The absolute authentic Caribbean island bar!
Utila is one of the small islands off the coast of Honduras, and is largely isolated from many of the current problems facing that country. The island is famous for its good-value scuba diving, and has a great, relaxed, slightly hippy vibe. And, undoubtedly, THE place to go after a day under the water is Coco Loco's.
Built on a wooden pier extending out over the sea, it is exactly what you would imagine: open air, weathered wood, cold beer and a great laid-back vibe. It also provides a spectacular spot to watch the sun set over the sea. Probably my favourite bar in the world!
If you visit Copan, take what is in effect the Lenca route, through the old colonial towns of Santa Rosa de Copan, then Gracias a Dios, and then over an unmade up road to Esperanza, travelling through the pine forests, and get in touch with the Spanish element of Honduras history.
Gracias a Dios, Esperanza
Google map: tinyurl.com/39zuwx6
A small site near the better known ruins of Copan, the museum is well worth a visit.
I had the good luck to have the director give me two hours of his time, explaining the Lenca civilisation and the relationship with other Maya sites, but even without him it would have been a wonderful visit.
A colonial town one hour north of the capital.
A wonderful town centre, slowly being restored, with a church containing a clock once housed in the alhambra and given to the town by the king of Spain.
Forget Antigua in Guatemala. Come here for Holy Week events, coloured sawdust carpets in the streets and a real 'people's' event, no something for tourists.
The Tica Bus company are long established and have routes all over Central America. We travelled from Managua in Nicaragua to San Pedro Sula in Honduras via the capital Tegucigalpa. The buses were modern and clean, all border formalities were handled smoothly by the staff and it was the only trip when we managed to reach our destination early!
This is a side of Central America you might not expect.
The mild and mellow Caribbean vibe of Tela is far removed from the discos and drive throughs of San Pedro Sula. It is a pretty town, with a main square to wander around and drink watermelon licaudos. Whatever you do, do not leave without trying pan de coco, a traditional local bread made from coconut flesh. Especially when warm, they are delicious.
From here, you can easily get to the Garífuna villages of Miami, La Ensenada and Triufuno de la Cruz. Thatched huts on sandy roads with delicious seafood and not-too-bad beaches you can swim from (do check). Well worth a visit to get a feeling of Garífuna life and culture, a people descended from indigenous carib islanders, with a strong cultural identity kept alive through language, dance and story-telling.
Tela is a couple of hours bus ride away from San Pedro Sula. Buses leave every couple of hours from the main bus station (Terminal de bus) and it costs around £2.
From Tela, the little bus depot is just off the main square, buses leave all day long for the Garífuna villages, usually piled high with people and stuff.
Just a couple of bumpy, hot and dusty hours from San Pedro Sula you can arrive on the football pitch of Buenos Aires, the centre of village life in most Central American villages.
Buenos Aires is the first village you reach in the Merendon Mountains, a cool, misty range covered with primary and secondary growth cloudforest. The village smells of woodsmoke, hot corn and sweet coffee. Stock up in the local shops, and try Waldina's famous fried chicken at the Tucan.
The village boasts spectacular views over the valley and a lovely, very basic eco lodge, where you will wake up to the sounds of bird song and coffee pickers singing on their way to work and little else.
From here, arrange a guided tour of Cusuco National Park. On the way up to the park (a steep climb) you will most likely be invited in for a strong, painfully sweet cup of local coffee.
Quite suddenly, the pine forest gives way to giant ferns. Here are toucans, tapirs, jaguars and howler monkeys. You can swim in (some) waterfalls, and spot orchids and hummingbirds.
Here you are a world away from both the humid bustle of San Pedro Sula and also from the Central American tourist trail. You are immersed in everyday latin american village life and the cool, silent word of a spectacular cloudforest that sees surprisingly few visitors a year.
Hitch a ride on a local truck from Cofradía (they leave the main square almost every day at around 2pm). When in Buenos Aires, stay in the eco-lodge. the local Patronato head (Miguel Mejia) can give you information on how to visit the park and get yourself a local guide. Basic facilities are available at the base camp, from which you can explore the forest (take a guide!)
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