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Best places to visit in Honduras

Unveiling Hidden Central American Gems: Discovering the Best Places to Visit in Honduras for the First-Time Traveler

Explore the best places to visit in Honduras for first-time travelers, where ancient Mayan ruins meet pristine rainforests and crystal-clear Caribbean waters. Uncover hidden gems, dive into adventure, and create lifelong memories. This article contains some affiliate links, where we make a small commission if you purchase anything after clicking, at no extra cost to you. 

Central America, a vibrant region comprising seven distinct countries, may appear small in size, leading many to assume that the countries are homogeneous. However, each Central American country possesses its own unique attractions. In my opinion, Honduras stands out as a remarkable destination with an abundance of captivating experiences.

Because I live and work in Honduras, you could say I’m biased. And I probably am. But Honduras is special and offers much to see and do that you won’t find elsewhere.

One of Honduras’s greatest assets as a travel destination is its people. Nicknamed ‘Catrachos, Hondurans are renowned for their friendliness and hospitality. You’ll receive a warm welcome from most people, complete with genuine smiles, curiosity, and respect.

Tourism, after all, holds the key to opportunity for Honduras. By traveling to Honduras, you can help create a brighter future for the country and its people!

So where are the best places to visit in Honduras as a first-time traveler to the country?

For first-timers, the ideal travel itinerary lies along the corridor between Copán Ruinas and the Bay Islands.This is where you’ll find the best places to visit in Honduras.

Copán is home to the most artistically impressive and most studied Mayan site in Central America. The extensive knowledge we have about Copán and its ancient inhabitants makes it a paradise for history and archaeology enthusiasts. Here, you can delve into the past at the unique museums that provide insights into pre-Columbian life.

Copán offers much more, however, than just its archaeological park. Picture a colonial town adorned with cobblestone streets and red-tile roofs, where upscale boutique hotels and budget-friendly hostels coexist. Chic coffee shops and gourmet restaurants offer a wide variety of culinary delights. Life is good in Copán Ruinas, and you’ll experience the charm of Central America at its finest.

The area around Copán is also prime coffee-growing territory. It’s easy to get out of town to a coffee farm and learn about the harvesting and processing of your favorite morning pick-me-up. Many of these farms have their own shops in town, where you can sample and buy your favorite coffee blends.

Another highlight of Copán is the Macaw Mountain Bird Park, home to numerous beautiful tropical birds and parrots native to Central America. These birds were either former pets or rescued from illegal trafficking. Macaw Mountain plays a crucial role in reintroducing birds into the archaeological park.

Onwards from Copán Ruinas to La Ceiba

After exploring Copán Ruinas, continue your journey towards the Bay Islands. This archipelago, once under British rule, proudly preserves its heritage and English-speaking culture.

The easiest route from Copán Ruinas to the Bay Islands involves driving to La Ceiba, a small city on the Caribbean coast.To reach the Bay Islands from La Ceiba, you can choose between air and ferry services. The modern water jet catamaran ferry offers a fast and comfortable journey of fewer than two hours, with two daily departures.

But before getting onto a boat or a plane, I recommend spending at least a couple of nights in the La Ceiba area to visit the Pico Bonito National Park. Most travelers stay in the Cangrejal River Valley, approximately 10 km south of La Ceiba. This area has several hotels and lodges (including my own La Villa de Soledad), granting you an up-close-and-personal rainforest experience. The Rio Cangrejal also offers some of the best white-water rafting in the world.

From the Cangrejal River Valley, any lodge will be happy to arrange your transfers to the La Ceiba ferry terminal or airport for onward travel to the Bay Islands.

The Bay Islands of Honduras

For many visitors, the main allure of the Bay Islands lies in their spectacular diving and snorkeling opportunities along the Meso-American Barrier Reef. The archipelago comprises six islands and numerous small cays, but only Utila, Roatán, and Guanaja have permanent communities and well-developed tourism services.

Each island offers a unique experience, and it’s worth exploring all three to fully appreciate their distinct charms. Traveling between Utila and Roatán is convenient, thanks to the Utila Dream Ferry. Traveling from Roatán to Guanaja can be less reliable, often requiring a journey back to La Ceiba.


Utila is famous for its dive shops and attracts backpackers with its affordable scuba certification courses. It’s also a popular destination for encountering whale sharks, the largest fish species in the world. There’s a lively nightlife/bar scene on Utila that appeals to younger crowds, although the island also offers a relaxed ambiance that can be enjoyed by all, including those seeking tranquility.


Roatán generally attracts a more well-heeled traveler than Utila and serves as a prominent port of call for cruise ships. While the midweek period can witness a higher influx of tourists due to cruise arrivals, the island’s elongated shape allows you to escape the crowds if you wish. West End, with its small and eclectic beachfront community, and the resort-oriented West Bay Beach are the most popular areas on the island.

Roatán is the only Bay Island to feature a golf course and resort communities that rival other Caribbean destinations. Real estate opportunities on Roatán are competitive due to its popularity. The island also has its own international airport, facilitating direct flights from various U.S. gateways.

On a personal note, I highly recommend exploring the East End of Roatán. This part of the island retains its authenticity and allows you to escape the crowds brought by cruise ships. Experience the charm of small and intimate properties, relish the exquisite beaches, and immerse yourself in the captivating old island communities. Even if you choose to stay in West End, I urge you to plan a day trip to the East End to discover the genuine essence of Roatán.

Further east from Roatán are four more islands. Helene, though technically a separate island due to a natural canal, is an extension of Roatán. It remains relatively undeveloped and lacks tourist facilities. Morat, a small island with a saltwater lagoon, offers minimal attractions and is uninhabited. Next to Morat is Barbareta, a private island with pristine beaches. Pigeon Cays, located along the south shore of Morat, present an idyllic setting reminiscent of Robinson Crusoe, perfect for a day trip.

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Finally, on the eastern edge of the Bay Islands archipelago, lies the island of Guanaja. It was here that Christopher Columbus landed during his final voyage in 1502. Guanaja stands out for its untouched nature and rugged terrain, making it the most mountainous among the Bay Islands. With no roads on the island, boat transportation is the primary means of getting around.

Resorts on Guanaja are relatively small and isolated, offering self-contained experiences that include diving and meals bundled with accommodations. Due to its more remote location, Guanaja tends to be more expensive to visit. You can reach Guanaja from La Ceiba only by air, although there’s also a ferry service from Trujillo.

That wraps up my overview of the best places to visit in Honduras for first-time travelers

Honduras, with its Central American and Caribbean characteristics, offers many reasons to visit, and I’ve missed out a few here, including the Cayos Cochinos, the islands of the Gulf of Fonseca on the little-visited Pacific side, and the pine-clad mountainous interior. But all that and more can be the focus of your next visit! For now, I invite you to explore the enchanting destinations I have described and embark on an unforgettable journey through Honduras.

John Dupuis

John Dupuis

John Dupuis was born and raised in Mexico City but has been living in Honduras since 1992. An avid travel entrepreneur, he's always looking to promote his adoptive country. He founded the Honduras Tips travel guide, which became the “travel bible for Honduras”. Since moving on from Honduras Tips, Dupuis has built a bed and breakfast called La Villa de Soledad in the Cangrejal River Valley, just outside of La Ceiba. He manages his B&B with his Honduran wife, Soledad. He enjoys writing about travel in Honduras and runs