Signature Honduras: Jungle, Islands and Mayan Ruins (11 days)
Day 1 Arrive at San Pedro Sula, transfer to hotel.
You’ll be met at the airport and escorted to your accommodation for the night. San Pedro is not a very prepossessing city but your central, small and friendly hotel – Casa del Arbol Galerias - oozes character. There is a modern gallery which showcases paintings by female artists from the city. There is a terrace which has a small bar and a swimming pool; you can access Wifi in the public areas.
Day 2 Transfer to Copán Ruinas.
Drive along the highway through Western Honduras, following the Chamelecon river valley. The countryside along the way is very scenic: forested mountains, livestock farms, tobacco plantations and, higher up, coffee farms. Arrive at Copán Ruinas a quaint little colonial town just 12 km short of the Guatemalan border. Close by is one of the most impressive Mayan ruins in the region, Copán.
Day 3 Guided tour of Copán ruins and museum.
It is not as immense as Tikal but the Mayans’ craftsmanship has survived the passing of time - most impressively evident in the intricate carvings of the 21 stelae. Copán is believed to have been in its 'golden era' between 553AD and 738AD, before falling into decline soon after. Also visit the Maya Sculpture Museum, which exhibits artwork of the Mayan site. Access is through an impression of a snake's mouth framing the entrance. Its centrepiece though is a replica of Rosalila Temple, which lies concealed under a larger pyramid at the site itself.
In the afternoon, choose between a visit to Hacienda San Lucas, which you will be able to explore a century-old rural retreat on horseback or on foot, and an excursion to the Macaw Mountain Bird Park where you can stroll through an aviary beneath the canopy of hardwood trees surprised by flights of scarlet macaws and parakeets.
Day 4 Guided visit to a coffee plantation.
Conventional, modern coffee plantations are replacing wildlife habitat, and the population of songbirds across North and South America is in significant decline. Shade-grown coffee, the traditional method of coffee farming, offers a promising alternative.
A short drive from Copán you arrive at Finca Santa Isabel where you are guided on a hike from the nursery where the coffee is planted into the mountains to where the plants grow under the shade of the trees. You’ll observe how the coffee is harvested and processed. As shade coffee farms support over 150 species of birds, you will also have the opportunity to spot and identify different species as you walk along the trails.
Day 5 By road to Pico Bonito via Lancetilla National Park.
Set off by road to Pico Bonito, a first-class lodge set in coastal rainforest. En route, stop off at Lancetilla Botanical Gardens in the eponymous national park. It houses one of the largest collections of plantains in the world (Honduras is the original banana republic) and is well respected for its work in conserving Honduran plant species. There is an abundance of birdlife here since many of the trees are fruit-bearing, providing vital sustenance to over 250 identified species. Continue to Pico Bonito National Park and the world-famous Lodge and Spa.
Day 6 Guided excursion to Cayos Cochinos.
Visit the unpopulated Cayos Cochinos (Hog Cays), reached in 45 minutes by boat from the port of La Ceiba. This exquisite archipelago and marine reserve comprises a collection of forested or palm-speckled coral islets ringed by chalk-white sand beaches and a reef alive with aquatic species.
Cruise among the islets, stopping at a Garifuna fishing community. The Garifuna are a mixed-race community descended from African slaves, indigenous islanders and Arawak Indians. They speak their own language and defend their own traditional way of life. Later, take a short walk along a forest trail. There’s plenty of time for sunbathing or snorkelling.
Day 7 Day at leisure at Pico Bonito.
There are a number of activities which you can sign up for locally at the lodge, where the focus is on giving you the most varied eco-friendly experiences possible while you familiarise yourself with the bird-filled forest enveloping the property. They include early morning and night time hikes, white-water rafting, visits to local communities, guided tours of Mayan ruins and the botanical gardens. You can climb a couple of observation towers to view the wildlife which lives high in the canopy.
Alternatively – or additionally – you can avail yourself of the services of the lodge’s spa facilities, where pre-Hispanic healing methods have been adapted into soothing massages and facials.
Day 8 Transfer to la Ceiba port for a ferry to Roatán Island.
Transfer to La Ceiba port for a ferry to Roatán island. Roatán is situated 50km off the coast of Honduras and is the most developed of the Bay Islands. It was once a hideaway for pirates and the infamous captain Henry Morgan made it his lair. Its people are a mix of Afro-Caribbean, European and Garífuna indian descent with English the main language spoken.
Fishing is still its main economic activity although in recent years it has become a top international destination for scuba diving and snorkelling. Sun worshippers can take advantage of some glorious secluded beaches while others can enjoy the eateries and use the facilities of the dive schools which line the powdery white sands of West Bay. Continue to your resort at Barefoot Cay.
Days 9-10 At leisure on the Caribbean island.
Your intimate resort hotel is set right on the beach. It caters for divers so there are optional opportunities for you to explore the coral reef – some of the best undersea viewing in the world.
However there are plenty of things to do for those who are not sub-aqua aficionados. Roatán offers a wide variety of adventures which can be organised from the hotel, from zip-lining to swimming with dolphins and horse riding to sunset sails. Kayaking, fishing, glass-bottomed boat tours, golf: there's something to appeal to everyone, and a spa on the premises if you need to relax after your exertions.
Of course, you might choose just to swing in a hammock, or enjoy a cocktail beside the pool.
Day 11 Fly from Roatán to San Pedro to connect with your international flight.