The intricate latticework of crisscrossing mangrove trees along the shore is reflected on the glassy surface of Laguna de Ibans, the smallest yet arguably most picturesque of La Mosquitía's three major lagoons. The open-water portion of the Laguna is about 5 miles across; clouds turn the water's surface into a portrait of the sky as narrow canoes paint ripples in their wake. On the sand bar that separates Ibans from the Caribbean, the jungle views are dotted with the stilted houses and creaky docks that populate a string of Garífuna and Miskito villages.
Tourism to three of this region's communities—Plaplaya, Raista, and Belén—is on the rise. Local initiatives have inspired comfortable guest lodges and community-run ecotours, giving the lagoon the edge over Palacios as a favored point of entry into Las Marías in the heart of the Río Plátano reserve.
Laguna de Ibans, named after a British buccaneer called Evans, enjoys a curious mix of rustic and modern. Families here sleep in hammocks in one-room homes and scrub clothing clean on rocks in the lagoon. They eat homegrown crops from small subsistence plots and bathe with tubs of gathered rainwater. Yet the electric buzz of a diesel generator brings fútbol games and music videos to the occasional flat-screen TV, and motorbikes dodge meandering livestock as they zip down bumpy dirt roads.
A stay in one of these villages merits more than just a pit stop. Be prepared for the comparative lack of amenities as compared to some of the other more-developed regions of Honduras, but the chance to unwind, explore, and experience a new culture make them worth the effort.