Honduras Feature


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A Reason to Celebrate

Honduras's festivals don't all have their roots in the country's Catholicism—just some of them do.

Semana Santa, Comayagua, Santa Rosa de Copán, Tegucigalpa. Holy Week is an excuse for most Hondurans to flee to the beach—you'll be surprised at how the country shuts down for seven days in March or April—but the faithful stay behind and pay homage to the somber and joyous events of the Christian calendar's most sacred week.

Virgen de Suyapa, Tegucigalpa. How many countries have a patron saint just 2½ inches tall? Each February, Hondurans flock to the capital from all over the country to pay homage to a small statue of the Virgin Mary that dates from 1747 and is said to have cured all manner of ills and contributed to the betterment of their health and welfare.

Festival de San Isidro, La Ceiba, Caribbean. Rather than try to compete with the pre-Lenten carnivals held elsewhere in Latin America, Honduras's equivalent takes place in May. The parades, music, and merrymaking of the country's biggest blowout of the year all cement La Ceiba's reputation as the country's party-hearty capital.

Garífuna Day, Caribbean and Bay Islands. The British exiled the indigenous-African mixed Garífuna to Roatán in 1797, following their revolt on the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent. Sounds like a tragic event to commemorate, right? The dancing and revelry will make you realize this April celebration is anything but.

Chill-out Time on the Beach

Although Honduras boasts two coasts, almost everybody gravitates toward the longer Caribbean side and its white-sand beaches. The north-coast infrastructure is more developed, but that doesn't mean you can't find that perfect stretch of sand away from the crowds.

West Bay, Roatán, Bay Islands. Take a poll: This one out on the far end of the island likely wins as everybody's favorite beach in Honduras. How could it not be? The postcard-perfect white sand and turquoise water are the stuff that dreams are made of.

Cayos Cochinos, Bay Islands. There really are more than three Bay Islands. The term also encompasses the sprinkling of nearby keys, the so-called Hog Islands. Nearly all are uninhabited, and a beach excursion here from one of the big islands—Roatán, Utila, and Guanaja—is sure to give you that Robinson Crusoe experience.

Punta Sal, Parque Nacional Jeanette Kawas, Caribbean. The Caribbean-coast beaches at Tela are certainly beautiful, but a short boat ride away lies this white-sand strand inside a nearby national park with a forest of palm trees coming practically right up to the water's edge.

Playa Negra, Isla del Tigre, Southern Honduras. The Pacific coast doesn't get the press that the Caribbean side does. Never has, never will. But if you're down here in the southern part of the country, don't let that stop you from relaxing on the pretty black-sand beach—Playa Negra means "Black Beach"—On Honduras's Very Own Pacific Island.

A Stroll Through the Colonial Past

Several cities and towns in Honduras are monuments to the country's proud pre-independence past. Credit Spain: It originally constructed the buildings that made up its settlements in Honduras in the 16th through 19th centuries, of course; and it is actively aiding Honduras in their restoration today. Yet these cities' colonial cores are not filled with stuffy museum-piece architecture. Centuries-old structures serve today as thriving parish churches, government buildings, offices, shops, and homes.

Gracias, Western Honduras. Utterly charming Gracias once served briefly as the capital of Spain's empire in Central America. Residents are working hard to maintain the legacy of those pre-independence glory days.

Santa Rosa de Copán, Western Honduras. The highlands' unofficial capital has taken active measures to maintain its colonial architecture with strict laws regarding maintenance and construction of buildings in its city center.

Comayagua, Western Honduras. Honduras's capital until 1880, Comayagua contains the country's largest repository of colonial architecture, and residents are engaged in the country's most active effort to preserve their heritage.

Tegucigalpa. Most of Honduras's sprawling capital is quite modern, but many of the buildings in the city center date from the colonial era. For a sense of the country's history, a visit to its capital—admittedly, the average tourist bypasses the place entirely—is a must.

An Opportunity to Be Sustainable

Sustainable is the watchword in tourism these days. It encompasses the whole ecotourism thing, yes, but it also takes into account the need for a business to be an integral part of its community—in other words, to have the chance to sustain itself. We wish there were many more such places, but the near total lack of chain hotels outside the two big cities does mean that by staying at most Honduran lodgings, you are helping provide employment for local people.

The Lodge at Pico Bonito, Parque Nacional Pico Bonito, Caribbean. Surprise! A stay in the wild can be surprisingly comfortable as a visit to one of the country's premier lodges can attest. And we say, so much the better when it's such an environmentally conscious place that repatriates its profits back to community projects.

Casa del Árbol and Casa del Árbol Galerías, San Pedro Sula, Western Honduras. Another surprise: You don't need to stay in the middle of the rain forest to be an environmentally conscious traveler. This pair of city hotels is reducing its carbon footprint with solar power, and has provided employment to a cadre of female Lenca artisans who helped decorate both places.

Hacienda San Lucas, Copán Ruinas, Western Honduras. This century-old ranch house outside of town uses solar power to minimize use of electricity. These folks also actively promote local indigenous Chortí culture in the form of employment and customs.

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