Honduras

When we started planning our trip to Honduras, we pictured beaches, palm trees, natural fruit, and coffee beans. As our trip got closer, we got a little nervous. When we registered our trip with STEP, we were notified that there was a level 3 travel warning for Americans traveling to Honduras. Our friends, Kira and Jose, were reminding us to start probiotics, purchase extra strength bug spray, get vaccinated, and take immune system boosters. As we were packing to leave the country, we were apprehensive.

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Kira and Jose live in Tegucigalpa, Honduras which is the capital of the country. We planned to fly out of New Orleans because it tends to have cheaper international flights than the Memphis airport. While looking at flights, we found that we could fly to Tegucigalpa for about $700 each or we could fly to San Pedro Sula for about $350 each. San Pedro Sula is about 3 hours from Tegucigalpa and with a $35 (each) bus ticket to get to the capital, it was still cheaper. Flights to Tegucigalpa tend to be more expensive because the airport is located between two mountains and the runway is very short. The pilots who fly there have to be very experienced and thus, the higher cost.

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So, we ended up flying Copa Airlines as per Kira’s recommendation. The planes were clean and we were fed on each flight to and from Honduras. When all was said and done, we flew out of the New Orleans International Airport (MSY), had a one hour layover in Panama City, Panama (PTY) and finally landed in San Pedro Sula, Honduras (SAP).

Jose and Kira picked us up from the airport and we headed to La Ceiba which is on the northwest side of the country. Our friends weren’t letting us visit Honduras without seeing a beach. While we were driving across the country, we saw beautiful green mountains that stretched across the entire distance we were driving. There were tons of fruit stands on the side of the road which seemed charming at first, but we could also see small houses made out of aluminum and dirt. It was sort of shocking to know that people live in these homes. I can’t imagine that it’s very safe and that the inhabitants would be privy to any predator that came around.

As we were driving, Jose would point out different things to us. All across the country, the words “Fuera Joh” were spray painted on various buildings, street signs, and rocks. The Honduran President is named Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH). Fuera Joh translates to, “Out with JOH” or “Out with the president.” Back in November, during the reelection of the president, there were riots and protests because the election was allegedly rigged. While driving, we couldn’t forget about these words as they were present. At one point, we drove through what used to be toll booths. Jose told us that this station was burned down in protest of the president.

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When we got to La Ceiba, a small beach town that seemed totally empty, we ate dinner at La Palapa which is right across the street from the Hotel Quinta Real where we stayed. The next morning, we went to a house that operates as a tour business. They’d be taking us to Cayos Cochinos, a group of small islands off the coast of Honduras and about two hours west of Roatan.

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In June, I dislocated my shoulder. I was in a sling for about a month and thus you’ll see it in most of these photos as well.

We got on the fifteen passenger boat with our life vests. One of Kira and Jose’s friends had told us the boat ride would be about 45 minutes and that the first ten minutes are rough, but the rest of the ride is pretty smooth. We get settled and as the boat is starting to ride against the waves, we were all planning our emergency capsize plans. I was holding onto Steve’s pants so tightly that if I were to be flung overboard, Steve would be coming with. The first ten minutes were rough and the next hour and 20 minutes was even worse. It was like being on Space Mountain in Disney World the whole time. We’d crash up against the waves and then crash back down as the boat somehow made it against the current.

The tour stopped at one island where we were allowed to use the bathroom, watched a video in Spanish about conserving the island, reapplied sunscreen, and took a group photo.

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This excursion was a little disorienting as Steve and I didn’t speak much (any) Spanish. So, we were just following the other passengers around. We got back in the boat and went to another island where we saw children holding snakes for us to take pictures with. We went for a short hike to see a snake in a tree. The guide walked right to a tree, pointed to the snake, then we left and got back on the boat.

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We arrived at the third island where we got to play in the water. Jose went snorkeling and Kira and I splashed around in the water.

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The fourth and final island, Chachahuate Cay, is where some of the Garifuna people live. According to Global Sherpa, “The Afro-Caribbean Garifuna people originated with the arrival of West African slaves who washed ashore on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent around 1635 while likely on their way to New World mines and plantations. Today, the global population of Garifunas stands at upwards of 300,000 people, many of whom live in the U.S. and Canada.”

The water on this island was so clear, there were native children running and playing all over, and we had an incredible lunch of fish, plantains, rice, beans, and banana soda. We got to swim, take photos, and eat. It was nice to see a clean, preserved beach and play in the clear waters.

On the way back to La Ceiba on the boat, it looked like the tide had gone out because the water was even higher than on our way in. Instead of the boat going against the waves, we were riding toward the shore with the waves. It felt like we were hydroplaning over waves. To our left and right, the water was higher than the boat. We couldn’t believe that we were even still alive. When we made it back to the shore, we laughed about how terrifying the boat ride was.

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The next day, we drove from La Ceiba to Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. We got to see more of the country and as we got closer to the capital, we could see that the houses became more solid and there seemed to be less obvious poverty. It was still a bit startling to see the disparity between the coast and the capital. It is much different than driving through the United States. I’ll take this opportunity to say that the bathrooms at gas stations were horrific and rarely had toilet paper. So, bring a roll with you. Additionally, across Honduras, you aren’t supposed to flush paper down the toilet. Their plumbing just isn’t equipped to handle it.

We stopped for lunch at Power Fish, a restaurant on Lake Yojoa where we got to enjoy another delicious fish meal. By this meal, Steve was SO tired of plantains. The area around Lake Yojoa was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. We took a turn and then there was a beautiful lake and dozens of tiny restaurants all lined up next to each other. During this trip to La Ceiba, Jose was driving a rental car. The car was a Toyota Prado; He told us that it is the car that the “narcos” used to drive in Honduras. It made us stand out and made the Power Fish employees try to charge us $80 for fish. Jose was able to negotiate with them. Before leaving for Honduras, we had read recommendations that said we should leave signs of wealth at home (wedding rings, fitbit, etc.). We did and we felt perfectly safe. No one ever targeted us or approached us based on our iPhones or Steve’s camera.

The next morning, we went to La Cumbre, a restaurant in the mountains of Tegucigalpa. It’s an upscale restaurant that serves brunch on Sundays. We got there at 9:15am and were told they opened at 10:00am. We walked around the restaurant and explored the areas with gorgeous views while we waited for the restaurant to open. They actually ended up opening at 11:30am. La Cumbre ended up being fantastic. Throughout the three hours we were there, the foods were rotated out. We were able to enjoy breakfast foods, lunch, and little desserts. It was delicious and worth the money even though they opened late. At La Cumbre, we were introduced to something called chimmichurri. It’s a green sauce that originated in Argentina and Uruguay. Of course, it depends who you ask, but for the sake of introducing it to you, chimmichurri includes: cilantro, parsley, oregano, olive oil, garlic, shallots, salt, vinegar, and a jalapeno. Seriously. It’s delicious.

After brunch, we headed to Finca la Cantadora, a vineyard in Tegucigalpa. We shared a bottle of blackberry wine. I bought some Honduran coffee to take back with me, but haven’t tried it quite yet as I’m making my way through another bag of Honduran coffee first. There was a skinny cat running around asking for food. We explored the rows of the vineyard and yet another stunning view in Honduras.

The next day, we went to El Picacho park to see a giant statue of Christ. Yes, it’s similar to the giant statue in Rio de Janeiro. In addition to the statue, this park has a few love related photo opportunities, more views of the city, and something that looks like a temple. We enjoyed walking around this park and getting our exercise after all the food we’d been eating. There is a cliff right outside of the entrance to the park that has a great photo opportunity. Kira was looking all over the park for the cliff and as we were leaving, she shouted, “There it is!”

After our religious visit, we drove to Valle de Angeles, a town about an hour away. This town was more set up for tourists than Tegucigalpa and La Ceiba. There were souvenir shops, restaurants, a big chair to sit in, and even a mural with a pair of wings. Every country we’ve visited seems to have an item that is sold in every souvenir shop. In the Czech Republic, it was glass vases. In Spain it was tiles. In Honduras, it was machetes and wooden trunks. Yes, machetes. Steve was joking with Jose about how he can’t bring one back to the States and this man popped out of nowhere and said, “you can put it in your checked baggage.” I bought more coffee, a few souvenirs, and we enjoyed a meal called Plato Tipico (the national dish of Honduras).

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On our last day in Honduras, we enjoyed breakfast at La Creperia. We then went to the Basilica de Suyapa, a large church in Tegucigalpa. We got to admire the inside and I purchased a rosary for my mom.

Later that afternoon, we also went downtown to the Museo de la Identidad Nacional (The National Identity Museum). This museum was pretty bare, there was construction happening in the exhibits, and it just wasn’t very pretty. The only time we felt unsafe in Honduras was when we were walking from the car to the museum. Kira said, “Don’t make eye contact with anyone,” and as we walked we could hear a group shouting, “Chelito! Chelito!” at Steve. This is sort of like Honduran slang for “white person! white person!” Jose told us that in Honduras, people call it like it is. If they have a fat friend, they call their friend “fat friend” (gordo/a). We also saw a lot of signs in Tegucigalpa that said, “Yo No Quiero Ser Violada” which means, “I don’t want to be raped.” It was interesting to see these signs all over and to see that there is a movement for women taking a stand against rape and violence.

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On our way back to the United States, we first took a bus from Tegucigalpa to San Pedro Sula. The bus company is called Hedman Alas. Though no one spoke English, it was a pretty decent bus ride. We made it safely to the airport where we flew from San Pedro Sula to Panama City to New Orleans.

Mainland Honduras is much different than the experience American tourists have at Roatán. Honduras was astoundingly beautiful. The mountains were just incredible and at one point we even saw a rainbow. We learned about politics, safety, and the culture. We were apprehensive to leave the United States, but our experience in Honduras was nothing short of incredible. It really humbles us to be able to travel and take back what we’ve learned.

Here are our tips for Americans who might travel to Honduras:

  • Be able to speak basic Spanish or have friends in Honduras who can help you
  • If neither of those options work for you, some hotels offer excursions so you’d be on a tour group to be able to go do things.
  • The power outlets (where you plug your phone charger into, etc.) are the same as they are in America so you don’t need to bring an adapter.
  • Wear bug spray and apply sunscreen religiously
  • Don’t put toilet paper in the toilets
  • Bring hand sanitizer and a roll of toilet paper with you for bathrooms that don’t have either
  • Wear jeans if you want to blend in. Seriously everyone was wearing jeans.

How we did it on a budget:
Flight from MSY to San Pedro Sula: $622.80 for both of our roundtrip flights
Rental Car: $112.50
Hotel for two nights: $189
Vaccinations, probiotics, bug spray, sunscreen: $200
Food/fun: $300
Total for two people to spend 7 days in Honduras: $1,424.30

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