Honduras North

TELA

Global Mark : 12.03

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Culture Tradition Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
 3 4 2 3 2 3 3 3 11.50

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
18 78%(14) 56%(10) 83%(15) 5 to 16 12.56


Description :
A relaxed but busy little town by the sea, Garifuna' villages, a botanical garden and various other eco-attractions.

Comments : People coming for the beaches will be disappointed. The National Parks and villages around are more rewarding and possibly worth a short stay...

What to do ? Get a free map of town at Garifuna Tours, west of the Plaza / Walk the town and the beach during the day / Visit the small Garifuna Museum (at Mango Cafe, free) / Then head for a Garifuna village / Swim the ocean and play with the waves / See the largest collection (636 species) of Asian fruit plants in Meso America / Tour a national park : Punta Sal (snorkeling, hike & motor boat, L290) or Punta Izopo (kayaking, L254, probably the best adventure for the area) / If even more adventurous, head for a bar or disco at night / Stuff yourself with cakes or pan de coco

What you may not like ? Walk the town or beach during the night / All those horror stories / The nothing special beach (not too dirty however with clean water & small waves) / The busy & noisy beach during WE / The sexual harassment toward girls / The lack of street signs (it is ok, Tela is fairly small) / The mosquitoes / The drug salesmen / The few beggars / The lack of good & cheap guesthouses & comedores / The lack of smiles around / The cost of the botanical garden (L10, as the locals, would be a fair price !) / The cost of the adventures in the national parks / The disappointing Garifuna villages

How long ? Half an hour for the town. One or two days for the surroundings, maybe...

Where to stay ? There are quite a few cheap & acceptable places but none of them are very backpacker's oriented and therefore recommendable.

  • Atlantida, formerly Tia Carmen (9978440), 8C, e Av. NE / 100 p.p. w. shower, 150 p.p. w. TV / Free water / Go there for the nice clean rooms
  • La Posade Del Sol (4482111), west of the above / Sgl 60, w. shower 90(1) or 150(2) / Go there for the little garden, the ok rooms (particular first floor) and the good prices / What you may not like : the old couple is not too friendly & a bit suspicious and it is not spotless
  • Hotel Tela (4482150), 9 C., 4 Av NE / w. HW 150(1) or 250(2) / Go there for the large, clean and charming rooms in an old wooden house / What you may not like : the prices
  • Hotel Tivolis (4481540), west by Plaza / w. cold shower & cable TV 300(1 or 2) / Acceptable rooms, although a bit humid and smelly
  • Mar Azul (4482313), NE near the sea / w. shower 80(1), 100(2) or 150(3) / Go there for the big rooms in a tiny garden at good prices and the good location, 2mn away from the beach. What you may not like : it is a bit filthy and the atmosphere slightly less secured.
  • Hotel Playa, west of the above, before the bridge / w. shower 50(1) or 100(2), slightly better rooms 100(1) or 200(2) / Free water / Go there for the rock-bottom prices in a big room / What you may not like : it is old, a bit dirty, noisy and not too secured. 

Where to eat ? A lot of foreign-run restaurants and seafood places. Luces del Norte claims to have the best seafood in town (L90 for fish) but really did not have the best 'typical' dinner for L37 ! My other experience was also pretty bad... The L35 "Comida Buffet" of Servi Azul (S-E Plaza, near Kodak shop) could therefore prove a fair deal. For snacks however, it is a dream town, with a bakery at every corner ! 

Internet ? A few places but not too cheap at about L50 per hour. I saw an ad for a cheaper Ciber Cafe Satelital (L30 per hour) but could not find it on C. del Commercio.

Change ? Banco Atlantida or BGA change cash & TC at the good normal rate. A bit lower for plastic. For cash, the casa de cambio Telena SA (south of banco Atlantida) should however offer a better rate. 

The safety issue ? From the stories you hear, Tela definitively sounds like one of the most dangerous place in Central America ! Somebody even wrote once on the internet that people going to Tela had 99% "chance" of getting killed ! Rubbish of course ! Most foreigners I met were very well alive and enjoying themselves... Personally, I did not feel unsecured at all : the town is busy enough and the atmosphere relaxed. That is during day time ! Late at night, with the streets empty, that is a completely different matter ! Also, it is certainly not recommended to do any extensive walk on the beach (even during day time) on your own or with any valuable. Girls are particularly at risk and, unfortunately, not only with robberies...

A trip to a Garifuna village ? Triunfo de La Cruz is of easy access (15mn by bus, L6) and had been recommended to me. It was therefore a bigger disappointment : busy (it was Sunday), dirty, unwelcoming and unattractive with most of the coconuts cut down (a disease affected most of the coconuts on the coast) ! A real disaster ! Only the slightly bigger waves were nice. It is however one of the few village w. cheap accomodation (in addition to overpriced Caribbean Coral Inn, US$53 for Dbl + tax) : very basic cabanas w. shower for 40-50(1) or 60-80(2). Only for those in love with the Garifuna's atmosphere !

The village of La Ensenada, a bit before the above, is apparently more expensive with two grotty places reported costing L150 and one nice Italian place for L300. The beach is also dirty with no coconut trees...

Other villages (West of Tela) would be hopefully more attractive : Rio Tinto, Miami, Tornabe and San Juan. Miami, at the mouth of Laguna de Los Micos, is supposedly the most interesting as still completely built of thatched huts. There are however no direct transport : you need to take a bus to Tornabe and then one of the few pick-up to Miami. Recommended therefore to go in the morning. Buses to the villages leaves frequently from one block east of the market, except on Sunday when the offer is more limited. If you visit, please let me know...

A few hours at a Botanical Garden ? Jardin Botanico de Lancetilla (Mond to Frid 7:30am to 3pm, WE from 8am, $6 for foreigners, $3 for foreigners residents, L10 for locals) claims to be the second largest tropical botanical garden in the world. This is unlikely, except of course if including the 1281 hectares of unexplored and secondary wet forest. The nice arboretum is only 78 hectares (so you do not need a "whole day" as written in some guidebook but one hour or so) and its "Stones Trail" takes about 30mn to walk. The plantation ground is another 321 hectares but there aren't much to see except the charming bamboo forest and some nice Royal Palm trees. You could also venture into the (very) wet forest : from near the southern pool, cross the river and follow the canalizations for about 10mn. 
Whatever the size, it is certainly not the nicest nor best managed garden in the world : with the exception of the arboretum, it was rather dirty and messy, in particular by the pools. Having visited a few botanical garden in various countries, I did not really enjoy it. The mosquitoes however did : even with mosquito repellent, they were fiercely attacking ! 
As the few westerners that I met appreciated the setting, the garden can not be completely crossed out however. Your enjoyment will depend of your expectations and the quality of your mosquito lotion... The information center also host an interesting (but small) collection of various snakes (incl. coral), beetles, butterflies and fruits found in the park. 
Your ticket entitles you to a 45mn guided tour of the trail. Half a day walk into the biological reserve was also reported possible but they do not really advertise for it. They should however give you a map of the area, so that you can wander at ease. 
The garden is located 5km south of Tela : 2km on the road to Progreso plus 3km toward the garden (hitching usually possible). I made the mistake to take a bus heading to Progreso : they asked for L10, I paid L5 and it really cost L2 (it is only 5mn away !) 


Leaving ? To Ceiba, indirect bus every 25mn from 4am to 6pm, L19, 2 hours. There are also direct buses but you need to wait by the main road, they cost L50 and start only at 7am. / To San Pedro, you first need to reach Progreso : every 30mn from 4:30am to 6pm, L15, 2 hours. 

The trip to La Ceiba : SSS / Right / L19 / 2 hrs
Once again, I woke up late. I had planned to take the 4:50 bus but woke up at 5:15. It was still ok : the trip should take 2 hours and the boat to Utila was not supposed to leave before 9:30... But then, the bus could be delayed (and it is often delayed), it was recommended to show up at the pier one hour in advance and I had to take some info at the bus station...
Buses depart every 25mn so I did not have to wait too long at the station. It was a pleasant ride, with nice mountains scenery on the right side. Exactly 2 hours later, we reached the airport : if you decided to go by plane, get off here ! The bus station was 10mn further away but some people got off before to take a taxi from the main road : you may wish to follow them and split the cost...

See also the trip from Omoa