5 best road trips in Honduras

Honduras is a rugged and raw country in Central America that often flies under the tourism radar, but is absolutely brimming with reasons to visit.

There are UNESCO-listed Maya ruins, dense rainforests and superlative reefs that court avid divers and adrenaline-seeking adventurers. Honduras’ wild heart beats strongest in its national parks, many of which are best explored by hitting the open road.

The best road trips in Honduras provide varied vistas of mist-shrouded mountains, coffee plantations and some of the least visited pristine beaches this side of the Caribbean.

You’ll drive past horse-drawn carts, estancos (dive bars) and roadside fruit stalls. You’ll also find hidden waterfalls and get glimpses into daily Honduran life in small towns, all at your own pace.

Though a road trip in Honduras demands vigilance due to speeding drivers, winding terrains and patchy maintenance, driving grants you unbridled access to the country’s top sights that can be unreachable via public transportation.

Crank up some songs by local musician Polache and prepare to lose yourself on the road less traveled. Here are our picks for the five best road trips in Honduras.

1. Tegucigalpa to La Esperanza

Best road trip for local towns and cityscapes
Tegucigalpa-La Esperanza; 183km (114 miles); allow three and a half hours

Head out from Honduras’ bustling capital and political center Tegucigalpa – or “Tegus” as locals refer to it – to the serene highlands. En route, you can make pit stops at the 6921-hectare (17,102 acres) Reserva de Vida Silvestre Corralitos to experience stunning waterfalls and near-guaranteed wildlife encounters.

Should you wish to overnight on the way to La Esperanza, hole up in an A-frame cabin at Tiny Pines Cabin & Glamping around 82km (51 miles) west of Tegucigalpa.

This route is one of the best road trips in Honduras due to its dramatic change in scenery and elevation. You’ll pass through cities and towns like Zambrano, Flores, La Paz, Chinacla, and Marcala before arriving at the town of La Esperanza, which towers 1700m (5577ft) above sea level.

It’s important to be prepared for the serpentine ascending roads, which can be as challenging as they are picturesque – it’s worth making a 4WD your chariot of choice.

Planning tip: Fill your tank before you leave Tegucigalpa but if you need to refill or have a comfort break en route, look out for the various Texaco and UNO gas stations along the way. They typically have well-stocked convenience stores and restrooms.

Man visiting the Maya pyramids and temples in the archaeological park of Copán Ruinas, Honduras
Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the Maya ruins at Copán Ruinas © Djavan Rodriguez / Getty Images

2. La Esperanza to Copán Ruinas

Best road trip for nature and history lovers
La Esperanza-Copán Ruinas; 232 km (144 miles); allow five hours

La Esperanza, steeped in the traditions of the Lenca people, offers a wonderful insight into Honduras’ indigenous past. On departure day, load up with a hearty Honduran breakfast — refried beans, tortillas and scrambled eggs — before setting off to Copán Ruinas.

The route is peppered with welcoming rest stops and accommodations, and it’s an essential road trip itinerary for history buffs. Known locally as simply Copán, this cobblestoned town shares a name with the nearby Maya ruins that have been deemed “the Athens of the Mayan world”.

It’s worth basing yourself in Copán for a couple of days to allow time for combing through the Copán Archaeological Site, taking heavenly sips of traditional Mayan hot chocolate (don’t miss The Tea & Chocolate Place) and visiting Copán’s famed bird rehabilitation center, Macaw Mountain.

To get to Copán Ruinas from La Esperanza, follow the Carretera La Esperanza-Marcala until it becomes Carretera CA-11A – without any stops, you’ll be in Copán in roughly five hours. Like many of the country’s scenic driving routes, there are zigzagging, unsurfaced roads and driving is not advised during periods of heavy rain.

Detour: Feel free to add Cascada San Juan to your itinerary. This waterfall is around an hour and fifteen minutes away from La Esperanza. You can also get a nature fix at Parque Nacional Montaña de Celaque which is home to the highest peak in the country, El Cerro de las Minas.

3. Comayagua to Lago de Yojoa

Best road trip for bucket list experiences
Comayagua-Lago de Yojoa; 73 km (45 miles); allow an hour and 15 minutes

This road trip from the historic city of Comayagua to the beautiful Lago de Yojoa offers opportunities to experience some of Honduras’ biggest draws. Comayagua, once the capital of Honduras and a beautifully preserved historic town, boasts one of the oldest clocks in the Western Hemisphere.

The ancient timepiece was built by the Moors in 1100 CE and it lives at Comayagua’s Cathedral of Immaculate Conception.

From Comayagua, follow the curving CA-5 highway to Lago de Yojoa, the largest natural lake in Honduras. The area around the lake is known for its rich biodiversity, coffee plantations, underground caves, hiking trails and paintings-come-to-life nature.

Parque Nacional Cerro Azul Meambar (known by the acronym PaNaCAM) to the east of the lake is a prime hiking and birding spot where keel-billed toucans, white-bellied emeralds, and violet sabrewing criss-cross the skies. Be sure to pack your binoculars and a camera.

Detour: Pulhapanzak is an impressive 43m (141ft) waterfall roughly 15km (9 miles) north of Lago de Yojoa. A thoroughly hair-raising experience, you can actually zipline right over the falls.

A man wearing a backpack taking pictures on the boardwalk in La Ceiba, Honduras
Take the time to explore beautiful La Ceiba before diving into its surrounding waterfalls © Djavan Rodriguez / Getty Images

4. Tela to La Ceiba

Best road trip for beach-to-jungle vistas
Tela-La Ceiba; 101 km (63 miles); allow two hours and 15 minutes

Surrounded by waterfalls and lush forests, La Ceiba is the eco-tourism and adventure capital of Honduras. The port city is a jump-off point for ferries to the Bay Islands — Roatán, Utila and Guanaja — but it’s a compelling destination in its own right. This route from Tela is a strong contender for Honduras’ best scenic road trip owing to its stunning coastal views and access to nature reserves.

Set out from Tela for a leisurely exploration of this scenic stretch, including Parque Nacional Pico Bonito, La Ceiba’s star attraction. The CA-15 will lead you all the way from Tela to La Ceiba and a 4WD is the best option for tackling the steep hills and rollercoaster-like roads there.

Detour: Don’t miss the opportunity to take a boat trip to Cayos Cochinos, a small and dazzling archipelago close to the coast of La Ceiba. Waterfall rappelling at Las Cascadas Lodge is an unforgettable experience.

5. San Pedro Sula to Tela

Best road trip for beautiful coastline
San Pedro Sula-Tela; 92 km (57 miles); allow two hours

Chances are your introduction to San Pedro Sula will begin at Ramón Villeda Morales International Airport (SAP), Honduras’ busiest and largest airport. From there you can rent a car from one of the household names — Dollar, Alamo, Hertz or SIXT — and head west. The CA-13 highway will get you all the way from San Pedro Sula to Tela. 

As the industrial city fades in the rear-view mirror, concrete views are replaced by lush greenery, towering palms and seafood joints.

Tela is an Afro-Caribbean beach town in the Atlántida department and the perfect place to relax and shake off your jet lag. This road trip is a call to beach lovers interested in learning about Honduras’ Garifuna communities.

Detour: Part research station, part botanical garden, Lancetilla Botanical Gardens was founded by the United Fruit Company (now Chiquita Brands International) in 1925. It’s one of the largest tropical gardens in the world and it is located about 20 minutes outside of Tela.

Mirador Avenue in the municipality of Copán Ruinas, Honduras
Not all roads are created equal in Honduras © Djavan Rodriguez / Getty Images

Tips for driving in Honduras

  • While Honduras has many come-hither destinations, it’s important to be aware of safety concerns. Some areas have higher crime rates so it’s advisable to consult with local contacts, hotel staff or tourism offices for advice on areas to avoid.
  • It’s best not to travel after dark as roads are poorly lit. Plan to arrive at your intended destination or at a rest stop before sunset, which is between 5:30pm and 6pm throughout the year. Always keep an eye on your fuel gauge as gas stations (gasolineras) can be hard to find in remote areas and many aren’t open past 9pm.
  • Roads in Honduras vary significantly in quality. Major highways are generally in good condition but secondary roads can be poorly maintained, particularly in rural areas. Expect potholes and speed bumps made of thick ropes that aren’t very visible; some roads are impassable after torrential downpours.
  • Hondurans drive on the right-hand side of the road. Be aware that road etiquette may differ from what you’re used to and speed limits are not always respected.
  • To hire a car, you’ll need a driver’s license from your home country that’s been valid for at least one year and you must be at least 21 years old.

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