Tango Diva : Travel Stories for Women, by Women

by Allison Neves

Do you remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books that you would order through the Scholastic book club when you were a kid? You know… the ones that allowed you, the reader, to be a double agent or a famous celebrity or even a swashbuckling pirate? If you recall, with those books you were allowed to make the pivotal decisions for your character that would lead you through the pages of the book on your own personal journey.

On a recent trip to Honduras, I was reminded of those books. Perhaps it was the Indiana Jones-type adventure of exploring the country’s Mayan ruins or my Tarzan-like day hiking through the Pico Bonito rainforest or even the enchanting pirate culture of Roatán that brought back my childhood memories of these much-loved novels. But, most likely it was the fact that Honduras has so much to offer that it makes a great vacation destination for pretty much any kind of traveler on any kind of budget. So it is me paying homage to the “literary works” of my childhood when I bring you… Honduras: Choose Your Own Adventure.

Start here…

YOU are a lover of activity-based, cultural travel. The current state of the economy has got you down and you are in desperate need of a quick and affordable get-away to feed your soul and ease your mind. – You are the Budget Traveler

-OR-

YOU are a financially secure, luxury seeker looking for an ultimate, high-end vacation that involves plush accommodations, pampering and pina coladas. – You are the Luxury Seeker

Budget Traveler (4-6 Days)

You fly into San Pedro Sula and transfer to the town of Copán Ruinas by bus (Hedman Alas, www.hedmanalas.com) approximately 2.5 hours of beautiful rolling hills and lush tropical landscape – and check into the Luna Jaguar Resort for two nights. Rooms start at $60 per night. Eat dinner in town. Try Momo’s for a delicious dinner of “pinchos” (meat and veggie kabobs) served with beans, fresh pico de gallo and tortillas. Dinner should run you no more than $12 per person.

The next day, grab a traditional Honduran breakfast (desayuno tipico) of eggs, beans, cheese and tortillas at Café Welchez or Via Via Café ($4) and don’t forget to try the local coffee! You can burn off that hearty meal with a 2 kilometer walk to the ruins of Copán, where you can see the remains of an ancient Mayan city and even visit underground tunnels. After what is sure to be an excellent self-guided tour, go back to grab a quick bite from a local street vendor – Try baleadas, a typical Honduran snack, and spend the afternoon exploring the quaint little town, its shops and outdoor merchants… and yes, haggling for deals is totally cool OR head to Finca Santa Isabel for the Copan Coffee Tour ($25-30, includes roundtrip transportation from town, a bilingual guide, and breakfast, snacks or lunch). There you will get an excellent tour of their stunning property and coffee facilities and learn about the company’s sustainable practices. Save money on a month of Starbucks runs by leaving with a bag of fresh-roasted Welchez Coffee for $5. Make your way back to town where you are free to explore and indulge in more of the town’s cheap eats.

Sleep in and walk approximately 8 kilometers OR find $5 in the pocket of the hiking shorts that you’ve had packed away since your last vacation and take a cab ride to visit the Macaw Mountain Bird Park ($10 entrance fee), a reserve that houses injured and abandoned tropical birds including parrots, pygmy owls and a variety of beautiful macaws.

Walk back to your hotel and have them arrange a trip to the Eden-like setting of Aguas Calientes (Owned by the same folks who own Luna Jaguar), for a relaxing dip in the natural hot springs. $25 includes roundtrip transportation and entrance fee to the spa and hot springs. Besides, you’re gonna need it after all that walking! (If you stay at Luna Jaguar, you get a discount to their hot springs. Cha-ching…more money in your pocket!)

Stay one more night in Copán Ruinas before you head home….

-OR-

You find an un-cashed expense check issued by your company for your business trip to Walla Walla wedged inside your wallet. BONUS! — Add 2 nights in either La Ceiba or Roatán for a little more budget friendly R&R.

La Ceiba is home to the 265,000-acre Pico Bonito National Park rainforest. Book your room at the Omega Jungle Lodge– $50 a night or the Jungle River Lodge for $24-60 a night. In La Ceiba, choose to visit a Garifuna village, take a rainforest hike or go white water rafting. Any of which can be arranged through your hotel. Eat at Mango Tango or Playa Taty’s or Lulo’s for tasty affordable meal options.

Roatán includes sun, snorkeling and beach time and definitely add a visit to Carambola Botanical Gardens for a guided tour and hike to the top of their mountain for a beautiful view of the island. While on Roatán spend two evenings at Las Rocas Resort, located in the West Bay area of the island which will run you $69 a night or look into two different affordable West End options Posada Las Orquideas – $50 a night – or Posada Arco Iris – up to $65 per night. Affordable food options are easy to find on the main strip in the island’s West End. Depart directly from Roatán airport for your home in the states.

Before you leave, make sure to arrange all of your flights, tour guides and private drivers and transfers through MC Tours or Mesoamerica Travel, both well-known and reputable tour operators with main offices in Copán Ruinas and San Pedro Sula, respectively. Once that’s all settled, fly into San Pedro Sula and transfer to the town of Copán Ruinas by bus – approximately 2.5 hours of beautiful rolling hills and lush tropical landscape – and check into the Hotel Marina Copán, a family-owned hacienda-style hotel located a half-block from Central Park in the center of town.

If you are looking for a little more seclusion, drive 15 minutes outside of town to Hacienda San Lucas. This small, eco-friendly hacienda has an on-site restaurant that features authentic, organic Mayan cuisine. Before dinner, enjoy a glass of wine and the sunset with the Hacienda’s charismatic and charming owner Flavia as you gaze down upon the majestic Copán Valley. Stay in Copán Ruinas for two or three nights.

Eat breakfast in your hotel, have a driver take you to the ruins of Copán where you can secure a1.5 hour private walking tour of the ruins with an English speaking guide. Ask for Yobani Peraza or Mike Valladares.

After your exploration of the ancient Mayan world, have your driver take you to Finca el Cisne, approximately a 45-minute drive, for a farmhouse lunch made from food grown on-property, a horseback ride through the countryside, and a brief tour of the coffee facilities.

Spend one more night in Copán Ruinas, transfer back to San Pedro Sula airport and check in for flight to La Ceiba (The only domestic airline that can be booked online is Islena). Check in at the Lodge at Pico Bonito whose guests have included A-listers like Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Enjoy a 4-star dinner at the Lodge at Pico Bonito’s restaurant, featuring mouthwatering Mesoamerican cuisine.

Spend your next two or three days communing with nature, starting with an amazing white-water rafting trip down the Río Cangrejal. Return to the lodge for lunch and a day of lounging poolside.

On your last day in La Ceiba, take a guided hike through Pico Bonito National Park (on trails managed by the Lodge). This will include stops at observation towers and natural pools for swimming. Eat lunch at the lodge before your guided tour of the on-site butterfly sanctuary and serpentarium. After dinner embark on a 2-hour guided Night Hike. End the night with a nightcap at the bar while you watch a locally produced film about the exotic birds of Honduras.

The next day, take 15 minute flight from La Ceiba airport to the island of Roatán, a Caribbean paradise and one of the world’s diving Meccas.

Your driver will meet you at the airport and take you to your three nights of accommodation at Mayoka Lodge
, a 6,500 square foot private home that comes equipped with a driver, personal chef, tennis court and your own scooters for getting around the island. Once there, settle in and enjoy a Salva Vida, the local beer, on your deck that overlooks the ocean or take a dip in your infinity pool. Enjoy a traditional seafood dinner prepared by the chef. Relax and be lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves. Tomorrow a Caribbean adventure awaits you.

In the morning, make your way to Anthony’s Key Resort home of the Roatán Institute for Marine Sciences for a fun and informative lesson about dolphins and partake in a snorkel with the majestic creatures. Grab an oceanfront lunch at Bite on the Beach before partaking in a relaxing afternoon of driving your scooter around the island, playing tennis or going for a quick paddle in one of the kayaks provided for you at the Mayoka Lodge.

Awake refreshed and take a tour of Carambola Botanical Gardens. Enjoy a leisurely day on the beach before booking a 3-hour private sunset sail around the island, courtesy of Roatán Sailing & Catamaran Charters. The trip includes snacks, drinks and a stop to snorkel.

Live in the lap of luxury for one more night before departing directly from Roatán airport for your home in the states.

******

Honduras has a little something for everyone from ruins to rainforest to reef there is plenty to be experienced and enjoyed. Whether you’re a Budget Traveler or a Luxury Seeker the country is an excellent option for all those in search of adventure, beauty and culture.

Most major airlines (American, Delta, Continental, Spirit, TACA) fly to major cities within Honduras. Rates are affordable from the US. Check the TACA Airlines web site for regular specials. American also frequently has specials to Central America. Visit www.letsgohonduras.com or call 800.410.9608 for more information on vacation options within Honduras.

All the amazing photos accompanying this piece are courtesy of Travis Cooke of La Luz Images.

* * * *

Allison Neves has more than fifteen years of public relations experience, providing strategic and tactical PR services for a wide range of clients, from actors and musicians to non-profit organizations and high-tech companies. She currently works as the Communications Director for the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, which works to prevent avoidable blindness in the U.S. and abroad through public service and education. With parents from San Salvador and Hong Kong, Allison has made a personal commitment to reconnect with her roots by traveling extensively throughout Latin America and Asia. When she’s not trying to save the world one press releases at a time, Allison travels, practices Pilates, scuba dives, and hangs out with best friend and husband, Travis. A past recipient of the Bulldog Reporter’s Award of Excellence for Media Relations and Publicity, Allison has spent the last seven years volunteering as the PR Director for Little Kids Rock, a national non-profit music education program. She currently resides in the historic Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco

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