HONDURAS

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Monday, July 31, 2006

T and I traveled to Honduras with our friends Kelby and Gretchen in July 2006. We chose Honduras for a couple of reasons: we wanted somewhere cheap, T and I happen to love Central America, and we wanted a combination of beach and culture. Honduras definitely fit all of the aforementioned criteria.  It was an affordable destination with a rich culture, as well as a great place for adventurous excursions.
Our first stop was San Pedro Sula, which is known as the Industrial Capital of Honduras, due to the many factories, plantations, and businesses concentrated around the city. It is also known and recognized by its large Palestinian immigrant population. T and I arrived one day prior to Kelby and Gretchen and explored the city a bit. San Pedro Sula isn't exactly a charming city with many activities/sites. It mainly serves as a jumping off point to Copan and the Bay Islands. We walked around the plaza and then found a "market" which was pretty dirty and uninviting. We went to dinner that night and found a simple outdoor restaurant. We stayed at the Best Western Gran Hotel Sula, which was conveniently located on the main square. There was a nice pool and outdoor veranda, which we happily used. Once Kelby and Gretchen arrived the next day, we found a great restaurant where he had fabulous drinks and ceviche. We liked it so much, we returned on our last day in Honduras.
We then rented a car and headed to Copan for a few days. Copan is mostly known for it's wonderful Mayan ruins, although they were not nearly as impressive as the ruins of Tikal in Guatemala. The town is a small picturesque city with rough cobblestone streets and a buzzing central plaza that's the heart and soul of the place. Copán is surrounded by beautiful forests with waterfalls, hot springs, and excellent bird-watching and adventure tourism possibilities.
We stayed at a wonderful hotel, Hotel Marina Copan, which overlooks the Central Plaza. It had a beautiful pool and hot tub, as well as a very convenient swim-up bar area where we feasted on many of pina coladas and strawberry daiquiris. It was truly relaxing, which is something that T and I don't do enough of when we travel.
Copan is one of the grandest and most magnificently preserved of all Maya ceremonial cities. Surrounded by thick jungle and set beside the gentle Copán River, the ruins are famous for their raw stone-carved hieroglyphics, massive stelae, and the impressive Hieroglyphic Stairway.
The most exciting, exhilarating, and adventurous part of our visit in Copan was our hike/cave/waterfall hike. This was probably one of the best adventurous excursions we have ever done. For about $35 per person, we went on an all day excursion that included a grueling hike, spelunking, lunch, and a strenuous, but refreshing waterfall hike.
We met our guide Carlos at around 8:30 a.m., ate a quick breakfast, and immediately set off on a 4-wheeler through the wild and untamed countryside of Honduras. When the 4-wheeler could go no further, we stopped at a house to wash up and set off by foot. I was immediately humbled when we stepped into the home; the house was very simple with dirt floors and no running water. They had a  bowl of water waiting for us and generously shared it to allow us to wash our hands.
We set off on our grueling hike to the caves; all the while, because it has recently rained, the fields were very muddy and we kept falling and sliding downhill, especially T!! Let's just say that T was not very happy. After an hour or two, we finally arrived at the cave where it was very dark and there were MANY bats! To this day, T and I can still feel the slimy bat sh-- that covered our friends. UUGGHH! After our hike in the cave, we returned to the house where we ate a quick lunch. We then continued to hike to a not too near waterfall. Ahh, but the cool refreshing waters were our reward to a grueling day. We didn't return back to our hotel until after 6 or so and boy were we exhausted!
Later that night, we headed to Hacienda San Lucas, recently restored and owned by Flavia Cueva. Nestled in the hills above the tranquil Copán Valley, Hacienda San Lucas is a 100-year old family-owned retreat situated directly above the Mayan Ruins. This was definitely our favorite dining experience while in Honduras. Sitting outside on a dramatically lit hilltop , we were served five delicious courses, as well as visited by the owner herself.
It was a memorable and delicious evening!
We left Copan after a few days and headed off to La Ceiba, where we planned to catch a ferry to Roatan, the largest and most popular of the Bay Islands. Well, fours later in the car, we finally arrived at the ferry station and we JUST missed the last ferry of the night. Luckily, we were able to catch a quick flight over, which although it was more expensive, it was definitely less time-consuming.
We arrived in Roatan shortly after and immediately fell in live with the island. After, requesting a room change, we were given a SWEET suite right on the beach...it was fabulous. During our stay in Roatan, we went snorkeling twice (T's first time) and kayaking. We also visited a posh Italian-owned resort where we spent an afternoon basking in the sun and lounging in the pool.
Roatan is about 33 miles long and 4 miles wide and is tropical and beautiful! The water is very warm, clear, full of marine life and is one of the premiere dive spots in the world. The best way to travel around Roatan is to take a water "taxi". We felt very safe and the locals were extremely friendly and hospitable...oh, and pretty much everyone speaks English! We went to the West End, which is a bustling area with tons of restaurants, bars, and shops for breakfast and shopping.
Overall, we ate pretty well while in Honduras. I wouldn't exactly say it's a culinary destination, but if you like Latin American cuisine, then Honduras is for you. While in Roatan we ate at Gio's Seafood Restaurant in French Harbour and feasted on king crab legs. We also ate AMAZING brick oven pizza at Pizza Mira Bella Napoli...I swear it was delicious!
Roatan was such a wonderful island and I swear T and I could easily retire there.  All in all, we enjoyed Honduras and would recommend it to anyone who wants a tropical destination filled with culture, relaxation, and friendly and warm people.
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