I have sung the praises of countries like Mexico, Guatemala and Nicaragua, but I have to be honest about Honduras: it was a more difficult country to really love as a visitor. While there may be a few good things to see, it’s hard to recommend Honduras very strongly at the moment. One of the issues is that the security situations remains quite dubious (at least on the mainland rather than on the relatively safer islands), which if not a direct concern can at least make you feel more inhibited when travelling there.
Honduras I think makes for a good stop on a larger regional trip. If you’re coming from Nicaragua or Guatemala, there’s no reason not to also tick Honduras off the list, and there’s a couple of good places to go. The Bay Islands in particular are a popular waypoint on the backpacker trail. But the country can also feel limiting, in part because of its record crime levels (its impact also felt indirectly in the level of travel infrastructure in place). If Honduras is the only place you go on a trip you may be missing out elsewhere, although admittedly there may be some hidden gems under the surface that I missed out.
Why you should go to Honduras
Normally this is a longer list, but I would say there are really two headline reasons to go to Honduras:
- Budget Carribean on the island of Utila
Beaches, tropical islands, widely spoken English and cheap diving make the Bay Islands a backpacker favorite. (Utila is the cheaper and most popular island with backpackers, whereas Roatan is more expensive and typically flooded with cruise ship tourists.)
- The best place to cheaply (learn to) Scuba dive
The Bay Islands are also the best and cheapest place to get Scuba certified anywhere in Central America. Once certified you can enjoy easy access to the second biggest barrier reef in the world, and there’s even a chance to see huge whale sharks (on many a scuba diver’s bucket list) during certain times of the year. Scuba diving is magical, and if you get your first taste of it in Honduras it will surely colour your memories of this country.
Other things to do in Honduras
Utila, Bay Islands (via Wikimedia Commons)
You sure can party in Honduras, and indeed the Bay Islands are a place where many people do so. For many backpackers who are on a regional trip the Bay Islands are an obvious stop between Nicaragua and Guatemala, and so they have developed into a bit of a backpacker hub with a vibrant bar scene.
The Mayan ruins of Copan are another attraction. They happened to be the first Mayan ruins I saw personally on my trip, and so they were interesting to me especially at the time. As this site is a good deal quieter than other ones elsewhere, you do get to explore the site much more leisurely which is a plus. If you’re coming from the north or have seen other Mayan archeological sites in Mexico or Guatemala though, you may already be done with Mayan ruins by the time you get to Copan.
Safety issues in Honduras
The facts don’t lie: Honduras has the world’s highest homicide rate, San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa are the most violent cities in the world (excluding those in active war zones) and Honduras is home to the world’s most dangerous airport. While any experienced traveller probably has a good tolerance for at least some sketchiness in some places, the facts in Honduras don’t scream “welcome” and might weigh a bit more heavily on your mind.
Don’t get me wrong, I experienced absolutely no problems in Honduras. I even went on a road trip, going quite off the beaten track at times, and everywhere people were very helpful and friendly. Still, my Bat Sense kept telling me this is not a very safe place. While even in Guatemala the streets are lively in the evenings (street food is served, children are playing, grandmas are sitting on park benches), in a touristy place like Copan the streets were near-empty after 9pm as everyone locks themselves inside. The Bay Islands are safer and more relaxed, though speak to a local/expat and some creepy stories are sure to come out.
Still, don’t let this intimidate you too much, as it’s not exactly like bullets will whizz past as you cross the border! Honduras can be navigated safely if you act responsibly: make sure you know of all the common sense precautions, be careful at night especially, and be careful in the capital and San Pedro Sula.
Perhaps there’s greater tourism potential in Honduras to be unlocked, but it really seems the security situation needs to improve first. I sadly never felt like I truly got to know the country the way I got to know others.
See also: 6 Safety Tips For Central America
More info on Honduras: check out the WikiVoyage page for some more destination info.