Honduras Feature

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Honduras Adventure Vacations

Like its Central American neighbors, Honduras has latched onto the eco/nature/adventure bandwagon that Costa Rican tourism began driving successfully in the 1990s. Offerings are far fewer than those of its southern neighbor: Costa Rica counts an astounding 80-plus zip-line canopy tours, but we can count the number in Honduras on one hand. That said, Honduras gets good grades for what is here—selection is sure to grow in coming years—and for the quality standards of its adventure-tour operators. The world also awards Honduras high marks for preservation of its natural protected areas, although a perpetual dearth of funds plagues the system and often makes that maintenance a labor of love more than anything. Honduras has experimented with turning over administration of some national parks to private foundations—La Tigra, near Tegucigalpa, and Cusuco, just outside of San Pedro Sula, are the best-known examples—and the jury has ruled the approach successful so far. Bottom line: Honduras has plenty of nature to enjoy and plenty of operators to help you enjoy it.

Diving

For many, Honduras equals diving, and with the Bay Islands encompassing part of the world's second-longest barrier reef, the underwater life to be spotted here is amazing. The industry is less developed in Honduras than in Belize and Mexico, which both share that same long reef. That translates into less expensive diving and certification. (Beware though: A few places are a little too cheap, and may scrimp on safety.)

Anthony's Key Resort is Honduras's largest dive center, a resort and scuba operation in one, with six 42-foot boats to take you out for a day or half day, and multiday packages that include accommodation and a complete range of courses if you need them. Sandy Bay, Roatan. 445-1003. www.anthonyskey.com..

Ocean Connections Dive Center is a well-established dive shop with two branches in Roatán. These folks specialize in smaller groups and offer the complete spectrum of PADI-affiliated courses, from novice to advanced. West End and West Bay, Roatán. 445–1925. www.ocean-connections.com..

Bird-watching

Some 700 bird species—eagles and egrets, tanagers, and toucans—have been logged in this country about the size of Ohio, but with a much greater variety of ecosystems. Experienced birder? Head out on your own at Lago de Yojoa and tackle some of its 400 species. Logistics become more difficult if you're headed to La Mosquitía, Honduras's other top bird-watching destination.

La Moskitia Eco Aventuras has eight-day birding tours here; lodging is rustic. La Moskitia can also customize birding tours to your tastes and time constraints. El Toronjal, La Ceiba. 440-2124. www.lamoskitiaecoaventuras.com..

Horseback Riding

Tours on horseback are quite popular around the country. Many operations are nothing more than a guy and his horse, though. We recommend always going with an established company. Basecamp Tours has a popular three-hour horse trip that takes in the countryside around Copán Ruinas with a visit to a Chortí indigenous community. The views are stunning. C. de la Plaza, 1½ blocks west of Parque Central, Copán Ruinas. 651–4695. basecampcopan.wordpress.com..

Omega Tours operates half-day horseback trips along the beach near La Ceiba, as well as a daylong combo ride that takes in beach and jungle. El Naranjo, La Ceiba. 440-0334. www.omegatours.com..

Hiking

With plenty of national parks and Lenca villages to take in, sometimes the only way to get somewhere is to walk, and there is no better way to appreciate the backcountry. Trails are mostly well-maintained, but play it safe; an experienced guide or outfitter will help navigate unfamiliar territory.

Mountain Travel Sobek, based in California, leads weeklong hiking tours in Pico Bonito National Park that also include boating at the Cuero y Salado Reserve and a visit to the ruins at Copán. 1266 66th St., Emeryville, CA, 94608. 888/831–7526. www.mtsobek.com.

Cosuca-Celaque is a local association of guides based in the highland town of Gracias. They specialize in nearby Parque Nacional Celaque, one of the largest tracts of cloud forest left in Central America. The rough conditions make hiring a guide worth it. Gracias. 656-0627.

Cultural Encounters

Honduras is its people, of course, and the concept of going to communities and interacting with local people on an organized cultural excursion is just catching on. These qualify as adventure tours because sometimes hiking, boating, horseback riding, or motor-vehicle travel over rough roads are the only means of getting to these out-of-the-way places.

La Ruta Moskitia has a variety of culture-adventure excursions lasting seven to nine days. As you'd expect from the name, they take you to the Mosquitía for visits to indigenous communities, but also include rafting, trekking, and animal spotting. 406–6782. www.larutamoskitia.com..

Mesoamerican Ecotourism Alliance (MEA) offers tours that visit Río Esteban, a Garífuna community on the Caribbean coast with a chance to learn about women's cooperative projects and local artisan workshops. There's snorkeling, hiking, and boating on the tour operated by this Colorado-based company, too. 4076 Crystal Ct., Boulder, CO, 80304. 800/682–0504. www.travelwithmea.com..

Rafting

White-water sports in Honduras are mostly about the Río Cangrejal and its Class III to Class V rapids. The river runs near the Caribbean coast, 30 minutes from La Ceiba. Some outfitters bill the Cangrejal as apt for beginners, but we disagree. Some experience is best before tackling this one.

Garífuna Tours takes you on a six-hour excursion out of La Ceiba to the Cangrejal; it's a moderately strenuous rafting tour. Jungle River Av. La República, La Ceiba 440–1268 www.jungleriverlodge.com. C. 9, Tela. 448–1069. www.garifunatours.com.

Tubing

Screaming white-water rapids not your thing? Honduras offers rivers that let you drift along in style, comfort, and, most important, tranquility.

Yaragua Tours has a three-hour tubing tour down through the Copán Valley, drifting you along past coffee plantations and even right past the Copán ruins themselves. C. de la Plaza on Parque Central, Copán Ruinas. 651–4147. www.yaragua.com..

Kayaking

Not everyone wants the close group experience and camaraderie that white-water rafting requires. Consider a tour in an individual sea kayak around the Bay Islands as an alternative.

Uncommon Adventures, a Michigan company, offers eight-day sea-kayaking trips that originate at their lodge in Roatán. Day trips explore the reef at Pigeon Cay, the island's mangrove tunnels, and other secret channels. 866/882–5525. www.uncommonadv.com..

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