La Ceiba, the third-largest city in Honduras and the capital of the department of Atlántida, is named after a huge Ceiba tree on the coast that was once a community-meeting place. Recently, the city has become known as the country’s ecotourism headquarters. The city itself, established only a little more than a hundred years ago, is sort of thrown together and dirty, its beaches are polluted, and it doesn’t hold much of interest to passing tourists.
It works best as a base to explore the countless remarkable attractions that are within a short drive, such as Class IV whitewater rapids, hiking trails through several stunning national parks, a wildlife refuge with caimans and manatees, vast empty beaches, sprawling pineapple plantations, and much more. Let’s not leave out that the city is the jumping-off point for the Bay Islands, by both ferry and plane, and the Cayos Cochinos. Whether you like the gritty town or not, you must come through La Ceiba if you want to experience the finest natural wonders in Honduras.
While there is little to do in the city, apart from visiting the Butterfly Museum, La Ceiba’s coastal location and proximity to several national parks gives you plenty of options on how to spend your day. Besides the listings, refer to activities in Sambo Creek, Pico Bonito, and the Cayos Cochinos, which are all accessible on day trips.
The best place for a wide selection of handicrafts, including Garífuna dolls, Lenca pottery, tribal textiles and jewelry, and other assorted items from around the region and country, is the Rain Forest Souvenir shop. Alternatively, Souvenir El Buen Amigo sells a variety of handicrafts and regional items at their two locations. PiQ’ Art Gallery sells paintings from Honduran artists, as well as assorted crafts and furniture. The Mall Megaplaza is home to North American chain stores, fast food restaurants, a movie theater, an Internet cafe, and a few banks. Visiting this mall makes for a completely un-Honduran experience, but there is air conditioning. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s worth the effort to walk through La Ceiba‘s main rambling street market, where you’ll find plenty of mouthwatering fruits and vegetables on display. Be sure to wash any in purified water before eating them, though.
La Ceiba is known for its nightlife, though standards rise and fall. Several new clubs, almost all side-by-side on 1 Calle in the Zona Viva, have upped the quality of La Ceiba’s nightlife considerably. La Palapa, behind the Quinta Real, is popular with visitors and upscale Hondurans who want to eat and drink with a group of friends but don’t want to stand in a crowded disco. There’s occasionally live music. On the other side of the Quinta Real are a few, somewhat seedier, bars on the beachfront such as El Guapo and Snake Bar.