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Getting Relaxed and Cultured in Steamy Honduras

Eleanor Hughes

Contributor

Pack your summer clothes and escape winter with a trip to Central America’s Honduras. After visiting two of its top destinations, which are not overly touristy, you’ll come away feeling relaxed and cultured. The steamy climate of Roatan Island and Copan Ruinas may even have you looking forward to returning to cold weather.

Roatan Island

Serviced by international flights from Miami, Houston, Atlanta, Dallas and Toronto, Roatan Island lies to the east of mainland Honduras in the Caribbean and is known as one of the Bay Islands. Approximately 60km long and 8km wide, the island can be driven in a day. Hire a rental car or take a tour. Visit the oldest settlement, the slow-paced village of Punta Gorda, which was founded by the Garifuna people, an indigenous people originally from St. Vincent. Stop at numerous beaches, an iguana farm, or go zip-lining.

Houses on stilts in the Oak Ridge area of Roatan Island

Credit: John Wollwerth

West End

Situated on the western end of the island, West End village stretches along two palm tree-shaded white-sand beaches. The northern-most, Half Moon Bay, is a horseshoe-shaped inlet. Swing from a rope attached to the mast of a replica pirate ship anchored in the bay and plunge into the turquoise water. The northern end offers great snorkelling. Hire gear from a dive shop and several hours can be spent floating over coral, viewing a wide variety of tropical fish. It is as good as, if not better, than the trips out to deeper water.

West End Road, which runs along the waterfront, is busier at the southern end where local arts and crafts shops, clothing stores, small convenience stores, and dive and tour operators are situated along with numerous local and more upmarket eateries. Water-taxis can be caught to West Bay from here.

Sunset in the West End

Credit: Renee Vititoe

Stanley’s Submarine

You’re sure to notice the bright yellow sphere, Stanley’s Submarine, moored at the northern end of Half Moon Bay. An approximately five-hour round trip in the sub will take you to depths of 610 metres. When sunlight fades and the world turns black, see bioluminescent plankton flash in the dark. You’ll feel like you’re in a 3D cinema watching Blue Planet as strange aquatic life passes by the 30-inch, floor-to-ceiling viewport, including ancient yellow sea fans, tripod, tinsel, upside-down fish, and various sized jellyfish. Glimpse crabs wearing seaweed and shell hats, spiny lobsters, prawns.. the list goes on.

It can get chilly inside the submarine, the sea this deep can be freezing, so take a jacket and socks. The weight limit allows only two or three passengers at a time. It's cramped with nowhere to stretch your legs out and costs a pretty penny, but all who undertake this adventure say it’s money well spent. When are you ever going to have this chance again?  

Marine life off the cost of Roatan

Credit: John A. Anderson

West Bay

The ten or so minute water-taxi trip southwards from West End will bring you to West Bay’s long white-sand beach. Alternatively, you can kayak, which takes around an hour. Crystal clear water, which turns turquoise further out, hosts tiny tropical fish which flit between rocks at the beach’s most southern end. Soak up the sun and wander its length, stopping for the occasional swim. Or just kick back and relax with a drink or meal in one of the open-air bars or restaurants.  

White sandy beaches at West Bay

Credit: Jorge Chang

Copan Ruinas

If you’ve had enough of taking it easy and want to experience another side of Honduran culture, take a trip to Copan Ruinas. On the Honduran mainland, this small town is a 3-4 hour bus ride from San Pedro Sula which is serviced by flights from Roatan Island. Situated 1km away from the town of Copan Ruinas are the Maya ruins of Copan. Discovered in the early 19th Century, they date from around A.D. 426 to 820 and were once home to 26,000 people.

Only twenty per cent of this site has been reconstructed; most of it is covered by thick forest. You can take a guided tour and learn about the ancient game played on the ball court, the hieroglyphics inscribed on the stone staircase and the history of kings, depicted in statues, who once ruled this UNESCO World Heritage site. An 'alternative walking tour’ is also available and takes around 2 and a half hours. It leaves from ViaVia Café where it can be booked. While you walk along the cobbled, hilly streets and dirt roads populated with a variety of mudbrick or concrete one and two-storey buildings, you'll hear about the problems facing Honduras, including corruption, low incomes and drug-trafficking. The tour is incredibly interesting.

The nearby Tea and Chocolate Shop (El Lugar del Té & Chocolate) is open from 4-6pm and showcases the natural herbal products grown at the nearby Copan 2012 Botanical Research Station. Only products grown, processed and packaged on-site are sold. Browse natural repellants, herbal teas – one of which is Noni, rich in anti-oxidants and bioflavonoids - sauces, moles, chocolate and juices.

Copan Ruinas

Credit: Inspired By Maps

Other attractions

Check out tour operators for trips to the hot springs an hour’s drive north of town, the Macaw Mountain Bird Park, the Copan Canopy Tour or go horse-riding.

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