Honduras tourism officials, eyeing the wealthy beach resorts in Mexico with envy, tirelessly promote Tela Bay as Honduras’s Cancún-to-be. Certainly all the elements appear to be in place: mile upon mile of beaches, sleepy Garífuna villages, and three nearby natural reserves—Punta Sal, Lancetilla, and Punta Izopo—chock-full of exotic plants and wild animals.
For the time being, however, Tela remains a sleepy beachfront backwater. Long-talked about development just west of Tela near the Laguna de Los Micos may change all that, but it remains to be seen.
Reactions to present-day undeveloped Tela vary wildly. Some visitors are charmed by the town’s relaxed vibe, while others take offense at the stray dogs and bit of trash on the main city beach and hastily pack their bags. There’s no doubt the downtown beach area is not pristine, but it would be a shame to let this put travelers off from the many attractions around the bay.
Originally, Tela (pop. 28,300) was built as a United Fruit Company town in the early years of the 20th century, but the banana business is now less important to the local economy since the Tela Railroad Company—United’s Honduras division, also called Chiquita—moved its headquarters to La Lima, near San Pedro Sula, in 1965. Currently, the town earns most of its money from African palm plantations, cattle-ranching, and tourism.
While safety has improved over the years in Tela, it’s always smart to take care after dark, and either stick to the main streets while walking or catch a cab. The tourist police can be contacted by calling tel. 504/448-0150 or tel. 504/448-0253, or by asking at your hotel (many businesses in town chipped in to help pay their salaries).
The Tela Chamber of Commerce has its own website in English for tourists: www.telahonduras.com.
Getting to Tela
By Bus: Tela has direct buses to San Pedro Sula, relieving travelers of having to switch buses at El Progreso. Eight buses a day leave from the Tela Express terminal near the Río Tela on 1 Avenida heading out of town, for US$4. Buses to La Ceiba leave every 25 minutes from the corner of 9 Calle and 10 Avenida, charging US$2 for the 2–2.5-hour trip (with many stops), from the main bus terminal four blocks east of the park. Faster buses heading from San Pedro Sula to La Ceiba can be flagged down at the DIPPSA gas station on the highway. (US$2.50).
By Car: The 68-kilometer, two-lane road to El Progreso through African palm and banana plantations is in good shape, and the additional 28 kilometers to San Pedro Sula is a smooth four-lane highway. To the east, the 101-kilometer, two-lane road to La Ceiba is also well maintained.
© Chris Humphrey and Amy E. Robertson from Moon Honduras, 5th Edition