La Ceiba, the Tree to Heaven
La Ceiba is the third largest, and perhaps the most vibrant, of all of the cities in Honduras. It earned its name because of a gigantic Ceiba tree that stood sentinel along the beach and offered shade to both workers and locals in the hot afternoon sun. According to Garifuna legend, this Ceiba tree was the ladder God used to descend from the Heavens to the Earth. Today, the city has a population of over 200,000 and has one of the highest literacy rates in all of the country. It is the administrative hub for the Standard Fruit Company, producers of bananas, pineapples, and grapefruit, and is well on its way to becoming the Ecotourism Capital of Central America. With plenty of parks, wildlife refuges, pristine rivers and falls, as well as two Garifuna villages, you’ll find plenty of excitement and adventure during your stay.
Ecotourism in La Ceiba
The days of tourism revolving around urban sprawl and fast paced amusement parks have begun to make their way into a more socially responsible form of travel known as ecotourism. And with the many parks, reserves and natural attractions available within a short distance of La Ceiba, it’s no great wonder that so many people have begun making their way to the city to explore the natural world and beauty that surround it. Two of the most popular destinations are the Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge and the Pico Bonito National Park. These two national parks are fighting on the front line in the war against deforestation and the destruction of other national resources. And the only way that they can hope to win is with the help and support of those who visit the area.
- Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge: Cuero y Salado lies in the land triangle formed by the Cuero and the Salado rivers, and is home to over 35 different animal species. You’ll find manatees, jaguars, white face monkeys, alligators and more, as well as over 200 different species of birds. The nearby Pico Bonito Park is even more amazing, with the most diverse national park in all of Honduras.
- Pico Bonito National Park: With altitudes as high as 7300 feet (2,200 m), you can find just about any forest environment there is, from cloud forests, to tropical rain forests to simple and beautiful “dry” forests. Within the borders of the park, you’ll find hundreds of different animal and plant species, as well as an escape from the modern, commercialized world that threatens to overrun even the most pristine natural environments.
Wash Your Troubles Away
If you’re looking for beauty, serenity and peace of mind, another great place to search for them lay within the amazing, crystal clear beauty of the regions many lakes, rivers and waterfalls. The nearby Zacate River offers myriad opportunities to bathe beneath waterfalls, explore the depths of glassy pools and to simply immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature. Or, if you’re looking for a little more excitement, you might wish to head over to the Cangrejal River, renowned for its amazing white water rapids. Along this river, you’ll find Class 2, 3, and 4 rapids, set within majestic mountain landscapes and on the fringe of the wild and beautiful tropical jungle. Your tour of the river will culminate in the wild and powerful El Bejuco waterfall.
Cultural Diversity in La Ceiba
The trend of ecotourism has also led to a greater understanding and appreciation for Honduras’ indigenous people. As a part of the journey, many visitors will enroll in one of the cities three major Spanish schools to learn the language and open themselves to more of the stories, legends and people La Ceiba holds. And one of these people is the Garifuna. The Garifuna are also known as the Black Caribs, and are the descendants of a local Indian tribe and Black African slaves. Their villages still thrive today, hundreds of years later, for the most part largely unchanged. La Ceiba is home to two Garifuna villages, Sambo Creek and Corozal, and the people you’ll meet are warm, friendly and colorful. The villages are alive with the distinct rhythm of the Garifuna music, their Punta dances and their delicious food and drinks. And no matter how different you may be from the Garifuna people, they’ll always strive to make you feel right at home.
Viva La Ceiba
As you explore the inner and outer regions of Honduras, your stay in La Ceiba will shine like a treasured jewel, rich with memories and fresh new experiences. As the area continues to grow, and more and more people are attracted to the wild and primitive beauty, it’s important that tourism is not allowed to encroach upon this carefully guarded treasure. Many new hotels and resorts are springing up to accommodate these new explorers, and there is a fear that much of what is treasured in La Ceiba could be swallowed up my modernity. So, as you set out to discover this great national treasure, be sure to do your part to ensure that La Ceiba will continue to thrive, and that the local people will survive.