Honduras has lagged behind its Central American neighbors like Costa Rica in sustainable tourism -- though admittedly, the country is a leader in the green game. The infrastructure and the money just haven't been there. High energy prices, especially in rural areas, have not made things easy, but poor planning and government mismanagement have also caused serious ecological problems. Even current tourism projects, such as the one at Los Micos Lagoon near Tela, have caused environmentalists to worry.
There is a glimmer of hope, however. On the local level and with the help of international NGOs and devoted conservationists, things are just now starting to swing the other way.
Perhaps the most important project is going on in the most desolate place. In La Mosquitia, the organization La Ruta Moskitia (an alliance of five indigenous communities) and RARE (an international conservation organization) have designed a community-based tourism project to address poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation in the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve. They work directly with local villagers to train them as guides and help launch new tours and eco-lodges. Many of the villages even accept seasonal volunteers to help protect the nests of leatherback turtles and other rare species that call the region their home.
In Pico Bonito National Park, including the parts along the Río Cangrejal, new eco-lodges, tour operators, and conservation-minded individuals are grouping together and working with local villages in the park and NGOs. Other projects like these, almost entirely organized and operated without government assistance, are occurring in places such as Utila, Lago de Yojoa, Copán, and beyond. It makes you wonder just what could be done if the government stepped in. As these small hotels gain worldwide recognition, choosing to stay there over the larger chain hotels makes an important statement to other hotels in the area that are increasingly following their example.
On the Bay Islands, the increasing number of resorts and passing cruise ships are contributing to the damage of the Bay Islands' reef system. Organizations such as the Roatán Marine Park (www.roatanmarinepark.com) are becoming increasingly important in helping visitors understand just how delicate the reef system is. On Utila, the Whale Shark and Oceanic Research Center (www.wsorc.org) encourages sustainable viewing of whale sharks by limiting the number of boats and the distance from a confirmed whale shark sighting. Divers in the Bay Islands can do their part by ensuring that their dive operators are following basic guidelines. It's also a good idea to question your hotel as to whether they treat their own wastewater and have a system in place for recycling.
At present, no sustainable tourism organizations focus specifically on Honduras. So, to plan the most ecologically friendly Honduras vacation, you should do your best to control your impact on the environment by reusing water bottles (better yet, bring your own and make sure you refill from safe sources), avoiding plastic bags, walking and using mass transportation when possible, and not disturbing flora and fauna. It's important to not buy gifts made from protected species such as black coral, which is often sold as jewelry on the Bay Islands. You'll also want to avoid eating iguana, which pops up on restaurant menus along the North Coast rather often, as you will not be able to guarantee it is not a protected species of the reptile, of which there are many.
To find out which hotels and tour operators are eco-friendly, refer to the "Green Resources" box, below. While they don't focus specifically on Honduras, most of them cover the country in some way.
General Resources for Green Travel
The following websites provide valuable wide-ranging information on sustainable travel. For a list of even more sustainable resources, as well as tips and explanations on how to travel greener, visit www.frommers.com/planning.
- Responsible Travel (www.responsibletravel.com) is a great source of sustainable travel ideas; the site is run by a spokesperson for ethical tourism in the travel industry. Sustainable Travel International (www.sustainabletravelinternational.org) promotes ethical tourism practices and manages an extensive directory of sustainable properties and tour operators around the world.
- In the U.K., Tourism Concern (www.tourismconcern.org.uk) works to reduce social and environmental problems connected to tourism. The Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO; www.aito.co.uk) is a group of specialist operators leading the field in making holidays sustainable.
- In Canada, www.greenlivingonline.com offers extensive content on how to travel sustainably, including a travel and transport section and profiles of the best green shops and services in Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary.
- In Australia, the national body that sets guidelines and standards for ecotourism is Ecotourism Australia (www.ecotourism.org.au). The Green Directory (www.thegreendirectory.com.au), Green Pages (www.thegreenpages.com.au), and Eco Directory (www.ecodirectory.com.au) offer sustainable travel tips and directories of green businesses.
- Carbonfund (www.carbonfund.org), TerraPass (www.terrapass.org), and Carbon Neutral (www.carbonneutral.org) provide info on "carbon offsetting," or offsetting the greenhouse gas emitted during flights.
- Greenhotels (www.greenhotels.com) recommends green-rated member hotels around the world that fulfill the company's stringent environmental requirements. Environmentally Friendly Hotels (www.environmentallyfriendlyhotels.com) offers more green accommodation ratings. The Hotel Association of Canada (www.hacgreenhotels.com) has a Green Key Eco-Rating Program, which audits the environmental performance of Canadian hotels, motels, and resorts.
- Sustain Lane (www.sustainlane.com) lists sustainable eating and drinking choices around the U.S.; also visit www.eatwellguide.org for tips on eating sustainably in the U.S. and Canada.
- For information on animal-friendly issues throughout the world, visit Tread Lightly (www.treadlightly.org). For information about the ethics of swimming with dolphins, visit the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (www.wdcs.org).
- Volunteer International (www.volunteerinternational.org) has a list of questions to help you determine the intentions and the nature of a volunteer program. For general info on volunteer travel, visit www.volunteerabroad.org.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.