Honduras - La Ceiba, Utila and Lago de Yojoa,

Trip Start Jan 03, 2013
Trip End Jul 21, 2013

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Flag of Honduras  , Bay Islands,
Saturday, February 2, 2013

We were up early anyway due to the noise of the San Salvador morning traffic and boarded the 7am bus to Honduras. The bus was a luxury option and more than we'd wanted to pay, but it was very comfortable and included films, free wifi and food. Well, they said food but the only food we got on the 9 hour journey was a bagel, a small bit of pastry, and some crisps so we were so famished by the time we got to San Pedro Sula in Honduras. We noticed the transformation from the hot dry hills of El Salvador, to the cooler wet cloud forests in Honduras.

We arrived in the largest bus terminal in central America, just south of San Pedro Sula and had to jump straight on the last bus to La Ceiba. We had a much needed food stop half way and arrived in La Ceiba about 7.30pm. It was just a quick stopover and we noticed that we had not seen one tourist since leaving the El Salvador coast the day before, but we were off to Utila in the morning, one of the popular Bay Islands so that was about to change.

We got a lift to the ferry port the next morning for the Utila princess ferry or vomit comet as it is otherwise known and we were soon to see why it's got that name. The hours crossing was VERY rough with the boat rocking heavily and we were enclosed in a room with no open windows and you weren't allowed to go outside. The sick bags were handed out and people needed them. Thankfully neither of us were sick but didnt feel great during the crossing - we were certainly glad to arrive on dry land!

Utila seemed similar to Caye Caulker in Belize apart from the numerous scooters, quadbikes and trucks which zoomed up and down the main street, ruining the peace somewhat. We stayed on the island for 3 days enjoying what it had to offer. Our first afternoon there, we
walked up the main road to the Coral Bay Resort to go snorkelling. The sea was great and the coral was beautiful with loads of fish. It certainly whet our appetite for diving in the morning! We chilled on the sundeck and enjoyed that late afternoon sunshine before heading back.

We had booked to do some fun dives the next day with Utila Dive Centre or UDC, a very slick and professional dive outfit that was recommended to us by Marco, our diving instructor in Isla Muejeres. We did 2 dives in the morning, which were both good, where we saw an eagle ray, parrot fish, lion fish, a school of cuttlefish and lots of others. The coral was really colourful on the 2nd dive too (aptly named Silver Gardens) with some of it looking like actual flowers. While the dives were good, we both thought that they were similar to our experience in Belize (same reef system) so decided we wouldn't do anymore on the island during our stay and save our money for diving in different places. It tipped it down with rain for a few hours after we got back so we took shelter and waited for it to clear.

That afternoon once the rain stopped, we wandered down the coast a bit and ended up at a quiet beach with mainly residential homes nearby and some nice coastline. Sean had a swim around a small island and saw some cool fish, but ended up struggling to get back to the beach due to the shallow coral and the waves breaking against the rocks. We went for dinner at RJ's Bar, a grill restaurant that served fresh fish done on the bbq (we had marlin and amber jack) and the food was excellent. The superbowl was also on, not that we were interested, but lots of american tourists were. We felt like chilling so watched a couple of films (Bucket List and The Holiday) in our room, making the most of the tv in our room as we hadn't had one since we left the UK!

The next day was the first day in quite a while that we didn't have anything planned. We decided to hire bikes to explore the island a bit more and to go up Pumpkin Hill where you get a lovely view of the island. However, it was not as straightforward as we hoped. Firstly there were no signs or anything so we took numerous wrong turns and ended up biking down very muddy tracks due to the recent rain. We were heading the right way but couldn't quite find the way up to be able to climb the hill. We were both covered in mud and thankfully arrived at a beach where we could clean off and have a bit of a rest. We set going again trying to find the way up the hill, but as we looked for an alternative route we ended up further away so just decided to head back back along the very wet and muddy roads. The hill had beaten us!

We cycled back to the main 'town' and took a detour to the Iguana Research Station. It had been set up to research and protect the endemic species of iguana to Utila - affectionately known as the Swampy as it lives in the mangroves on the island. It was interesting to find out about this species, see the animals and talk to the volunteers that run the station. After our busy morning, we headed to Bando beach, a privately owned beach at one end of the main street. We were greeted by the owner and a beautiful red macaw called Chica. We were the only ones on the beach so enjoyed the sunshine for a while. We went into the sea for a swim and to snorkel over the coral that we could see from the beach however it was not that easy. The sea was extremely shallow and covered in sea grass and we were literally swimming with our stomachs on the bottom. We never made it to the coral is was just too shallow and we couldn't walk as it was too sharp underfoot. The island had beaten us again! And then it started raining and all our stuff was still on the beach. I swam back and moved it to a shelter and sat under it watching the downpour as it got heavier and heavier. After a while it stopped and we enjoyed the sunshine for a bit when reappeared. Sean was feeling a bit coldly so we had a chilled evening and watched a film before bed.

We decided to spend our last day in Utila on the beach, which was ideal as it was a lovely day with the sun shining. Sean also had a cold so relaxing was a good plan. We stayed down at Bando beach for the whole day, enjoying the sun, swimming, reading, chatting to the owner and his beautiful red Macaws - today Ben and Jerry were at the beach! We also got chatting to an old American couple from Southern California who had been married for 54 years and still enjoy adventurous travel including activities such as white water rafting! They must have been at least 70 and were quite inspiring! It was a nice way to spend the last day on Utila. We liked the island, and and see why people stay longer, but we were both ready to move on and experience more of Honduras, not just the touristy islands.

We left when it was still dark to catch the early ferry back to La Ceiba. We were both hoping the journey was a little less bumpy than on the way out, and fortunately it was. We had a short wait in La Ceiba before catching the bus to Tegucigalpa, the capital city. We were hoping to be dropped off in La Guama, which was the closest town to Lake Yojoa, and our next stop. However, the bus driver drove straight through and we ended up 4km up the road. Clearly a request stop! We jumped on a chicken bus back to La Guama and caught another bus up to Pena Blanca, from where we got an Tuk Tuk up to our hotel, the D&D brewery. We had been travelling for nearly 9 hours, more than we were expecting especially as this was meant to be a stop over to break the journey south. The hotel, as the name suggests, has an on-site microbrewery, a pool, and is set in lush gardens. A very original place! We were famished so had some lunch and then took a walk to one of the local recommended sites, Los Paradiso, a working coffee plantation set in the forest. We had a nice couple of hours there, exploring the area, spotting some interesting birds, and Sean also had a swim in the river. That evening we enjoyed some of the hotel's beers (a nice change from the standard international lagers) and had a nice dinner. We randomly bumped into Laura and Sam who we met in Sartaneja in Belize, which seemed a long time ago! It was nice to catch up and share some travel stories/plans.

The next day was our only day by the lake before moving on to Nicaragua so we had to make the most of it! We headed off to get little rowing boats to explore the lake a bit more. It took a while to find the place where we picked up the oars but finally we did and made our way to the little boats. They were moored by a canal which ran into the lake which meant we had a way to go. The rowing was not the easiest thing to get the hang of and after we both had had a go, it was easily decided that Sean was by far the superior rower and Alexa only managed to move a few feet and go round in a circle! We headed down the canal very slowly at first but our speed improved as Sean got the hang of the rowing.

There were loads of birds in the surrounding jungle and marshes which we spent our time trying to spot and eventually got onto the lake. It was beautiful and so still and clear - like a mirror. We rowed round the outskirts of the
Lake stopping at a few places to swim and enjoy the scenery. Stupidly, we didn't take any food with us so by 12:30 we were ready for lunch but at the furthest point to the boat dock! We made the journey back across the lake and up the canal and thankfully were back by 2:30 so had some lunch at a local cafe. Seans hands were blistered and his arm/shoulders aching but he did a fantastic job getting us back. The Honduran special of baleadas (tortillas stuffed with beans, salad, boiled egg, cheese and soured cream) was on the menu! Yum! We treated ourselves to an ice cream afterwards, all for £3.

We went to Los Naranjos archeological and ecological park for the rest of the afternoon. We saw some ruins but didn't know what they were and the 'museum' was entirely in Spanish so we were none the wiser. However, we wandered through the forest and along the boardwalk over the marshes admiring the lake before walking back to the hotel to freshen up. We had dinner in the restaurant again and made our plans to travel to Nicaragua the next day. We relaxed by the fire to soak up the atmosphere of the nice setting before heading back to the room to pack and sleep before getting up early for the bus to the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa.

As the sun rose, we boarded the first of many buses that we hoped would get us to Nicaragua. Late morning we arrived in the Tegucigalpa and greeted by lots of traffic, people, pollution, and a grimy city. We jumped in a taxi to get to the correct bus terminal where the bus to the border was departing. At the bus terminal, a swarm of locals attacked the taxi, each one telling us where we should be, offering to take our luggage. They opened the doors, one even grabbed Alexa's arm. It was intimidating but we made it in to the correct bus which was departing straight away. We were pleased to be leaving!

We discovered that we had another change of buses in Choluteca, this time a little easier and again the timing was good. We jumped on a minivan headed to Guasaule, the border town. It took 45 mins to get there, and en route we spotted locals selling dead iguanas on the roadside. It wasn't nice to see but they do eat them in this part of the world. The border crossing was smooth, and we entered our sixth country of the trip - Nicaragua.

We enjoyed our time in Honduras and were glad that we made the effort to go there as it would have been much easier to go straight to Nicaragua from El Salvador. The Bay islands are completely different from mainland Honduras and not a true reflection of the culture, but our time there was mainly for the beaches and diving. Lake Yojoa was really beautiful and we were glad we stopped there. It was more of the real Honduras with coffee plantation, cloud forests, and hills. We only scraped the surface here but onto Nicaragua for colonial cities, volcanoes and surfing!
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