Adventure, Honduras, Latin America, Reflections
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Honduras: We Travel to Realize Everyone is Wrong About Other Countries.

I almost didn’t go to Honduras. I remember sitting in a cafe, skyping with my friend, trying to decide if we should travel there; it sounded beautiful, but also pretty damn scary.

San Pedro Sula, the entry point into Honduras, is nicknamed the murder capital of the world.

And Honduras itself, one of the most violent places on earth.

A Tripadvisor forum advised people not to step out of their hotel on foot at any time of the day.

Would we be risking our lives?!

Guanaja Honduras, Bay islands Honduras, Caribbean coast Honduras

I suppose it was worth risking everything for 😉

That afternoon, I sought shelter from a heavy downpour in the public basketball court of San Marcos La Laguna, my last stop in Guatemala (Read: My Impressions of Guatemala). I hadn’t played in years, and couldn’t resist the shy invite to join young Mayan boys and girls for an exciting, adrenalin-packed game – the things we can never imagine doing on the other side of the world!

Resting my tired limbs, I got chatting with a young man who turned out to be the sports coach in these parts. When he asked where I would go next, I told him it was between El Salvador and Honduras, and asked him if he had even been. Never, but his friends in El Salvador loved Honduras!

Fast forward a week, and we were catching a bus from San Pedro Sula (alive, thank you very much) to the far end of La Ceiba, in a remote village between two protected forest reserves.

Honduras is safe enough to travel in. 

Scarlet macaw honduras, Honduras birds, Honduras wildlife

The Scarlet Macaw, Honduras’ national bird.

In exchange for our apprehensions, we learnt that our host family at La Villa de Soledad didn’t even bother closing their gates or doors at night. The biggest danger were stray dogs wandering in to steal their chihuahua’s food!

In San Pedro Sula, we strayed out of our hotel on foot, at night, to grab dinner. The city, despite a label so violent, is surprising pretty, surrounded by green-sculpted mountains with a bustling city centre.

Like the rest of Central America, gang violence has gripped some parts of Honduras. But as long as you keep away from those parts, trust your gut and mind your own business, it’s like any other country in the world – only with scarier labels. We found the locals to be laid-back and friendly; one even bought us a round of drinks at a bar!

The Bay Islands are an untouched Caribbean paradise.

La Giralda Guanaja, Guanaja Honduras, bay islands honduras

Floating in my infinity pool in La Giralda, Guanaja.

I had marked the Caribbean islands like Bahamas out of my budget. But Honduras gave me my chance. Its 3 Bay Islands – Roatan (popular with luxury travellers), Utila (famous for diving) and Guanaja (the least visited) – are easily accessible from La Ceiba and relatively affordable.

We picked Guanaja, the one without paved roads, towns built on stilts and kayaks for transport, and I’m still searching for words to describe my first taste of island living at La Giralda in the Caribbean.

Vegetarians can survive, nay thrive, here.

Mi Casa too Guanaja, Honduras food, Honduras vegetarian food

A delicious island-style meal at Mi Casa Too, Guanaja.

I vaguely recall reading a website that declared Honduras unpalatable for vegetarians. Sure, meat features heavily in the Hondureño diet, but it’s easy to find delicious food without it. I loved baleadas – a thicker version of the corn tortilla and kind of a national dish – stuffed with black beans, cheese, plantains and sometimes eggs. Tortillas, rice, empanadas and such are easy to find too.

Adventure enthusiasts, Honduras is your calling.

Pico Bonito Honduras, Canopying honduras, la ceiba honduras

Canopying through the dense Pico Bonito forests.

Oh what adventures Honduras had in store for us! We went mountain biking through the challenging terrain and remote villages of Nombre de Dios along the River Cangrejal, canopying and hiking in the dense Pico Bonito rainforest, stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking in the Atlantic Ocean, and snorkeling in the second biggest barrier reef in the world, spotting magnificent corals, lion fish and octopus!

Have you ever travelled to a place whose labels were all wrong?

Follow my adventures across Central America live on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

34 Comments

  1. Well-said & I always believed that every part of the world is worth a visit. Security & natural disaster fears are always overdone since the fact is that the risks exists anywhere, anytime

  2. its true that such places are given scary name tags which prevents most people from travel to such place and appreciate the beauty of these places… and forgetting the fact that people do live here and not survive…

  3. Suvasini says

    Wow, worth the risk taken 🙂 and glad u came out without mishaps..

  4. You’re putting Central America on so many people’s travel maps. 🙂 I haven’t really been to a place I was highly cautioned against, but I did have the slightest of apprehensions when I was planning to visit Mexico (although, of course, Mexico is infinitely more visited than these countries) – the first Google search seemed to bring up so many travel advisories. But then I remembered that I call my home a city (Delhi) that also features unflatteringly in so many travel advisories – especially with regard to women’s safety – and that put things in perspective. Like you said, it’s best to be cautious and well prepared wherever you go, instead of letting others frighten you. Having said that, I suppose some places are “out of bounds” for good reason. Wouldn’t go into details because these are sensitive issues and involve people who suffered, but there have been concerns over some travellers/vacationers who visited certain African countries despite official advisories, got kidnapped, and then had to be freed by their governments on payment of huge ransoms – which effectively amounts to bankrolling dreaded organisations. Anyway, those are one-off, extreme incidents.

  5. Roberto Amaral says

    Sivya… your mission should read like…
    “Earth, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Shooting Star. Its lifelong mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where few others have gone before.” 😉

  6. It’s exactly why I travel to troubled places like North Korea, Palestine and Iran. Based on my travel experiences, reality is often far from what’s reported by the media. The Iranians are the warmest people I’ve ever met and North Koreans are just as curious of us as we are of them. Central American definitely has a bad rep – I’ve heard so many stories of friends being held at gun point or robbed in daylight on public buses – but we ourselves never had any problems when traveling there. I guess it’s always up to us to visit a place and make judgement for ourselves. P.S. Love receiving your new posts in my mailbox! 🙂

  7. Great to see someone write about Guanaja, for me, it’s the prettiest of the 3 islands. My family used to own a Hotel in Guanaja back in the 90’s, we closed after hurricane Mitch in 98. During school years I spent every other weekend there, but come the summer and we’d settle there for 2 months.

    BEST years and childhood memories.

    • Oh wow!! that was some hurricane !! where did you live in Guanaja? I am from Guanaja but live in the USA, always so good to hear something positive about my little island.

  8. Thank yo ver much for visiting my country. My people and I appreciated every word that you wrote about Honduras. Thanks for sharing to the world that Honduras is not what the international press says. Once again, Thank you.

  9. Pingback: Honduras: We Travel to Realize Everyone is Wrong About Other Countries. | The Talking Sloth - Asia

  10. Sanjay says

    Hi Shivya what about the visa requirements for Honduras for an Indian passport?

  11. Eu Englestead says

    Thank you so much for this amazing post! I’m from Honduras but I’ve being living in the US for almost three years now and I’ve traveled to my country like 20 times since I came here. I know that there’s terrible things happening there but in my 24 years living there, nothing ever happened to me or my family. I really appreciate what you said about my country and my people and I’m glad you decided to get your own opinion by going down there instead of just reading what everybody else has to say about Honduras.

  12. Anita says

    Bay Islands is one of the most beautiful places in the world (in my opinion). I am from Honduras and I am really happy with your comments about my country. Thank You!!! 🙂

  13. Danny says

    Sure, tell that to the people who get kidnapped in Tegucigalpa in the middle of the day when they’re just withdrawing money at an ATM.

  14. Patty Ramirez says

    I havebeen visiting Honduras sinc 1987, and living here permanently sinc 2009. I have never felt threatened. You have to use common sense, but I feel safer here than I do in Miami.

  15. Eileen Melton says

    Spent a couple of weeks in Dec 2012 and again in 2013-flew into SAP and drove to Tela and then La Cieba-hopped the ferry to Utila. In 2013 we hopped the ferry to Roatan, got my dive certificate and flew back to La Cieba. Never felt unsafe. The birdwatching is amazing as is the diving. And the prices are still reasonable!

  16. T. T. says

    In a way I am glad you wrote this article, since it shows the average ignorant traveler that even if the label is scary, the actual experience probably won’t be and it’s absolutely worth it. I am a native Sampedrana. Born and raised, but went to college in US.
    Again, Thank you for writing this article. But I beg you, please do not suggest to anyone that it is ok to walk on foot at any time of the day. It may seem ludicrous to you, but heed my advice. As Americans, you walk around my city with a giant bullseye and you say, nothing happened to me on that one night so it’s FINE. It’s not fine. Just to name a few incidences, My aunt was kidnapped without warning at 7 am as she was opening up the family business. Unplanned, on a whim. An American tourist was killed on a Main Street right by the City Mall for his camera at noon. Usually I would say, stay out of the bad parts of town and don’t get mixed up in drugs and you’ll be fine. That was the case 10 years ago. Now, They will kill you for a flip phone. The islands are a completely different story. I no longer advise my American friends to visit San Pedro Sula, but to go straight to the islands. Americans are too trusting, too naive. Even when I instruct them on what to avoid to stay safe, they say to themselves, it can’t be that bad, it won’t happen to me, and then go ahead and ignore my advice. You had good luck, but odds are someone else might not, and you are encouraging them to engage in risky behavior. I’m glad your experience in my country was positive, but the reality is they are not joking about the danger. Please consider editing that part of your article.
    Also, baleadas are not corn, they are made in flour tortillas. FYI. What I wouldn’t give for one right about now.

  17. Karen says

    Thank you thank you thank you for that amazing review!! im from Honduras, I live in san pedro sula (the capitol city of murder) and it hurts when everyone only sees the bad things that happen here. of course it can be dangerous if you hang out with the wrong people in the wrong places, but isnt like that in every other country?
    Honduras is a beautiful country and as you said, we are friendly people, specially with tourist.
    Next time you come here I invite you to visit Cususo national park, is an amazing hike to one of the most beautiful wallerfalls 🙂

  18. Fred Chirinos says

    As an Honduran I’m glad to read that you enjoyed our country, I’ve lived here all my life and only twice has something sketchy happen to me, (both muggings, near me, but not directed towards me), I love my country and all the natural beauty it has in store for me to explore on a daily basis.
    Fred,

  19. I also went to Honduras I recommend Utila and Roatan. Utila has a lot of transplants so there is a great international population. Go to treetanic, the coolest bar ever. Roatan west bay has the picturesque beach and lots of tourists but not overrun. Walk to west end point to be alone and enjoy the ocean and see amazing cliff side homes. I stayed at the bed and breakfast off the beach for $25 a night and it was fantastic.

  20. I am sure you had a very nice and adventurous trip with lots of fun as well. Wish to visit the place and enjoy the same way. Thank u for sharing your experience..Keep posting with lots more.

  21. general says

    Hmmmmm… I lived there for three years. Yes, the islands are safe and wonderful, yes rio congrejal is awesome, safe and amazing, Yes Pico Bonito is the same.

    But that is NOT a safe country by any means. And in no way should you ever walk around the city at night and just “check your gut.” In the cities, it you go out, always take taxis direct from the hotel to the restaurant. If you really want to do some walking, talk to locals and find out what places are safe, and even then watch your back. Never use a cell phone in public. Never have a camera hanging around your neck. Never go to an ATM in a sketchy part of town (which is pretty much everywhere. When I lived there i would only use ATMs inside banks, not on the street)

    In the time I was there I never had an incident, but I knew a pregnant woman who was robbed at knife point by elementary kids, a family stripped naked and robbed on the beach at Tela, one of my MS student’s family gunned down on the streets of Ceiba, the cops beat a man to death in front of apartment complex, my girlfriend at the time has had TWO brothers killed in the last year, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Since the gangs have moved in, that place has had really hard times. (yes people, that is the effect that buying coke has on Central America)

    I think it’s great to promote tourism in Honduras, but maybe some legitimate helpful advice would be better than just ignoring the violence and being proud of yourself for making it through unscarred.

    If you go there, stick to the major tourist destinations like the islands (or just fly in direct) they are awesome, beautiful, and safe. It’s the most amazing tropical vacation you will ever have for the money. I would go back there in a heartbeat. The river by Ceiba is great. Pico Bonito is awesome. Pass through Ceiba, and avoid SPS and Tegus like the plague.

    Supporting tourism in Honduras is a great thing, but you need to do it right. Don’t tell people to travel freely and trust in the protection of the great spirit to guide them. Someone is going to get hurt.

  22. David says

    Hey, returned Peace Corps volunteer here. I lived in La Ceiba for 2 years (2005 to 2007), and then went back for a year for phd research in La Mosquitia (2009). Yes, Honduras is a paradise. In a single day, you can snorkel the most amazing reef in Central American, and then swim in the most beautiful waterfall. HOWEVER I saw horrors. When you can start recognizing the different types of gunfire, you know you have heard too much. When you can tell how long ago a murder happened by the color of the blood on the sidewalk, you have seen too much. I have pub stories that would make your hair stand on end, and make you lose faith in humanity. People that I knew are dead now. Yes, I love Honduras, and yes, it is fantastically beautiful, but no, I never that recommend anyone visit because I don’t want their life on my hands.

  23. Great article! I was glad to read that you had a good time, as I’m planning a trip through Central America myself soon.

    I often wonder if these ‘dangerous’ countries are really objectively so dangerous (as in that you should expect to have problems there), or if this is maybe coming from a Western European point of view where most cities are perfectly safe for walking around by yourself at night. I grew up in the States and we learn pretty quickly what neighborhoods of different cities to avoid at night (or even during the day), but I think Europeans can maybe be a bit more naïve. Seems like with a healthy dose of common sense and alertness you were able to have a good time in Nicaragua and the ‘murder capital of the world’, so I’m looking forward to it too!

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