San Pedro Sula
The business and commercial center of Honduras is San Pedro Sula, whose leading choices for home-away-from-home comforts are stays at the Real InterContinental and Hilton Princess, although travelers looking for some quiet charm might enjoy the Isabella Boutique Hotel located in the Barrio Los Andes. First of the city’s must-do attractions is the Museum of Anthropology and History, a treasure house of antiquities from Olmec to Maya to Lenca Indian cultures. Next is a shopping stop, the Guamalito Market, a lively center for Honduran crafts (baskets, leather goods, woodcarvings), outdoor food stalls and flower markets. From the city, drive out to the cloud forest of Cusuco National Park to search for quetzals (best months are March and April) and toucans among the gigantic tree ferns and bromeliads.
San Pedro Sula is the northern gateway to Copan Ruinas (3-hour drive), a small, laid-back and lively town, with cobblestone streets linking good restaurants, cafes and hotels—in addition to Marina Copan, several lovely new B&Bs. About a mile away are the grand Mayan ruins of Copan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and often called the “Paris of the Maya world.” The beautifully preserved remains of this splendid ancient city-state covers some 75 acres with terraced palaces, carved stelae, an expansive central plaza and the brilliant Museum of Sculpture, whose focus is the dazzling 4-story replica of the Rosalila Temple. From San Pedro Sula, roads and air services lead north to La Ceiba, gateway to many of the country’s most important natural wonderlands: Parque Nacional Jeanette Kawas, welcoming visitors to white sand beaches, great snorkeling and howler monkeys galore; Lancetilla Botanical Garden, founded by United Fruit Company and planted with thousands of species of plants and exotic trees; Cangrejal River, a white-water paradise for rafters; and Pico Bonito National Park, a beautiful and mountainous rainforest reserve offering excellent hiking and birdwatching. La Ceiba is also a takeoff point for the Bay Islands, including Roatan (accessible by both ferry and plane) and Cayos Cochinos (by boat only). And for the quintessential adventure, the vast and isolated La Mosquitia region is accessed by small-plane service from La Ceiba and inhabited by the Sumo, Pech and Miskito Indians. The best travel experiences will include river rafting, jungle hiking and visiting traditional villages in the wildlife-rich Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve.