Harnessing Honduras: The Eco-lodge

Vacation lodging in Honduras is as varied as its landscape. One can splurge at a five star luxury hotel in the city, share bunks at a hostel in Utila or rent a cabana on the beach in Roatan. Each accommodation offers a different angle of Honduras highlighting a different experience. With the jungle close at hand, however, tourists are afforded a unique experience: they can stay in an eco lodge.

Halfway between living in luxury and roughing it in the jungle, eco lodges are the perfect way to experience the natural beauty of Honduras. Each green property is tailored around the landscape, immersing the visitor in the ecosystem and bonding them with nature.

Obviously this varies from property to property. Some lodges transplant standard, western rooms into the forest with air conditioning, dry wall and luxe amenities. In this sense, the term eco lodge is applied fairly loosely. Other lodges, however, use the bedroom to channel the energy of the lodge, from using aspects from the surrounding environment and culture to building the entire lodge in traditional Honduran architecture.

The Honduran Champa, like that at the Villas Pico Bonito is an excellent way to experience an eco lodge and immerse yourself in the Honduran jungle. Inside of the massive structure is a mixture of traditional and modern, with two bedrooms, bathrooms and a full outdoor kitchen with bar. Each bedroom is technically exposed to the outdoors, with traditional walls rising partially to the roof and open to the jungle temperature, sounds and bugs. To keep nature out, you sleep under a mosquito net and a ceiling fan.

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In this sense, the eco lodge can act quite rustic, but unique features of each properties make them interesting. At the Villas Pico Bonito, for example, a giant infinity pool is below the residential champa, where you can wile you day away drinking pina coladas and surfing the wireless internet. Outside of that, you can walk down to the river, explore the grounds or hike on one of the numerous hiking trails in the Pico Bonito park. Could you get that at your local Holiday Inn?

If the eco lodge sounds like it’s up your alley, there are several options all over Honduras. In La Ceiba, The Villas Pico Bonito, Jungle Lodge and Las Cascadas Lodge are among the excellent choices, where prices range from 40 – 200USD per night.

Keep in mind, however, that an eco lodge is going to be pretty far off the beaten path, secluded and in the jungle. Be prepared to spend some significant time getting into the lodge and dealing with spiders. Rest assured that the time you invest is worth the wait.

Harnessing Honduras: The tourist destination hat trick

If you’re in the tourist frame of mind when planning your trip to Honduras, three regions are going to come forth as possible locations to visit: The Bay Islands, The Northern Coast and Copan. Each destination serves a special purpose, each a varied look into the prism of Honduras. Let’s take a gander through each area and highlight the benefits – if you’re quick enough you can visit all three in a week long trip.

The Bay Islands (above)

Lauded as one of the best diving destinations in the Caribbean sea, Roatan, Utila and Guanaja make up the three largest and most popular Bay Islands north of Honduras. It’s a great place to book a beach cabana, kick back and enjoy the relaxing Caribbean atmosphere, even if you’re not going to go in the water. The West End and West Bay regions of Roatan are a bit more developed than areas on the other two islands, with multi million dollar resorts spotting the beach, higher prices and a few trendy boutiques. Utila caters to more of a backpacking crowd, while Guanaja, the smallest of the three, is further off the beaten path.

One can fly to Roatan directly from the United States and the two largest islands can also be reached from the mainland of Honduras via either ferry or aircraft. Check out the Hidden in Honduras logistics post for more details on that.



The Northern Coast

As Honduras is just starting to gain steam with its tourism industry, many parts on the northern coast haven’t developed an infrastructure for visitors. But that doesn’t mean that the region is without attraction. Several excellent beaches spot the coast, and if you settle into the right pocket you can find a series of fascinating, relaxing communities.

The northern coast is also a nice alternative to the Bay Islands if you haven’t got enough time to make it into the Caribbean. Connections from the mainland can be time consuming and difficult and if you’re not careful, they can eat up a good portion of your trip.

Whether or not you’re headed to the Bay Islands, the most logical destination to visit on the northern coast is La Ceiba. At about three hours from San Pedro Sula, it’s the third largest city in the country and is fairly well known as a tourism and nightlife hub. Lodging options are widespread, from the all inclusive resorts on the beach to the budget hotels in the city to the eco-lodges in the Pico Bonito national park. Just make sure that if you’re planning on indulging in the wild nightlife that your hotel is close to the bars — several of the eco lodges are pretty deep in the jungle.

Another popular city on the northern coast is Tela, which is about halfway between San Pedro Sula and La Ceiba. Tela hasn’t got the nightlife and numerous fancy activities that La Ceiba has, but the beaches are a little bit more deserted and picturesque. Among Lonely Planet’s teaser photos of the country is a shot taken from Tela.

Copan

The Maya ruins at Copan are a magnificently restored tribute to the ancient culture. Situated on the western border of the country near Guatemala, one can reach Copan via bus in a few hours from San Pedro Sula or alternatively stay at the bordering town of Copan Ruinas and walk into the complex. Entry fees are around 15USD per person, with supplemental fees for the museum and underground tunnels.

Read more dispatches from Honduras in the Harnessing Honduras Series

Harnessing Honduras: the Central American underdog

Honduras usually isn’t the first place that people think of when they think of vacationing in Central America. Big players in the market like Costa Rica, Cancun and Cozumel consume the majority of the market, while many think that other countries in the region are unsafe or unstable.

It’s true that Central America hasn’t got the best record for safety in the world — the government of Honduras was just removed by a military coup, Guatemala’s civil war rocked the nineties, and the entire region is a hotspot for drug trade. These instances are in specifc pockets though, and while some areas throughout Central America are rough, it’s by no means a reason to avoid any particular country.

Taking advantage of some remarkable recent airfares from the United States to San Pedo Sula, the second largest city in Honduras, Gadling had the pleasure of taking a quick tour through the country, reveling in the dense jungles, immaculate beaches and local culture.

The result? A perfectly safe, fascinating trip to a Central American country rich in culture, underpopulated with tourists and quite the bargain for savvy travelers. Stick around while we take you on a quick tour through the magnificent country this week, in our microseries called Harnessing Honduras. It could just be your next alternative to Costa Rica.