(BPT) - Does winter in the Northern Hemisphere have you dreaming of a tropical vacation? Honduras, coincidentally, is at its peak dry season from December to April. If you’re looking to escape the cold for a warm-weather destination offering unique, affordable, one-of-a-kind experiences for divers, history buffs, adventure seekers and wildlife lovers alike, a Honduran vacation may just be your ticket.
Located in the heart of Central America, Honduras boasts an environment rich in biodiversity — with an array of ecosystems including dense rainforests, towering cloud forests, rushing rivers and the largest coral reef in the Americas. The Honduran Conservation Coalition has taken it upon themselves to protect Honduran biodiversity — and even encourages visitors to participate.
All this adds up to outdoor adventures and communing with the natural world, where there is something for travelers of all types:
1. Scuba diving enthusiast
You probably will have to look hard and long to find dive spots as spectacular as they are in Honduras. The Bay Islands, located north of the mainland, are known for marine life, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef system, and water adventures like SCUBA diving and snorkeling.
The three most famous dive spots in the Bay Islands — Utila, Roatán and Guanaja archipelagos — invite the intrepid diver to discover underwater worlds, swim with whale sharks and explore hard and soft coral reefs, to name a few. Enjoy a close encounter with coral formations or deep-dive 2,000 feet to see a bluntnose shark.
SCUBA-certified visitors to Roatán are invited to participate in the Coral Restoration Program at Roatán Marine Park, a community-based, non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of Honduras’ marine and coastal ecosystems.
2. Wildlife lover
Honduras cherishes its wild lands and wildlife and works hard to preserve it. Since near-deforestation of the land in the 1970s, Hondurans have made it their business to restore habitat for thousands of species of birds and mammals.
You can hang out with a sloth in an animal sanctuary. Hike among monkeys, jaguar, tapirs, deer and other native wildlife in the Central American lowland rainforest. Outside the colonial town of Gracias, visit Celaque National Park. The 65,000-acre park offers multiday hikes through the cloud forest to the pristine summit of Cerros Las Minas.
Honduras also boasts a marvelous bird population. From the rare species like the quetzal and the wine-throated hummingbird to the endangered macaw, more than 800 species call Honduras home. Watch for scarlet macaws that fly freely throughout the 335-square-mile area known as The Sacred Valley of the Scarlet Macaw.
3. Adventure junkie
In addition to being an eco-friendly country, Honduras has its share of adventure vacations. Not into diving but still love underwater creatures? Tela Coral Aquarium can get you up close to the nation’s magnificent coral reefs.
Horseback riding tours are also popular. From three-hour to half-day tours, get a new perspective of the Mayan ruins, indigenous communities or beach front on horseback. You can even get a daylong tour that covers La Ceiba beach and the nearby forest.
If an adrenaline rush is more your style, white-water rafting along the Rio Cangrejal and its class III to V rapids will get your blood pumping. Zipline La Campa canopy in Celaque National Park, the canopy in Pico Bonito, La Cieba, Atlántida or Cataratas Pulhapunzak to get a bird’s-eye view, at a fast clip, above the tree line, through the darkened forest or over swiftly flowing rivers and waterfalls.
4. History buff
Copán Ruins, located in western Honduras near the Guatemalan border, was one of the most influential cities of the ancient Mayan world. At Copán Archeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, set your inner archeologist free to explore some of the best sites of Mayan civilization still in existence. Stop by the Tea & Chocolate Place in adjacent Copán Ruinas to enjoy traditional hot chocolate and chat with owner and archaeologist David Sedat, a renowned expert on Mayan culture.
If soaking in natural hot springs, strolling through botanical gardens and enjoying breathtaking views from a hilltop fortress sounds enticing, a visit to Gracias is a must. This 500-year-old model Central American town is said to have been named by conquistadors who thanked God for delivering them to this oasis after a long, hard trek.