Going Green in Honduras
Ecotourism, community tourism, responsible tourism—three different catchwords with overlapping principles. All are about minimizing the negative impacts that tourists can have, and maximizing the benefits their dollars (or euros or pounds) bring. By incorporating these ideas into trip-planning, travelers are often rewarded with more meaningful experiences during their journey and deeper connections with the people and land they visit.
Parque Nacional Pico Bonito is undoubtedly the country’s premier ecotourism destination. The Lodge at Pico Bonito combines luxury rooms with a lush jungle setting and a genuine commitment to its environment (and the lodge supports a local microfinance organization for women to boot).
Nearby Omega Jungle Lodge has backpacker dorms, a basic cabin built over a creek, and high-end cabins with luxury touches, all of which benefit from the hotel’s gorgeous hillside setting and environmentally friendly waste management system.
Both Omega Tours (www.omegatours.info) and La Moskitia Eco-Aventuras (www.honduras.com/moskitia) have good reputations for well-run, low-key but high-adventure trips near La Ceiba, in the Mosquitia, and even exploring the little-visited region of Olancho.
Community-owned cabins, village walking tours, nighttime crocodile-spotting, and lazy afternoons tubing down the river are all locally organized and owned in the Mosquitia. Whether travelers want the ease of a package or the adventure of organizing their own transportation, La Ruta Moskitia (www.larutamoskitia.com) is the top source for information and tours in the region.
Over in the mountain highlands, Colosuca (www.colosuca.com) proudly combines the living culture of its Lencan villages
with regal colonial architecture and the natural beauty of Parque Nacional Celaque—all of which can be enhanced by the knowledge of local guides.
Another well-organized network is Cangrejal Ecoturismo (www.cangrejal.com), which connects visitors with two sets of community-owned cabins, hiking guides and horseback rides led by a local youth group, and local wood-carving artisans near the Río Cangrejal. Travelers willing to go farther off the beaten path can horseback ride or learn how to roast coffee in the mountain town of San Juan, or stay in a locally owned guesthouse on the Pacific island of Amapala.
Not everyone wants to stay in a rustic cabin or a community guesthouse, but that doesn’t preclude asking questions about the social and environmental impact of your hotel, restaurant, or dive shop, or supporting locally owned businesses to ensure that they don’t get crowded out of tourism-based development.
Environmentally friendly hotels are popping up on Roatán: Cocolobo in West End was designed by a British environmental architect with details such as side windows to capture cross breezes, while Infinity Bay on West Bay beach is being built with soil-preservation principles and has installed solar panels and zero-emission waste treatment. Native-owned businesses on Utila are some of the most committed to their community, such as the Lighthouse Hotel, Utila Water Sports dive shop, and Delany’s Island Kitchen.
Just outside of Copán Ruinas, the locally owned Hacienda San Lucas was built entirely without the use of electricity, maintains a low impact through the use of solar power and abundant candles, and shares local culture through meals based on indigenous Maya Chortí recipes. Back in town, Via Via Café, its hotel, and its hostel are all Belgian-owned, but the owners have a deep commitment to working for the betterment of the region, which they enact through their participation in community networks and the payment of fair wages to staff. Their tour agency, Basecamp, offers a “Copán Alternative Hike”—a walking tour that presents the reality of small-town Honduran living, the good and the bad, with half the proceeds donated toward the purchase of schoolbooks for surrounding rural villages.
Even in the urban jungle of San Pedro Sula, environmentally aware travelers now have a good option at the Casa del Arbol, a family-owned boutique hotel that has incorporated solar energy and low-flow toilets as part of its plan to get green-certified.
© Chris Humphrey and Amy E. Robertson from Moon Honduras, 5th Edition