La Ceiba, on Honduras' Caribbean coast 120 mi/195 km north of Tegucigalpa, has lots of discos, a large shopping center and some excellent beaches nearby. There's a good selection of accommodations, including several new beach resorts.
The Hondurans have a saying: "Tegucigalpa (seat of government and site of universities) is where we think, San Pedro Sula (the industrial center) is where we make money, and La Ceiba is where we play."
The town is also becoming something of an eco- and adventure-tourism center. Outfitters run white-water trips on the Rio Congrejal, where rafters can experience class II, III and IV rapids. There are also boat tours through the coastal Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge, west of La Ceiba. Among the wildlife in the refuge are wading birds, manatees, howler monkeys and Blue Morpho butterflies. Access to the park itself is by burra—small carts pushed along the old fruit company rail line by local boys.
La Ceiba is set at the foot of impressive Pico Bonito Mountain, which is now part of Pico Bonito National Park, the country's largest and a good place to do some strenuous hiking through a cloud-forest environment. It's home to some rare and endangered species, including quetzals, tapirs, jaguars and pumas (though they're not easily seen). Waterfalls are found in the park and are most impressive in the rainy season. The park is also a bird-watcher's paradise—some 285 species have been identified in the area.
The lodge at Pico Bonito is a luxury ecotourism facility set on the edge of the park. A large butterfly farm is part of the lodge, with a "flight cage" where visitors may walk among many species of free-flying butterflies and observe all stages of their life cycle.
The lovely Cacao Lagoon, 16 mi/25 km east of La Ceiba, is surrounded by mangroves that are home to several troops of howler and white-face monkeys. To see it, you must go as part of a tour, and many of them also offer the opportunity to explore nearby working cocoa and sugarcane plantations. There are interesting Garifuna villages in the La Ceiba area, most notably Sambo Creek, which has a lovely hotel and good restaurants.
Those interested in touring the northeastern Mosquito Coast, better known as La Mosquitia, may want to use La Ceiba as a base of operations. Several tour companies in town offer excursions into the region. La Ceiba's carnival takes place the third week in May and is among the most colorful in the country, attracting participants and spectators from throughout Central America, the Caribbean and North America.
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