Costa Rica is the main entry point for Americans country-hopping in Central America.
Most famous for its abundant nature and stunning vistas, it is surely worth exploring, but the recent price surges and fast-paced development have begun to scare off crowd-wary, budget travelers.
Fortunately, the subcontinent is home to a number of other tropical spots that are not only just as incredible but yet to be tarnished by mass tourism or gentrification.
Interestingly, their lack of notoriety is mostly owed to poor promotion.
That is the case with Honduras, a lesser-known Central American country that is both cheaper and less crowded than Costa Rica:
Is This The Most Underrated Country In Central America?
Honduras is of the least-crowded travel destinations in Central America, having hosted only 1.91 million tourists in 2022.
In comparison, Costa Rica has registered 2.3 million foreign guests, while El Salvador raced ahead with 2.5 million.
Despite the relatively weaker performance when paired with the competition, Honduras has achieved a 131.4% increase in tourism since 2021, as verified by the Honduran Institute of Tourism (IHT), indicating it is getting trendier every passing year.
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It’s already surpassed 2019 levels of tourism by 16.6%. With that being said, a majority of foreigners only visit Honduras as cruise passengers (49.4%).
The number of air arrivals trails behind, with foreign guests landing at airports comprising 25.3% of all tourists, also behind land border crossings (25.7%).
In a way, we could infer the number of tourists who travel to Honduras as a primary destination is remarkably low: only 480,166 people arrived by air in 2022, against 1.43 million who would be visiting border areas from neighboring countries, or cruising by the Honduran coast.
Taking these data into account, is Honduras indeed a day trip, or is it a seriously underrated, stand-alone Central American destination that deserves more of your attention?
Honduras Is An Incredibly Diverse Country
Honduras is one of Central America’s most mysterious states, sharing borders with other gems like Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua while not being landlocked: its North opens up to the Gulf of Honduras, an inlet of the Caribbean Sea.
Like many of its neighbors, Honduras has a rich and diverse history dating back at least two millennia.
At the apex of the pre-Columbian civilizations, it was settled by the Ancient Mayans, who mastered the arts of trading and farming in the region.
Its relevance as a trading hub would be reinforced during the Spanish conquest when it sat at the busiest colonial routes linking settlements in both North and South America.
As part of the Mayan and Hispanic worlds, it is jam-packed with ancient ruins and colorful, European-style settlements.
Last year, Travel Off Path named it the fourth best country for visiting Mayan ruins in acknowledgment of the numerous archaeological parks and well-preserved temples and pyramids located within its national territory.
Despite having the largest expanse of Mayan monuments out of any Central American country, totaling over 4,000 complexes, only 26 are open for visitation.
This includes Copan, a Mayan city founded in the 5th century AD.
Other than its ancient heritage, the Honduran landscape is complete with verdant hills (where Spanish-built cobblestone towns full of charms, such as Gracias and Yuscaran, are nestled), roaring waterfalls hidden by thick green foliage, and even white sand beaches bounded by turquoise waters.
Beaches Galore And Hugely Affordable
Straddling the isthmus linking the Pacific to the Caribbean seas, Honduras has an enviable 500 miles of coastline and a handful of resort islands replete with unspoiled swimming spots.
The top three offshore paradises are Roatán, Utila, and Guanaja.
Sitting some 30 miles away from the North coast and belonging to the Bay Islands group, they boast some truly spectacular natural scenery, other than being a popular migration spot for exotic species of birds and sea mammals.
As the biggest island, Roatán is also the best developed, hosting several five-star boutique hotels and guesthouses, with overnight stays selling at competitive rates.
Its main attraction is the Roatán Barrier Reef, simply the second-largest coral reef in the world.
And the best thing about it is: Honduras is hugely affordable.
With a cost of living index estimated at 38.8 out of 100 by Numbeo, budget travelers will find it is one of the cheapest countries in Central America, with significantly lower prices for accommodation.
Costa Rica, on the other hand, has a living index of 48.8, the most expensive in the region. Although the infrastructure is inferior, and the political situation is not as stable, Honduras is still relatively safe for American tourists.
Caution remains urged, particularly in major urban cities like the capital city of Tegucigalpa. Other than the Gracias a Dios Department, where travel is strongly discouraged due to the risk of crime and kidnapping, general safety advice applies:
- Maintain a high level of situational awareness
- Avoid walking alone in poorly-lit, non-touristy areas at night
- Never attempt to physically resist robbery attempts
- Be vigilant withdrawing cash from banks or ATMs
- Do not display signs of wealth unnecessarily, including using expensive smartphones in public, or while stopped in traffic
Honduras Is Fully Open For Tourism
Honduras is open for tourism restriction-free. This means American citizens, and any other foreign visitors, are permitted entry without having to disclose their vaccination status nor undergo testing or health screening prior to flying.
Americans can remain in Honduras, and the wider Central America-4 Border Control Zone, for 3 months. This means they can travel around Honduras and onwards to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua without undergoing further passport control for 90 days.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com