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This Lesser-Known Central American Country Is A Cheaper, Less Crowded Alternative To Costa Rica

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Costa Rica is the main entry point for Americans country-hopping in Central America.

Most famous for its abundant nature and stunning vistas, it is surely worth exploring, but the recent price surges and fast-paced development have begun to scare off crowd-wary, budget travelers.

Aerial View Of North Honduras, On The Caribbean Sea, Central America

Fortunately, the subcontinent is home to a number of other tropical spots that are not only just as incredible but yet to be tarnished by mass tourism or gentrification.

Interestingly, their lack of notoriety is mostly owed to poor promotion.

That is the case with Honduras, a lesser-known Central American country that is both cheaper and less crowded than Costa Rica:

Is This The Most Underrated Country In Central America?

Colorful Colonial Town In Valle De Angeles, Honduras, Central America

Honduras is of the least-crowded travel destinations in Central America, having hosted only 1.91 million tourists in 2022.

In comparison, Costa Rica has registered 2.3 million foreign guests, while El Salvador raced ahead with 2.5 million.

Despite the relatively weaker performance when paired with the competition, Honduras has achieved a 131.4% increase in tourism since 2021, as verified by the Honduran Institute of Tourism (IHT), indicating it is getting trendier every passing year.

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Honduran Flag Flying Over Tegucigalpa, The Capital City Of Honduras, Central America

It's already surpassed 2019 levels of tourism by 16.6%. With that being said, a majority of foreigners only visit Honduras as cruise passengers (49.4%).

The number of air arrivals trails behind, with foreign guests landing at airports comprising 25.3% of all tourists, also behind land border crossings (25.7%).

In a way, we could infer the number of tourists who travel to Honduras as a primary destination is remarkably low: only 480,166 people arrived by air in 2022, against 1.43 million who would be visiting border areas from neighboring countries, or cruising by the Honduran coast.

Coastal Development Zone In Roatan, An Island Off The North Coast Of Honduras, Central America

Taking these data into account, is Honduras indeed a day trip, or is it a seriously underrated, stand-alone Central American destination that deserves more of your attention?

Honduras Is An Incredibly Diverse Country

Honduras is one of Central America's most mysterious states, sharing borders with other gems like Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua while not being landlocked: its North opens up to the Gulf of Honduras, an inlet of the Caribbean Sea.

Mayan Ruins In Copan, An Ancient Mayan City State In Honduras, Central America

Like many of its neighbors, Honduras has a rich and diverse history dating back at least two millennia.

At the apex of the pre-Columbian civilizations, it was settled by the Ancient Mayans, who mastered the arts of trading and farming in the region.

Its relevance as a trading hub would be reinforced during the Spanish conquest when it sat at the busiest colonial routes linking settlements in both North and South America.

As part of the Mayan and Hispanic worlds, it is jam-packed with ancient ruins and colorful, European-style settlements.

Main Square In Copa, Honduras

Last year, Travel Off Path named it the fourth best country for visiting Mayan ruins in acknowledgment of the numerous archaeological parks and well-preserved temples and pyramids located within its national territory.

Despite having the largest expanse of Mayan monuments out of any Central American country, totaling over 4,000 complexes, only 26 are open for visitation.

This includes Copan, a Mayan city founded in the 5th century AD.

Ancient Mayan Pyramid In Copan, An Archaeological Zone In Honduras, Central America

Other than its ancient heritage, the Honduran landscape is complete with verdant hills (where Spanish-built cobblestone towns full of charms, such as Gracias and Yuscaran, are nestled), roaring waterfalls hidden by thick green foliage, and even white sand beaches bounded by turquoise waters.

Beaches Galore And Hugely Affordable

Straddling the isthmus linking the Pacific to the Caribbean seas, Honduras has an enviable 500 miles of coastline and a handful of resort islands replete with unspoiled swimming spots.

The top three offshore paradises are Roatán, Utila, and Guanaja.

Beach hut in Roatan Honduras

Sitting some 30 miles away from the North coast and belonging to the Bay Islands group, they boast some truly spectacular natural scenery, other than being a popular migration spot for exotic species of birds and sea mammals.

As the biggest island, Roatán is also the best developed, hosting several five-star boutique hotels and guesthouses, with overnight stays selling at competitive rates.

Its main attraction is the Roatán Barrier Reef, simply the second-largest coral reef in the world.

clear water at the beach

And the best thing about it is: Honduras is hugely affordable.

With a cost of living index estimated at 38.8 out of 100 by Numbeo, budget travelers will find it is one of the cheapest countries in Central America, with significantly lower prices for accommodation.

Costa Rica, on the other hand, has a living index of 48.8, the most expensive in the region. Although the infrastructure is inferior, and the political situation is not as stable, Honduras is still relatively safe for American tourists.

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Caution remains urged, particularly in major urban cities like the capital city of Tegucigalpa. Other than the Gracias a Dios Department, where travel is strongly discouraged due to the risk of crime and kidnapping, general safety advice applies:

  • Maintain a high level of situational awareness
  • Avoid walking alone in poorly-lit, non-touristy areas at night
  • Never attempt to physically resist robbery attempts
  • Be vigilant withdrawing cash from banks or ATMs
  • Do not display signs of wealth unnecessarily, including using expensive smartphones in public, or while stopped in traffic

Honduras Is Fully Open For Tourism

An American Traveler Holding Up A US American Passport Case As They Wait To Board An International Flight At The Airport

Honduras is open for tourism restriction-free. This means American citizens, and any other foreign visitors, are permitted entry without having to disclose their vaccination status nor undergo testing or health screening prior to flying.

Americans can remain in Honduras, and the wider Central America-4 Border Control Zone, for 3 months. This means they can travel around Honduras and onwards to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua without undergoing further passport control for 90 days.

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com

Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Sean

Wednesday 17th of May 2023

Having spent considerable time in every Central American country, and having enjoyed my experiences in all immensely, the very premise of this article is beyond laughable! Forget physical safety and the likely possibility of dysentery, for 95%+ of people, Costa Rica will offer a FAR more enjoyable cultural experience overall!

Jay

Thursday 4th of May 2023

Are you gonna recommend visiting Afghanistan and Somalia next? Honduras had a crime rate of 36 people per 100k inhabitants, Costa Ricas is 12. Ask any Honduran (the few that have stayed there) if they feel safe walking outside after 6:00 pm

jose cueva

Friday 12th of May 2023

@Jay, have you ever visit Honduras??? If not we are pleased to invite you, for then you may comment your experience.

Ivan

Monday 1st of May 2023

Then explain we why so many people from Honduras is fleeing their own country? Honduras is taken by a narco government, and you should know what that brings. There are no opportunities, no education. Every country with serious internal problems have something in common: their nature is pristine: why? Because nobody visit them!!! Your article is an insult to countries like Costa Rica, that has developed an strong sense of nature care, attractiving external investors (many big companies established their global support centers there), no army and well educated professionals...and you call yourself as "journalist" pffff

Dipti Nihalani

Thursday 4th of May 2023

@Luis, I don’t believe for people as I experienced that. And for the coral reef - try Belize

Luis

Wednesday 3rd of May 2023

@Ivan, wow, hurt much? Honduras has some of the best beaches in the world, the 2nd largest coral reaf, some of the prettiest colonial towns, their people are warm and welcoming and an incredibly diverse ecosystem. The narcogoverment you speak of was removed by the people in a democratic process with the highest participation in its history, the new left leaning government is taking action to correct all the years of stunted development by past corrupt administrations, and its Mayan heritage is something you can't find in overhyped, overpriced Costa Rica.

Noel

Tuesday 2nd of May 2023

@Ivan, I agree with what you write however do you find it commendable that they have no army? If they were to get invaded, who do you think would come to their aid? Isn’t it similar to the EU? They don’t spend money on their own defense because they rely on the American taxpayer to defend them just like the Costa Ricans do. I don’t find that commendable myself.

Christian

Sunday 30th of April 2023

I am impressed by how much El Salvador caught up in tourism surpassing Costa Rica. Honduras sure need to learn from El Salvador such as combating crimes and welcoming Bitcoins.

Sean

Wednesday 17th of May 2023

@Roberto, lol. Dude, that is crazier than Christian's comment. Where do you people come from?

Sean

Wednesday 17th of May 2023

@Christian, hahaha, you must be kidding! El Salvador surpassed Costa Rica in tourism? What color are the clouds in your world?

Roberto

Thursday 11th of May 2023

@Iamivan, El salvador is the safest central American country right now.i stayed there 3 months went out day and night.feel even safer then here In USA how bout that.beat it

Iamivan

Thursday 4th of May 2023

@Christian, the statistics for San Salvador are wrong and untrue. Check it out! Monopolizing airline “forces” travelers to stop over in this country (Avianca’s hub) increasing therefore the number of travelers “visiting” this country. Avianca was the only airline, conveniently allowed in neighboring Nicaragua. You are welcome to research. It’s easy…

Bodhi

Sunday 30th of April 2023

If it's such a nice destination why are so many Hondurans hauling @ss for the Rio Grande?