Honduras South-West

PENA BLANCA (LAGO DE YOJOA)

Global Mark : 13.61

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Culture Tradition Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
 3 5 2 4 1 5 1 3 12.00

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
9 100% 78%(7) 100% 13 to 18 15.22


Description :
The cheapest place to experience the lake and its great surroundings

Comments : There is nothing to do in the rather unattractive village and that's good because the attractions are outside !

What to do ? Leave the main road / Walk the surroundings, among coffee & banana's plantations / Get up the mountains for amazing views / Splash in the lovely canal or in one of the three "balneario" (10mn toward north, 10mn interval between them) / Say "adios" to the locals (their way to say "hello") / Enjoy one of the nicest waterfall of Honduras : say waow, take a shower, go behind, see rainbows, swim in natural paradises / Spot huge butterflies & lizards / Imitate the locals : bike around ! / Watch birds : over 373 species in the area ! / In the future, visit the eco archaeological park of El Naranjo or the Park National Santa Barbara / In the present, walk the Park National Cerro Azul Meambar (info : PAG in Siguatepeque, tel 7732741) and, with luck, spot quetzal or monkeys / Explore the huge cave of Taulabe (20km South of lake, km140 on th highway to Tegucigalpa) : pathway and light during 400m, then the unknown ! Only 12km have been explored ! / If money, fish for black bass in the lake

What you may not like ? The village itself / The lack of good places to say / The locals answering you while not knowing / Being 3km away from the lake / The roosters & dogs, as usual / The traffic on the road / The dirty first balneario "El Nacimiento" (the second one looked better) / The sleepy path by the fall and lack of signs for the stairs / The cost to go behind the falls and the danger of going on your own / The early closing of the shops / The underdevelopment of the area in terms of tourism access and potential. No doubt that in the future, it could become one of the highlight of Honduras ! Visit while still quiet...

How long ? At least two nights !

Where to stay ? None of the following are really good nor recommendable (all rather basic and dirty) but the other alternatives are all expensive hotels by the lake. Rates are per rooms so you should manage to get a discount if alone :

  • Hotel Maranata / 60 or 150 w. shower, fan & TV / Go there for the brightest & most airy rooms and the garden / What you may not like : the price policy is confusing and it is rather noisy as by two roads, a rooster and a dog.
  • Hotelito Darwin, opp by the police station / 100 w. shower, fan & TV / Go there for the cheapest prices for fan & TV, the relative isolation from the road and the good mattress / What you may not like : the small rooms have no outside window so are dark and humid. 
  • Hotelito Don Felix, 200m north, before the petrol station, ask at the tienda / 60 w. shower but no fan / Go there for the cheapest prices / What you may not like : the rooms are empty and the setting a bit dirty.

Where to eat ? There are a few comedores and at least two restaurants : La Roca & Las Tejas. The latest, near Hotelito Don Felix, offers the best quality-price ratio with the meat dinner at L30. Even cheaper and as good, the tiny shop Selectos Reposteria (by the shop La Milagrosa) : L28. They also have good pastries for L6 and sometimes pizza for L12. Only problem : you usually need to dine before 6pm ! Double check their confusing schedules...

Change ? Banco de Occidente, by the bridge, do not handle any change ! Another bank can change dollars (not TC) but the rate was very bad at L14 per dollar. Come therefore with money !


A walk out of town ? The area by the road offers absolutely nothing of interest. Escape it as soon as possible ! An excellent walk is toward the tiny village of El Diez Ocho, 7km away. Take the road opp. Hotel Maranata and keep going. The scenery is lovely all the way. About 30mn later, you will reach the village of La Aguita Cortes. There, ask a local for the viewing point : small path inside two properties. Within 10mn up, you will find an amazing panorama up to the lake. Go down via coffee & banana's plantations by taking the longer path on the left. I did not have time to continue but there is supposed to be an even better viewing point at the furthest village : Mirador El Bagillal.

Half a day (or a day) at the waterfalls ? The Catarata de Pulhapanzak are the tallest (43m), most impressive and nicest falls of Honduras (actually, there may be a better one in Olancho). To reach them is easy : take a bus to the village of San Buenaventura (L5, 20mn, every hour or so) then walk for 15mn (turn right after the lovely cemetery and walled sport ground). The entrance fee jumped from L3 to L20 but nobody was there when I showed up at 7:40... If you show up too early and the gate is locked, you can also continue a bit in the village, cross the river (and some barbed wire) and follow it toward the park.
You have several ways to reach the waterfall. A tiny, sleepy and a bit dangerous path right by them or safe stairs all the way down, with some connections between them. There is also a wet path along the furious river up to the bottom of the falls. Take it if you did not get your shower ! And if you wish to take a bath, ask for a guide to take you behind the falls ! They may ask for US$20 but you should not pay more than L50 (or even L30). An excellent price already for the 30mn or so adventure. 
After spotting the falls from every possible viewpoints a couple of times, you may wish to explore the Rio Lindo. From near the bottom of the stairs, take the tiny path on the right to the countryside. You will walk along cows fields and will need to cross a few barbed wire but it is a fairly easy half an hour walk toward a suspended bridge. It will probably take you longer because there are a couple of paths on the left leading to different points by the wild river. Check them all and you will discover some lovely swimming spots ! Not all are however safe to swim in : be cautious with the strong current and falls ahead !
A safe (at least when I was there, maybe not in the rainy season) and great place to swim can be found after crossing the suspended bridge, on the left. You face some falls and try to swim against the current. Congratulations if you manage to progress by more than a meter ! If you don't and go backward, your feet should safely touch the bottom : it is not deep. 
If you are in a hurry but still wish to swim, you can of course do it safely in the park area, before the falls. Remains of temples built by the Lencas were also reported nearby but I did not spot them.
If you wish to visit while hearing birds songs, do it during weekday. Local people flock there during WE and this won't be such a natural experience at this time... 

 << Discover the surroundings attractions


The trip to San Pedro Sula : SSS then SS / Right then L&R / L5 then L15 / 20mn then 2 hours
After the nice 20mn ride, I found myself back at La Guama, on the main busy road. I had been told that there would be buses to San Pedro Sula every 30mn. My first mistake was to believe it : there are many more ! My second mistake was to get on the first bus that showed up : it was a very un-direct one !
I should have known that this was a bad move when the driver asked me for the money as soon as I stepped in. This guy was driving with one hand and holding the money with the other, giving regularly the change to his assistant who was collecting the money from the passengers. Obviously the guy was not trusting his partner...
So, being a non-direct bus, we stopped all the time and were overtaken by quite a few buses, including 'chickens'... We therefore arrived in busy La Ceiba a bit later than the announced time. The terminal for this company was 4 blocks south of the Cathedral, which was not too bad for the bus connection. 

See also the trip from La Esperanza