Honduras set to welcome back tourists

01/31/2010 12:00 AM

02/01/2010 6:47 AM

If you're the kind of person who follows political events in Latin America, you're of course aware of the beating that poor little Honduras (a tiny nation of Central America) endured through most of the second half of 2009. Its popular president (Manuel Zelaya) ousted by a military coup; the political uproar that followed; the economy and tourism falling off a cliff; a later attempted intervention by the U.N. and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Zelaya's effort to regain his office; the cessation of protests by Zelaya's political party; new elections and finally, the Jan. 27 inauguration of the new President Porfirio Lobo.

Our State Department has now canceled the warnings it earlier issued against travel to Honduras; air flights and cruise ship visits have resumed; and all the conventional commentators are claiming it's perfectly all right to plan return vacation visits, as do I. The conditions for bargain-price visits are excellent, as all the major resorts are offering rate reductions to restart the flow of tourism.

That tourism consists of visits, primarily, to the island of Roatan (the big scuba-diving location, and with beaches); the island of Utila (second to Roatan in development, and with scuba diving and beaches); Copan (stunning Mayan ruins and a lovely colonial town); and La Ceiba, the port city on the northern coast, from which ferries go to Roatan and Utila. In Roatan, numerous resorts are offering big discounts (of which "four nights for the price of three" is a starting point — but you easily can negotiate better rates in the course of a phone call with the hotels that are eager for business) and the popular, all-inclusive Anthony's Key Resort's "second guest at 50 percent off" is also a good basis for further negotiation.

The hotels of Utila have always charged less than those on Roatan. And Utila offers the least expensive instruction in scuba diving of any tropical location; you'll pick up your certification, after a week of training, for a third of what you'd pay in other venues for the sport.

As for Copan, most hotels there currently are offering low-season rates of well under $100 for high-season stays in February and March, and other discounts start at 50 percent off.

You'll reach a listing of Honduras' main lodgings by consulting Honduras.com and www.letsgohonduras.com (the latter sponsored by the Institute for Honduras Tourism), or by phoning 800-410-9608. And you can book your flight and hotel through most of the major Caribbean tour operators such as BookIt.com or CheapCaribbean.com.

Bear in mind that Honduras usually will not offer the same level of creature comforts as you'd find in other tropical destinations, but the relatively undeveloped nature of the nation is one of its chief attractions for many adventuresome travelers.

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