Bright-green palms and coconut trees shelter small huts and homes hugging the sandy northern shores of the Bacalar Laguna. This mellow Garífuna community has steadily emerged from the shadows of nearby Palacios as local ecotourism efforts, excellent fishing, and a land transit hub draw travelers in for a stopover.

Nights in Batalla ring out with the vibrant drumming and dancing inspired by West African rhythms. The Garífuna culture has livened up Honduras's northern coast since these descendants of slaves arrived from the Caribbean islands in the late 18th century. By day, local guides set out on canoes through the sweeping mangrove forests to spot Caribbean manatees, rare tropical birds, and swinging howler monkeys. This coastal lagoon lies west of the Río Negro and falls within the blanket of the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve. Its swampy beauty is also protected under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, an international treaty signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971 to oblige countries to uphold the integrity of their wetlands.

Batalla is still blossoming, however, and its accessibility by land means the grunts and fumes of inland-bound pickup trucks fill the shores every morning. Many travelers only stay here for as long as it takes to hop out of a car and into a canoe. Others, however, opt to stay for the day and take part in Garífuna cultural exchanges or wildlife-seeking boat tours.

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