A bustling agricultural town 29 kilometers east of Savá, Tocoa has nothing whatsoever to attract a tourist, except as the place to catch long, bumpy bus rides into the Mosquitia. Even the downtown square is ugly, although the bizarrely designed church, reportedly the work of a Peace Corps volunteer, is an unusual sight.
Though lacking in tourist attractions, Tocoa is a magnet for land-hungry migrants who use the rapidly growing city as a base to invade the Río Sico and Río Paulaya valleys on the western edge of the Río Plátano rainforest. Many of these homesteaders are moving in on protected land, but little can be done to stop them, even if the government wanted to, which it doesn’t always—it’s easier to sacrifice a remote stretch of jungle than deal with the thorny problem of land redistribution and rural poverty in the rest of the country.
Because of all the agricultural and business activity in Tocoa, several hotels offer rooms, of varying quality. Hotel Victoria (tel. 504/444-3031, US$18.50 s, US$24 d), near Supermercado Celia, is a good deal with air-conditioning, TV, and private bath. Just opposite Celia’s is Executivo Hotel (tel. 504/333-3333, US$24 s, US$32 d), popular with missionary groups. Another option is the Gran Hotel Europa. Two cheap, acceptable places near the market and buses are Hotelito Rosgil and Hotelito Yendy.
Food and Drink
The classiest restaurant in town, such as it is, is La Gran Villa (tel. 504/444-3943, 7:30 a.m.–9 p.m. Mon.–Sat.), on Boulevard Colón near the park. The restaurant offers shrimp, conch, and steak dishes at US$4–7 per entrée, as well as sandwiches, breakfasts, and a full bar.
Restaurante Aquarium (tel. 504/444-3761, 7 a.m.–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Sun.) serves seafood and meat dishes (US$5–8) in an air-conditioned dining room with a full bar. Next to Banco Atlántida on the main street is the ever-popular Cafeteria Damir (tel. 504/444-3863, 7 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Sat.), with snacks, breakfasts, and inexpensive típico food, like heaping bowls of steaming beef soup.
For a drink out, try Karibu Bar, right on the main road through Tocoa.
Getting to Tocoa
In the fall of 2008, two bridges on the Tocoa–Trujillo were washed out—one completely, the other so that it formed a V across the river (we actually saw a car drive over that bridge, but it didn’t seem like a great idea). There is an alternative route between the two cities—it’s slightly more direct but slower since it’s not paved. This alternative route was soon graded at least, but it gets ruts during every rain. Hopefully there will be a commitment to its maintenance, because no one is talking about repairing the bridges yet.
To get to Trujillo from Tocoa by car, take a left at the sign for Margen Izquierda shortly outside of town (be alert!). There are a few turns on the road (mainly one to the right when you get to a T), but the best thing to do is follow the other traffic and stop once in a while when you see pedestrians, to check with them that you’re headed the right direction.
Cotuc buses (tel. 504/444-2181) follow this same alternative route. The Contraipbal buses (tel. 504/444-3823) follow the main highway toward Trujillo, miraculously crossing the first bridge and then sending passengers across the second river in boats. Either route costs US$2. Cotuc’s terminal is opposite the DIPPSA station on the main highway, while Contraipbal’s is in the main bus terminal near the market. Cotuc and Contraipbal also have buses to La Ceiba (two hours) and San Pedro Sula (five hours).
The main bus station is four blocks north of the square, next to the market. Local buses to La Ceiba depart frequently all day, charging US$3.40 for the three-hour ride. The last bus to Trujillo leaves at 6 p.m., and the last bus to Ceiba leaves at 4 p.m.
© Chris Humphrey and Amy E. Robertson from Moon Honduras, 5th Edition