Honduras – Murder Capital of the World? A trip report…

The UN has stamped Honduras with the highest murder rate in the world; 14748 murders, 84,767 rapes and 367,832 robberies in 2010. Oh I’m sorry those numbers aren’t for Honduras they are the 2010 crime statistics for the USA. Honduras may have a really high number of murders per capita but unfortunately like most stamps and statistics they can be unfair and misleading.

If we believed in guiding our lives by just looking at statistics the US hockey team would never have beaten the Russians in 1980, the 1962 NY Mets would not have stunned the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series and NC State would never had a chance against Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler in the 1983 NCAA National Championship.

The drug trade has certainly put a huge stain on the little country of Honduras but it is just like America, you wouldn’t head down into Harlem on a Sat night, it’s all a matter of where you go and what you do. If you go to Honduras don’t hang out in San Pedro Sulas or Tugucigalpa, don’t spend your time in drug areas and don’t flash your money around.

If you take the time to marvel at the scenery, enjoy the people and soak up the culture you will love Honduras. Here is a quick trip report of our recent holiday to La Ceiba, Roatan and Copan.

La Ceiba – We started in San Pedro Sulas where we went straight from the airport to the bus station and jumped on the Hedman Alas bus to La Ceiba. We utilized Hedman Alas twice during our trip and although both buses were behind schedule, which is more the norm than the exception in most Latin countries, we found the transportation to be economical, safe and comfortable. For between $20-$30 per person, you can ride in good comfort and enjoy a movie on your way to La Ceiba or Copan. The trip to both places takes about 3 ½ hours. For about $10 more you can get a first class seat which has a bit more leg room and a leg rest. We went economy style and were very happy.

We only stayed one night in La Ceiba and wished we had booked more time. Casa Cangrejal was lovely! Karen and Alex have created a little oasis up in the mountains near La Ceiba. We wished we had more time to do some horseback riding or white water rafting but we really enjoyed our meal at Omega, right next door to the B&B. Karen was an awesome host and the Casa Cangrejal is a place that you can definitely kickback and relax. Casa Cangrejal gets four stars in my book for value vs quality. My only complaint was that the taxi driver that Karen set up charged $20 to drive us up to the B&B and $25 for the trip back to the airport, she has is definitely doing the ping the gringos to help the local game.  The trip from the bus station was about 30 minutes and from my understanding there is not much to see in the city.

Roatan was a lot of fun. West End reminded me of what Key West must have been like 40 years ago. A dirt road winding through a little beach town full of throwbacks from the 60’s making their way around the local bars and restaurants at night and diving, fishing or getting over their hangovers during the day.

The diving was excellent and only about a hundred yards off the island, easy to get to. Most dive shops charged $30-$40 per tank. They all go out for a 9-9:30am. 11-11:30am and a 2-2:30pm dive, I tried Coconut Tree and West End and had good results with both. CT requires you do a two tank dive for the morning dive but West End and Reef Gliders come back after each dive since it is so close to shore. Most shops give you a discount the more dives you do with them. We even rented kayaks one day and went out for an afternoon with snorkeling gear, tied up to one of the boat moorings and jumped in.

We really liked the people we met, where we stayed and had mixed results at the eating establishments.

  • Beso’s was our favorite restaurant. Daphane and her crew gave great service and the food was excellent. This was by far the best restaurant we tried in West End.
  • The Lighthouse was horrible, service was slow, the food was mediocre and the price was way too high. Great view but I would skip the Lighthouse.
  • Coconut Tree – the food was good but not much on atmosphere.
  • Argentinean Grill – we had a great burger here and heard mixed reviews about their dinner.
  • Sundowners – the place to go early for a drink at sundown and meet the locals.
  • We also enjoyed having a condo with a kitchen so we could save money on food. Cooked two meals in and made sandwiches most days.

I would highly recommend the condo were we stayed (Trip Advisor Property: 312717 – Cocolobo Resort “Lodge A”), four stars in my book, a new two bedroom condo just off the beach and across the street from the Cocolobo Resort. The kitchen and dining room area were very nicely appointed, the kitchen was set up for gourmet cooking and the property manager Haidai was amazing. They had good cable and wifi, air cond in the bedrooms and ceiling fans in the rest of the house.  You can utilize the pool at Cocolobo to lie out and relax.

For a very economical price you can have Haidai come in and cook you an authentic island meal, we had fresh baked snapper and island rice one night.  The condo was about $200 (including the island tax) per night during the Christmas holidays (high season), split between two couples or a family, a very economical accommodation and far enough to be away from the wildness but close enough to walk to all the restaurants and entertainment.  For just a room to say in I would recommend Land’s End which was right on the water and just across the street from the condo. Lodge A gets four stars in my book.

Get to Roatan soon,  before the cruise boats ruin the incredible reefs and small town feel.

Copan is a quaint little city, which I found to be a little touristy for my taste but really fun to walk around the cobble stone streets (see my earlier blog posts on the Copan ruins and our Spa Ixchel www.spaixchel.com experience). We absolutely loved the Hacienda San Lucas. We felt right at home as Flavia (the owner) met us at the bus station. The hacienda is built around a 100 year old family farm house, beautifully simple and simply beautiful, overlooking the valley where Copan sits and the mountains that surround the city.

The hacienda will set up excursions for you or you can relax on the property, have a massage, take a yoga class from Leah, hike some of the trails to a local village or sit back in a chair and watch the Copan River meander through the valley. The yoga studio was open to nature and was sitting on the crest of the mountain in a beautiful spot.

Each night the hacienda cooks a wonderful four course meal of local fare and each morning a home cooked breakfast (breakfast is included). You feel like you are eating with family as you get to know the other guests, Flavia and her family.

As you head back to your room each night you are greeted by a room full of candles, in fact most of the hacienda is lit by candles each night. Very romantic, very cool and the Hacienda San Lucas will probably make my top ten list of places to stay in the world, five stars in my book.

One of the excursions I would recommend, beside the Spa Ixchel, is to go to the Finca el Cisne (www.fincaelcisne.com). It is an all day excursion or many recommend spending a night in their guest house. After a long trip up into the Honduran mountains you arrive at the Finca el Cisne. Carlos is there to greet you and share his labor of love the finca’s coffee plantation.

After getting a tour of how coffee is grown and produced, Carlos takes you on a tour of the finca on horseback. It takes about 3 hours to tour the property and his horses are well trained for the beginner or the more advanced rider. I love to ride and found Bonito (my horse) loved to run, so we had a really good day together. Your horseback ride finishes up with a home cooked lunch at the family farm house and a trip to the hot springs.

It’s a little slice of heaven after riding through the beautiful Honduran countryside to sit back in a natural pool of hot water and soak your weary body.  It is a full day affair that starts in the morning and ends around dark if you don’t stay the night; $70 per person for the full day or $90 per person for the tour and to spend the night in the guest house.

To wrap up the trip report let me say that we found Honduras to be anything but scary. We found a warm welcoming atmosphere and left with many people who felt like family and friends. I will certainly venture back to enjoy this wonderful country and would not hesitate to take my family or young children.