As we skidded around a turn in a TucTuc, I remembered something I'd read in a guidebook: the leading cause of death for tourists in Honduras is vehicle accidents. I envisioned our TucTuc skidding on the gravel and tipping over, and myself falling out and hitting the road with a sharp smack. Fortunately, that didn't happen.
Miraela, our pretty Hunduran TucTuc driver, at the wheel. Photo by Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin
TucTucs — eco-friendly, three-wheeled scooters with metal frames and canvas tops — are the best and scariest way to get around Copán. The young drivers distinguish their vehicles by decking them out with stickers. We had been intrigued by the TucTucs since we arrived in Copán Ruinas, so we crowded into them, knee to knee on the short benches. Miraela, our pretty Honduran driver, swerved to avoid potholes, and I held onto the frame and hoped I wouldn't fall out.
The TucTuc sputtered as it struggled uphill and sped on the downhills. I feared we would hit a child or crash into one of the larger SUVs or trucks coming the opposite way. Clouds of dust filled our eyes. Children shouted to Miraela from the side of the road and she honked to them and other TucTuc drivers.
Wventually, we arrived at our destination. Miraela stood next to her scooter, her neon orange and yellow mesh vest hanging off her shoulder and a smug grin of accomplishment on her face, as if she knew we would make it all along.
Macaws were considered sacred by the ancient Mayans. Today these brightly colored birds are endangered, but here in Copán Ruinas, they have a safe haven.
Trinea Crafton provides a welcome perch for several local residents. Photo by Christine Bedenis
Macaw Mountain Bird Park & Nature Reserve is a sanctuary for macaws, amazons, toucans, hawks, owls and other birds rescued from the pet trade. They are sheltered in large, outdoor cages nestled within the park’s foliage. “A lot of these birds, especially the macaw, are awful pets,” says Mike Valladares, a guide at Macaw Mountain. “They are loud birds that can eat furniture and can sometimes be aggressive.”
Macaw Mountain, which opened in 2003, sits on nine acres of pristine, old-growth forest. A trail winds through the indio desnudu, Spanish cedar and fig trees. Along the sides of the trails, blue morpho butterflies flutter in tropical flowers and coffee plants. Sales of the locally grown coffee beans help support the refuge, and the smell of roasting arabica beans scents the air.
In the interaction area, visitors can come face to beak with the park’s gentler residents. Admission is $10. For more information, visit www.macawmountain.com or call 011-504-651-4245.
If you go
American Airlines, Continental, Delta, United and TACA fly from Chicago to San Pedro Sula with one stop. Fares (including taxes/fuel surcharges) for winter/spring travel begin at $546. The truly adventurous can take advantage of Aeromexico’s 22-hour flight (including one long layover) for $469.
Bus service to and from San Pedro Sula is available from Hedman Alas (011-504-651-4037) and Transportes Casasola (011-504-651-4078) for about $15 each way per person.
All our transportation was arranged by Michael Gray of Uncommon Adventures, who offers “Reefs, Rainforests and Ruins” trips as well as custom excursions in Honduras. www.uncommonadv.com; 866-882-5525.
Where to stay
Copán Ruinas offers accommodations ranging from top-flight to frugal, and all are surprisingly affordable.
Here are three that cover the full range:
Marina Copán: 877-893-9131;www.hotelmarinacopan.com. The oldest and most prestigious hotel in Copán Ruinas fuses Western comfort with Honduran style. Tropical plants grace the hallways; an exotic cannonball tree commands a courtyard. The fourth-floor terrace overlooks the parque central and provides a view of the town’s burnt-sienna tiled roofs. Doña Marina Beillamil de Welchez, the hotel’s 89-year-old founder, still lives on the ground floor; the Welchez family founded the Mayatan Bilingual School and sponsors the children of employees to attend it. Rooms start at $80; the presidential suite (recently occupied by Richard Gere) goes for only $250. – – – Kristen Radtke
La Casa de Café: 011-504-651-46-20; www.casadecafecopan.com. This 10-room bed-and-breakfast features hot-water baths and a lush tropical garden overlooking the Copán River Valley. Breakfasts feature locally grown coffee, fried plantains and Nutella-covered crepes. Rooms start at $35 singles/$45 doubles. – – – Megan Ferringer
Iguana Azul: 011-504-651-46-20; www.iguanaazulcopan.com. Low budget goes a long way in this backpacker’s paradise located only a few blocks from the town’s center. A spacious common room connects five bedrooms: three private, two dorm-style. A back patio leads to bathroom stalls and hot showers. Dorm rooms start at $4 and private rooms at $8. – – – Megan Ferringer=
Copán Ruinas Chamber of Commerce offers information and links. www.copanhonduras .org.
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