La Ceiba, Honduras

Canjet Flight Vancouver to Honduras

I have to say I am not a fan of getting up early in the morning for a 6am flight but staying at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel made that somewhat bearable. The 4:10 am wakeup call came way too soon but I managed to get up and drag my things downstairs to the Canjet check in counter located in the Vancouver Airport International Terminal.

The Conquest Vacations chartered flight from Vancouver to Honduras is the only direct flight to this Central American country in 2009. It is a new emerging destination and so flights from Vancouver stop in Calgary on their way to La Ceiba, Honduras.

The Canjet check-in staff were friendly and helpful. With only 24 people boarding in Vancouver (and 120 in Calgary) the boarding process was quick and easy. The aircraft however had seats that were about as close as I have seen on any aircraft. If you can, try to get an exit row or bulkhead seat and you will be a bit more comfortable. While a long haul trip may be a bit uncomfortable the 1 hour flight to Calgary and the 5.5 hour flight on to Honduras was manageable and ok considering not every seat was occupied.

One thing I have found from experience is that a friendly airline staff member can go a long ways to making a great impression of an airline. This was definitely the case with the Canjet staff on our flight. They went out of their way to make us feel comfortable and to take the time to talk to us in regards to our baby who was flying with my wife and I.

The trip to La Ceiba went by uneventfully except for having to take a second try at landing at the small airport. The pilot explained that a small aircraft was on the runway and so we took a scenic loop around the city and took a rough landing the second time around.

Getting into Honduras

One thing I do have to say about the Honduras Passport control is that you need to have a lot of patience. Our flight had 145 people and only 50 at a time would fit in the room when passports are stamped and luggage is picked up. Also there seems to be little care to process people who are anxious for their vacation quickly (not to mention we had to fill out a customs form and tourist visa form that were virtually identical). As a result, the process of checking in the 145 people that were on our flight took about 1 hour. The passengers heading home for Canada were boarded before we even had our passports stamped and they were in the air heading home by the time we got our bags to the bus that was taking us to our resort for the week.

In Central America there is a different pace to life and so you must remember, the moment you step off of the airplane get ready to relax and don’t expect to be in a hurry to get anywhere.

Outside our bus at the airport the “Hotel Palma Real” staff checked us into the hotel and provided each person with an envelope containing a hotel map, list of activities, their room key, towel cards and TV remote control. The ride to the hotel took about 45 minutes and gave us a quick glimpse at the life of a typical Honduran citizen as we drove by gated communities and the occasional tin roof shacks. The people seem to have a very simple lifestyle.

Hotel Palma Real

This 3.5 star resort is spacious and simple. It has all of the basic resort amenities that are expected in an all-inclusive resort with the only difference being that it is located in an area not massively developed for tourism. The hotel is clean and has a fun atmosphere with a small selection of buffet dinner meal choices. It is an excellent place to stay for families and individuals who want to feel safe and secure in a clean environment.

Across the street from the hotel are the Palma Real Villas which are vacation homes that come equipped with a kitchen, dining area, living room, bathroom and two bedrooms. They are clean, comfortable and perhaps considered elegant according to Honduras standards. While the kitchen is not really needed if eating at the all-inclusive resort across the street, they do have the convenience of being able to store a few midnight snacks and bedroom treats.

As Honduras is not developed for tourism so keep expectations low and you will not be disappointed with the simple pace of life. When it poured down with rain there was a leak in our closet while one of our fellow travelers had a puddle on their floor. When requesting something from staff be prepared to be directed in the right direction as opposed to having the request delivered to you. Meals can be repetitive and the cooks at the resort are definitely not master chefs. Meals are created from basic ingredients and the result are simple yet healthy choices.

Activities Near La Ceiba
Honduras is not developed for vacation tourism. As a result it offers a unique experience in a country where every tourist dollar spent is appreciated. The most popular type of tourism in Honduras is eco-tourism on the west coast. There are the rain forests of the Pico Bonito (Cloud Forest) which is the largest wildlife protected area in Honduras. Here you can explore hiking trails, panoramic view observation towers, swim by the La Sirena waterfall, visit the butterfly farm and the serpent sanctuary.

Touring the city of La Ceiba enabled us to get a general look into this unique city. It is the third largest city in the country and although we were told it is better off than most cities due to eco-tourism, poverty is quite obvious. With minimum wage being under $200 per year and high unemployment, the need for security is obvious as armed security guards protect banks and many other types of stores. Our first stop was the old dock which was decimated along with much of the city by Hurricane Mitch in 1988. The dock which used to be the export point for Standard Food (Dole) pineapples, Chiquita Bananas and other produce was never rebuilt. Today this structure with its rail lines out to the edge of the pier is only used by local fishermen who try their patience at fishing for their dinner. Our next stop was a park dedicated to Standard Food who still is an important employer in the region. After seeing a few of their old trains that used to transport workers in the area, we went to the park in the downtown area of the city that has been fixed up with the help of the Rotary organization. From the park one can catch a great view of the city’s third oldest building from 1908, that of the Catholic Church. Before heading home we were brought to a souvenir shop rather than the market we were promised. Although prices seemed reasonable and were negotiable, it was obvious this shop was one of the places that paid the tour guide for the business they delivered. I think we would have had better luck negotiating with the men hawking hammocks in the downtown park.

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