Home to biodiverse jungles, ancient Mayan Ruins, and vast national parks brimming with wildlife, Honduras has a lot to offer budget travelers. There’s a plethora of stuff to do and it’s one of the cheapest countries in Central America.
Unfortunately, owing to its violent past, it often gets glossed over for more polished Central American hotspots.
However, Honduras today is a much safer country and is popular with intrepid backpackers and expats looking to get off the beaten path. With world-class diving, a cheap cost of living, and incredible weather, Honduras offers some of the best value in the region.
That said, you’ll still need to take precautions and keep your wits about you — especially on the mainland — as crime and gang activity are still common.
This travel guide to Honduras can help you see the country, stay safe, and stay on a budget!
Table of Contents
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Top 5 Things to See and Do in the Honduras
1. Explore the Copan Ruins
2. Dive the Bay Islands
3. Relax at Lake Yojoa
4. Adventure at Pico Bonito National Park
5. Escape to Cayos Cochinos
Other Things to See and Do in the Honduras
1. Visit Mercado Guamilito
Located in San Pedro Sula, this traditional market is an excellent place to buy Lenca ceramics, high-quality (and reasonably priced) leather, cigars, and silver. There’s also a no-frills food market that locals claim offers the best baleada, a national dish made with flour tortillas, cheese, cream, and fried beans. The market is open daily from 7am-4pm.
2. Chill out on Utila
Most backpackers make a beeline for the island of Roatan, but if you’re looking for something beyond diving, Utila is a better option. It has a buzzing nightlife, cheap accommodation, beautiful white sand beaches, and even the chance to spot whale sharks. The 45-minute ferry ride from La Ceiba to Utila costs 448 HNL.
3. Visit Parque Nacional Jeannette Kawas
This national park is named after Jeannette Kawas, an environmental activist who fought to protect the area from commercial development and was brutally murdered in 1995. Now, her legacy lives on with this protected area, filled with abundant wildlife including howler monkeys, boa constrictors, and toucans. You’ll also find pristine beaches and untouched coral reefs here. The secluded park is just a 30-minute boat ride from Tela, a Caribbean coastal town. Admission is 120 HNL.
4. Go zip lining
If you’re craving an adrenaline rush, Honduras has a dozen zip lining experiences to choose from all around the country (including several on Roatan). Prices vary but expect to pay at least 1,085 HNL for a half-day tour. Lunch is usually included.
5. Explore the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve
This heavily-forested area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the last remaining tropical rainforests in Central America. Established in 1982, it spans over 5,250 square kilometers and is home to Mayan ruins, ancient petroglyphs, pumas, jaguars, giant ant-eaters, sloths, and over 2,000 indigenous locals. Getting here requires some effort (it’s a 6-hour bus from La Ceiba followed by a short boat ride) but you’ll be rewarded by sweeping vistas and a rare look at indigenous life in the rainforest. You can hire a day guide on arrival (for around 400 HNL) or embark on a multi-day tour up the river for 3,000 HNL. Admission to the reserve itself is by donation.
6. Visit Valle de Angeles
This colonial town makes for a good day trip from Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. It’s located 35 minutes away by car and, aside from the beautiful colonial buildings, there’s a lot of affordable handicraft shopping. While you’re here, spend some time relaxing in Parque Central, where you’ll see the historic colonial church or head into La Tigra, the nearby cloud forests that are full of hiking trails (admission is 240 HNL). Don’t forget insect repellent if you do visit the forest!
7. Attend Carnaval de La Ceiba
This is the biggest carnival in Central America. Held every May in La Ceiba, it attracts half a million revelers every year. The celebration is in honor of Saint Isidore the Laborer, the patron saint of the city. For two weeks, throngs of people flock to La Ceiba’s barrios (neighborhoods), who compete to throw the best carnavalito (little carnival) in town. It’s all in anticipation for the main event, the rainbow-filled parade “La Feria de San Isidro”, which takes place along Avenida San Isidro on the 3rd or 4th Saturday of May.
8. Go hiking in Parque Nacional Cusuco
This ethereal cloud forest is nestled into the Merendon mountain range near the border with Guatemala, making it somewhat difficult to access (during the rainy season you’ll need a 4×4). It’s a 2-3-hour drive from San Pedro. There are five stunning hiking trails that cross the cloud and dwarf forests. Expect to see plenty of parrots, toucans, and quetzals here. Unless you have a 4WD vehicle, you’ll need to go with a tour company. Admission is 220 HNL.
9. See the Roatan Butterfly Garden
Located in Roatan, this indoor garden is home to over 30 species of moths and butterflies, as well as a large collection of boa constrictors, parrots, scarlet macaws, and tropical orchids. It is best to visit during the early morning when the butterflies are most active. Admission is 170 HNL.
10. Visit the Lancetilla Botanical Garden
Located on the coast in Tela, Honduras’s only botanical garden happens to also be the largest in Latin America. Spanning over 4,100 acres, it boasts thousands of varieties of national and exotic flora and fauna. There are over 1,500 trees in its arboretum and the garden also has 3,000 acres of virgin rainforest. It’s open 365 days a year and admission is 62 HNL.
Honduras Travel Costs
Hostels – Shared dorms with 4-8 beds cost 370 HNL per night, with private rooms costing anything from 400 to 1,400 HNL. Free Wi-Fi and free breakfast are generally included. Most hostels also have A/C and hot water.
Wild camping isn’t recommended here due to petty theft, rainstorms, and the sweltering humidity. There are a few campgrounds around the country, though they aren’t any cheaper than staying in a hostel.
Budget hotels – Budget hotels can be found for around 1,000 HNL for a double room. Most of the cheaper hotels include Wi-Fi, however, for a hotel with a kitchen, A/C, and a pool you’ll pay at least 2,000 HNL per night.
Airbnb is available in Honduras but really only found in Tegucipalga and the tourist spots on the coast. Prices start at 500 HNL for a shared room, 1,000 HNL for a private room, and 1,900 for a villa.
Food – Honduran cuisine leans heavily on fish, soups, beans, rice, and coconut. Popular dishes include guisado (a spicy chicken stew), carne asada (grilled sliced beef), and baleda (cheese and bean tortilla). Generally, you can expect a mix of Spanish, Lenca, and Caribbean influences.
Local meals consisting of rice, beans, and a drink costs around 120 HNL. Set lunch menus at comedores (small local eateries) offer large portions for cheap so stick to them when eating out.
Street food is popular here, with popular favorites being grilled corn, baleadas (a tortilla filled with fried beans, cream, and cheese), pastelitos (a Cuban pastry similar to empanadas), and fruit smoothies (a common breakfast here). These are usually under 50 HNL.
A three-course meal at a restaurant serving local cuisine costs 600 HNL, including a drink. These establishments usually add a 10% service charge to your bill too. Expect a blend of traditional Mayan cuisine (rice, beans, corn, seafood) with touches of Western and Caribbean flair.
A bottle of water is 17 HNL and a latte or cappuccino will set you back 40 HNL. Domestic beer is 70 HNL.
For a week’s worth of groceries, expect to spend around 600 HNL if you’re getting food at the local market. However, with street food and comedores so cheap, it’s cheaper to eat at the local markets than try to cook for yourself, especially since most guesthouses and hostels don’t have kitchens.
Activities – Activities in Honduras are generally quite affordable. National park entry fees range from 120-200 HNL while ziplining excursions cost around 1,100 HNL. If you plan to go diving, expect to pay around 1,000 HNL. Admission to the popular Copan Ruins is 370 HNL.
Backpacking Honduras Suggested Budgets
On a backpacker budget of 810 HNL per day, you can stay in a dorm, eat street food for all your meals, take buses to get around and do some hikes. If you plan to drink more, you’ll need to add around 150 HNL more per day.
On a mid-range budget of 1,950 HNL per day, you can stay in a budget hotel, eat out at comodores, have a few drinks, take the occasional taxi, and do some paid activities like visiting national parks or diving.
On a “luxury” budget of 5,250 HNL, you can stay in a private villa, take taxis everywhere, eat out at fine-dining restaurants, drink more, and do more tours and activities. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Prices are in HNL.
Honduras Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
Honduras is pretty cheap. You’d be hard pressed to spend a lot of money here unless you were actually trying to. That said, a true budget traveler always looks for ways to save. Here are some money-saving tips to help you:
- Refill your water – The tap water in Honduras is not safe to drink so make sure you have a reusable bottle with you. To stay safe, bring a water filter like LifeStraw to ensure your water is clean and free from bacteria. You’ll save money on buying bottled water and save the environment too!
- Know what to pay – When you need to barter for something, talk to your hostel/hotel staff first. Find out what a fair price is so that you can avoid getting overcharged.
- Avoid paying with a credit card – Honduras is a cash-driven society. In places where you can pay with a credit card, expect fees of 5-10%. Pay with cash as often as possible.
- Learn some Spanish – To avoid getting overcharged, learn some Spanish. Even just a few words and phrasing can help you avoid being charged tourist prices.
- Travel during the shoulder season – Prices are highest during the dry months (December-April). To avoid the crowds and save money, travel during the rainy season or shoulder season. You might get rained on, however, accommodation and activities will be cheaper.
- Stay with a local – Honduras has a small Couchsurfing scene, but if you book early you can likely find a host who can share their insider knowledge and give you a free place to stay.
Where to Stay in Honduras
Here are some of my favorite places to stay in Honduras:
How to Get Around Honduras
Bus – The cheapest way to get from A to B in Honduras is by bus. For local city journeys, taxis are recommended due to safety issues (petty theft is common on public transportation).
Direct buses for cross-country trips are more expensive but more comfortable and faster than the slower buses that make multiple stops. A direct bus from Tegucigalpa to La Ceiba takes around 6 hours and costs 800-950 HNL. A direct bus from Tegucigalpa to Copan Ruinas takes 9 hours and costs 1,500 HNL.
The multiple-stop buses (parando) are slower and can add a few extra hours to your trip. But, if you’re not in a rush, they can save you upwards of 50%.
Taxi – Taxis are plentiful and can be found pretty much everywhere. Fares start at 72 HNL and are charged at 49 HNL per kilometer.
Shared taxis (colectivos) are common for popular routes in the bigger cities too and will slash the private rates in half. Negotiate prices prior to getting in the car. Ask your hotel/hostel staff for rates before you arrive so you aren’t ripped off.
When on the islands, water taxis are your best option for getting around. They run from Roatan to West End, and from Coyolito to Isla del Tigre. Shared water taxis cost between 60-100 HNL depending on the route.
Air – Domestic flights in Honduras are expensive. Connections between the major cities (La Ceiba, Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula) to Roatan, run frequently, however, one-way tickets to these key destinations usually cost between 3,000-4,250 HNL each way. If you’re on a budget, avoid flying.
Car rental – Driving in Honduras is not recommended as the roads aren’t that safe (landslides, flooding), there’s heavy traffic, and robberies are common. Avoid renting a car and stick to buses.
Hitchhike – Hitchhiking is doable if you’re an experienced traveler and aren’t in a hurry. It’s generally quite safe too, though you may need to wait a while for a ride. Be sure that you get into a free vehicle and not an impromptu taxi expecting a payment. For more information, check out Hitchwiki for the latest information.
When to Go to Honduras
Honduras is, for the most part, a year-round destination. Temperatures hover around the 82-90°F (27-32°C) mark all year. However, the clammy humidity can feel like it’s higher than that during the rainy season (May-November).
Hurricanes are possible from April to October, however, if you’re willing to change your travel plans on a whim due to the weather, you can save a lot of money by visiting during this period. Be aware that booking during las lluvias (the rainy season), means rural areas (and hiking trails) can be harder to access due to storms.
The driest months, from December to April are considered peak season and are the best (albeit most expensive time) to visit. The coastal areas are particularly packed during this period, although ‘busy’ for Honduras is still pretty quiet compared to other popular Latin American destinations. If you’re serious about diving, you’re also going to get the best visibility during this time.
How to Stay Safe in Honduras
Honduras has found it difficult to shrug off its former status as the ‘murder capital of the world.’ Yet the country has improved leaps and bounds in terms of safety and the majority of travelers have no trouble navigating the country safely.
Homicides decreased by over 50% from 2012-2019 and kidnappings declined by 82% from 2013-2019. The majority of crimes happen in the major cities: Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, and La Ceiba so I would be extra vigilant in those places, especially at night. (I wouldn’t walk around the capital at night alone.)
Outside of those areas, crimes are much less common (especially in the Bay Islands). That being said, it’s important to keep an eye on your belongings on public transport, busy urban areas, and near bus stops/stations.
Take cabs at night (ideally with other travelers) instead of walking alone and avoid walking down side streets. Walking around during the daytime is usually trouble-free as long as you keep your valuables out of sight and don’t flash fancy jewelry or money. Avoid taking the city bus, where pickpocketing is rife.
If you’re visiting during hurricane season, be sure to check the weather regularly.
As always, trust your instincts. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the cab and get out. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, get out of there. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Honduras Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Honduras. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the ones I use the most and are always the starting points in my search for travel deals.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
- Momondo – This is my other favorite flight search engine because they search such a wide variety of sites and airlines. I never book a flight without checking here too.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments. The big cities have tons of listings!
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Honduras, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- Grassroots Volunteering – For volunteering, Grassroots Volunteering compiles a list of good local volunteer organizations that keep the money within the community.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
Honduras Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Honduras Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
Enrique’s Journey, by Sonia Nazario
This captivating story, inspired by the Pulitzer Prize winning series in the Los Angeles Times, is about a Honduran boy on a quest to find his mother eleven years after she fled to the United States for work. It’s a timeless tale of perseverance, love, and community — one unfortunately still relevant in our current political climate.
The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston
For centuries, there have been rumors about a lost city of immense wealth hidden somewhere in Honduras, known as the Lost City of the Monkey God. In 1940, journalist Theodore Morde returned from the rainforest with hundreds of artifacts — and a story about how he found the lost city. Years later, Doug Preston and a team of scientists set out on a quest to verify that discovery…but things don’t go as planned.
The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed
Anyone who’s caught the travel bug will fall hard for this heartwarming beach read about childhood friends on their annual getaway. Coming to grips with a friend’s passing, they must learn to deal with the pain of loss in their own way. Honduras acts as a great healer and teacher for the group — and serves as a reminder to us all that we should trust the journey.
The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux
This story follows a brilliant, albeit misguided inventor, Allie Fox as he elopes to the Honduran jungle with his family in tow to escape the materialist nature of modern America. In his quest for a simpler, more spiritually-guided life he unknowingly leads them into incredibly dangerous situations.
Hurricane: A Novel by Terry Trueman
A hurricane survivor relives the devastating consequences of Hurricane Mitch, which ripped through Honduras in 1998, leaving thousands homeless, hungry, and fighting for survival. Considered the worst natural disaster to hit the Caribbean in 200 years, it’s a fascinating look into the painful process of rebuilding communities and livelihoods.
Honduras Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Asia travel and continue planning your trip:
Photo credits: 5 – Denis Fournier