Since we had such a great time in Cópan and such a terrible time in Utila, we left the island ahead of time and returned inland. It ended up working out well. We went horseback riding during the daytime, and we went out for pizza and beer at night.
It was a happy ending to our wayward Honduras trip.
View the Cópan gallery.
Had a bad experience in Utila. It was an especially bad experience because I went with such high expectations.
Utila is one of the Bay Islands. It’s in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of La Cieba, a lively city on the north coast of Honduras. It’s known as a good island for diving and partying.
We weren’t interested in either of those activities, but we wanted to visit an island and soak up a few days of Caribbean sunshine, breeze, and culture. The Bay Islands of Honduras were ideal. It was a toss-up between Utila and Roatan. We picked Utila solely on the basis of price.
Come to find out, the Caribbean sunshine, breeze, and culture we’d come in search of were not to be found. Rather, we were more or less confined to our hotel room for much our visit. It rained all the time — day and night, every day, all the time.
To make matters worse, we were stranded on the island until the end of the rain. For a few days straight, the sea was too rough for the ferry. The only other way off the island is by airplane, which is expensive.
First chance we had, we got on a ferry and left the rain-drenched island. Indeed, the sea was rough. I got seasick. It was a fitting end to an all-around bad experience in Utila.
View the Utila gallery.
For Julia’s final week in Guatemala, we took off on a trip to Honduras in search of the Caribbean Sea and some islands. Halfway from Antigua to the Bay Islands of Honduras is Cópan, which is just across the border.
Cópan is sort of like the Antigua and Flores of Honduras wrapped into one package. Like both of those Guatemalan cities, Cópan is small, colonial, inviting, and touristic. It accommodates students, backpackers, sightseers, and run-of-the-mill tourists alike. There’s also an impressive site of ruins and lots of adventure services.
We stayed in a hotel a couple blocks off central park and had a great experience. The hotel couldn’t have been more accommodating. We enjoyed the city, which while small is laden with shops and restaurants.
The ruins are only a half-hour walk out of town, and they make for a great day trip. Bring your sunscreen. Very sunny, and much hotter than Antigua and the highlands of Guatemala.
View the Cópan gallery.
Everyone climbs Pacaya. If you spend any time in Antigua, chances are you might find yourself hiking this volcano. Big groups of tourists go everyday — two times a day: in the morning and in the evening.
People climb Pacaya for good reason. Not only is it nearby (an hour’s drive from Antigua) and cheap (around $6); it’s also stunning to witness first-hand an active volcano spewing out lava nonstop.
The climb isn’t especially difficult, though it’s still plenty challenging. The rocks are very sharp and sometimes lava-hot here — it’s all quite dangerous, actually, notwithstanding the mobs of tourists and minimal supervision.
The view from atop is reward enough. The other volcanoes in the region — the volcanoes seen from Antigua — are lined up beautifully amid the clouds. And if you go on the evening hike, you get to take in the sunset and the lights of Guatemala City, which shimmer in the dark.
View the Pacaya gallery.
Todos Santos was a low point. I went there on a whim — as I’d originally planned on going to either Nebaj or Xela — and ended up having a terrible time. It was cold and foggy, it was in the middle of nowhere, and worst of all, I suffered a crippling sickness there. Bad food? The altitude perhaps?
In any event, I didn’t do any of the hiking as planned. I was too sick to hike.
My bad experience aside, Todos Santos is an interesting place well off the tourist trail. The trip there takes you through Huehuetenango, an uninviting transportation hub — a mess of a city that’s the last stop before the Mexican border — and then, best of all, takes you straight up the side of a giant plateau in the Cuchumatanes sierra.
The scenery is often breathtaking from this point onward, and while the road to Todos Santos is slow and bumpy, it’s captivating. For me, it was the best part of Todos Santos — the ride in and out, up and down the mountainside, with sheets of clouds and far-off volcano peaks in full view.
View the Todos Santos gallery.
There’s a good hike here up to a waterfall overlooking the lake and the volcanoes. The monkeys are also wonderful; the butterflies not so much. The reserve is a quick tuk-tuk ride out of town.
Worthwhile afternoon visit. Bring a banana for the monkeys.
View the Reserva Natural Atitlán gallery.
Third-time visit to Lago de Atitlán. Went horseback riding this time. Stayed at Zoola in San Pedro and Mario’s Rooms in Panajachel, both recommended.
View the Lago de Atitlán gallery.