Honduras was sandwiched between El Salvador and Nicaragua on our Central America trip. We only spent a week here and decided to split our time up between Copan Ruins and the Bay Islands (Roatan). The Mayan ruins at Copan were excellent, with incredible carved stelae strewn throughout the ruins, and an added bonus of a phenomenal museum. Very happy we included this on our itinerary, and Roatan lived up to the hype. Our SCUBA friends have raved about diving at Utila and Roatan and while we would have liked to visit both, we picked Roatan since it had the reputation of slightly better diving and not being a crazy backpacker party island. Unfortunately, we visited during rainy season so we weren’t able to dive the West End section of Roatan. All of our dives were on the south side but we were impressed with what we saw. Highlights of our whirlwind trip to Honduras would be the ruins of Copan, hugging a sloth on Roatan, eating delicious and cheap baleadas (thick flour tortillas filled with mashed beans, cheese and fillings of your choice), and diving Roatan. We suspect we’ll be back to Honduras one of these days…there is plenty more we’d like to discover.
Berakah, Copan Ruins: $23 a night for a double room, en-suite with breakfast. Our room was basic but clean and comfortable. Big bonus was hot water in the shower…such a luxury for Central America! The staff here is helpful and friendly. They called someone to exchange US$ to Lempira for us. They also had good recommendations for budget places to eat. Lastly, book your transfers here. Berakah can help with onward shuttle service to/from El Tunco/Santa Ana to Copan Ruins or Copan to La Ceiba (price was reasonable and the shuttles worked perfectly). The only con is that the windows in the bathroom were a bit see through with no curtain but we just hung our towel over it so it was not a big deal. Otherwise, people walking by could enjoy a peep show!
Didier, West End, Roatan: $15 a night for a twin room, shared bathroom in a “home-stay” environment. Our host was Edwin, wife Gladys, daughter Bianca and son Fernando. This property is in high demand since it is the cheapest place to stay in Roatan, and certainly excellent value. Edwin offered to pick us up from the ferry terminal and transport us to the property for only $10 each way which was a great deal considering taxis will charge up to $40 for the same journey. We liked the attic room (perfect for 2 people) which is simple and comfortable. Downstairs is the shared bathroom/shower and there is also a small kitchen (fridge/freezer, coffee maker, stove) which we could use. The property is located in the middle of West End near many SCUBA dive shops, which is why we were in Roatan. There are also lots of good, cheap restaurants nearby. Edwin also offers tours of the island if you don’t want to rent a scooter. We opted to rent a scooter, only $25 for 24 hours at Roacars, and they gave us 3 extra hours for free.
17 Jan: Shuttle from El Salvador to Copan Ruins, Honduras (coordinated through Carlos at Casa Verde in Santa Ana, only $25 each). Overnight at Berakah B&B in Copan.
18 Jan: Sightsee Copan Ruins and the museum. Overnight at Berakah B&B.
19 Jan: Early morning pickup for shuttle from Copan Ruins to La Ceiba in time for the 4:30 pm ferry to Roatan. Catch ferry and meet our host at the port for transfer to West End, our home for the next 5 nights.
20 Jan: SCUBA time. Check out dive shops and choose one for the next few days.
21 Jan: SCUBA. Afternoon walk from West End to West Bay.
22 Jan: We planned to SCUBA but with the inclement weather, the wreck dive was cancelled so we opted to snorkel Half Moon Bay instead. Rented a scooter to explore the island. Hugged sloths at Daniel Johnson’s Monkey and Sloth Hangout. Ride to the other end of the island (Punta Gorda) and back to West Bay for sunset.
23 Jan: Ride over to Sandy Bay to check out the snorkeling there. Then head over to West Bay for more snorkeling by the black rocks. Chill at the beach at Half Moon Bay for the remainder of the day.
24 Jan: Catch the 7 am ferry from Roatan to La Ceiba. Shuttle from La Ceiba to Leon, Nicaragua. Long travel day today!
17 Jan: Our first impression of Honduras wasn’t too positive as the border control guards tried to shake us down for extra money, claiming that we couldn’t pay the entrance fee in USD$, only Lempira (Honduras) or Quetzal (Guatemalan). Even though the receipt clearly stated $3, they demanded $4 for “currency exchange” fee. We played stupid, trying to pay with US dollar coins from El Salvador. They weren’t having it and there was no one willing to exchange our currency at the border. Everyone else coughed up $4 each, but we managed to frustrate them into accepting $6 for the two of us…eventually. The ride from the border to Copan took less than 20 minutes and we were the last ones dropped off at our hotel, Berakah B&B. We paid $176 for 2 shuttles ($25 each from Santa Ana to Copan, $40 each from Copan to La Ceiba, and $46 for 2 nights stay, including breakfast). After getting used to Costa Rica, Panama and El Salvador accepting US dollars, it was a rude awakening to have to use foreign currency again. We read that Roatan can be picky about the state of the US bills, so we decided to exchange $300 USD to Lempira, getting a lousy 23.5 Lempira to the US $ rate (the real rate was 24 Lempira to the dollar). Dinner was at a nearby food shack, Buena Baleada, which was $1 per baleada. The chicken one was OK but the beef was delicious. The weather here is a lot colder than El Salvador so we had to dig out our jackets to keep warm.
18 Jan: Slept well until 7 am. Breakfast was a fried egg, refried beans and tortillas. We set off to the ruins just after 8 am and ran into one of the Chinese ladies we met at the Santa Ana Casa Verde hostel. She was apparently on her own and immediately latched onto us to explore the ruins. She spoke neither English nor Spanish and her friend (who could speak good English) had ditched her to remain in Antigua, Guatemala. We were worried about how this lady was going to make it on her own in a region where she could not communicate with anyone. Boy is she brave! The tickets to the Copan ruins was $15 and a separate ticket for the sculpture museum was another $7. We bought a ticket to the ruins and figured we could wing it for the museum later. The ruins were much better than expected. We didn’t anticipate macaws flying around overhead, nor the amazing carved stelae. The Mayans were truly ahead of their time! Bonus about visiting the Copan ruins was there were hardly any other visitors and we had the place to ourselves for the first 2 hours…brilliant! The main site was well worth it, and since our ticket also included entrance to “los sepulturas”, we decided to hike out to them. So not worth it…disappointing after the magnificent display at the main set of ruins. We walked back towards the main complex and decided to add in a visit to the museum which was excellent. Worth the additional $7 fee and we spent some time here admiring the intricate carvings. Our Chinese friend decided to leave us to get lunch so we bid her goodbye. Back in town, we wandered around trying to find some food and ended up back at Buena Baleada for two beef baleadas. Delicious! Discovered that our shower here was actually hot water, so took a nice, long shower which helped against the cool temperature of Copan. Our Chinese friend came by for some help in translation, so Becky went out to discuss her upcoming trip to Flores with the Berakah receptionist. So happy everything got sorted for her in the end. Fingers crossed she can find a Chinese speaker in Guatemala and Belize who is willing to help her out. We found out that we have to leave here tomorrow at 5 am…gonna be an early one tomorrow!
19 Jan: Alarm sounded at 4:30 am and we reluctantly got out of bed. Shortly after 5 am, our driver arrived to take us to San Pedro Sula. Karina joined him for the ride and we were surprised to see her again. She must really like being on the road and traveling! We were amazed that we were the only 2 passengers on the shuttle, so we had plenty of space to relax and lounge out, napping for a few hours. Our driver stopped for breakfast at 8 am and we got the typical Honduran breakfast and coffee/hot chocolate. Very happy we stuffed ourselves for breakfast, as we had lots more travel ahead of us. Our driver explained he would take us as far as San Pedro Sula and we would catch a Helman Alas bus from there all the way to the ferry port in La Ceiba. Sounded good to us. We pulled up to the bus station at 9:30 am and had to wait until 11:15 am for a bus to La Ceiba. We hugged our driver and Karina goodbye and waited in the comfy lounge until we had to board the bus. At least the bus was comfortable and we had plenty of space to spread out. Just before 3 pm, we reached La Ceiba bus station and there was a taxi waiting to drop us off at the ferry terminal. Berakah certainly has their act together when it comes to organizing shuttles! We were very impressed. At the ferry terminal, we decided to buy round trip tickets to Roatan and back to La Ceiba. At first, we paid in Lempira but after seeing the visa/mastercard logo, we asked the attendant if she would mind giving us our money back so we could pay by credit card. Luckily, she agreed so we had enough Honduran Lempira for our time on the island. The ferry ride took about 70 minutes and our bags were offloaded in no time. Our host, Edwin, was waiting patiently for us with a sign and we quickly realized that the $10 ride was well worth it since the ferry terminal is about 20 km away from West End (and the taxis were charging quadruple for the same distance!). Our room was in the attic of Ediwn’s house and we were very pleased with our homestay accommodation. Edwin has a lovely family and he showed us where his wife works (a pizzeria down the street). Of course we felt obliged to have pizza and wings there for dinner. Price was good but the food was just OK. Afterwards, we scoped out several dive shops in town and decided we would price them out tomorrow. In bed by 10 pm…we were wiped from the long day!
20 Jan: Slept in till 8 am and had cereal for breakfast. Wandered up and down the strip in West End to scope out the best SCUBA deal. In the end, we went with Reef Gliders, whom Becky had been in touch with a few weeks ago. Our dive was scheduled for 11:30 am and we opted to do the 2 pm dive as well. Inclement weather forced all the dive shops to abandon West End and shuttle their clients over to the south side of the island (Flower’s Bay) which was more sheltered. We had to pay an extra $5 for that. First dive was at “Angie’s Wall” and the second dive was at “Pirate’s Cove”. We had a bunch of newbies in our group for the first dive which we didn’t care for initially, but we lingered towards the back and had the freedom to do what we wanted so we liked that. The coral was fantastic and we can see why people rave about diving in Roatan. Our chicken sandwich lunches were delivered and we devoured them during the surface interval. Our second dive was just us and our dive master, Sam from the UK, and we enjoyed that one as it was an easy drift dive. It was 5 pm by the time we got back to the dive shop, so we sorted our gear, took a quick outdoor shower and said goodbye after signing up for more dives tomorrow. Dinner was peanut butter sandwiches and we stayed indoors as it was raining and windy out.
21 Jan: Woke up at 7 am after a decent night’s sleep. It was drizzly and overcast when we got up but we hoped that the diving wouldn’t be affected too much. Had cereal before heading over to the dive shop. Our dive master today was a retiree named Randy. We were asked if we were definitely doing just 1 dive today and since neither of us wanted to commit to 2, they sorted out our gear and we went over to the south side. Dive site this morning was next door to “Pirate’s Cove” yesterday, at a site called “Pink House” (yup, there was a pink house right on shore…very original name!). We had a nice leisurely 1 hour dive, 40 minutes peeking at every crevice on the wall and 20 minutes looking at reef fish in the shallow part. It was a nice dive but the water was cold towards the end and boy were we glad to have full wet suits! Randy was glad we weren’t doing a second dive and we were too. It would have been miserable having to wait an hour while feeling cold. Back at West End, we rinsed off and thanked Randy for a fun dive. He is doing the wreck dive tomorrow so we’ll see him then. Walked over to West Bay (on the beach and over the rocks) and a cruise ship was in town so the beach was overrun with tourists. Food was overpriced and nothing looked appealing, so we walked back to West End and finally got lunch at 2:30 pm (baleadas at Calelu’s). The guy working at Calelu had been greeting us the past 2 days and we felt obliged to have a meal at this cheap local shack. Lunch for 2 came out to $7 with drinks…not too shabby. Took an afternoon siesta and then woke up for pizza at C Level (soon to be renamed Cognac’s Pizzeria) in honor of their dog, Cognac. We had a yummy pepperoni pizza here which made up for all the crappy pizza we’d been having lately. Becky finished watching “A Star is Born” which was a good movie. We researched “Daniel’s Sloth and Monkey Hangout” and planned to make a trip there on Wednesday, our last day on the island.
22 Jan: Woke up to yet more rain. Not looking good for our shipwreck dive at 9 am. After breakfast, we walked over to the dive shop and sure enough, they cancelled the wreck dive and had us slotted to dive over on the south side. We had already done all of our dives over there so we weren’t keen on yet another dive on that side of the island. After discussing it, we opted to look at renting a scooter instead, and riding around the island tomorrow. Today would just be a snorkel day? The staff recommended we check out Roacars for the cheapest rentals (part of the green hospital building that we saw near the intersection). Sure enough, daily rentals were $25 and the staff was friendly and helpful. We told them we’d be back tomorrow and returned to the dive shop to let them know we definitely were out for diving today and tomorrow. Barbara (co-owner of the dive shop) settled our bill with us and we paid a combination of cash and Lempira. Total damage was $272 for 3 dives each ($45 per dive to include a marine park fee and transfer fee to the south side). If we had done the 4th dive, we would have gotten a better rate ($35 per dive). Barb told us that if we returned to dive again, repeat customers would get each dive for only $30 so that was good to know. We grabbed our snorkel gear and went to Half Moon Bay to check out the marine life there. Not too shabby…we spotted a stone fish, eel, lionfish, 4 squid in formation, and lots of small fish. The sun appeared near the end of our snorkel. It was turning out to be a magnificent day! We took a quick shower and grabbed a lunch of peanut butter sandwiches before heading back over to the rental agency. We decided to ask Roacars if they would let us rent a scooter for 24 hours for $25 and they readily agreed. It was 1 pm when we drove out towards French Cay, home to Daniel Johnson’s Monkey and Sloth Hang Out. The island is deceptively bigger than we anticipated, and it was nearly 2 pm when we finally reached the sanctuary. Luckily for us, the large tour groups were gone, so we had a tour guide all to ourselves. He was a young, personable guy but got viciously attacked by a raccoon while he was trying to give it some water. It bit him on the leg and drew blood. We were shocked, because he was quite blasé about even though it was obvious he was in pain. The white faced capuchin monkey pen was hilarious, with monkeys flying from one corner of the cage to another, bouncing on top of our heads and using their tail as an extra appendage. Their feet and hands were oh so soft, and they were quite comical until Snookie tried to nibble Robby on the cheek when our guide stopped giving her treats. Cheeky monkey and thankfully she didn’t draw blood! Our guide asked for a few minutes to bandage his wound, and we had free time to check out the sloths in a nearby tree. They were leisurely moving from one branch to another and one was taking a poop (slow motion of course). We got to hold one of them and it was magical as they clasped their arms around our necks and held on. Their claws are long and sharp but they were gentle and very calm. It was pretty awesome getting a sloth hug! The parrots and macaws were next and they were OK but the real highlight had been the sloths. Well worth the $10 entrance fee! After our visit, we decided to drive to the other end of the island, stopping to take photos along the way. We turned around in Punta Gorda and drove towards West Bay for sunset. It was a long drive but we made good time, arriving 10 minutes before sunset. To our surprise, West Bay was still packed with tourists. The resorts here must be packed! There was a large colorful wooden chair to sit on for photos so we took our obligatory pics before heading back to West End. Dinner was at the Creole’s Rotisserie Chicken shack next door to Georphi’s which was good but not great like everyone had raved about. It was pricey too with our meal coming out to $25 (half a chicken with 2 sides and dessert). Back to the room by 8 pm and it was an early night.
23 Jan: Last full day on Roatan. Sunlight was streaming into our room by 7 am. Another beautiful day today. We had cereal and then hopped on the bike and rode out to Sandy Bay. We wanted to snorkel at Spooky Channel but met a homeowner there who said she felt that the area by Bahia (next door to Anthony Key Resort dolphinarium) was better. So we drove out there and checked out that area. Snorkeling was OK but hard to imagine this is the best the island has to offer. We did see lionfish, trunkfish, barracuda, the dolphins (at the resort being “trained”), and a porcupine fish. Maybe our expectations were too high but we thought it would be a lot better than what it was. Our scooter started acting up, and Robby had to use the kickstart to get the bike to turn on. We drove into town to grab pork baleadas for lunch before refueling the bike and riding over to West Bay for snorkeling by the black rocks. The cruise ship was in town and boy was in bonkers over there! Hundreds of people on the beach, some not very good looking either! We snorkeled for an hour before deciding to call it quits, heading back to Roacars to return the bike early. We let Alexis, the friendly lady who was working today, know about the ignition/kickstarter issue. Back at Didiers, we had cold showers and then went back out for a few hours to read and relax on the beach. Robby grabbed our rum and we had our own cocktails for sunset, and then we went over to Calelu’s for dinner (fish tacos and chicken dinner plus drinks for $14). Coordinated with Edwin for a 6 am drive to the ferry tomorrow, since we were catching the early 7 am ride back to La Ceiba.
24 Jan: Woke up at 5:30 am to be ready for our ride at 6 am. Edwin was up on time and we were over to the ferry terminal by 6:30 am, plenty of time to swap our ticket vouchers for actual ferry tickets. They let everyone board the ferry early and it was delayed a few minutes before finally departing Roatan at 7:10 am. By 8:20 am, we were in La Ceiba and were some of the first to grab our luggage from the baggage handlers. The Tornabe shuttle rep was standing at the terminal as promised, and he waited for all of the passengers to disembark before loading us into taxis. We were given our own taxi, but the driver refused to leave until he stuffed two more passengers in so it took a while and we were the last to link up at Wendy’s, the spot that Tornabe had chosen for everyone to link up and have breakfast. Last to order breakfast so inevitable we were the last to get loaded onto the very full shuttle. Got stuck in the back row, but thankfully it was only a 2 hour ride to San Pedro Sula in discomfort. Once we swapped vehicles, we scored the entire second row which was plenty of space to lounge out. And the shuttle had nifty neck pillows for each seat, so it was a very comfortable ride indeed. Very happy about that since we were going to be riding in this new shuttle for the next 14 – 15 hours! The shuttle service really wasn’t bad, with multiple stops for lunch and dinner. Our driver even took care of in-processing us into Nicaragua (albiet for a $14 fee), and we didn’t even have to present ourselves to border control! There was an ATM machine at the border and we managed to withdraw $600 worth of Córdoba (Nicaragua’s currency). We reached Leon at midnight and wearily checked into our hostel, Poco a Poco, before calling it a day. Killer travel day, since our morning started at 5:30 am and we didn’t get to sleep until 1:30 am.