Outdated concerns about countries are commonplace.  In the late 1990s, I planned a trip to Croatia and Bosnia, when the carnage of the Balkan wars were still fresh in the mind.  They turned out to be wonderful destinations – and thankfully (Croatia in particular) have been able to emerge from what they suffered during the early 1990s.

Mozambique is a country I intend visiting at some point over the next 2-3 years, and yet it still resonates for some (admittedly older) people as a war-ravaged corner of Africa.

But what if the concerns are absolutely current?  Last year, we travelled from Miami to Honduras to see part of this Central American country.  My main concerns when booking were the potential for heavy rainfall while in Roatan.  However, despite what I felt was fairly exhaustive research, it somehow passed me by the Honduras has – by miles – the highest murder rate in the world.  Passed me by until about 2 days after I booked the trip that is.

The rate is actually quite terrifying on the face of it: 85.5 murders per 100,000 of population.  Inevitably though, this is all quite focused on drug gangs and associated crime.  Nonetheless, the US State department has a lengthy travel warning on its site, and Honduras is therefore not on most people’s travel radars.

Our experience shows this to be a huge pity.  Landing into San Pedro Sula, we arranged a lift to La Ceiba, and arrived in the darkness and torrential rain to Villas Pico Bonito, a lodge developed at Pico Bonito National Park by an Englishman named Richard.

Pool at Villas Pico Bonito
Pool at Villas Pico Bonito

It is a truly special place to stay, for the spectacular location, quality and value of the accommodations, and the warmth of the service from Richard and his local staff.  We walked into the national park, we rafted, visited the town locally, and relaxed in the accommodation (and in that beautiful pool), and the idea that we were holidaying in a “danger zone” seemed absurd.  This is a country with a wealth of natural resources that should be riding the wave of a tourism boom rather than struggling in the shadow of Costa Rica and other Central American hotspots.

Another huge draw is the Bay Islands of Roatan and Utila.  We went to West Bay in Roatan, a small resort on a beautiful stretch of beach.  We stayed at West Bay Lodge, just back from the beach.  The hospitality there from owners Celeste and Milos was also excellent, and some of the deals ($10 for beach chairs and kayak use for the entire stay! An amazing 6-course lobster dinner for two for $60) were incredible.  There was free wifi and self-catering facilities in the lodge too.

Roatan sunset
Roatan sunset

West Bay can be busy during the day when cruise ships call to the island, and diving and snorkelling are hugely popular.  It is quiet at night though, although taxis to the busier West End are an option.  We also had the dramatic spectacle of witnessing a seaplane crash from the beach – thankfully as the video shows, all survived.

But overall, we’re glad the travel advisories and reports on Honduras didn’t cause us to change plans.  It is a welcoming country, and has bags of potential.  Most travel destinations reward common sense.  We didn’t go into the heart of San Pedro Sula, we didn’t venture into areas we knew nothing about.  We were basically on a relatively well trodden path, and it was everything we hoped for from a holiday.

And, if the report below is to be believed, then maybe the crime that has blighted Honduras may begin to wane, and those State department warnings can become a thing of the past.