Planning a Trip
By Plane -- Ramón Villeda Morales International Airport, sometimes just called San Pedro Sula International Airport (SAP; no phone), sits 15km (9 miles) east of the city on the road to La Ceiba. It is the country's busiest airport and offers the most international connections. Continental, American Airlines, Delta, TACA, and Spirit fly here directly from points in the U.S. such as Miami, Houston, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, and Fort Lauderdale. Regional airlines serving San Pedro include Isleña Airlines (tel. 504/552-8322; www.flyislena.com), Aerolíneas Sosa (tel. 504/550-6545; www.aerolinassosa.com), and Atlantic Airlines (tel. 504/557-8088; www.atlanticairlinesint.com); these airlines fly to Tegucigalpa, La Ceiba, Roatán, and other Central American destinations such as San Salvador, San Jose, Guatemala City, and Managua.
A taxi from the airport to the center of town should run about L190 to L230 ($10-$12/£5-£6). There's also a Hedman-Alas (tel. 504/553-1361; www.hedmanalas.com) bus terminal at the airport, with buses that run three times a day to La Ceiba or six times a day to Copán or Tegucigalpa.
By Car -- All roads lead to San Pedro. It is the transportation hub of the country and almost always a necessary point of transfer between any two long-distance points. The best highway in the country and one of the best in all of Central America -- CA 5 -- traverses the distance between San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa and passes through Lago de Yojoa, Siguatepe, and Comayagua along the way. It can be extremely crowded (semi trucks use this road to haul goods from one coast to the other) and accidents can sometimes drag traffic to a screeching halt, yet if things move smoothly you can make the 241km (150-mile) trip between the coasts in under 4 hours on this road.
If you're coming to San Pedro Sula from Tela, La Ceiba, or elsewhere on the North Coast, take CA 13. If you're driving here from Copán, you have a pretty much straight shot on highway 11 to the town of La Entrada, from where you will continue on CA 4 to downtown.
Most major North American car-rental agencies, such as Avis (tel. 504/668-3164; www.avis.com), Budget (tel. 504/668-3179; www.budget.com.hn), Hertz (tel. 504/668-3156; www.hertz.com,), and Thrifty (tel. 504/668-3154; www.thrifty.com) have a counter at the San Pedro airport, as well as an office in town.
By Bus -- The city's new station, the Terminal Metropolitana de Autobuses is 5km (3 miles) south of town, on CA 5 toward Tegucigalpa. Hedman Alas (7 and 8 Av., 3 Calle NO; tel. 504/553-1361; www.hedmanalas.com) is the best bus line in Honduras and the most useful for tourists who are sticking to the country's main destinations. It has mostly nonstop, first-class service several times per day to the San Pedro airport (20 min. away), Tela (1 1/2 hr. away), La Ceiba (3 hr. away), Trujillo (6 hr. away), Copán Ruínas (3 hr. away), Comayagua (3 1/2 hr. away), and Tegucigalpa (4 1/2 hr. away). The company also offers connecting service in Copán to Guatemala City and Antigua, Guatemala.
Other companies that travel from San Pedro Sula to Tegucigalpa include Saenz (tel. 504/553-4969), which has regular and first class, nonstop service six times a day to the capital, El Rey Express (tel. 504/550-8950; www.reyexpress.net), and Viana (Av. Circunvalación; tel. 504/556-9261), which offers Clase Oro/Gold Class service to Tegucigalpa, as well as La Ceiba.
To reach Gracias, try Gracianos (tel. 504/656-1403) at the main terminal, which has departures until 2pm for the 4 1/2-hour ride that passes through Santa Rosa de Copán and La Entrada. To reach Tela, try Tela Express (9 Av. 9 and 10 Calle; tel. 504/550-8355) with five daily departures. If you're heading to La Ceiba and Trujillo, check out Cotuc (tel. 504/520-1597), which has five daily trips from the main terminal.
To reach Managua or Guatemala City, your best choice is TICA (tel. 504/556-5149), which runs buses daily at 5am from the main terminal. Buses first stop in Tegucigalpa before heading out of the country.
By Ferry -- Puerto Cortés, located 64km (40 miles) north of San Pedro Sula, is one of the largest and most advanced ports in Central America. From this port, there is ferry service to Placencia, Belize, with the D-Express (tel. 504/991-0778) on Mondays at 10am from the Muelle de Cabotaje, returning Fridays at 9:30am. The ride takes 4 hours, and costs L950 ($50/£25).
The dividing marker for San Pedro Sula is Avenida Circunvalación, a large boulevard that encircles the downtown area, with Parque Central at its center. Many amenities, like gas stations, restaurants, and malls, can be found radiating off this avenue. The center of town is laid out in a standard grid divided by four quadrants: northeast, southeast, northwest, and southwest. Avenues lead from north to south and streets from east to west.
Apart from a few of the major hotels, almost every site of interest to the typical traveler sits within the circular Circunvalación and can be reached on foot. Some areas can be dangerous, through, and robberies have occurred, so it is best to take taxis, especially during the night.
While the confusing, crowded, and often dangerous public bus system here is of little use to travelers, taxis are cheap and plentiful. A ride anywhere in the center will rarely run over L35 ($2/£1).
There's no official visitor center in San Pedro Sula, but you can check out the private tour office Servicios Culturales y Turisticos (Calle 4a btw. Av. 3a and 4a; tel. 504/552-4048) for maps and information.