A truly enlightening article on the current situation of Central America, and the unfortunate misconceptions from traditional media which can lead to unfair treatment to some destinations, such as San Pedro Sula, Honduras. You can read all the article HERE.
"Drugs and guns are a deadly mix.  They can have devastating and lethal consequences not only for the unfortunate victims of violence and their friends and families but also for the city or country’s reputation.   I recently returned from almost two weeks travelling around two of the supposedly most violent and deadliest countries in the world.  This also included what the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has named the most dangerous city on earth in 2011 – San Pedro Sula, Honduras." Chris Ryall
Pulhapanzak waterfall - Photo by Adalberto H. Vega

Just quoting a few lines from Canada’s travel advisory on Honduras:  “A large percentage of the population is armed.  Guns and weapons as machetes and knives are frequently used in robberies.  Perpetrators often use violence if the victim resists.”  It goes on, “Travellers have been followed and assaulted.  Use discretion when discussing travel plans in public.”

Well, sounds pretty scary to me.  It details various areas including San Pedro Sula and along the coastal highway and other towns as well as islands where crime occurs.

I travelled in all of these areas both in a group as well as wandered about on my own.  Now did I go down dark alleys in the middle of the night in some residential or gang infested districts? No.  Why would I?   ...
I went on the Government of Canada’s travel advisory for the United States.   It rates barely a mention about any crime compared to the pages it details with Honduras and El Salvador.  Yet in 2011 there were four American cities listed in the top 50 cities for the murders in 2011 – at number 21 was New Orleans (a city I adore and have visited a couple of times), number 30 was Detroit, number 43 was St. Louis, and number 48 was Baltimore. 

Americans have one of the highest gun ownerships in the world yet no mention of that in the travel advisory.  I love the United States and travel there frequently for business and pleasure but it is interesting (and perhaps political since they are our biggest trading partner) how it is downplayed.

Yet it seems hypocritical with the high murder rate in many American cities Canadians and people from other nations don’t give it a moment’s hesitation in visiting.  But at the same time we get up in arms and are afraid to visit other destinations when we hear about any incidents.

I travelled by foot, boat, minivan, air and an old open train car.  I went on hikes just with a guide, snorkelling on islands, went to local bars and restaurants and strolled through street markets in many areas the travel warning said don’t go.
Copan Ball Court - Photo by Adalberto H. Vega

I never felt threatened or feared for my safety.   And talking with many others at the conference and on the post tours nor did they feel unsafe.   At night-time functions we would travel past various neighbourhoods back to the hotel.   I never saw anyone with a gun other than some army guy or from the police.   I never got a sense the city or the country was under siege.

It’s ironic – the heavy police and military presence from their perspective is to help make tourists feel secure.   Unfortunately it can have the opposite effect and the tourist thinks the country is so crime ridden they need all this protection.
Central America is really a hidden gem of the world – Mayan ruins, vibrant green countryside, friendly locals, colourful Colonial towns, beautiful beaches, lush rainforests, cultural attractions and it is very affordable.  

Don’t be deterred by travel warnings.  Be alert, cautious and exercise common sense – it’s no guarantee but driving a car or crossing a street in Toronto is far more dangerous.

Belize Zoo in the "Top 10 zoos around the world"

Jaguar, Belize Zoo
Junior, the young jaguar at Belize Zoo, an amazing creature! ~Photo by Adalberto H. Vega
The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Centre, Belize
“The Best Little Zoo in the World” was founded nearly 30 years ago to provide sanctuary for wild animals used in a documentary about tropical forests. Today the zoo, located 47km (29 miles) west of Belize City, exhibits more than 150 animals native to Belize. A major draw are the wildcats found in the Central American country: jaguar, puma, ocelot, margay and jacuarundi. The Problem Jaguar Rehabilitation Programme is just one of the zoo’s initiatives that help to promote conservation and awareness, and to protect Belize’s natural resources. Search and compare: cheap flights to Belize City.

Copan - Luna Jaguar Hotsprings & Spa

Located 45 minutes North of Copán, this ‘Maya theme’ venue, with natural streams of hot and cold water, has 13 strategic spots along the trails aiming to replicate the Maya rulers and elite health–rituals performed in ancient times, within a perfectly blended natural environment. The thirteen numbers on the symbolic wave represent the energy of the universe, that is present at any place, on every thought, on the growing of the living being, a new project or a newly conceived idea.

The perfectly mixed temperature –warm water– of its ponds invite you to soothe yourself into the most relaxing ambiance, ideal for a late afternoon time after a busy and active day.

Fresh exotic fruits, Copan Ruinas, Honduras

Copan Ruinas by Adalberto.H.Vega
Copan Ruinas, a photo by Adalberto.H.Vega on Flickr.

Check out these nances, jocotes, sandía (watermelon), mangoes, ...just to give you a taste of those delightful delicacies of the season.

Alfombras Copan | Copan Carpets

Thanks to our fellows at Gadling.com for using this one as Photo of the Day 2012/04/08

Via Flickr:
"This Sunday marks the Easter Holiday in much of the world, and worshippers everywhere are marking the day with uniquely local traditions. As evidence check out this photo taken by Flickr user Aldaberto.H.Vega in Honduras. As part of Semana Santa locals lay out brilliant "carpets" on the streets composed of colorful sawdust and flowers documenting the Stations of the Cross. The Gadling team liked the eye-catching visuals of the scene so much that fellow blogger Meg Nesterov used almost exactly the same image in a photo during Easter 2011. Seems like quite a sight to see, whether you're a practicing Christian or simply curious about the world." ~Gadling.com

Sunset during spring equinox in Copan

In Copan Archeological Park there is a Ceremonial Court just north of the Temple 4 and the Main Plaza. During the spring equinox, the stelas "F" and "C" in that court, --properly called now "Plaza del Sol" (Plaza of the Sun)-- look pretty much aligned with the sun at sunset, around 5:45pm. You need to make special arrangements with the Archeological Park authorities though, because the Park officially closes at 4pm. Quite an impressive view!

Stela "A" Copan, a photo by Adalberto.H.Vega on Flickr.

Pulhapanzak waterfall

A corta distancia de San Pedro Sula se encuentra la espectacular Catarata de Pulhapanzak, con 43 metros de altura por unos 30 metros de ancho. Se puede bajar al lado de la catarata por un sendero para apreciar la vista de la catarata desde abajo. También puede uno nadar en la piscina natural de arriba de la catarata, (si se atreve) la corriente es bastante fuerte, así que hay que tener cuidado, además de que el agua es muy fría, pero al final lo disfrutará.

After a short drive from San Pedro Sula, the Catarata de Pulhapanzak; this is a very spectacular 43 meter high waterfall with a width of some 30 meters. There is a walkway beside the falls so you are able to walk down and see the view and swim in the pool at the top. Have to be a little careful in the pool since the current is quite strong. After the initial shock of the cold water you will find it very pleasant.

Castillo de San Felipe, Rio Dulce, Guatemala

An amazing colonial structure rises in the Lake Izabal, Guatemala, near Rio Dulce, one of the nicest spots in eastern Guatemala, where you can spend a couple of days exploring the surroundings and having a most exciting boat ride downstream  Rio Dulce through the gulf ending in the quaint little Garifuna village of Livingston.

The Castillo de San Felipe de Lara is a Spanish colonial fort located at the entrance to Lake Izabal in eastern Guatemala. Lake Izabal is connected with the Caribbean Sea via the Dulce River and El Golfete lake. King Philip II of Spain ordered the fort to be erected in an attempt to reduce pirate activity in the area.

This site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on September 23, 2002 in the Cultural category. (via Wikipedia)
Overlooking the Lake Izabal

"Castle of San Felipe de Lara, it is composed for defensive strength that watched over the entrance to the old Kingdom of Guatemala from the Caribbean sea, built during the time of Spanish dominance (1524-1821). This construction has served from protection to important cultural goods for the reconstruction of the history of this type of monuments. It is connected in a natural, simply impressive landscape." ~via UNESCO
Interior passage