central America, Honduras was by far the biggest surprise of all. Here are 10 reasons why.
1) Honduras has surprisingly great infrastructure
The first thing we noticed upon our arrival in Tegucigalpa was just how nice the roads were. Our first thoughts were that perhaps the nice roads there were an anomaly, but nope! The incredibly smooth highway ended up continuing all the way up to the Caribbean coast.
In fact, the roads were a lot better than many of those in the United States. Especially New York. Screw driving there. (Can you tell I’ve had bad experiences driving in NY?)
There were large malls everywhere, huge supermarkets, ATMs, gas stations, restaurants (and pulperias – little markets), endless street food, and more. What else could you ask for?
If you thought the US was the land of convenience, wait until you meet Honduras.
2) Honduras is much safer than you think
Try to picture Honduras in your head. What do you see? Prior to this trip, I used to see images of MS-13, automatic guns, crime, kidnappings, and rundown cities. I was seriously concerned about coming here.
It’s no surprise I thought that way. Look up videos of Honduras on YouTube. There’s an immense amount of (in my opinion) clickbait, with titles like “My First Day in Honduras (Dangerous)” or “How Gangs Control Honduras”. The reality is a lot more complex than that.
Though there still is danger in Honduras, it’s mostly concentrated within the large cities, Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. That being said, both of these cities have lower murder rates than many cities in the US.
Most of the crime is drug-related, which is the common theme in Central America. The cocaine route officially (unofficially?) runs through Central America, bringing along crime. Plus, Honduras does have MS13 and the 18th street gangs, mainly concentrated in neighborhoods (barrios/comunas) in the large cities.
The reality is that the Honduran government has made strides towards curbing danger and crime in Honduras. Murder rates have fallen dramatically, and those affected are almost always rival gangs – just like in big cities in the US. You can read more about the impressive trends on the Honduras 2020 Crime & Safety Report put out by the US Government.
During our week in mainland Honduras, we never really felt like any place was sketchy. Though we exercised normal precautions (such as not driving at night, never showing jewelry, trying to not stand out), we never felt like in danger. And if you’re headed to the Bay Islands (Roatan, Utila), you’re basically in another country.
3) The beaches in Honduras are spectacular
I’ve traveled to nearly every country in the Caribbean, and the beaches in Honduras still impressed me. Every year (apart from 2020), nearly 1 million cruise passengers visit the Bay Islands of Honduras: Roatan, Utila, and Guanaja.
These gems of the Caribbean offer incredible snorkeling and diving on the world’s second largest barrier reef. The white sand beaches seem never-ending, and there’s a bit of something for everyone.
Roatan features the larger and fancier resorts, and tends to be more touristy. Utila is a bit more off the beaten path, and therefore offers much more affordability. It’s a great place to dive for very reasonable prices.
The beaches in La Ceiba and Tela are great too. They remind us of the beaches in the Dominican Republic; long, full of palm trees, white sand, and little restaurants lining them. The only downfall is that the water isn’t as nice or clear as in the Bay Islands.
4) The people here are ridiculously friendly
During our 2-month trip through Central America, this has been a consistent theme. The locals here, colloquially called “Catrachos”, are just so friendly and kind (amable in spanish).
Though the phrase “they would give their shirt off their back…” is cliché and super overused, I believe it here. Hondurans are patient, social, inviting, and outgoing. It’s remarkable how hard-working they are, yet how they’re always willing to strike up a conversation.
They’re also very honest. Whenever I asked about dangerous spots, they didn’t belittle and pretend like danger didn’t exist. Instead, they provided honest tips and good insight into how the country has been improving itself.
Most of all, Hondurans are genuine. That’s something I often miss when I come home to the US. You don’t feel that sense of false politeness here; people are who they are. And that’s great.
5) Honduras has some of the best Mayan ruins
I’m not sure the exact history on how the borders were decided, but I do know that Honduras pulled a quick one. They somehow extended their borders just around Copán Ruins, a Maya site that alone makes it worth visiting Honduras.
Many people see the Copán Ruins as part of a day trip from Antigua Guatemala, and that’s understandable. But I really think it’s a great way to start your trip into Honduras.
The Copán Ruins feature staircases with hieroglyphics from the Maya era and an entire Mayan city. Plan to spend about half a day (or more) visiting the large network of temples and living quarters and meeting grounds.
6) The coffee in Honduras is amazing
I had always heard that Costa Rica had great coffee, but wait until you give Honduran coffee a chance! Remember when I mentioned that Honduras is 80% full of mountains? Well these mountains and highlands provide the perfect climate to grow some of the best coffee in the world.
Speaking of Copán, it is a great gateway to a ton of incredibly cute towns in the Coffee Region of Honduras, also known as the Lenca Route: Santa Rosa, Gracias, La Esperanza, Marcala, and Ajuterique on the way towards Tegucigalpa. These are the places where you’ll love to indulge in the local, amazing, rich coffee of Honduras.
While you’re on the Lenca Route, make sure to stop in Gracias, where you can ride the highest canopy (zip-line) in all of Central America.
7) Honduras is the most mountainous country in Central and North America
As soon as we entered Honduras, we couldn’t keep our eyes from the countryside. 80% of Honduras is mountainous, more than any other country in North America.
From the volcanos in the south, to the dry, rugged mountains in the middle, to lush, green, lake-bound and pine-filled forest mountains in the north, there’s so much to see and enjoy. Lake Yojoa is surrounded by nature reserves, national parks, and incredible biodiversity. If you’re a nature lover, I would definitely plan a couple nights in the area.
This was such a lovely surprise – and a huge reason we were sad to leave Honduras.
8) The local staple, the Baleada, is absolutely delicious
Walk around any street corner in Honduras and you’re bound to pass by a food stand selling Baleadas.
What is a Baleada? It’s basically the Honduras version of an arepa – kind of a thick, astoundingly delicious taco. They’re often filled with refried beans, cream, and queso duro (cheese), plus whatever meat you’re feeling up to.
They usually sell for 10 lempira each – the equivalent to 50 cents. And one is enough to fill you up – trust me!
Though it may not be healthy in the long run, eating baleadas is one great way to visit Honduras on a budget. Plus, you get to interact and meet some locals, see how they live their daily lives, and entertain your taste buds.
9) There’s amazing diving in Honduras – and it’s cheap!
Getting tired of volcanos, lush green mountains, amazing wildlife, great food, and incredible beaches? Well, if you thought Honduras didn’t have a lot to offer before, just wait until you dive here.
Fly into Roatan or Utila if you want to get diving as soon as possible. These islands, located on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (the second largest in the world), are epic breeding grounds for whale sharks, eagle rays, barracuda, turtles, giant lobsters, and plenty more.
Better yet, the diving in Honduras is some of the cheapest in the world. Alton’s Dive Center in Utila is my personal favorite here. They offer impressive packages for even more impressive prices – and the best service on the island.
10) The wildlife is unmatched
Our favorite destination in Honduras was actually the majestic Lake Yojoa and its surrounding natural reserves filled with parrots, red-eyed tree frogs, hummingbirds, howler monkeys, and more.
Here, we spent a night at what ended up being our favorite hotel in all of Central America: the Luna del Puente Reserva Natural Privada. It’s a natural reserve that happens to be a hotel – not the other way around.
During the daytime, the reserve is open for tours for visitors from around the world. But the best part comes at night, when 80% of the wildlife comes out. And us. That’s when we were shown around the reserve by one of the extremely insightful owners. Only hotel guests get that special access.
The owners have lived and worked on the natural reserve for over 30 years, tailoring and protecting the reserve and creating the ultimate in-nature experience. You can see all of the aforementioned animals and so much more. More than that, it’s probably the best place to unwind and detach yourself from the outside world I’ve ever been to. After 2020, that’s a very welcome finish.