I highly recommended Copan as a great place to vacation, having plenty to see & do. There are a few pubs with live music and/or DJ’s, and the locals are party animals if you’re into that sort of thing. The food is authentic and simple, and everywhere we ate delivered large portions and seemed to always be prepard by a little old lady in the back of the kitchen. The Copan ruins, of course, are what attract most visitors and the site itself is massive, you could easily spend an entire afternoon walking about. Even if you’re not that interested in the in-depth history lessons from the local guides, its nice to hire one anyway – these people love their jobs, they’re friendly and very personal, so at the least its fun to socialize with them for an afternoon (they also rely heavily on tips so as a tourist it’s nice to help out in that regard). The ruins are within walking distance (maybe 1km if I remember correctly) from the town. Copan has a few scenic routes sourrounding the town that are awesome for horseback riding. The routes pass through the foothill homes where you’ll find plenty groups of men relaxing in their boots & cowboy hats, women cooking/cleaning, or dozens of kids running around playing. Everyone nods and waves, it’s a very tourist-friendly place. There are also hot springs about 30-45 minutes outside of town. We were travelling with Tucan Travel who arranged the ride (in the back of a pickup truck, which was an adventure) to the hot springs where a few locals prepared a bbq dinner for us. The food was absolutely amazing and the hot springs were, well, hot.
Something that surprised me at first, was the ATM machines in Copan. Although it was cool to find a convenient cash machine in the middle of nowhere, the surprising part was the security guy with the shotgun standing right next to it. Banks also had security guards at the entrance holding machine guns while welcoming you inside. Makes you wonder – there’s either a lot of fraud or theft, or none at all!
For those looking for an eye-opener, travel through Tegucigalpa. This is a massive city, the largest in the country, and absolutely packed. How the people and vehicles navigate through the small streets without causing massive carnage is a mystery to me. This city will keep you on your toes – I hate to be that guy warning toursits, but you can’t ignore Tegucigalpa’s extremely high crime rate. I wouldnt recommend walking about late at night or straying too far from your hotel.
When travelling to Roatan by land, you’ll likely pass through Tela and take a ferry to the island. Tela itself wasn’t that great to be honest. While swimming in the pool of our hotel I remember watching rats run alongside it. The restaurants and shops weren’t all that exciting either, and we even opted to order pizza instead of eating at a local “authentic” restaurant. Our tour guide who had passed through Tela on several occasions recommended that we stay at the hotel as there wasn’t much to see or do in the neighborhood. This was also one of the only places they warned us to be careful of theives. We headed for the coast early in the morning and I remember seeing a pack of tourists taking pictures of a tree near the docks. Once closer I realized the trees were occupied by a few monkeys wearing 10 foot chain collars tied to the tree branches. It was a disturbing sight as far as I’m concerned. Roatan was awesome – we took a choppy ferry from Tela (motion sickness pills would be a good idea) into a Roatan marina passing by some old sunken ships that were half sticking out of the water (I know, not very environmentally friendly but a cool sight nonethelesss). We passed a crocodile in the ditch not far from the parking lot where our cargo van transport was waiting. That was a first. We stayed in West Point, which in my opinion had the best restaurants and pubs, as well as internet cafes and motorbike/quad rentals. One pub in particular was very small but had a sand floor (inside) and live music. The guitarist was a local, and played anything you wanted by Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Cash to perfection. We kayaked to West Bay, which seemed to have better diving, hotels and shops catering to the tourists arriving by cruise ship for the day.
Unfortunately there was a strike of some sorts on the island. I don’t have the exact details, but apparently there was a conflict between the locals and the local power company that ended up with the power being shut off for the majority of the island. This was pretty scary, as with no power came looting and riots but for the most part we (as tourists) felt safe and excused from the conflicts. Roadblocks kept us from venturing outside our hotels neighborhood (which is why we had to kayak around to West Bay), but after a few days the protesters lifted the barricades to let us through and be on our way back to the mainland. During the protests, the owner of our hotel and a friend of hers recommended that we do not stay in the hotel at night for protection, but instead venture out for dinner and drinks to support the local business owners. They assured us we would be safe and not bothered – and they were right. Roatan restaurants served the best seafood I’ve ever had in my life.