The second-largest community in the Valle del Aguán after Tocoa, Olanchito sits in the heart of Standard Fruit Company (Dole) lands. The town was founded in the 17th century by migrants from San Jorge de Olancho, a colonial town near Catacamas that was destroyed by a natural disaster. The town church, set on a palm-lined square, holds a small statue of San Jorge, the town’s patron saint. The statue was reputedly carried here from San Jorge de Olancho by the original migrants. The April 23 festival in the saint’s honor is quite a bash, with some 20,000 people dancing in the streets.
Most of the year, though, Olanchito is hot, dusty, and altogether uninteresting to the casual traveler. For anyone curious to see what a classic company town looks like, take a taxi or bus to nearby Coyoles, where practically all the buildings were built and are still owned by Standard Fruit. Almost all Olanchito residents, apart from a few small-scale ranchers and farmers, derive their income either directly or indirectly from Standard. In the wake of Hurricane Mitch, Standard was planning on closing several fields around Coyoles but had held off due to protests by workers afraid of losing their livelihoods.
Just outside of Coyoles is the largest intact thorn forest in Honduras, a rare dry tropical ecosystem fast disappearing in the country. Several species of rare birds are found here, including an endemic green-backed sparrow, green jays, elegant trogons, and white-lored gnatcatchers. The forest is the only known habitat for the white-bellied wren and endemic Honduran emerald in Honduras. Adventurers can also access the south side of Parque Nacional Pico Bonito from near Olanchito.
It’s possible, but not easy, to continue west from Olanchito to Yoro. The road deteriorates beyond Olanchito; swollen rivers can flood the route, cutting it off entirely. Twice-daily buses cross the mountains to Yoro when the road is in good condition, the last at noon (4.5 hours). A bus to La Unión in Olancho, near La Muralla park, departs once a day at 11 a.m., road conditions permitting.
Getting to Olanchito
© Chris Humphrey and Amy E. Robertson from Moon Honduras, 5th Edition