Holy Week, also known as “Semana Santa”, is a big deal here in Honduras. Every year the week before Easter the schools close down and everyone goes on spring break. This is a great chance for us as volunteers to explore Honduras and see a small piece of what this amazing country has to offer. Semana Santa is one of the busiest travel weeks during the year so it is important to book everything as early as possible in order to get the best options. That being said, I have found it pretty typical for most Honduras to fly by the seat of their pants so even though we only booked one of our lodging options before hand, everything still ended up working out.
The first place that we went was Lago Yojoa. It is located in central Honduras and it is the biggest lake in the country. We left the first Saturday of spring break early in the morning. After 4 different buses and 10 hours later we finally arrived where we were planning on staying at the lake. Our hotel was called D&D brewery and Lodge. The accommodations were great and really affordable. The hotel itself and the staff that works there create a really laid back and friendly atmosphere. They have a pool, a restaurant and bar with affordable food, and an entire wall of activities that one can do at the lake and around it. We could have stayed there for a week and still not have seen all of the natural wonders and attractions that are located on the lake and close by. Since we were only there for a few days we decided to go on the waterfall hike the first morning, check out the lake and do some swimming and cliff jumping that afternoon, and visit and get a tour of the biggest waterfall in Honduras the second day. Everything was easy to get to and the staff is really helpful as you plan your activities for your stay.
Even though I would not have minded getting stranded at Lago Yojoa or Tela (where we were headed next) for a few days, we took the revised Semana Santa bus schedules into consideration when we were planning so that we didn’t get stranded. Buses don’t run on Thursday and Friday of Semana Santa due to religious holidays, and getting a bus on Easter, or the Monday after is nearly impossible because they are so full with vacationers returning home. We took the bus from Lago Yojoa to Tela on Tuesday. This time it only took us two buses and the last one dropped us off just outside the city center in Tela. We did not have a hotel booked here, so the first night we stayed at the first place we came across. They were going to raise the price the second night, so we called around the next day and found a guy renting an air b&b place that worked perfectly for us. The best part was that it was about 5 times cheaper than any hotel would have been that weekend.
Tela is a beach town in the north of Honduras. Most of the year it is a pretty quiet town, but during Semana Santa it turns into a spring break like destination. People pack the beaches and the nightlife goes from a few bars, to a party on the beach. We spent most of our time on the beach while we were here swimming, relaxing, and playing beach volleyball. One of the days we hired a guide and did a tour of the national part located on the other side of Tela Bay called Punta Sal. Punta Sal is a peninsula and you must arrive by boat. Our guide (Miguel) had his own boat and driver so we were dropped off on one of the beaches and were able to hike a bit throughout the peninsula as Miguel shared his knowledge of the jungle flora and fauna. We even saw some howler monkeys! We explored two different bays, and hiked to another beach where the driver picked us up and drove us around the peninsula to a sandy beach on the other side. The park itself is gorgeous and as the boat takes you along the peninsula you feel like you are discovering this land for the first time it is so incredibly wild. The water around the peninsula is aqua blue and although it isn’t crystal clear the visibility is some of the best that you can get along the Caribbean coast in Honduras.
The other excursion that we went on while in Tela was to one of the Garifuna villages outside of Tela. This was a cool experience as we stumbled upon one of their Semana Santa beach parties where the locals dance, sing, sell great food, and are as friendly as can be. Most of the evenings in Tela we went over the bridge to the street fair that is set up on the other side. Over here you can find a carnival, rides, lots of delicious food and drinks, dancing, and even concerts. One night we came across a Honduran boy band that put on a show equal or better than the backstreet boys. The best part was the popular reggaeton hits that they performed to choreographed steps as they sang their hearts out.
We were considering trying to fit another destination into our Semana Santa schedule, but I was glad that we decided to spend more time at Lake Yojoa and Tela. These are two places that I would definitely return to in the future. One of the best parts about traveling to these places though was that I felt like I was among locals the entire time. Besides the hotel in Lake Yojoa, we were some of the only tourists at the places and attractions that we visited. I really felt that I got to experience what Honduras is actually like for a Honduran vacationing during Semana Santa.