Planning a Trip
By Plane -- La Ceiba's Golosón International Airport (LCE; tel. 504/443-3925) is 12km (8 miles) west of the city on the road to Tela. The only international airlines that land at the airport are TACA (tel. 504/441-3191), Skyservice (seasonal to Toronto; tel. 800/701-9448), and Atlantic Airlines (tel. 504/440-2347; www.atlanticairlinesint.com), which serves the Bay Islands, Managua, Grand Cayman, and Belize City. If you are flying to/from the Bay Islands, you can try domestic airlines such as Isleña (tel. 504/441-3354; www.flyislena.com), and Aerolineas Sosa (tel. 504/443-1399), as all offer daily flights. There are ATMs, a few small shops and snack bars, and money-exchange services, an Internet cafe, and car-rental counters in the terminal. A 10- to 15-minute taxi ride from Golosón International to the center of town should cost about L115 ($6/£3).
By Boat -- From La Ceiba, there are two high-speed ferries that run twice a day to Roatán and Utila from the Muelle de Cabotaje, 5km (3 miles) east of La Ceiba. For Roatán, the Galaxy Wave (tel. 504/443-463; Safeways_Galaxy@yahoo.com) departs La Ceiba at 9:30am and 4:30pm, returning at 7am and 2pm from the terminal at Dixon's Cove. The one-way price is L420 ($22/£11) and the ferry has room for 360 people, air-conditioning, a sun deck, and a small snack shop.
The Utila Princess II (tel. 504/425-3390) makes the hour-long trip back and forth between the Municipal Pier Utila. The ship, which is about one-third the size of the Galaxy Wave, departs La Ceiba at 9:30am and 4pm, returning at 6:20am and 2pm. The price is L373 ($20/£10) each way.
Yachts from around the Caribbean commonly stop in La Ceiba and occasionally will take on passengers for a fee or in exchange for work. If you are looking for a ride or need a place to anchor, the Lagoon Marina (tel. 504/440-0614; www.lagoonmarinalaceiba.com) is your best bet. There are 25 slips for boats up to 36m (120 ft.) in length, as well as a nice pool area, bar, and apartments for rent by the month L14,250 ($750/£325).
By Bus -- Two luxury bus companies, Hedman Alas and Viana Express, have their own terminals in town. Hedman Alas' terminal (tel. 504/441-2199; www.hedmanalas.com) is on the main highway east of town toward Trujillo, beside the Supermercado Ceibeño #4. Their four daily buses (5:15am-5:30pm) make the 1 1/2-hour trip to Tela before making the 3 1/2-hour trip to San Pedro Sula, where connections can be made to Copán and Tegucigalpa. Viana (tel. 504/441-2330), whose terminal is just west of the main bus terminal near the Esso gas station, has similar service.
All other bus companies operate out of the Main terminal (Mercado San Jose, Blvd. 15 de Septiembre) about 2km (1 1/4 miles) west of the center. Diana (tel. 504/441-6460) has nine daily departures for San Pedro Sula between 6am and 5:30pm. For the 7-hour ride to Tegucigalpa, Cristina (tel. 504/441-2028) has five daily departures between 5:30am and 3:30pm. For the 3-hour trip to Trujillo, try Cotuc (tel. 504/441-2199), which runs throughout the day from 8am to 6pm.
By Car -- La Ceiba straddles CA 13 on the north coast about halfway between San Pedro Sula and Trujillo. There aren't as many big car-rental companies in the city as there are in San Pedro or Tegucigalpa, but there are a few. Apart from Avis (CA 13 at La Ceiba; tel. 504/441-2802; www.avis.com.hn), most rental companies have counters at the airport, including local companies Advance (tel. 504/441-1105; www.advancerentacar.com) and Ace (tel. 504/441-2929; www.acerentacar.com).
The city of La Ceiba is sandwiched between the imposing green mountains of Pico Bonito National Park and the Caribbean Sea. Much of the town straddles the highway, CA 13, although urban sprawl is heading in every direction. A handful of estuaries split the town into several sections, with the center surrounding the wide, shady Parque Central. Two main avenues, San Isidro and 14 de Julio, run parallel to the beach. The mostly Garífuna neighborhood, Barrio La Isla, to the northeast of the park along the beach, is where you will find the Zona Viva, quite a few hotels, restaurants, and tour operators.
Almost everything of interest within the city sits within a 10-block radius of the Parque Central, so getting around on two legs is easy. But buses are a cheap and useful way to get around to outlying areas. You can easily flag down any of the frequent buses on the main highway, going in the direction you are headed, either toward Tela or Trujillo, for less than L20 ($1/50p) for short distances.
A taxi anywhere in the center should run no more than L40 ($2/£1), while trips to the airport or the ferry terminal are about three or four times more.
There's a visitor center (tel. 504/440-1562) on the first floor of the Banco de Occidente building on Parque Central; it's open Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm. There's another office (tel. 504/440-3044) at Avenida San Isidro and 8a Calle with more brochures and maps.
Banco Atlantida (Av. San Isidro and 6a Calle) and BAC (Av. San Isidro and 5a Calle) in the center of town have 24-hour ATMs and will exchange traveler's checks. Both have second locations at the Megaplaza Mall.
The hospital Eurohonduras (1a Calle and the beach; tel. 504/443-0244) is open 24 hours. To reach the police, call tel. 504/441-0860, daily 24 hours.
Lavamatic Ceibeño, in Barrio La Isla at Av. Pedro Nufio and Calle 6, has coin-operated machines and drop-off service, for L55 ($3/£1.50) per 10 pounds. It's open daily from 7:30am to 9pm.
There are a four or five Internet cafes within 2 blocks of the park with high-speed service for less than L30 ($1.60/80p) per hour. They also provide cheap international calls. Hondutel (Av. Rosa and 6a Calle) offers local and international calls.
The post office is at Avenida Morazán and 14a Calle.
More than 200,000 visitors from around Honduras and Central America descend upon La Ceiba during La Feria San Isidro, or Carnaval week, which takes place every May and culminates on the third Saturday of the month. While the celebration of the city's patron saint, San Isidro, is the motive, the festival has far less of a religious theme than that in Comayagua. Here it's more of a big party where live music, dancing, parades, an endless lineup of food and T-shirt vendors, and endless intoxication takes place each night in a different part of town. The last night of the festival is the most intense, with horses, floats, and costumed dancers parading down Avenida San Isidro. It's not as organized as carnival in Rio or in Mardi Gras, but a spectacle to behold nevertheless. Reserve hotel rooms months in advance during this time of year.
Spanish Classes in La Ceiba
La Ceiba is home to a handful of language schools, most offering 20 hours of classwork a week, homestays with local families (optional), workbooks, some organized activities, and three daily meals. Two recommended schools are AmeriSpan (tel. 215/751-1100; www.amerispan.com; $270/£135 per week) and the Central American School (tel. 504/440-1707; www.ca-spanish.com; $150/£75 per week).
Volunteer Opportunities in Northern Honduras
The North Coast of Honduras, centering around La Ceiba, is one of the most active volunteering centers in Central America. Dozens of organizations have offices in the city and help arrange projects for anyone willing to lend a helping hand. Two standouts are Guarama (tel. 504/406-6782; www.guaruma.org), a Honduras-based nonprofit that helps promote environmental awareness and conservation in the Río Cangrejal watershed on the eastern edge of Pico Bonito National Park, and Children of the Light (tel. 504/3304-1414; www.thechildrenofthelight.org), a Christian organization that has built a school and has organized other community outreach projects for street children in the region.