I’m grouping these two countries together because we didn’t spend long enough in either of them to justify an entire post. In reality, this post should probably be called ‘Roatán/El Tunco: Top Tips’ – so if you’re keen to find out a bit more about either of these locations then read away…
Where to stay:
Roatán Backpackers Hostel, Sandy Bay, Roatán, Honduras
$12 per person, per night (6-BED DORM)
6.5/10 – This hostel is really lovely – it has a pool, chill out terrace, fully-stocked kitchen, fans and reading lights by every bed and 2 adorable dogs running round. So why am I only rating it a 6? Well, there’s a few things: 1) The location is awful. It’s in the middle of nowhere and you’ll spend more money getting transport to and from West End every day that could be spent on food/drink/activities. 2) The owner. She’s a kind hearted lady but she doesn’t stop talking and there are so many rules and regulations, which makes staying there feel a bit like a chore. 3) It’s quite expensive in comparison to other hostels on the island. It’s one of the only options on hostelworld.com and TripAdvisor for Roatán but that’s because a lot of the other hostels choose not to advertise online and rely on walk-in guests – we moved from this hostel after 2 nights because we found a better deal in town.
Coconut Tree Divers Cabins, West End, Roatán, Honduras
$5 per person, per night (6-BED DORM)
7.5/10 – Located right by West End beach, the Coconut Tree cabins are owned by the diving company that goes by the same name. The dorms are not advertised online and are exclusively for travellers that complete a PADI scuba course or day dive with them! We stayed in a 6-bed dorm but we were the only guests there at the time, so it felt like a private room. There was no hot water in the showers but we didn’t mind too much seeing as the location was perfect and the staff were so accommodating. For $5 a night, who can complain?!
Hostel/Hotel Guacamayos, La Ceiba, Honduras
$10 per person, per night (PRIVATE ROOM)
4/10 or 7/10 – The hostel is pretty rubbish – located outside of the town centre, slow staff, tiny, dark rooms and no facilities other than a table and a refrigerator. The hotel, however, is a significant improvement – located in the centre of La Ceiba by restaurants and the beach, massive rooms, free drinking water and taxi services to the bus station. They both happen to be the same price so it’s a no brainer to choose the hotel. I think they may be getting rid of the hostel all together and the hotel was being renovated when we stayed, so perhaps in the future there will just be one Guacamayos to save confusion. If not then yeah, hotel over hostel… ALWAYS!
Papaya Lodge, El Tunco, El Salvador
$16 per person, per night (PRIVATE ROOM)
8.5/10 – We always like to ask what peoples favourite hostels are and Papaya Lodge was number 1 for so many people. I don’t think it entirely lived up to our expectations (we didn’t feel a spark or anything like in some of the other hostels we’ve stayed at) but I can certainly see why it’s so popular. The rooms are great, the beds are comfortable, there is a pool and a chill out zone with plenty of hammocks. The hostel is run by super-friendly locals who will drive you anywhere for just a few dollars (less than half the price of a taxi) and there is a delicious free breakfast every morning. The location is perfect – supermarkets, laundrettes, restaurants and the beach are all just a stones throw away and there’s always something going on at night. We enjoyed our stay here but, honestly, I wouldn’t say it was my favourite hostel ever. Perhaps it depends on when you visit – we visited in low season and it was fairly quiet. I’d be keen to stay again and see if my opinion changes!
• This is a general rule for anywhere really but try not to book your entire trip in advance. You need to be flexible on dates when you’re doing a multi-country tour because there might be places you enjoy more/less and you’ll pick up so many tips from other travellers that you’ll want to incorporate their recommendations. In terms of transport, many hostels will organise cheap shuttles to various locations or they will give you detailed up-to-date information about public transport – much better than paying for expensive coaches or flights through your travel agent back at home.
• El Salvador and Honduras are more dangerous than other Latin American countries – the statistics are proof of that – but this is no reason to avoid them completely. Just do your research, travel safe and stay in more ‘tourist-friendly’ towns if (like us) you don’t fancy venturing into the capital cities.
• Hedman Alas is the best bus company to use in Honduras – it’s super safe and super comfortable. Win, win! You can book tickets online through their website or at their offices in every city. They even do international bus services to Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
• The ferries to Utila/Roatán only run twice a day (around 9am in the morning and 4pm in the afternoon), so try and schedule your arrival at the port to coordinate with these times.
• In Roatán, there is accommodation available in most neighbourhoods but it’s much better to stay near West End or West Bay if possible. You’re close to all the activities and it means you can save money/time on transport
• We considered hiring a car in Roatán because the island is so big and there’s parts of it that can only be explored in a private vehicle. To do so, you need a valid drivers licence and about $30 per day for a basic vehicle. It may not seem like much money, but most places ask for a hefty sum of money to be left as a deposit and can sometimes have hidden terms and conditions. Our advice would be to rent a car near the airport with a trustworthy company. Also, if there are 5 of you it’ll be cheaper when you split the costs so if you’re in a group of 2/3, try to find some other travellers who are keen to rent with you.
• Honduran money is weird. It’s called Lempira and, once again, is a pretty impossible currency to get your head around. If you need cash whilst on the island of Roatán then you’ll have to go to Coxen Hole – many ATM’s in West End have been tampered with and there are quite a few cases of card fraud in Honduras generally. We asked the locals for advice and they recommended using ATM’s inside of supermarkets and banks because there are usually security guards making it harder for people to commit crimes.
• Scuba diving is a must in the Bay Islands. There are more scuba schools than you’ll be able to fathom, so just take a morning out to explore your options, speak to staff, enquire about prices and find the perfect deal for you.
• In Roatán, there are public buses, colectivos and taxis. All of the vehicles look very similar but will charge different prices for your journey, so clue up beforehand and know exactly what price you should be paying. If you show a hint of uncertainty then they will clock that you’re a tourist and will try to charge you more. Our hostel in Sandy Bay had tons of information about this kind of thing – super useful!
• Hire a board or take a surf lesson if you’re in El Tunco. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro there are waves for everyone and it’s one of the ‘must-surf’ places in the world! Seems silly to miss an opportunity like that… Lessons range from $10-$30 an hour depending on which school you ask. Private lessons are more expensive than group ones but they’re so worth it if you want to make drastic improvements in a short time frame.
• There are no cash points in El Tunco that accept foreign bank cards, so unless you’re somehow a client of an El Salvadorian bank then you’ll probably want to stock up on dollars before you go. If you find yourself in need of cash at any point, catch a taxi to La Libertad where there are plenty of bank ATM’s for you to choose from. A lot of shops and restaurants in El Tunco actually accept card payment though, so make sure to ask if this is an option!
• El Tunco and El Sunzal beaches are directly next to each other but there’s a massive body of water in between each beach. Unless you feel adventurous enough to cross this on foot (not recommended when the tide comes in!) then you’re probably better off taking transport out of the one town and into the other.
• There are no entrance/exit fees at the El Salvador border. If they ask you to pay then you’re likely part of a corrupt plan to skip a queue or avoid passport control…
FOOD YOU ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO TRY:
Baleadas (Honduras) – A tortilla filled with delicious toppings, folded in half and cooked. May sound like something you can make at home but it’s absolutely not. The Hondurans have a secret tortilla recipe that makes their baleadas taste better than any imposter baleadas made in other countries.
Pupusas (El Salvador) – A magic dough recipe created by the El Salvadorians, rolled out into circles filled with vegetables, meats, cheeses, sauces or whatever you so wish and cooked on a skillet. Mouth watering and very more-ish, I challenge you not to eat 10 of these in one sitting.
If you’d like to know more about the places mentioned in this post then click here: