If You Have 3 Days: Head straight into La Ceiba. If you're in the mood for a peaceful beachfront getaway, check out one of the cute bed-and-breakfasts just east of Sambo Creek. Canopy tours, lagoon kayak trips, and natural hot springs are easy day trips from here. If you're up for a big adventure, stay in an ecolodge along the Cangrejal River or in the Pico Bonito National Park and sign up for rafting, horseback riding, or a mountain trek. There's time to stay at both the beach and in the jungle for those who want a mix. For all-night dancing when you're back in La Ceiba, arrange a hotel shuttle and swing by the Zona Viva on Thursday and weekend nights.
If You Have 5 Days: Start in La Ceiba and opt for a one- or two-day hike through the pristine forests around towering Pico Bonito. If the skies are clear on the following day, arrange an early morning snorkeling trip from Sambo Creek to the Cayos Cochinos, a spectacular archipelago that's actually part of the Bay Islands. Ask ahead of time and Garífuna villagers on Chachahuate Key will prepare you a lunch of fried fish and plantain chips. Tours end around 2 pm, so use the afternoon to relax on the beach or stroll through the Parque Central.
On the next day, drive one hour west to Tela and zip over to the Jardín Botánico Lancetilla, a fascinating sprawl of exotic plant and bird species. Back in town, take a walk past historic buildings recalling the banana republic heydays of the 1900s, and grab dinner along the beachfront promenade. Wake up early the next morning and take a tour through the Parque Nacional Jeanette Kawas, where howler monkeys and dolphins reside in mangrove swamps and turquoise reefs. If you're here on the weekend, you can attend a dance thrown by Garífuna groups.
If You Have 7 Days: A full week on the northern coast affords a great deal of options. Spend the first few days rafting, hiking, and relaxing in La Ceiba's Cangrejal and Pico Bonito areas. Take an early morning yoga class at the riverfront Casa Verde studio or ride in a basket along a zip line to the Juan Pablo Segundo weaving cooperative. Spend two nights in Tela and visit the town center, botanical garden, and Parque Nacional Jeanette Kawas. On the way back to La Ceiba, skip the Cayos Cochinos and take a short flight or ferry to enjoy the beautiful beaches of Roatán, the largest of the Bay Islands and the best option for travelers with children. Nearby Utila is a diver's and snorkeler's paradise and is a better bet if you prefer an active nightlife.