Did you know I got zika on my latest trip through Central American and the Caribbean? I knew it was a risk when I left, but I went anyway. I tried to spray myself with DEET as much as possible, but what most people don’t know is that in the tropics, it’s virtually impossible to protect yourself 24/7. The symptoms first kicked in in Rio Dulce, Guatemala, and followed me into Belize. It put me out of commission for a week, but I still wouldn’t trade my trip for anything. For me, it’s just part of being a traveler, but not everyone feels the same. My latest piece for Oyster explains everything:
The epic mountains of Pico Bonito National Park rising out of the mist like prehistoric beasts are the first things you see as you touch down in the city of La Ceiba. When you hop in a car and follow the source of the Rio Cangrejal (River of Crabs) up into the hills, you’ll be further transported back in time, invigorated by the sound of the thunderous river, with rocks the size of houses looking like marbles dropped from a beanstalk by a giant.
For my stay in the Cangrejal River Valley, I was invited to experience La Villa de Soledad B&B, where everything seems engineered for maximum relaxation. Situated on the hillside above the river, you’ll be lulled into peace by the sound of the rushing river, even at night, when it’s joined by the chorus of clucking birds, frogs, and insects from the canopy. There are few spots I’ve traveled to that have that effect of instant peace, and Villa de Soledad is one of them.
Everyone gets a personal hammock built into custom wood frames lining the lusciously-landscaped property. They seemed to speak to me: “You are here to relax, so relax already!”
Naturally, I jumped into one as soon as I could, and in a matter of seconds, I had a companion–wait, make that two! Two of the friendliest terriers I’ve ever met call La Villa de Soledad home, and when they arrive, they will instantly declare you their new favorite person.
Inside the rooms, you’ll feel like you’re living inside a particularly luxurious Spanish mission–appropriate, since not far away was the site of the first Catholic Mass said in mainland America. Decorated with colonial-style art, my room, complete with two double beds, was cavernous, with an exposed-beam roof made of local hardwood, tile flooring, and a private porch accessed through two pairs of French doors. Both singles and doubles are available. Potable water is delivered whenever you need it. The rooms are TV-free, but there’s no need to spend a lot of time holed up when the property has plenty of nooks and crannies waiting to be discovered, where you can read a book, surf the net, or just relax.
The grounds are bursting with lush tropical flora. Within hours of my arrival, I’d saw dozens of different species of butterflies flitting through, in all different colors, and hummingbirds flitted around the overhanging vines.
The WiFi is fast and reliable, but you might be tempted to just tune out for an afternoon or a whole weekend. There’s no onsite restaurant, but the nearby lodge at Omega Tours is 5-10 minutes away on foot, serving up Flora de Cana rum, local Honduran brews, and specialties like pastelitos–small filled pies similar to samosas, stuffed with veggies and cheese. You can eat and drink well for around 120 to 150 LP.
The Pico Bonito area is famous for the fresh fruits they grow, particularly banana and pineapple, and the plate my hostess Soledad served me at breakfast had mango, melon, kiwi, and watermelon thrown in for good measure–all farm-fresh and bursting with flavor.
Who needs a pool? Villa de Soledad has private bathing area across the road at the river, complete with gazebo. Here, the pups were back in action, acting like little tour guides, bounding over the rocks like mountain goats, as if to say “Check this out! Here’s another cool place!” They’re protective critters, too–I bathed alone on the riverbank, but there was no need to feel nervous–every time someone came to say “Hola,” they’d bark to raise the alarm. One dip in the cool, rushing water left me feeling renewed and invigorated as I spread myself out on one of the warm rocks to air-dry. That said, though Honduras gets a bad rap, the area is unbelievably safe, even after dark. Walking short distances alone, I was stopped by friendly locals several times to ask if I was okay or needed directions.
Gateway to Adventure
One of the biggest draws is the proximity to Pico Bonito National Park, a spot teeming with wildlife you’ve only seen in nature documentaries, including leaf-cutter ants trooping back and forth to their hills. I chose an excursion across a precarious (yet perfectly safe) rope bridge (think Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom!) to visit the waterfall. I was huffing and puffing at the peak of the 1 1/2 hour climb, led by my Spanish-speaking guide Christian ($25 USD) but my reward was the delicious, clean water spraying down on me from the towering, lush cascade, so refreshing I jumped in with all my clothes on and refilled my water bottle to boot. The area is packed with other possibilities for adventures, including ziplining over the river, horseback riding, kayak trips to a nature preserve at nearby Cacao Lagoon, and of course, whitewater rafting, all of which friendly host John Dupuis can easily arrange for you.
Most people quickly pass through La Ceiba on their way to dive or relax on the beach in Utila or Roatan (the Bay Islands). Just as the Bay Islands have their own appeal–white-sand beaches, packed bars, and scuba diving foremost–the Rio Cangrejal does, too. And it is real, authentic Honduras at its best.
With Villa de Soledad also offering airport pickup and dropoff, as well as transport to the La Ceiba ferry terminal if you’re continuing your journey to the Bay Islands, this place is an absolute must-stop.
If You Go
La Villa de Soledad is located at Km. 8 Carretera – Rio Cangrejal, La Ceiba. Call (504) 9967-4548 / 9967-4260 for reservations or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Peak season rates start at $100 for single occupancy or $110 for double.
Thanks to Villa de Soledad for inviting me to experience the B&B. As always, my opinion is my own!