Central America has been making quite a splash lately, especially after it was confirmed last year the region has officially surpassed Europe in backpacking travel trends.
All countries in the isthmus that separates North from South are experiencing a surge in bookings, but one in particular is breaking records, having not only recovered from the crisis-led slump, but even surpassed 2019 figures.
In 2023, tourists have rediscovered and fallen in love again with Honduras, but what’s so special about this tiny nation that has them so enthralled?
Honduras Is Breaking Tourism Records
Honduras is by no means the most notorious nation in the Central American isthmus nor America’s go-to sunny getaway.
Historically overshadowed by the much more popular hub of Costa Rica and the beach hotspot of Belize, it only achieved moderate fame in recent years as interest in off-path destinations grew. Now, it is one of the fastest-recovering countries in the subgroup.
Bordered to the west by Guatemala, southwest by El Salvador, and southeast by Nicaragua, while being bounded to the south by the Pacific and north by an inlet of the Caribbean Sea, it is an overlooked gem home to an abundant, verdant nature, and a fascinating ancient culture.
After two years of limited tourism, while the likes of Mexico and the Dominican Republic, two of the biggest competitors in the Caribbean, monopolized revenue, Honduras is back to hosting 1.2 million annual visitors.
These figures are historical for Honduras, traditionally a small destination, and it already represents a 17 percent growth over 2019, the pre-pandemic reference year.
Interestingly, Americans make up a majority of foreign visitors to Honduras.
This year, they account for nearly half of all arrivals (48 percent), including both flight and cruise passengers, but you may be wondering why U.S. visitors are suddenly flocking into Honduras.
Why Is Honduras So Trendy Right Now?
Honduras is best known for its natural landmarks, comprising cloud forests, two pristine coastlines, and the largest rainforest north of the Amazon.
Needless to say, tourists flying to the country are mostly looking for an escape into nature, and there is no shortage of wonders to explore, from the coral reef dive sites in Roatan, a paradisaical island 65 km off the north Honduras coast, surrounded by the Caribbean, to the jungle and its lost cities.
Roatan is easily Honduras’ number one tourist attraction, as it is filled with resorts and boutique hotels offering peace and tranquility, and easy beach access.
In fact, it is now the third trendiest winter sun destination for Americans.
An Affordable Caribbean Getaway
The luxurious Paradise Beach Hotel, straddling the West Bay, has overnight rates as cheap as $184 this winter. If you’re on a budget, you can still find great getaway deals starting from $44 at local guesthouses, such as Lotos House, or the Roatan B&B Apartments.
Utila is yet another quaint island in the Caribbean provinces surrounded by reefs, where marine life enthusiasts can swim with sharks, visit an iguana research center, and even go partying in East Harbour, a trendy nightlife zone.
On the mainland, it’s all about Honduras’ colonial heritage and pre-Columbian culture.
One of the country’s largest cities, San Pedro Sula is a colonial gem concentrating several of Honduras’ most iconic Spanish-era monuments and museums, including the St. Peter the Apostle Cathedral and the Sampedrano Cultural Center.
This year, Colombian flag carrier Avianca launched nonstop flights from New York-JFK to San Pedro Sula, making it easier for U.S. visitors to reach this lesser-known Latin American destination.
Tegucigalpa, on the other hand, is Honduras’ national capital and a bustling financial center dominated by skyscrapers and business districts.
It is far from being the country’s most-visited, but it is a vibrant city break combining both colonial and modern architecture.
Las Dolores Church, an icon of the capital skyline, was built as early as 1735.
Ancient Mayan Ruins
Additionally, a little-known fact about Honduras is that it belongs to the wider Mayan World, as back then, the concept of borders was nonexistent in Central America.
The Mayans roamed the isthmus and the Yucatan Peninsula in modern-day Mexico freely, establishing trading ports and highly-developed cities as their power as a civilization grew.
One of them is Copan, which now lies mostly in ruins within Honduran territory and a UNESCO World Heritage Site considered to be of utmost importance to our understanding of the Mayans and their ancient ways.
Copan was only excavated in the 19th century, but it was founded as early as the 5th century, making it one of the oldest Mayan settlements.
Overall, Honduras is also quite affordable to visit, with travelers being expected to set aside $57 for daily expenses during their trip.
As the economic crisis deepens, it’s no wonder Americans are now picking Honduras, where their tourist dollars stretch further, and beaches are just as beautiful as other Pacific and Caribbean spots.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com