For many visitors, Copán Ruinas is the first Honduran town they see after crossing over from Guatemala, and it’s hard not to be charmed by the relaxed friendliness of the place. Any afternoon and evening in the square, one can watch schoolchildren playing, elders leisurely passing the time of day, and a young man plucking a tune on his guitar under the admiring gaze of his girl.
An attractive town with cobblestone streets, Copán Ruinas has an appealing locale amidst the green hills of the Río Copán valley.
Copán Ruinas was originally a small village, an outlying settlement of the larger Santa Rita , before archaeology and tourism improved its fortunes and made it the largest town in the Valle de Copán. It has become the commercial center for the region, and these days is expanding to annex the neighboring town of Ostuman.
Much of the agricultural land in the Valle de Copán was dedicated to tobacco since colonial times. For many years Copán tobacco was famed through the Americas and well known in Europe. In the 1960s, other strains were introduced to the valley, and pests brought in by the foreign varieties quickly wiped out the Copán plant; tobacco is no longer grown in the region, but coffee plantations  have taken up where tobacco left off, with shade-grown varieties becoming an important revenue source for the region.
The annual festival honoring the patron saint of Copán Ruinas, San José, takes place the week running up to March 19. Growing in name is the annual Conference on Honduras, a forum for national and international NGOs working in Honduras , in which a few hundred people descend onto the town and its hotels to exchange ideas and lessons learned. This takes place in early October—check www.projecthonduras.com  for the exact date each year—and be sure to make hotel reservations in advance if your visit coincides.
Copán Ruinas has a few tourist police around town, in their distinctive uniforms, who are always ready to help out with directions, advice, and help in the event of an emergency.
A good website for information about the town and surrounding area is www.copanhonduras.org . Most hotels have a webpage on the site, including several of the smaller hotels that don’t have their own sites, and they can be contacted via this site.
The best way to get to and from Copán Ruinas is by bus. The nearest airport is in San Pedro Sula  and Hedman Alas (tel. 504/651-4037, www.hedmanalas.com , US$13.50) has four daily buses (five Sun.–Mon.) between San Pedro Sula and Copán Ruinas, as well as connections to Tegucigalpa  or La Ceiba  for US$21.50 and Guatemala City (US$35, four hours) or Antigua Guatemala (US$41, five hours).
Casasola Express (tel. 504/651-4078, US$6) runs buses between San Pedro Sula and Copán Ruinas three times daily, with connections to La Ceiba , Trujillo , Omoa , Puerto Cortés , Tela , and Tegucigalpa .