Honduras has been unjustly overshadowed by its neighbors for decades. For some time, divers have passed over Honduras to go to Belize, nature and beach lovers have traveled to Costa Rica, and culture and history buffs have headed to Guatemala and Mexico. This is beginning to change, though, as more and more tourists are coming to realize that all of these attractions can be found in Honduras, and that, even though large crowds and overdevelopment threaten other Central American countries, Honduras is still practically untouched, with more cloud forests and unexplored tracts of wilderness than anywhere in the region.
Much of it may still be taken up by banana cultivation, but few other countries in the world today can lay claim to such obvious natural beauty. About the size of Tennessee, Honduras is home to 20 national parks, a couple of biosphere reserves, and nearly 100 other protected ecological areas. The cultural diversity here is nothing to laugh at either. The country has almost eight million people, mostly mestizos (mixed descendants of the Spanish and Ameri-Indians), as well as another 10% divided among eight main indigenous groups: the Lencas, the Chortís, the Tolupan, the Garífunas, the Miskitos, the Pech, the Tawahkas, and the Bay Islanders.
Adventure has been woven into the very fabric of this country over the past 400 years. Christopher Columbus set foot on the Bay Islands and the North Shore on his fourth and final voyage to the Americas in 1502, but that may be the most boring tale. Consider also that the country's history involves pirates raiding gold from Spanish ships and hiding the booty in caves on the Bay Islands, archaeologists searching for Maya ruins and crystal skulls, and a North American named William Walker launching a raid on the country with his own small army. Throw in conquistadors, indigenous warriors, multinational fruit corporations, whale sharks, and indigenous land rights and you have one of the most exciting environments on the planet.
Until recently, Honduras's tourist infrastructure has been limited, but things are slowly coming together. Visitors can now expect more variety, better hotels, and a far greater range of wild and wonderful tours and attractions than has ever existed here before. Cruise landings on the Bay Islands are expected to explode in the next decade as the ports are expanded. Luxury ecolodges near La Ceiba can now compete with anywhere else in Central America, and beach resorts are set to turn Tela Bay into the next Cancun. The Maya ruins of Copán are luring more and more visitors from countries to the north. Even La Mosquitia, traditionally one of the least accessible and unorganized places in the Americas, is turning to community-based tours and excelling at them.