While it has always played second fiddle to nearby Palacios on the other side of Bacalar Lagoon, safety concerns and lack of tour opportunities there have finally given this lively Garífuna village a chance to be on the radar. They have been developing their own tourism programs with the help of La Ruta Moskitia and given a much-needed infusion of culture to this frontier area of La Mosquitia. Apart from hammocks strung in rustic family huts, there are no accommodations in Batalla. Most opt to stay in Palacios or head deeper into the region, while hanging out here for the day. The town is quite small. Just a cluster of small houses and huts scattered out on a sandy bank.
Getting There & Getting Around -- By Truck & Boat -- By road, you can reach Batalla from the town of Tocoa by paila, or pickup truck (L500). Trucks leave from the municipal market in Tocoa (not far from Trujillo), at around 7am to noon for the 5-hour ride, though if you want to continue on to Raista/Belén, you will want to get on the first truck. There is usually one stop along the way at a simple comedor.
From Batalla, you can catch the colectivo boat for the 1- or 2-hour ride -- depending on water levels and if rafts are needed -- to Palacios (L250), where boat service to other parts of La Mosquitia can be found.
The mixed mestizo and Miskito town of Palacios, the second largest settlement in La Mosquitia, sits on the opposite side of the Bacalar Lagoon from Batalla and is no longer the access point for travel in La Mosquitia. That honor has shifted to Brus Laguna and, more recently, Raista/Belén. This is partly because the town no longer has a landing strip, partly because regular flights to other parts of the region are now common, and partly because of safety concerns. Drug runners coming from South America often hang out here, thus the city is becoming increasingly known for lawlessness. Still, for travelers entering La Mosquitia overland, it is often a necessary stop.
Getting There & Getting Around -- Now that the airstrip has fallen into ruin and regularly scheduled flights go to Brus Laguna and Raista/Belén from La Ceiba, Palacios has been cut out of the picture for many travelers. However, for those on a budget, a trip here is still the cheapest way to get into La Mosquitia. With better connections to other points, you no longer need to hang around. You can arrive in the morning and be on your way out by the afternoon.
Most arrive here from Tocoa via Batalla in the morning and catch the connecting colectivo boat to Raista/Belén (L200; 2 1/2 hr.). It is also possible to hire an expreso boat -- ask around for Dona Anna Marmol to set something up -- to take you to Raista/Belén (L800; 1 1/2 hr.).
A new service between Palacios and Brus Laguna began in late 2008 and, at press time, was still up and running, and hopefully will continue service. The boat, the Miss Liseth (tel. 504/9762-5846; L400), owned and operated by Miguel Guzman, departs Brus Laguna at 2:30am on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and arrives at 5am. The boat departs for the return to Brus Laguna at 4pm and arrives at 7pm.
Laguna de Ibans
Surrounding Laguna de Ibans are a collection of Miskito and Garífuna villages that are increasingly becoming the focus of tourism in La Mosquitia and the main access point for trips to Las Marías and beyond.
This Garífuna village at the western edge of the Laguna de Ibans and the Caribbean is best known for creating the Sea Turtle Conservation Project, which protects the green, loggerhead, and leatherback turtles that nest on the nearby beaches every year. Tours for the beaches depart during the evenings from February to September to help spot egg-laying turtles and nests. There are just a few very basic accommodations and comedores, all in family homes, in Plaplaya.
Getting There & Getting Around -- The boat between Raista/Belén and Palacios will stop in Plaplaya, though be sure to tell the boat driver ahead of time. Pickup trucks also drive to Raista/Belén on occasion.
This mostly Garífuna community of Cocobila, a sort of extension of Raista/Belén to the west, is a quiet village full of shady trees, friendly faces, and wooden houses painted in bright pastel colors. While there are no tours here to speak of, the people rarely see any visitors and love to chat with them when they come.
Pickup trucks running between Plaplaya and Belén will stop here along the one road that runs through the center of the land strip, though you can easily walk here in about 45 minutes.
Laguna de Caratasca & Eastern La Mosquitia
The largest lagoon in La Mosquitia, Laguna de Caratasca, is on the far eastern edge of the country near the border with Nicaragua. The shallow lagoon is rich in fish, birds, and other wildlife, including manatees, and much of it, especially the adjoining lagoons and canals, has been only lightly explored.
The rest of the eastern region of Honduras's wildest territory is one of the most isolated and raw places in Central America. Rafting trips down the two longest rivers in the country, Río Coco and Río Patuca, which only a handful of people take every year, are one of the only ways to see much of the terrain. The last remaining Tawahka people are almost entirely contained in the region, mostly in the remote Reserva de la Bíosfera del Tawahka Asangni.
Puerto Lempira -- Puerto Lempira, with a population hovering around 6,000, is the largest town in La Mosquitia and the capital of the Gracias a Dios department. A Parque Central and a decent range of facilities -- including 24-hour electricity -- give the feel of a town elsewhere in Honduras. From a tourism perspective, little is going on in Puerto Lempira at the moment, though the potential is there. In the 1980s, the CIA made Puerto Lempira, which is on the far eastern border, the base for their insurgency against the Sandinistas in nearby Nicaragua, though the latest influx of characters has been caused by cocaine smuggling from South America to the States.
By Air -- Aerolineas Sosa (tel. 504/2433-6432; www.aerolineasosa.com) flies to Puerto Lempira Monday to Saturday from La Ceiba, leaving at 8am and returning at 11am. Sami Airlines (tel. 504/2433-6016) has sporadic service -- they'll go if there are enough passengers -- to La Ceiba, Raista/Belén, Wampusirpi, and Ahuas. Both airlines have offices in town and at the airstrip, which is located about 20 minutes from the center walking. A taxi should run no more than L60.
Border Crossing: Leimus -- While this border crossing into Nicaragua was once quite complicated, new roads have made it considerably easier. Every day at 7:30am, a single bus (L250) will depart from Parque Central in Puerto Lempira for the 4- to 5-hour ride to Leimus on the Río Coco, which doubles as the border. Buses return from Leimus at 7am and 4pm. After paying your L150 entry fee to get into Nicaragua, direct buses should be waiting for the 5-hour ride to Puerto Cabezas.
The only bank in all of La Mosquitia, Banco Atlántida (next to Hotel Flores; Mon-Fri 8am-4:30pm and Sat 8:30-11:30am), may lack an ATM but will exchange traveler's checks and give cash advances on Visa cards. The Hondutel, just off the park, has the cheapest international phone calls. Several cybercafes can be found in town, though they tend to be slow and expensive (L20 per 15 min.).
There is a small hospital and pharmacy (tel. 504/2433-6978) about 2km (1 1/4 miles) southwest from the center. Both are open 24 hours.
The MOPAWI headquarters (tel. 504/4233-6022; www.mopawi.org) south of the dock has a small general store with maps and basic supplies. The organization heads development in nearby national parks and works closely with indigenous groups. They will also occasionally accept volunteers.
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.