I’ve only been to Honduras once and it was to visit Pico Bonito National Park for a long weekend. This is a relatively large park at 564.30 km2 (217.88 sq mi) in size. It’s near the coastal city of La Ceiba which is a city most tourists don’t see unless they are hopping off to the Bay Islands.
Lucky for me, Grand Cayman has direct flights to La Ceiba which made this a quick one hour flight.
Once in La Ceiba it’s a short twenty-minute ride to Pico Bonito National Park, one of the most raw and undisturbed parks that I have seen. Very few tourists make it out this far as is evidenced by the handful of boutique hotels which sit empty for most of the year.
The National park offers hiking, white water rafting, and horseback riding. These are great activities to do here as this is a proper jungle with a myriad of critters. We saw snakes, a wide variety of birds including parrots, as well as iguanas.
Most of the hotels have on-site hiking trails but you really need to go out on your own to see the best hikes in the area. We chose to tackle El Mapache Trail which is accessible once you cross the 400 foot-long Río Cangrejal hanging bridge.
El Mapache Trail is only 4 kms round-trip but due to the difficult terrain it can take as long as 3 hours to complete. This is a very rewarding hike as it takes you to the most impressive waterfall in the area which is the 60 meters high Bejuco Waterfall.
Surprisingly considering the size of Pico Bonito there are very few hiking trails. All together there’s a day’s worth of trails which is why you should try white water rafting. The area has category III to V white water rafting and the guides that we had were very professional and well trained which is something that you do not often encounter in less developed countries. This is actually considered one of the top 10 areas in Latin America for white water rafting and I fully enjoyed the experience.
There’s also white-water cliff jumping which involves jumping in the water from cliffs and swimming from side to side in the river. This is something that physically drained me and I ended up doing the rafting afterwards when I was extremely low on energy. I would recommend sticking to the rafting unless you are brave or in better shape than me.
Oddly enough, what I enjoyed the most in the area was actually visiting a women’s’ collective. This is where local women collaborate to work together to design, produce, and sell certain products to tourists.
Due to the high crime in the area the only way to access this collective is to take a basket (yes, I said basket) across the river to the house the collective is located in. In order to get in the basket someone has to manually take the basket across the river to pick you up. This means at any point in time someone always has to be at the house to ensure that others may cross. I was surprised to learn that this was very common to the area.
The crime in the area is ridiculously high and no one wants to give banditos the option to drive up to their home. Hotels have armed security at all times, and our hotel had an undercover security guard escort us to La Ceiba and to the airport afterwards. You can safely skip La Ceiba, as it’s a dirty city that felt very unsafe. La Ceiba felt much more dangerous to me than the so-called dodgy places that I have traveled to in Asia and the Middle-East.
In regards to the collective, the women there were so sweet that I felt compelled to purchase products that I didn’t need just to help them out.
While Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, it is possible to visit Pico Bonito and enjoy a very safe vacation and to get off the beaten track. It’s a wonderful vacation to explore undisturbed nature as it was meant to be enjoyed.