Mainland Honduras is a magical place, teeming with an incredible mesh of different cultures, beautiful people and magnificent wildlife.
The perception of Honduras as a whole is consistently marred by international media outlets that seem set on portraying the country as a dangerous wasteland completely overrun by narco-trafficing and corrupt government officials. In reality, violence in Honduras is primarily contained in a select few gang-heavy areas within the larger cities. La Ceiba, meanwhile, is called “La Tierra de Gente Alegre” or the Land of Happy People and serves as the northern Caribbean gateway to mainland Honduras, accepting travelers from the ferries connecting the Bay Islands of Roatan and Utila and serves as a perfect basecamp for any adventure-seeking backpacker looking to experience something a bit off the beaten track. The following list comprises the top six things I’d recommend checking out in and around La Ceiba. All of these tours can be booked through Julio at 1877 Hostel in La Ceiba, who operates the absolute best backpacker accommodations in town:
A number of different expeditions can be scheduled ranging from white water rafting to climbing through the rainforest to the behemoth El Bejuco waterfall. Once you’re finished with your day of adventure relax among the natural granite pools alongside the Rio Cangrejal below the lodge and enjoy an unlimited supply of $2 Salva Vidas and a free night in the lodge’s dorm.
Make your way to Sambo Creek, a garifuna village about 20 minutes away from La Ceiba, where you’ll hop on a fishing boat and head out to sea to tour the Coyos Cochinos or “Hog Islands”. After dining on some freshly caught grilled fish with some locals on Cayo Chachahuate, the captain will drop you on East End, a native community of no more than 40 people who live off of the land here. No cell service, no wifi, no hot water, very minimal electricity, and the fantastically paradisiacal location allow you to immerse yourself in the simple beauties of village life here on the island. Take a hike to the lighthouse with a local guide and keep your eye out for the multitude of endangered pink boa constrictors that populate the island. At nightfall, take a seat on your deck and gaze at every light in the night’s sky along with the sublime bioluminescence of the plant life in the water.
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Garifuna Island Living: East End, Coyos Cochinos – A place where nature and interaction triumph over the lack of access to technologies that most people in today's modern world have deemed necessary for survival. It's hard to believe sometimes that places as pure as this community still exist. #explorehonduras
Utila is a popular backpacker haunt notable specifically within the scuba diving community as the island and pristine surrounding waters serve as home to one of the world’s best preserved reefs and a multitude of whale sharks, depending on the time of year. There are only a few paved roads on the island so to explore, we rented some ATV’s from Roney’s Rentals on the main drag and got completely lost romping through the winding, undulating and muddy terrain in search of some fresh-water caves. Hint: They are located directly adjacent to the power plant on the island, but it’s much more fun if you don’t know that beforehand.
Take a local bus or a taxi to the town of La Union. Here you’ll board an old railcar used back in the day to service the banana plantations that once saturated the area to the entrance to the wildlife refuge. There you’ll board a skiff with a guide who will take you around pointing out the entirety of flora and fauna the area has to offer. Aside from the overwhelming beauty of the surrounding forest, we were able to catch a glimpse of multiple species of monkeys, raccoons, a number of exotic bird species, and a massive four-meter long crocodile. Keep your fingers crossed and you might see a manatee!
You haven’t experienced a true soccer match until you watch a local exhibition in the flesh in Central America. Armed guards with riot shields protecting each referee from potential harm and an eccentric crowd of wild fans make for a truly invigorating experience.
Eat a baleada!
A number of eateries around town serve this traditional Honduran dish simply consisting of a thick flour tortilla packed with beans and any variety of other ingredients. My favorite baleada came from the stalls lining the center of one of the main streets downtown. Just ask for directions to the ‘Paseo de Baleadas’.
Photos: Louis Alcorn
What do you think of these must-do’s in La Ceiba? Let us know in the comments.