We’ve been coming to Trujillo, Honduras since the mid-1990s. Back then Trujillo was a sleepy little town with not much happening, more famous for its past than its present and future.
Until around 2008, there was little change as Trujillo carried on its languid, tropical existence. Even with its rich history of Spanish conquistadors and Caribbean pirates, it never reached the full tourism potential it should have.
Trujillo, Honduras sits on the edge of a lovely bay.
The remains of an old Spanish fort sit on the bluff, beside the town square and church. Behind the town, two mountains, Capiro and Calentura (home to the Capiro and Calentura National Park), rise over the city and the Caribbean Sea beyond.
Access is via a single asphalt road, often in need of repair.
There’s also a small airstrip for charters flights, built by Oliver North during the Contra War in neighboring Nicaragua.
Dole Fruit has a port at Puerto Castilla, about twelve miles from Trujillo. The fruit business is still massive around here, in the original “Banana Republic”, and Dole’s trucks are the main cause of all the potholes.
After Hurricane Mitch in 1998, the Honduran government implemented a study for rebuilding the Trujillo area.
Part of the study was the feasibility of a cruise ship port in Trujillo.
The government asked Randy Jorgensen, a Canadian entrepreneur, to create a tourism plan for a cruise ship port, with the goal of achieving $100M in visitor spending.
The benefits of this tourism plan to Trujillo would be significant.
Other than the Dole shipping port, Trujillo had little commercial activity.
Tourism suffered from a lack of easy access and infrastructure, with limited retail.
And at the time, there were no major residential developments to attract a viable ex-pat community.
The cruise port – operated by Banana Coast Port – opened in October 2014 with the arrival of the Norwegian Jewel.
Banana Coast Port has shopping, a tender dock, a reception center and transport hub, and ten acres of beachfront. They can arrange shore excursions for passengers featuring Trujillo’s rich heritage with cultural, historical, adventure and eco-tour offerings.
Future plans include a gondola from a ship pier in the Bay to the port to get passengers ashore quicker.
Passengers currently come ashore in tenders (small boats) which is expensive and time-consuming.
Later, an extension of the gondola system to the top of Mount Calentura will create a more inviting destination.
The cruise ships have caused significant improvements in Trujillo.
Beachfront restaurants are seeing increased business, and many resorts are enjoying the benefits of shore-side tours. These include Campo del Mar, Banana Beach Resort, and Tranquility Bay Beach Retreat.
The cruise port facility and related tourism projects have become a significant employer in Trujillo. Impressive in an area where before there were few work opportunities available.
A second major initiative in Trujillo has been the establishment of gated communities.
These communities attract wealthy Hondurans and full-time expat residents. They also provide vacation homes and extra short-term accommodation for tourists.
Life Vision Developments kicked things off in Trujillo. They have three completed developments: Campa Vista, Coroz Alta, and Alta Vista. A fourth – Park Estates – is in the planning stages.
Life Vision Developments projects total 1,500 acres, with over 450 residential lots sold to date. They have over 350 in inventory, and there is land available for 600-800 more lots, 1,000 condos, and commercial development.
With all this activity, other development companies soon arrived.
NJOI Beach Residences has two major developments underway: Trujillo Beach Residences and Njoi Beach Homes. The first two phases are almost sold out and the villas in phase three are in high demand.
A little further out of town, you will find Trujillo Beach Eco Resort. This focuses on rental properties rather than owner-occupied homes, but investors can own property to rent out.
Tres Conches is another gated community, although smaller than the others, and there are more developments in the preliminary stages.
All this development has provided further jobs for Trujillo, in service areas, construction, security, and maintenance.
Because of the cruise port, gated communities and more vacation homes, it’s inevitable that infrastructure will improve.
Already we are seeing better roads in town, a cleaner environment, and more restaurants and shopping. Policing is much better and an international airport is in the works.
The government has announced plans to improve the existing road from La Ceiba, and also to build a new coast road that would cut travel time.
Finally, a large Honduran investor wants to develop a manufacturing facility in Trujillo. Not only will this generate around 25,000 new jobs, it will speed up the infrastructure changes.
Who knows? One day there may even be a railway between Puerto Castilla and the south coast – another commercial route between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
I would be remiss if I didn’t end with some words about the person who started all this activity: Randy Jorgensen.
As mentioned, Randy was a successful Canadian businessman. I first met him in 1996 when we both talked about retiring one day in Trujillo.
Randy made the move in 2007 with the intention of a peaceful retirement on his property in Campo del Mar.
But being a restless and imaginative person, when asked to create a plan for tourism growth in Trujillo, he led the way.
Through his commitment, perseverance, and hard work we are on the cusp of seeing major changes happen here in our once-sleepy town of Trujillo.
Paul McCurdy is a part-time resident of Trujillo, Honduras since 1996. He and his wife Charlene delight in sharing their experiences of Honduras on their Hola Honduras blog and on their Facebook page.