Sharing is caring and I am happy to publish fellow travel blogger Samantha’s blog post from Travel VV Remixes about her trip to Nelson. When we lived for 7 months in Canada, we stayed mainly in British Columbia, but back then our blog wasn’t quite ready. So, it’s great to get a post about a region that we visited! Get inspired by Samantha’s visit to one of British Columbia’s countless tourist spots and share the love for her article if you enjoy it as much as I do!
‘A Trip To Nelson, British Columbia’ Originally published by Samantha Collier on Travel VV Remixes:
Ian and I took a road trip across BC during the Summer of 2015. Although we went to many places, our favourite by far was Nelson, a quaint town of about 10,000 people in the mountains of BC. In the summer it is an easy going town filled with happy, smiling people! In the winter, as it does get cold (-15 celsius is a thing there) and it does snow, I’ve heard the town caters more to snowboarders and the “snow bunny” clientele.
The people are friendly, the coffee is plenty, the food is heavenly and the shops are lovely. Oh, and the views are a PLENTY!
This town can be expensive, but can be visited on any budget.
The transit system around this area is fantastic. We went in the summer, and there were plenty of backpackers and drifters. Though we travelled by car, I would imagine if you have a lot of time, seeing this area of BC via transit is most definitely a worthwhile trip, and is something I would like to do!
There is a yearly music festival that takes places very close to Nelson called “Shambala” – though I have never gone, it definitely caters to the more “hippie” type person. If this isn’t your scene, I would avoid visiting the first weekend of August. That being said, the people that attend Shambala are extremely friendly and are not the drunken type.
Where we stayed
We stayed at The Adventure Hotel for all three nights. We didn’t plan ahead and made our reservations for that night as we drove during the day (a big mistake!) That being said, we were lucky enough to get in to this gem! One night we stayed in a room with it’s own shower (which was nice), the second night we stayed in a room with no shower (though there was one just down the hall that seemed to be a once at a time situation). It honestly was not that bad at all (having to share a shower), and no one was disrespectful. There was also a large communal common area including a kitchen. We had leftovers the evening we arrived, and it was nice to save a few dollars eating in. There is also a large deck that faces the street, which also had a infrared sauna (but was only available to the more fancy rooms).
What We Did
The first night we arrived we went for a late night coffee and snack. We wandered the streets for about an hour, and then went back to our hotel to get some rest.
Our first full day was spent shopping and wandering. It was surreal – everyone was in a good mood. Everyone was happy to be alive. The vibe was something I had never experienced. It was refreshing! We also walked down to the beach from our hotel around 3:30 pm, which is a little late, but we still had a great time.
The next morning, we took a plane ride over the Valhalla Mountains and the Kokanee Glacier. The views were some that I will never forget! If you’re interested – we flew with Kootenay Lake Aviation (and we highly recommend the experience!)
Views of Nelson:
We spent the remainder of our time going back to a few more shops, and eating – but then we had to head out for out Kokanee Moutain Zipline Tour! Though it wasn’t the cheapest activity, it was certainly worthwhile! The hosts were full of energy, extremely friendly and easy going, and really made the experience that much more enjoyable.
Jagannatha Express – Easily and honestly the best food I’ve ever eaten. The food is served buffet style by one person to you. The people who run it are Hare Krisna – I bought a couple of their cookbooks too!
Paradise islands, beautiful beaches, lush forests, diverse and unique flora and fauna, and important Mayan sites – Honduras has it all! It’s the most underestimated country in Central America, I find. It has so much more to offer than just the famous Bay Islands ‘Utila’ and ‘Roatan’. This blog post is an ode to a country that amazed us grandly, yet unexpectedly, with stunning natural and cultural sites! Keep reading if you want to know more about Honduras’ highlights and which places impressed us the most! And check out our Video for more images of this gem!
Before I started my trip in 2011, travelling to places like India or South America made me nervous. I didn’t know better back then. Most of the info I heard about these places was crime-related and people would always tell me to be careful when they heard I was about to go there alone. Thanks to my curiosity, I visited them anyway. Today, I know that most news is extremely blown up and can have a crucial impact on a country’s reputation. A good example is Honduras: we heard so many bad things about this country that we actually hesitated for a moment…we briefly talked going straight from Guatemala to Nicaragua or even all the way down to Costa Rica, the seemingly safer nearby options.
Why you should visit Honduras
The first remarkable stop when coming from Guatemala is right after the border of Honduras. Make sure to read all our posts about our stay in Copan and our day exploring the impressive Mayan Ruins. From Copan, we went by bus to San Pedro Sula (3hrs, for 140 Lempiras/around 6 USD ). This city appears to be the country’s capital, which is actually the unpronounceable city ‘Tegucigalpa’. In general, I am not a big fan of cities, and since this post focuses on points of interest that are, in my opinion, better than average, I will keep it short: if you stop in San Pedro Sula, make sure you stay in ‘La Hamaca’. This is a centrally located hostel that has an amazing staff, a great vibe, loads of arts and paintings on the wall, and very decent rooms!
Be sure to move on quickly to the more interesting areas of Honduras. Let’s have a look at La Ceiba, the first large stop after San Pedro Sula and a stop-over to get to the Bay Islands. La Ceiba is the third important city of Honduras and is also a great starting point for exploring the destination ‘Atlantida’ which means ‘Atlantis’ in English. This Honduran state has chosen its name wisely. Exploring this area is like hunting down countless hidden treasures. I have been to many impressive places around the world, but in ‘Atlantida’, I’ve seen some of the most virgin nature spots of all.
La Ceiba and its surrounding area
Most travellers use the city ‘La Ceiba’ to break up their trip to or from the Bay Islands Utila and Roatan. Few tourists stay longer in La Ceiba than one or two nights. The city’s reputation causes most people to skip the nearby national parks and outdoor activities, which is their great loss! We gave it a closer look and were amazed by fantastic hiking trails through the jungle with waterfalls. We spent a gorgeous day Wild Water Rafting on the Cangrejal River.
When in La Ceiba make sure to walk around the city centre and take a stroll along the old train rails. There you will find countless food stalls that are open 24/7 and offer, amongst other yummy things, one of the most typical dish in Honduras: “La Baleada”. It is a tortilla folded in half to hold a bean paste, shredded cheese and your choice of scrambled eggs, avocado, chicken or simply with the bean paste only. You can add onions, red cabbage or spicy sauces.
The food stalls were one of our favourite lunch places. We enjoyed the fact that they were close to the hostel where we stayed in La Ceiba, which we highly recommend: When you stay in the city, a vibrant place to stay is the ‘Hostel 1877‘! Such a great, modern and eco-friendly place with new facilities and big love for details made us feel absolutely welcomed in La Ceiba. Built in 2015, the hostel is run by two very helpful and super friendly Honduran owners who will make your stay in La Ceiba pleasant and memorable.
When you leave La Ceiba and start to explore the surrounding area, you cannot miss the little Garifuna community in Corozal, which is about a 20-minute drive east of La Ceiba. There you will find traditional food of the Garifuna, the mixed-race descendants of West African, Central African, Island Carib, and Arawak people. Living off the ocean, most of their dishes include fish and seafood. We had lunch in one of the restaurants called ‘Chamorros‘.
We tried several dishes that are typically cooked with loads of garlic and include variations of bananas. The main dish was a heavenly mixture of shrimp, sea snails, lobster and fish. Fried bananas and little balls made out of banana to dip in garlic sauce come as a side dishes. To round it out, we tried the traditional ‘Guifiti’, which is a high-percentage digestive made from roots, spices and schnapps. It is also known for its medicinal benefits…
Visit the second largest Botanical Garden in the World
‘Lancetilla’ is the name of the botanical garden that is really worth visiting. It lies on the road to ‘Tela’, just a view minutes before you get to the city. It has its origins in the 1920’s when it was a research centre for a banana company. Today, you are able to see trees and plants native to Oceania, Africa and Asia. It is also one of the principal bird watching spots of Honduras, where over 300 species have been identified. The entrance is 2 USD for foreigners. If you go, make sure to walk through the impressive bamboo tunnel and go with a guide in order to learn all about the different species.
Welcome to Miami!
No, you don’t have to leave Honduras in order to visit Miami! It is the name of a village that is home to another Garifuna community close to the city of Tela. It’s inside the Jeannette Kawas National Park, whose name is dedicated to the ecologist that fought for the eco-balance of this area. The whole village lives in a secluded way, isolated from the rest of the world and society. The locals preserve their culture and keep up with the traditional fishing and way of living.
Miami is also where you can catch a boat to cross the Mikitos Lagoon that separates Miami and little peninsula that houses another hidden gem of Honduras: Los Olingos. If you need a place to recharge your batteries, make sure to stay at this amazing lodge and simply relax in a peaceful surrounding next to the water.
The lodge offers six cabin-style houses that are spread out on the property. It feels like walking around in a little village where palm trees are the natural fence to your neighbours. It’s a great place if you go in a big group, or you can soak up the tranquillity on your own. Those who seek action can choose between fun on the volleyball field, kayak on the lagoon, or explore the hills, viewpoints and coffee plantation on the property.
Take a train ride to the ‘Cuero y Salado’ Wildlife Refuge
This is a fun half-day tour that you can easily do from La Ceiba on your own or with a tour company. If you want to go bird watching, spot monkeys, and crocodiles then you’ll be right on the Cuero y Salado Lagoon. It is about 30 km east of La Ceiba and borders to the north with the Caribbean Sea. In this protected area, there are a few small communities residing. To get there, you have to jump on a real ancient looking train that takes you to the entrance of the National Park in about 30 minutes. From there, you board the boat and let the guide take you along the shoreline of the lagoon.
If the monkeys, crocodiles, and exotic birds are not enough to convince you, the ‘Cuero y Salado’ Lagoon is also home to the Caribbean Manatee. We weren’t lucky enough to see it that day but have learned that is an endangered species that lives within this protected area of creeks, lagoons, and the coastline.
In total, there are 15 rivers that stream into the labyrinth of lagoons and canals, bordered by mangroves and a tropical jungle vegetation.
Honduras’ Largest Lake: ‘Lago Yojoa’
Leaving the Caribbean Coast you will still find amazing places that are worth stopping during your travels in Honduras. From La Ceiba, we took a bus back to San Pedro Sula where most of the country’s buses connect. From there, we took a bus to Santa Cruz de Yojoa, a small town just 30 minutes away from the lake. We spent the night before continuing our trip to the village ‘Los Naranjos’, which is right at the beautiful Lake Yojoa. There are few options to stay, but one great place is the D&D Brewery that (obviously)has their own beer on the menu, great advice for tours in and around the village and several accommodation options.
From the brewery, you can walk 10 minutes to the village’s river that will lead you to the National Park ‘El Jaral’. The walk to the park is already so beautiful, along the river and crossing the bridge you will get a glimpse of the lake in the distance. The park does not have an official entry point on one side, so you just walk in and if you want to search for the other end to exit and pay you can do so. Friendly armed soldiers will remind you on their patrol that you will need to go and buy a ticket on the other side…
Inside the park, you can stop and listen to an ongoing concert of birds. It is incredible what sounds come out and how different they sound from the birds where I come from. One, for example, reminded me of dropping water whereas others sound as if someone drums a stick on a bamboo trunk.
The park makes a small loop, which leads you past some bridges and archaeological sites. You can easily make the full loop in less than an hour, unless, of course, you sit down and enjoy the sounds of the tropical birds…
Cerro Las Nalgas
For best views of the whole area, hike up to a viewpoint on top of ‘Cerro Las Nalgas’. It is a bit tricky to find the path, but the locals are very friendly and helpful. Make sure you get at least two or three different opinions on where the trail starts, some people sound very convincing but actually sent us in the opposite direction…
After 3 days of hiking and beer sampling, we moved on to our next adventure: Nicaragua. The easiest way to get to Nicaragua is by bus from Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. We took the bus at 6:30 am from Lake Yojoa and got to Tegucigalpa within 3 1/2 hours (150 Lempiras). From there, we hopped on a local bus to the border at Guasaule (another 3 hours from the capital, 100 Lempiras). The bus doesn’t cross the border, but you can simply do your paperwork at the immigration office and walk across a bridge that leads you to Nicaragua… from there, you have several options to get to Leon, one of the first spots of interest according to our research.
After 3 1/2 weeks in Honduras, we can say that it was one grand trip! For all those in doubt and fear about their safety, hesitate no more, it is as safe as any place in Central America and will strike you with beauty, delicious food and friendly people!
Thank you Visite Atlántida for this great trip to Atlantida. Like always, all opinion are MY OWN. So, to everyone else, no worries on biases or BS, you won’t find that here. I keep this real. Thanks for the support!
Utila and Roatan are probably the two main reasons that most people travel to Honduras. We wanted to check them out to see if they match what their reputations promise…Both islands are part of the so-called Bay Islands (Guanaja, Utila and Roatan) and enjoy proximity to the second largest reef in the world, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. Needless to say, both Utila and Roatan attract many divers and snorkelers from around the world. We couldn’t resist, either and went diving on Utila. The weather on Roatan interfered our plans so we were unable to dive there. But, we had a great time driving around in our rental car and we enjoyed the island’s beauty in the rain…
Here are some useful tips for your next time visiting Utila and Roatan.
Things to do on Utila:
Rent a motorbike or a scooter to explore the island:
Utila is the smallest of the three Bay Islands of Honduras and it was our first stop when visiting Utila and Roatan. With a length of 45 km and a maximum elevation of 74 meters, it is very easy to get around in one day on a scooter or motorbike. At least, that’s what we were told. In our case, though, it turned out to be quite a challenge: partially because we planned our trip on the motorbike at the very last minute, just before we were supposed to take the ferry to leave the island again. And partially because halfway through our exploration drive, we ran out of gas. It was only then that we noticed the rental company had not filled up the tank. Silly us, we only realized it when it was too late. Since there was no petrol station anywhere nearby, we had choice other than pushing our bike back to the rental place. Gah…!!! Once we arrived back, we had no time left to fill up the tank and explore more of the island because our ferry was about to leave. At least they refunded us the money and we got some free exercise on top of that 😉
Go Diving or Snorkelling
A little bit more successful, yet not entirely smooth was our dive trip with Parrots Dive Centre. The company took us out to the North Coast of Utila, which is one of the more popular dive spots of the island. In the morning, we prepared our gear, which they told us was recently renewed. At 6:30 am we were ready to board the small boat with a group of fellow divers and head up the coast of Utila. The trip to the actual dive spot took about 30 minutes and was one of the worst I’ve ever had: the ocean was rough that day and we constantly got waves of water splashed into our boat. By the time we arrived, we were all soaking wet and freezing cold from the strong wind that blew that morning. Shivering and ready to get off the rocky boat, we jumped into the water and were instantly got rewarded for the rough trip: the corals that we were about to see made us forget the uncomfortable start of the day.
We happily surfaced after a 45 minute dive filled with many fish encounters along a beautiful reef. Luckily, the sea had calmed a bit, and we could enjoy the sunshine on the boat and warm our bodies up before diving a second time. This time, we went to Spotted Bay and saw fewer fish, but the dive site was pretty and had a few swim throughs to entertain us. After 40 minutes, we hopped back onto the boat and traveled to a tiny island for lunch. The ride back was smooth and very pleasant, the sun finally won over and we returned dry and happy. All in all, a fun half-day trip we are glad to have taken.
Just sit back and relax!
As with most islands, the best thing to do is simply enjoy the relaxed vibe. On Utila and Roatan you can have a laid-back time sitting on the many benches, enjoying the ocean view. If you want a day at the beach, you’ll be better of on Roatan. Utila has only one beach which is tiny but still good enough to go for a swim.
Utila’s beautiful sister Roatan
Utila and Roatan are competing in the area of tourism against each other: Utila is known to be cheaper, smaller and a bit less touristy. Roatan, on the other hand, has better beaches (well, in fact, it HAS beaches) and offers a broader net of tourist activities. Therefore, it is a bit more expensive, too. So, I’d say, both islands have something for each type of tourist. Perhaps the backpackers and budget-conscious travellers would be happier on Utila whereas the resort-type tourist can enjoy Roatan’s standards a bit more. Here is what we did:
Explore the bay area between West End and West Bay
One popular tourist area is West End. This is where you find bars, restaurants and shops lined up next to each other in front of the ocean. It is also where most of Roatan’s hotels and resorts are located. West End connects to Roatan’s most beautiful beach, West Bay, which you can reach by water taxi (costs around 3 USD), a taxi (approx. the same price but not as scenic!) or by foot. We chose to walk along the beach (about 45 minutes) and took a water taxi back to West End.
Go snorkelling at West Bay
West Bay attracts not only beach bums and cocktail sippers, but it is also known for it’s easy accessible reef. We took our snorkel gear, walked in from the beach and enjoyed colourful corals and fish, just a short swim from West Bay. It’s also the place to catch a pretty shot when the sun goes down…
Stay at a budget place and save your money
If you think Roatan explodes your budget, don’t worry, there are still a few cheaper options besides five-star hotels or resorts. We stayed at Roatan Backpackers’ Hostel which is a fun place in Sandy Bay. The Canadian run hostel is a bit hidden away, but if you get off the ferry and tell the driver to bring you to Sandy Bay at ‘Solgas’ you’ll find it! We enjoyed it a lot, because there is a great little pool, the Lizard Lounge (which is the place to be if you want to enjoy a fast internet connection on a rooftop veranda overlooking the neighbourhood) and because of Mel, the owner who is a walking ‘Lonely Planet’. Even without asking, you will get everything you need to find your way around the island, and she’ll give you a self-scribbled map that has great advice for your exploration trip.
Rent a car and explore the island
On the third and last day of our stay on Roatan, we woke up to a rainfall that would not stop until the next morning. We decided to not let it ruin our plans to drive around and see the rest of the island. We went to the airport where all the rental car companies are located and rented a small Kia that would be our home for the day, since we hardly left the car due to the heavy rain. We stocked up on snacks and drove around, all the way up to Camp Bay, which is on the Northeastern tip of Roatan. For the sake of adventure, we decided to sleep in the car and awoke the next day at 6 am in order to catch the ferry at 7 am to take us back to La Ceiba.
Which ferry to take when visiting Utila and Roatan
When you want to go to Utila and Roatan, both times you will have to start your journey from La Ceiba. This is a bit of a pain because it means you cannot get directly from Utila to Roatan, and have to spend double your time and money on the ferry. Unless you go with a private company that takes tourists to Roatan, if the weather is fine and there are enough people to fill the boat. Apparently they are discussing a direct ferry connection between Utila and Roatan, at least, we heard that when we were there (Feb. 2016). The ride from or to Utila takes about 45 minutes and the cheaper of the two ferry companies, ‘Utila Princess’, costs around 25 USD. See the official website for the actual ferry schedule and updated prices.
La Ceiba to Utila:
Depart La Ceiba for Utila: 9:30 am
Depart Utila for La Ceiba: 6:20 am
Depart La Ceiba for Utila: 4:00 pm
Depart Utila for La Ceiba: 2:00 pm
The trip from La Ceiba to Roatan is a little longer, about 1 hour 20 minutes and is recommended to take in the morning as the ocean gets rough in the afternoons. We had no other choice than taking the 4:30 ferry in the afternoon. It was a bit funny how you were immediately handed a plastic bag after boarding the boat. Yet, when we saw that quite a few people were actually making use of their bags, I stopped laughing and was grateful how prepared they were… 🙂
La Ceiba to Roatan:
From La Ceiba To Roatan: 9:30 AM & 4:30 PM
From Roatan To La Ceiba: 7:00 AM & 2:00 PM
All in all, we think both islands have their charm and are worth checking out. Yet, keep in mind that both Utila and Roatan are slightly more expensive than the rest of Honduras, so cash-up before you go and dive into a great island experience.
Have you been to Utila and Roatan? What were your highlights?
Most people imagine white sandy beaches and paradise islands when thinking about Honduras. To be blamed for this incomplete image are the Bay Islands, the country’s most popular tourist spots. Make sure to check out my post about Utila and Roatan to understand why they are so popular. Yet, if you visit the mainland and explore the other side of Honduras, you will find yourself in an equally pretty nature setting with diverse flora and fauna that is marvelous. The Pico Bonito National Park with the Cangrejal River is one of the attractions for outdoor-lovers who visit the city ‘La Ceiba’. Here is why whitewater rafting and a hike to a breathtaking waterfall should be on your bucket list when in Honduras.
A dramatic rainforest scenery appears when you drive up the rugged street that leads you away from La Ceiba. On your right, you overlook the Cangrejal River that divides the two national parks to your left and right: ‘Pico Bonito National Park’ (which translates to “pretty peak”) and ‘Nombre de Dios National Park’, (“the name of God”). The river is broad and offers some challenging rapids, which makes it one of Central America’s best whitewater rafting options and is the reason why some adventurous travelers choose to spend some time in this area.
Consequently, there are a few tour companies that offer outdoor activities and tours that include kayaking, river walking, bird watching and horseback riding, to name a few. We went rafting with the German-owned tour agency ‘Omega‘’ (which was a coincidence and has nothing to do with the fact that I am German!) that took us on an exciting trip down the river…
A day of adventure: Whitewater Rafting on the Cangrejal River
At 8:30 in the morning we met our guides and three other people who went rafting with us; two English guys and a woman from Australia. We received a quick briefing from our guide and tried on our gear: a fancy helmet and life jacket… and off we went. If you have some sort of water shoes, it’s a good time to use them, as you can’t go bare feet or you will lose your grip inside the raft. Runners can get uncomfortably wet and heavy, but the climate is warm enough and you move a lot so you actually don’t need to worry about getting cold on the river.
From the agency, we walked down a short ,muddy pathway to the starting point of our rafting trip. It had rained a lot in the days before, so the river was a bit higher than usual, which also made it slower, and a bit easier for us. Nevertheless, we had some adrenaline pumping through our bodies…it was a lot of fun!
The tour takes about 3 ½ hours and includes stops to gaze at the waterfalls in the distance, to watch exotic birds or to jump off some funky shaped rocks to cool off a bit. Our guide also stopped at one point to show us a native plant called ‘Angel Hair’. He handed over some seeds of the plant and made us rub our hands against each other with a little bit of water in it. The result was a pleasant smell and loads of foam, which is why the locals use it as natural soap.
After more rapids and pleasantly calm sections in between, we arrived wet, exhausted and absolutely pumped at the end of our trip. In total, we paddled about 7 km distance from the starting point to where we were picked up by the company’s funky looking yellow truck. All in all, the tour was well organised, very worthwhile, with two knowledgeable and fun guides who told us a lot about the river and the area. Five stars for Omega!
Hiking the ‘El Mapache’ trail
Another fun activity in the Pico Bonito National Park is to hike up to the impressively high waterfall, ‘El Bejuco Falls’. You can easily spend half a day exploring the park and enjoying the outdoors. The hike takes about 3-4 hours round-trip, depending on your pace, of course. We stopped many times in order to take pictures or marvel at the different species of this rain forest, mainly birds and reptiles.
After you have passed the entrance gate of the visitor center of the Cangrejal River, you have to cross an Indiana Jones-like bridge called ‘Puente Hamaca’ (Hammock Bridge). It is a great way to start the hike and gives you an idea of what you can expect inside the park. Further down the trail, you’ll get to jump over some small rocks and cross the river on fallen tree trunks. It’s not ‘a walk in the park’, but absolutely doable for a normal fit person. Make sure to bring plenty of water, as it is humid and hot in there…welcome to the jungle!
At the entrance to the national park, you will be informed that the length of your hike will determine the price you pay. It is based on an honest report to the park officer, but I suggest to actually go all the way and then also pay the full price of 8 US dollars – because what’s the point of seeing only half of the park and missing the best part of this fun hike!?
Where to stay while exploring Pico Bonito National Park
With so much action and excitement going on during the day, you probably want a nice and relaxing time once you’re at ‘home’. And this is exactly how we felt in our hotel ‘La Villa de la Soledad‘: at home. It is an oasis in the middle of the rainforest with grand walls and spacious outdoor sitting areas which makes it feel palace-like but cozy at the same time. The friendly Mexican-born owner John and his Honduran wife Soledad built the place in order to live there with their family and open a high-class option for tourists in this area.
The bed and breakfast style hotel is only 9 km outside of La Ceiba inside the Pico Bonito National Park. From the hotel, you can actually walk in less than 5 minutes to the entrance of the visitor center to start you hike to the waterfall. From the property, you have amazing views into the rainforest and the Cangrejal River, which you can enjoy from one of John’s and Soledad’s hammocks. The hotel has five rooms that all have a private bathroom, and are decorated with original paintings by Honduran artists. From each room, you can access an outside area of the property, a very tranquil garden space with stunning views.
The room comes with a delicious breakfast of freshly cut fruits, coffee, juice, and eggs with toast, prepared as you wish, and served at whatever time you require it in order get to your daytime activities. ‘La Villa de la Soledad’ is a very comfortable and relaxing option to stay while you explore Pico Bonito National Park. The owners are bilingual and are there to help you if have any questions or need help to organize your local activities. Our stay there made our trip to Pico Bonito National Park a completely amazing experience and gave us the perfect amount of relaxation aside our adventure activities.
Have you been to Pico Bonito National Park? How was your experience?
Honduras has a lot to offer right from the start: If you begin your trip in Guatemala like us, then you will most likely pass through the little town of Copan. That’s where one of the most important Mayan cities was built. Today, you can admire the well-preserved ruins and walk around on the former city’s area. Read here how to get from Guatemala to Honduras by bus. But don’t copy our style, we found ourselves in a mildly bewildered situation when we arrived at the border…
We should have done some more research before we started our trip from Guatemala to the Honduran border. But who could have known that the public transport system runs only until 6:30 pm! We could hardly believe it when the friendly Immigration officer told us that there were no more buses or taxis at this hour (7 pm!!) It was especially annoying, because minutes before, we politely waved away a very insisting Tuk-tuk driver…had we known that he was our last option for that night….! Yes, we even thought about walking all the way to Copan that lies 10 km from the border! But to be honest, the combination of too much luggage and the fact that is was already dark outside and little lighting on the street made this a bad idea. On top of that, came the friendly reminder of the officer that it was a rather unsafe way to take….
All we could do was sit and wait, hoping it would not be for the rest of the night. Only two hours later, we got lucky: a lonesome car appeared from the Guatemalan side! We stopped the car after it passed through border control and asked the driver to give us a lift. Done! The driver let us hop onto the loading zone of his pickup truck and took us to Copan. Relieved that we did not have to spend the whole night in the middle of nowhere, waiting for the next bus in the morning, we got to our hotel in Copan…exhausted but happy!
The next day, early in the morning, we went to see the Copan Ruins. It is the main attraction of Copan. The main entrance gate lies about 1 km away from the town centre. You can easily walk there or hop on a Tuk-tuk. Contrary to my personal weather preference, we were told that the unusual cool temperatures were doing us a favour. Usually, it is a very humid and hot place to visit as this ancient Mayan city lies in the middle of the jungle. But with clouds out, we had the perfect climate to stroll around undistracted and could fully enjoy the amazing architecture of this former civilisation.
Inside the park, shortly past the entrance gate and before we arrived at the Pre-Columbian ruins, some ‘Guacamayos’, the national birds of Honduras, were flying around freely above our heads. These beautiful and colourful birds that I had only known from zoos or inside cages were so delightful to watch in their natural habitat. It was a very cheerful moment and it seemed like they were enjoying their attention very much, as they curiously stared back at us and sat still for the million photos that we took 😀
After this highlight, the ruins were almost boring. Just kidding! They were very impressive too and, of course, we gave them, at least the same amount of attention as the birds… The ruins’ construction dates back to 427 A.D. which gives me the chills: such a long time back!!! In that time, the Maya leader ‘Yax Kuk Mo’ came from the area of Tikal (which is in today’s Guatemala) and arrived in the Copan Valley. With his arrival, a dynasty of 16 rulers began and turned Copan into one of the greatest Maya cities during the Classic Maya Period. Today it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Centre.
Here are some more historical facts: It is said that the main period of Copan (like other bigger Mayan cities), was during the Classical period, AD 300-900. During that period, the Mayas made some significant achievements in mathematics, astronomy and hieroglyphic writing. These become evident when analysing their way of building: today’s archaeological remains reveal the three main stages of development in Mayan culture, during which evolved the temples, plazas, altar complexes and ball courts that can be seen today. The Maya civilisation inhabited the Copan city until the early 10th century.
Today the Mayan city of Copan has one main complex of ruins which includes the Acropolis and important plazas. Then there are several secondary complexes that surround the main complex. You also find many sculptured monoliths and altars. On the risers of the Hieroglyphic Stairway Plaza there are more than 1,800 individual glyphs which constitute the longest known Mayan inscription. There is some restoration work at the moment, so some of the statues and stone walls were covered or under a little tin roof.
You can easily spend 2-3 hours walking around the whole area. Of course, if you take a tour or go with a guide, the time varies and may be even longer. If you are planning your trip to this Honduran highlight, check out our post about ‘Where to stay in Copan during your visit to the Mayan Ruins’ for a very comfortable stay in Copan!
How was your visit to the Copan Ruins? Did you have a hot and humid climate when there? What other Mayan sites have you visited or would you like to see?
If you wonder where to stay in Copan, this place is really something you should consider: Don Udo’s Hotel is a very great choice. The nice and welcoming staff plus the hotel’s great location plays a big role in remembering Copan as a pleasant place. The hotel has all the commodities of a really decent mid to high-end hotel and adds to a good quality stay while visiting the ruins of Copán! Actually, it is one of the nicest accommodations that we have had in quite some time, so let’s give it a closer look and see why Don Udo’s Hotel makes it into our Reviews category.
Nice, clean and spacious Rooms
We stayed in one of the standard rooms with a Queen-size bed and had our own private bathroom enclosed. The rooms are normal sized, and leave enough room for two people in order to feel comfortable. All rooms come with a flat TV, a closet to store things and a really comfy bed. I loved the mattress and the pillows, it was really hard getting up in the morning and almost too tempting to stay in bed all day! When we came in late at night after a long trip from Guatemala, the shops in Copán were all closed, so it was great to find two welcoming water bottles next to our beds.
In general there are four different room categories: Two basic rooms which are referred to as ‘Backpacker rooms’ (even though these are no dorms and come with a double bed); a few Standard rooms with either Queen or Twin beds, four Junior Suits and one Suite. The rooms are all circled around the open patio in the middle of the hotel, so they are equally good located and all share the same view.
Dutch Owner with a Passion for Chocolate
We got the chance to talk to ‘Don Udo’ in person and it was a real pleasure hearing all about the hotel and his current project: Don Udo decided to transform one of the hotel rooms into a little chocolate fabric where he started making all sorts of different and very delicious chocolate. Being of Dutch heritage, it was almost no surprise to find them really tasty. We also got a sample of his dark and medium chocolates… we were very impressed how delicious chocolate can taste made in a hotel room!
He told us that there is no big chocolate production in Honduras even though the country has like its neighbour Guatemala one of finest cacao in the world. Yet, Honduras mostly exports the base for chocolatiers in Europe. After tasting Don Udo’s chocolate we can tell that his vision to become a chocolatier in Central America is a great idea! I loved the rich and very chocolaty taste and see high potential, yum!
Personal, friendly and very helpful staff
Like the Hotel Owner himself, so is his staff very polite and helpful. They definitely contribute to the nice and pleasant atmosphere of this place. It always makes you feel a little bit better when there is someone smiling at you after a long and exhausting trip. This was the case when we arrived late at night to Copan. We had a bit of a rocky start while crossing the border from Guatemala to Honduras and the girls at the reception were really friendly and helpful showing us a warm welcome. We heard from guests that sometimes during dinner time the kitchen crew comes out and gives a short round of applause. Small gestures like this, I guess, are part of the concept of the hotel, it has a very personal approach and lets you feel welcomed and at home.
A place to chill and relax after visiting the Copán ruins
In general, there is a very relaxing and calming vibe in the hotel. It feels like a little oasis in the middle of busy Copán. The entrance area has a little pond and the sound of flowing water gives you instantly a feeling of tranquillity. The hotel was built by Don Udo 10 years ago which is why you can find some details that have a European touch. It’s neat and spacious and in the centre of the hotel, there is an open space. All rooms and other facilities are located around this area in the middle.
Our room was on the second floor, so we had a view down from the little walkway to the outdoor inner space. Up, on this level, you also find a chill-out area where you can sit in and read or work. This common space was my favourite place (just after the bed) because of the hammocks to chill in. 😀 From up there we also had a wonderful view and felt the peaceful vibe even more than this hotel radiates. All in all, Copan was a great start to discovering a new country. We really enjoyed our first stop in Honduras and would come back any time, not only for the chocolate!!!
Have you ever been to Honduras? Do you still wonder where to stay in Copan? Don’t look further and let me know how you liked it! Safe travels you all!
Thank you Don Udo for hosting us and letting us stay at your great hotel! Like always, all opinion are MY OWN. So, to everyone else, no worries on biases or BS, you won’t find that here. I keep this real. Thanks for the support!
We think of Palm Trees, Hula Hula, flower necklaces, the Aloha Spirit, big waves – I mean huge waves – surfing and tropical cocktails, right!? Yes, that’s what you get when visiting Oahu in Hawaii. I could stop right here, you already got the picture…. but there is much more to it if you travel off the beaten track…yep, the following is not the usual travel guide for people who like staying in hotels. I’m not the “typical tourist” and you’ll read nothing about All-inclusive programs on this site! But if you’re interested in learning how to travel pricy Hawaii on a budget, keep on reading! And then there is a bit of travel action to this post too…so let me warn you, this one is not for the faint heart!
How my trip to Oahu turned into an almost life-threatening journey of no return!
DON’T COPY THIS, YOUR MOM WON’T APPRECIATE IT!
“Mom, this might be my last call EVER….!” I love drama and I sometimes add a little to it. But this time, I did not need to pimp my story. Fair enough, I could have been a bit more thoughtful with the opening line of my phone call to my mother at 9 pm German time. But her reply showed me that it was not even good enough: “I’m glad you called. What’s up?” Hm…this didn’t have the desired effect. I was about to face my last few hours of life and my Mom was as casual as my sneakers!
This time I added a bit more of drama to my voice, I had to make her understand that this was not a joke: “Mom, sit down, I am calling because there is a Tsunami coming my way and I am sitting in my little hut next to the ocean where I will probably gonna die tonight. So, let’s say goodbye!” This time it worked! I had her attention.
So, mum and dad were informed. Check! Now, all I had to do is set the alarm to 2:30 am in order to be awake half an hour before the wave was supposed to hit the East Coast of Oahu. Afterwards, it’s always easier, but that night I really did not sleep much. And when the expected wave was supposed to hit, I swear, I was sitting upright in my bed pressing the arm of my sleepy and not so impressed boyfriend.
I even put my running shoes next to the bed and stuffed a bottle of water, muesli bars, my passport, a blanket and a flashlight in my little backpack. I was ready to leave everything else behind… (ok, I would have taken my laptop and credit card too. And then perhaps a few more shirts and underwear, maybe my favourite dress…but that’s not the point. I was prepared to run, you know!).
Good news though, you can relax now! It was a false alarm! All we ever experienced that night was the rise of the water at the coast for an inch. But of course, I did not know that during the night and sat therefore upright in my bed for full 2 hours imagining birds fleeing inlands and checking every minute if the Tsunami Alert on Google and Twitter was updated. I also promised to never trust a rooster again, because he made me even sit up tighter: he started to “sing” at 3:30 am – hello! Really?!
Ok, so we made it through the night, perhaps you guessed this by now! And now we were ready to see a bit more of the relaxing side of this beautiful place…. puh! What a rocky start into a paradise-like vacation!!
Here is how you can travel Hawaii on a budget – PART 1: OAHU
The funny fact before I go into detail:
Did you know that you can actually be welcomed to the United States while still on Canadian ground? At Vancouver Airport it’s possible! It happened so fast that I did not even realize it until I was actually on “American Ground”. The friendly (!!) officer said: ‘Welcome to the United States, Miss!’ even though I hadn’t even left the airport. Hahaha, that was the most laid back US Customs I’ve ever been through!! (Remember, I have a bad experience record with Immigration officers: My last times were not so smooth).
And it gets even funnier: we did not even have a return ticket at that point! We were meant to do a booking right there at the airport while waiting to board the plane… I know I know, super last minute, but we could simply not decide on how long we wanted to stay in Hawaii and kept it open till last minute. All my preachings about how you’ll NEVER be able to enter the US without a return ticket suddenly got washed away by this friendly smiling (no kidding, smiling!!) officer at the airport.
We flew with Air Canada for CAD 243 (one way) and after a smooth 5 ½ hour flight we landed in busy Honolulu. At the airport we took a taxi to our Couchsurfing place in the Makiki Area. 25 minutes later and 27 US dollars lighter, we knocked on our host’s door who told us with Lyft it would have been a bit cheaper…too late for us, but perhaps for you it might be helpful…
After a warm welcome and a shower we rested in our private double bed room, which was meant to be for free (that’s the whole point of couchsurfing, right!). Our host changed the rules of Couchsurfing a bit and charged us 30 US a night. His place is so popular that he turned it into a little income source and admitted that he is too lazy to open an account with AirBnB. Well, people like us make him go on like this, I guess. But we could not find another couch and it was still WAY cheaper than staying in a hostel in Honolulu (average are around 60-80 bucks per night for a double bedroom)…
Thanks to the jet lag (Hawaii is 3 hours behind Vancouver), we woke up early and decided to hike the “Diamond Head” trail while it was still cool outside. You better leave really early in the morning because it gets very humid on the trail and people on the way back passed us in sweat drunken shirts… These views are worth the very short (35 minutes) but intense hike up the hill, we found!
With public transport you can get there in about 30 minutes from Honolulu centre. From our place in Makiki we took the bus #15 and then in Chinatown we changed to #9. It took us a bit over an hour to get to the entrance of the Diamond Head Monument State Park. Make sure you have exact change for the bus, there is no change given! We were lucky, our bus driver had a good day and waved us through because we didn’t have the exact amount of US 2,50 each – yay #Ilovefreebies
We spent the rest of our day exploring Honolulu and Waikiki Beach….for my taste Honolulu feels like a concrete jungle and has nothing to do with the paradise escape we were looking for…busy traffic, loads of shopping malls, Starbucks/McDonalds and high-end hotels everywhere! After one day this was enough and we escaped the busy area to go see the less populated areas of the island…
The next 5 days we spent on the North Shore of Oahu wwoofing on a farm… This was compared to our experiences in Canada really a downer! I won’t mention the farm here because I left a personal feedback with the owner of the farm. All I want to say is, whoever goes to Hawaii in order to participate in the wwoofing program needs to be careful, people there have a different opinion about the concept. Whoever thinks about going there PM me and I am happy to go into further detail…
Definitely worth visiting while you are on the beautiful North Coast of Oahu: Waimea Beach and Sunset Beach! The latter is obviously a great place to see some stunning sunsets but it’s also a nice beach for the day. And Waimea Bay is internationally known for its annual Surf tournament by Quiksilver. While the waves are not big enough, tourists and locals alike hang out at that beach…the brave ones jump off the 10 feet high rock… Here are some of our shots:
WAIMEA BAY, OAHU
SUNSET BEACH, OAHU:
After one week up in the Pupukea area we took the bus from the North Coast down to Honolulu again. But this time we went down the East Coast in order to see a different route. The bus took 3 hours/US 2.50 and we past by an impressive coastline and lush area. Back in Honolulu we rented a car for the rest of the afternoon and the following day. We left immediately the city after picking up our car and headed towards Waimanalo Beach at the South/East corner of Oahu.
We slept in the car that night with the plan to wake up as early as 5 am in order to climb the forbidden stairs…but our Stairway to Heaven trip turned into a not so successful adventure as it was rainy and slippery and we couldn’t get as far up as we wanted to. So out of safety reasons we turned around and that was smart also because it would have been impossible to see through the clouds that day…at least we tried!
Kailua, Waimanalo, Sandy beach
North Coast: Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay
Pali lookout, Pillbox Hike
Moke Islands near Lanikai, Makapu’u lighthouse/tide pools
TO BE CONTINUED >>> Stay tuned for the second part of my Hawaii series: Maui and why I decided to go on a guided tour! <<<
Have you been to Oahu? What were your highlights? Would you go back?
To give it away right from the start, yes, it is! Travelling can be a lot of fun. BUT and yes, there is always a ‘but’, you have to do it right and better start thinking of how you like to do it before you even leave your home. From experience I can tell you that if you leave everything open and up to your spontaneity, then it CAN turn into a stressful experience…if you are not the person who can handle it. So make up your mind first and then chose your way. Who wants to come home after a trip with nothing but the need for more vacation…?
Travelling really can be a very fulfilling activity from which you get lots of new insights and that can even change your life. You make new friends all over the world, you might come home with an even longer list of places to visit next, you might have a totally different attitude or have changed your thoughts about life in general. Travelling is not only about bringing home tons of megabytes in form of a trillion more pictures. If you do it right, it could bring you a long lasting positive effect.
So, before you start travelling, put on your gear and get ready for your adventure!
You might want to ask yourself some questions, yes, philosophical ones like: how do I like my life? Organised or spontaneously created? Would I be miserable if I didn’t have the same standards or comforts that I have at home? Do I need to be surrounded by friends or do I enjoy being alone? What is important to me when visiting a new place? Would I rather relax at the beach all the time or fill my schedule with sightseeing or sports?
All these questions before you go on a trip will help you to avoid disappointments and stressful situations later on the road. Ask yourself, what makes you happy and try to consider that in your organisation. Take with you all that you really can’t miss on your trip…..
…but be critical with yourself and try to decide to take only REALLY important things…
Once you have decided how your trip should look like, be honest with yourself. Look, I did my first year of travelling with the conviction that my preferred way of travelling would have to follow the motto ‘go with the flow’. And I actually enjoyed it that way and never minded much those long, mostly very hot and chaotic arrivals to a new place without having a plan. It was a great experience from which I learned that I am absolutely open to changes and love considering all those options that are out there….
During that first year I mostly never knew where I would sleep the following night. Sometimes I did not even know where I would go next. All I knew was that I had a rough route to follow and that I had to go into one direction around the world. I purchased my ticket back in 2011 from a German travel agency called “Reiss aus” http://www.aroundtheworldticket.de who gave me the option to change my dates for free any time I wanted.
I called the airline to postpone each and every single one of my 10 flights!
That was great! I loved it….but it was also really tiring! Oh boy did I change my mind a lot! Staying in one place longer than planned obviously affected all the following flight dates and meant that I had less time for those other scheduled places… well, technically that could have been the consequence of my changes. But since I had no rush to go home or keep my initial schedule it just meant that in the end my intended 6 months trip turned into one complete year of travelling.
To Australia I even came back a couple of years later and stayed there for a whole year. But that’s a different story…..
So if you are flexible in time then better go get yourself an open return ticket! You never know before how much you might like the places you go to!!! And leaving everything open is a great way if you have the time to do so. I remember there were many situations when I even got a much better deal than fellow backpackers who booked their rooms in advance. Just because sometimes (not every time of course!) you are lucky enough to get some real insider advice from a local or you get to a place where you can actually negotiate before you check in….
To be fair though, running around with your luggage can be really exhausting. Plus all that time that you are spending on your search for an accommodation reduces your free time that you might use for exploring the place or lay on the beach. Unless of course you do it like I did it that first year and simply adjust your return flight…
Always keep in mind that it all depends on your taste and if you prefer to have things fully planned ahead. So there are two options for you to consider:
book accommodation in advance if you want a hassle free arrival and have more time to stand and stare at the beauty of the places you go to…
OR don’t book anything ahead if you are on a mission to simply go with the flow! In that case, just sit back, relax and be open for spontaneous changes…
After four years on the road, I am still have an open-minded spirit, I guess. And I don’t book everything in advance. But I do appreciate a certain amount of organisation and preparation…now I do more research about the places I go to in order to have a better idea where I want to go and what I want to see. Just because I have come to prefer those luggage-less moments a lot more than the ones where you are you are fully geared up and feel like a donkey.
But perhaps everyone has to grow into travelling and find out their own ideal way of doing it. For whatever style you decide, you have to make sure you and the person who travels with you can enjoy it and you both keep on smiling! 😀