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  Tela, Honduras by Lynne Harrington

A little slice of heaven on the north shore, Tela (pictured)Tela_Honduras_Shoreline Honduras, is more than the sleepy town often described. This is where to go on the Honduras Caribbean coast if you want to relax and be near/on the beach and swim in the sea. The beaches just to the east and west of Tela's city center are best - the river that outlets to the sea at the eastern end of Calle Principal can make the center beach a bit boggy after heavy (November) rains.

The center of Tela, anchored by the Parque Central (pictured below), is a lively place at all hours, except late on Sunday afternoons, when folks hang with their families or attend religious gatherings. And unlike San Pedro and Tegus, most folks travel by foot or bicycle, which is a good thing since the number of sidewalk vendors and shops requires a slower pace. We bought t-shirts, post cards of Honduras, nail polish, and shampoo (Suave apple; we had run out) for very fair prices and were surprised by the availability of everything else we needed (Schick razor blades, tampons, Lucky Charms cereal, Crest tartar control toothpaste). There is also an ATM at the Occidente Bank on the square and La Prensa is sold by an open air vendor on the southwest corner.

Accommodations in Tela

Our first stop in Tela was to register at the Maya Vista Hotel. This is surely the best deal in town (US $40 – 60.00) and affords views that can’t be beat. The hospitality is even warmer than the weather and we feel we’ve found a home.

Arriving late afternoon, with still good sun, we head over to the Starbucks Internet café on Calle Principal to check our e-mail. Although no coffee is served here, it’s the best and cheapest place to get on-line in town (50 cents US per hour). The most expensive international call I made to the states from here cost 70 cents. This immaculate establishment, staffed by a wonderfully friendly and accommodating attendant, is open daily from 9:00am, and also offers a pretty nifty selection of candy and non-alcoholic drinks.

A block down the street is the chicken bus terminal, which offers frequent service to La Ceiba, El Progresso and Yoro. While these buses don’t go directly through to San Pedro Sula, you change buses in El Progresso to go the remaining few kilometers to the SPS airport or city centro. The fares are very inexpensive (less than 40 lempira), and the pace allows for great interaction with your fellow passengers. There are faster ways to get around (Hedman Alas direct bus, private taxi), but this is great fun if you’re not in a hurry, and most folks here don’t seem to be. An aside, Hedman-Alas (big Mercedes Benz buses) can get you to/from San Pedro (and airport) or La Ceiba for @ US $13.00, from the Texaco station on the main road in Tela (everyone knows where this is, you will too unless you’ve been airlifted in).

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Tours in Tela

Diagonally across from the Parque Central (pictured) is the Garifuna Tours office. We left a deposit of 200 lempiras each in order to reserve at trip to either Laguna de Los Micos or the Garifuna settlements in San Juan, Tela_Honduras_ParkTornabe, and Miami, for the Monday and Tuesday we originally planned to be in Tela. However, since there were only two of us, and the tours require a minimum of five persons, we weren’t able to hook up for these particular trips. Our refund was eventually returned and better planning on our part would surely have gotten us there.

Garifuna also offers tours to Punta Sal National Park, whose mountains you can see over Tela Bay from anywhere along the beachfront. Another aside, we also found that private taxi service to any of these locales can be had from just about any taxi driver in town, although, you will pay a bit of a premium and not have the formal sort of tour. Then again, it is how we were able to have such an interesting visit to Puerto Cortes, alas, another story…

A few hundred feet further on will get you to the Puentes Nuevo and Viejo. The two bridges breach the beach where brightly colored workboats are tied ashore. And if you need to confirm international flight reservations (72 hrs.), Galaxia Travel (one block east of Puente Viejo) can do this expeditiously for you for 100 lemps (trust me, a bargain considering the effort required from HN).

A bit further on down the road is the Telamar Resort, home to some wonderful food (well-priced)) and continental-style accommodations (and Coca Cola Beach; cool signage). This is a lovely full-service facility - pools, raked beach, gift shops and restaurants – along with the higher room rates you’d expect to accompany such amenities (US $75 – 255.00).

Tela's Beaches

Coming back into town from the north side of Puente Nuevo, take a detour along the beachfront for a superb view of the Mar Caribe. We found a couple of friendly horses munching on the shore grass and several families playing on the beach. There wasn’t much in the way of seashells here, although there was some cool driftwood. There are a bunch of restaurants along the edge of the beach and Lucy’s Norte (a block in) is popular for seafood and has a pretty extensive menu of just about everything else. We had pork chops here though, the plentitude of fresh catch we’d consumed throughout the country was starting to make us feel a bit Flipper-like !

Cutting back up from the beach over the plank walkway in front of the Hotel Veromar, we also passed the home of the blue bikini bathing-suit-painted Greek goddess at the pool.

We encountered an enormous bull that seems to have planted itself in a local yard. A young boy had tied a rope around the animal in an attempt to move it, but, weight and likely age, gave the bull the distinct advantage. We waited a bit to see if it would budge, but, noooo….

At that point, we were back at the bottom of the steps leading up to the Maya Vista Hotel. The walk up is not wheelchair accessible (road at rear of hotel) but does make for stronger calf muscles after several days. The multiple landings on the way up do have great town and ocean views and provide an excuse to slow up and relax a bit. The hotel’s landscaping is lush, varied, and well-tended and the dining level overlooks many colorful plantings and a hammock-lounging area.

 And the food at Maya Vista is wonderful, we went through just about everything on the menu while we were in Tela for nine days. Seafood is big (shrimp anyway you want) and omelet’s can be pretty much custom-ordered (off-menu) if you give a little smile and your Spanish is passable ! The orange juice is fresh squeezed and the local fruits should be ordered if just for their freshness. This is the home of the original banana plantation and to miss this fine produce would be a bad thing.

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Jardin Botanico Lancetillo, Near Tela

After a good night’s sleep, and a fine full belly the next morning, we had one fine hoot of an adventure to the Jardin Botanico Lancetillo (y Centro de Investigacion; $6.00 US per person) just outside Tela city centro (2k). We took a taxi (yep, we’re old and lazy) to the Garden’s entrance, where the attendant admonished our driver for charging us an extra 10 lemps (40 vs. the normal 30) to get there. We misunderstood (our terrible Spanish) that the gardens were a 3k walk around, when in fact, that is the distance to get to the main entrance.

Alas, about halfway down the road, a small bus stopped and asked if we wanted a lift, we gladly paid the 15 lemps each (rainy season, was a bit muddy) for the remainder of the ride in. We were surprised by the number of people who got off along the way into the park, we figured that folks traveling this path were park attendees too, but, when they alighted with 50lb. bags of rice and headed straight up into the hillside, we finally got it that folks live here too….so much to learn.

We arrived at the visitor center, already a lovely wooded haven across from a spectacular bamboo stand, which was undergoing expansion and upgrade (a common theme throughout Tela). The attendant here made sure we understood the map she gave us, which outlined the various ornamental, industrial and toxico plants that we would walk by in the Garden.

It was a warm and steamy walkabout (less than 2k) that took us by durian fruit trees (someday I’ll taste the fruit !) and an amazing column of worker ants carrying leaves to their next colony. Yes, this is probably a somewhat common site for other well-traveled folk, but, it was pretty amazing for us to see such perfectly parallel columns of ants with so dedicated a purpose ! And there are so many palms, hibiscus (the blood-red color variety) and humongous ferns that we became much-too greenery spoiled for anything less lush and exotic ! <

The Gardens also have a plant nursery and several training, educational, and administrative buildings as well as an older caretaker’s cottage that looks a bit Key West-like in style. But we did wish we had sprayed ourselves with some sort of insect repellant beforehand - this is an authentic, outdoor botanical garden after all. Alas, not a big deal, and the ride back to town in the back of a white Toyota pickup (30 lemps each) was exhilarating and great fun - the consideration of our driver for our “safety” was enamoring – I wish I’d caught his name, we won’t soon forget the exciting ride and free liches fruit he gave us ! !

Tela's Holding Charm

We had only planned to stay in Tela for a two-day stopover before heading to Puerto Cortes for an informational business look-see, and then back to San Pedro Sula for our flight back to the States. But, as Pierre Conture (owner of Maya Vista Hotel) so presciently noted at registration “lots of folks come here for a day or two and then stay a week”. No wonder, the people here, as everywhere else in this gorgeous country, are mightily friendly, humorous, trusting, and engaging.

And perhaps, Pierre’s clairvoyance should be gospel. Not only did we stay three days longer in Tela than originally planned, we were also caught in the midst of Tropical Storm Gamma (November 2005) and ended up staying in Honduras (Tela/Maya Vista) for four more days. Thanks to the sturdy structure and eminent planning and foresight of our hosts, we were lucky to have experienced only driving rain and wind during this damaging storm, others lost power and were heavily flooded, 39 people lost their lives.

Bridges and roadways were completely washed out and we wondered how we would get back to the States. And yet, help was offered to us by a fellow traveler at the hotel. Serendipitously, Bob had purchased a new 4-wheel drive truck the previous week and offered us a ride with him to do reconnaissance on some back roads to see if we could somehow find a path through “the Palms” that would bypass the major road and bridge that had been breached.

It was an experience we’ll never forget. We drove over dirt bridges barely wider than the wheels of the truck. In some places, mud and rock had been pushed in to the “roadway” to make a solid path through flooded streams. All along the way, young men stood by the roadsides with shovels and brooms in an attempt to clear a path through, cash donations were solicited and gladly given.

This back road was the only land-based alternative for any type of commercial traffic between Tela and San Pedro Sula for many days and there were heart-stopping moments when two trucks approached the same footbridge ! It amazed me that even though these hundreds of folks had no alternative but to stay and slug through this silt and water, that they were foremost considerate of restoring all means of transportation and commerce. We were eventually able to get to San Pedro, but leaving so many new friends in such difficult times made our return bittersweet. Tela has made a sweet spot in our hearts and we look forward to seeing our buddies again and exploring its many other treasures.

Lynne Harrington is a recently retired government employee who's indulging a long-held desire to travel while exploring cultural and business opportunities in Central America. She is based in Miami. Lynne welcomes any questions you might have about the Tela area or Honduras. She may be reached thru her .

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This account of a Fall '05 trip to Tela is offered by Lynne Harrington, who braved out her trip despite a mean tropical storm.  Thanks for the offering Lynne.

A second account of the Tela/Miami area from another visitor is offered at the Honduras Whirlwind article

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