13 NOV 2018: The most meticulously planned trip can go off the rails when a flight delay, tour bus breakdown, or severe weather event occurs. For the travel agent or traveller it can be a nightmare or perhaps a blessing in disguise. On a trip last July to Honduras, organized by the Honduras Institute of Tourism, a national transportation strike and ensuing protests and road blockade made mincemeat of my itinerary. Did I stomp my feet and get angry or let my inner adventurous and “go with the flow” persona come out?  

On arrival at the airport in San Pedro Sula, fellow travel writer Aurelie and I were warmly greeted by two Honduran government tourism representatives, Jovani and Dilcia, and our driver Rene. They shared the news the first hotel and touring area planned was not possible due to the road blockades. Surprise! Initially frustrated we discussed things with Jovani the most senior. He asked for our input on what we wanted to do. Aurelie and I expressed our preferences: meet the locals, cultural experiences, visit Copan, treks and perhaps include a spa to satisfy my spa addiction.

It was a tall order especially since Jovani had to deal with limited budgets but more challenging was the revolving road blockades. Jovani, phone glued to his ear, made the impossible possible with itinerary changes hourly and daily. With his amazing efforts what resulted was an even more cultural and transformative travel experience.

HONDURAS PLAYING IT SAFE

Honduras, like any destination, has imperfections but that’s also its charm. Since my last visit six years ago I definitely noticed a change for the better this time when it comes to crime and safety. I never felt unsafe even when we were stopped by a protester blockade. Tourism is vital to the country’s economy and Honduras is making great strides in providing a safer environment for its citizens and visitors.

Wherever I went I was greeted with genuine hospitality including a visit to a fishing village on Roatan where the local Garifuna tribe impressed me with their dancing prowess. It was not reciprocal. I appreciated their restraint in not laughing too hard at my unorthodox dance moves.

One smart move our group made with the itinerary changes was visiting the colonial town of Copan and the world renowned Copan ruins. The fascinating ruins dating centuries are not only at the UNESCO site itself but throughout the surrounding countryside - new ruins are being found even today.

SPA TREK

There’s nothing like a road blockade to do wonders for your health and wellness. We stayed an extra unplanned day and night at The Lodge & Spa at Pico Bonito – a short 15-minute drive from Honduras’ third largest city, La Ceiba. Set in a lush tropical rainforest next to Pico Bonito National Park, this luxury 22-cabin eco-lodge embraces the beauty and elements of nature in its cuisine, architecture, activities and wellness philosophy while promoting environmentally friendly practices.

Joel, the resort’s expert guide, led our slow-moving group on a three-hour loop trail rainforest trek. Breathing heavily especially on the uphill parts, our reward was a refreshing dip in the natural spring and waterfall. I wanted to rip all my clothes off and go au naturale but wisely refrained as I didn’t want to scare off the group or the local wildlife! More than 420 bird species live here along with deer, spider monkeys and even the rare jaguar.

After putting my body through a vigorous hike and filling my lungs with natural spring wellness it was time for more sedentary wellness at Pico Bonito’s spa. Aurelie and I decided to take a comprehensive wellness retreat beginning with a Temazcal steam bath for 30 minutes while applying Honduran mud on our bodies. When in Honduras go Mayan!

After rinsing off we went into our own respective massage cabanas for a purifying facial and soothing 60-minute massage. Joane, my therapist, had a sweet and delicate look that belied the impressive strength in her skilled hands. The spa’s tropical rainforest setting immediately transferred me into a state of tranquility. Only distance calls of the wild from toucans and spider monkeys broke Mother Nature’s silence. Joane, started with a refreshing facial and infused my skin with rosemary, mint and cucumber. After each application of moisturizers, tonics and serums it seemed the aging process was temporarily delayed.

Joane continued her therapeutic touch with a soothing full body massage. Her smooth hands unfurled my body’s knots as the slight breeze flowing through the cabana slowly carried my stress away. She used a warm compress consisting of healing herbs, lemon, mint, basil and rosemary to combat the city toxins infiltrating my body.

The wellness ritual wasn’t over. Next stop – a comfy lounge chair sipping tea while Joane does due diligence on my hands and feet for the next hour. I felt sorry that she had to preside over my less than savoury cracked heels. Gratuities are optional but after how she made my body feel and feet radiant looking a huge tip was in order. Honduras you are welcome to heal this body anytime.

HONDURAS SPRINGS ETERNAL

Needing another fix of Honduras wellness, we spent one evening at Luna Jaguar Spa, located about an hour’s drive from Copan. Hot rocks massage was our spa menu order. The therapists here didn’t match the skills at Pico Bonito’s spa – they dropped the hot rocks a few times but still managed to wrestle out a few knots.

The thermal springs circuit here was our main focus. Various thermal springs scattered throughout a lush rainforest setting, each with a distinct design and different natural spring water temperature. Honduran and Mayan artwork and carvings line the trail and each spring. I could have spent days not hours there soaking in the healing waters.

Honduras, like many other Central American countries, is an undiscovered destination for most Canadians. Beach lovers may gravitate towards Roatan and surrounding islands and Canadian tour operators do offer packages there. But why not combine that with Honduran culture, adventure and spa/wellness. It will give you a more authentic Honduran experience.

Mother Nature has bestowed Honduras with many pristine national parks, wildlife and marine life and a diverse Honduran and Meso-American culture. Explore Honduras from all sides by discovering its cultural, natural and wellness side. Give Honduras a chance - you won’t regret it.

https://www.honduras.travel/en/

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Chris Ryall

An industry insider with strong, outspoken opinions that readers enjoy, whether they agree, or take issue with his point of view.

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