Honduras: Travel/Tourist Information Guide
The Republic of Honduras is a country located on the Central American isthmus. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Honduras and the Caribbean Sea, to the south by the Gulf of Fonseca and the Pacific Ocean, by Nicaragua to the southeast, El Salvador to the southwest, Guatemala to the west, and the Caribbean Sea to the east. Honduras is the second largest and second most populated country in Central America. The capital of Nicaragua is Tegucigalpa, which is also its most populated city. Population is estimated to be over 8,250,000. The country is known for its rich natural resources like minerals, products like coffee, sugar cane, and tropical fruits, plus a growing textiles industry which serves the global market.
Honduras was also known as Spanish Honduras to distinguish it from British Honduras, which is modern-day Belize. In Spanish, “Honduras” literally means “depth”. It can refer to the Bay of Trujillo as an anchorage, or to an alleged quote by Christopher Columbus which translates to: “Thank God we have departed from those depths”. An early name for the area was Guaymuras, and it was only near the end of the 16th century that the name “Honduras” was used.
Honduras is divided into 18 departments: Atlántida, Choluteca, El Paraíso, Colón, Francisco Morazán, Comayagua, Gracias a Dios, Copán, Intibucá, Cortés, Islas dela Bahía, La Paz, Ocotepeque, Lempira, Olancho, Santa Bárbara, Valle, and Yoro. The capital of Tegucigalpa is located in the Central District within the Francisco Morazán Department. The terrain is mostly mountainous with narrow plains along the coast. The La Mosquitia region in the northeast is a wide expanse of undeveloped jungle, while the Sula Valley is a heavily populated area in the northwest. The Caribbean coastline is long, while the Pacific coastline is short. Honduras has cloud forests, rain forests, mangroves, mountain ranges, savannahs, and the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. The highest point in the country is Cerro Las Minas at 2,870 m (9,416 ft) and the lowest point is the Caribbean Sea at 0 m. Honduras is prone to frequent but generally mild earthquakes.
Like its Central American neighbors, Honduras is a biodiversity hotspot because of its abundant variety of plant and animal life. The country is home to over 6,000 species of vascular plants, 600 of which are orchids, over 700 bird species, 250 amphibians and reptiles, and 100 mammal species, half of which are bats. The Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve is a lowland rainforest in the northeastern region of La Mosquitia, which is host to a diversity of flora and fauna. The reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bottlenose dolphins, blue tangs, manta rays, parrot fish, and whale sharks live in the waters of the Bay Islands.
The climate in the country varies from tropical in the lowlands to temperate in the highlands. Honduras has two distinct seasons: wet and dry. The dry season runs from December to May, while the wet season or rainy season is from June to November. Mean temperatures vary between 20°C/68°F to 32°C/90°F. December and January are the coldest months. The southern and center areas are significantly hotter and less humid than the northern coast. The best time to visit Honduras is February to March, when weather conditions are best suited for traveling and wildlife viewing.
The population in Honduras is 90% mestizo—a mixture of European and Amerindian blood, 7% Amerindian, 2% black, and 1% white. The official language of Honduras is Spanish. Other languages spoken in the country include: Bay Islands Creole English, Ch’orti’, Garifuna, Jicaque, Miskito, Pech, and Sumu. English is not spoken outside the major cities, except in the Bay Islands where it is the first language. Traditionally, majority of Hondurans are Roman Catholic. However, in recent years, numbers of the Roman Catholic Church members have been dwindling while membership in various Protestant churches has been increasing. Of the population, 97% are Roman Catholics, and 3% are Protestants.
Honduran culture is a mixture of Spanish and indigenous culture. Folklore is a huge part of Honduran culture. Fairy tales and legends abound such as the legends of El Cadejo, La Ciguanaba or La Sucia, La Llorona, and Lluvia de Peces or Fish Rain. Punta music is the traditional music of Honduras. Caribbean salsa, merengue, reggae, and reggaeton are usually heard in the north and interior rural areas. Hondurans are also fond of festivals. La Feria Isidra is one of the more popular ones. This festival is celebrated in the city of La Ceiba located in the north coast. It runs for a week during the second half of May and celebrations focus on the city’s patron saint, Saint Isidore. There is a carnavalito (carnaval) every night, and on Saturday, there’s a parade of floats and people in costume. Another event during the festival is the Milk Fair, where locals show off their farm animals and produce.
Honduran cuisine is a fusion of Spanish, Caribbean, African, and Lenca cuisines. A typical Honduran dish consists of rice, tortillas (corn, wheat, or both), meat (beef, chicken, or pork), frijoles—boiled or refried beans, and tajadas—fried banana slices. Traditional fare includes carne asada, baleadas, tamales, chicken with rice and corn, fried fish with jalapeños and pickled onions, and roasted meat with carne asada and chismol—a fresh and non-spicy salsa made of cilantro, green peppers, onions, tomatoes, and lime juice. In the coastal areas, especially the Bay Islands, many savory and sweet dishes use coconut and coconut milk. Hondurans enjoy soups with beans, beef, mondongo or tripe, and seafood. Soups are usually mixed with cabbage, plantains, and yucca, and served with corn tortillas on the side. When in Honduras, try native fruits like bananas, papaya, passion fruit, pineapple, plum, and sapote. Typical drinks are licuados or fresh fruit juices made from bananas, mangoes, pineapple, or watermelon. Honduran coffee is said to be one of the best in the world. The best brands usually come from Copan or Lepaera in the department of Limpira. Local beers include Barena, Imperial, Port Royal, and Salva Vida.
Honduras holds the highest rate of intentional homicide or murder in the world, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Crime rates including kidnappings, continue to rise in the country. It is strongly advised not to walk the streets alone at night even when in known tourist areas or just near your hotel. There are many incidences of tourists and foreigners being robbed in the streets of Tegicugalpa and San Pedro Sula by thieves who stake out near the hotels. Make sure to ride taxis with radio dispatch walkie talkies and windows that aren’t tinted. Some people have been robbed at gun or knife point while inside a taxi with tinted windows. Purified water is used in most hotels and restaurants in the major cities, but it is recommended to bring bottled drinking water when travelling to rural areas or the outskirts. Dengue fever occurs in both rural and urban areas, while malaria occurs mostly in rural areas, especially the Bay Islands. One must always prepare the necessary health precautions before going to the country.
Getting around Honduras
There are public buses in Honduras but there is no extensive, organized bus network.
There are railways in northern Honduras, but they never extend to Tegucigalpa or to the Pacific coast.
There is a regular ferry service going from the city of La Ceiba to the Bay Islands including Roatan and Utila.
Taxis are mostly concentrated in the big cities like Tegucigalpa.
Hitchhiking is common especially in rural areas. At the end of your journey, expect to pay the equivalent of a bus fare.