Sambo Creek near Corozal, Honduras

Beautiful turqouise water near a verdant shore.
From Sambo Creek, you can arrange for a snorkel trip to Cayos Cochinos. Photo ©, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Travel map of Cayos Cochinos, Honduras
Cayos Cochinos
A few kilometers east of Corozal, and more appealing, is Sambo Creek, another Garífuna village at the mouth of a small river. Two good seafood restaurants, often filled with Ceibeños out for a meal, are La Champa Kabasa, right at the entrance to town, with an excellent, hearty seafood soup, and Sambo Creek Restaurant, just to the east on the beach.

There is a hostel in the heart of Sambo Creek right along the beach, affiliated with the tour agency Tourist Options, called Centro Turístico Sambo Creek (tel. 504/9587-0874). Rooms are on the dreary side, but at US$9 per person it’s the cheapest place in the area to catch a few winks, and they can organize activities such as snorkel tours to the Cayos Cochinos and Garífuna dance performances. Some rooms have a private bath, others share. There is a restaurant/bar on-site, operating Friday and Saturday only.

Just east of the main entrance to Sambo Creek on the Tocoa highway is another dirt road leading toward the water, with signs for Villa Helen’s and the Diving Pelican, small hotels on a quiet, clean, and safe stretch of beach. Villa Helen’s (tel. 504/2408-1137, US$38 s, US$43 d, US$53 king bed) has eight spacious rooms in a small house close to the tawny beach, all immaculately clean with tile floors, air-conditioning, hot water, and small refrigerators, as well as six small cabin/apartments with efficiency kitchens around a grassy parking area on the other side of the road (cabins run US$48–90 and sleep 2–8). There is a small swimming pool; day use is US$1.50. Helen’s has a good, albeit slow restaurant (burgers US$3, fish dishes US$6) on a relaxed open-air terrace. No credit cards are accepted.

The Diving Pelican Inn (tel. 504/3369-2208, U.S. tel. 512/221-2053, US$60 s/d) has a more intimate feel with just three rooms, two on the beachside property and a third in a tiny apartment just across the road (weekly and monthly rates available). New owners Jay and Michelle have installed a swimming pool and are as happy as ever to arrange trips to the Cayos Cochinos and river rafting, as well as transportation to the airport, bus, or ferry. Breakfast (US$6) is made to order and can be enjoyed in their beachfront bar. There is wireless Internet and TVs (no cable, but an extensive selection of hundreds of DVDs you can borrow). There are special rates available for American military serving in Honduras.

Just a bit farther along on the same road is Paradise Found (tel. 504/9552-3238, US$59 s/d), a moderately priced B&B with friendly owners and good food. Rooms aren’t fancy, but comfortable enough, and there is a restaurant and bar under a two-story champa with a thatch roof and ocean view. Owner Dante is a passionate cook, and it’s worth coming here for a meal in their champa on stilts (dinner served 5–10 p.m., lunch by reservation) and to hang out on the beach even if you can’t stay the night. The menu is short, including a burger for US$8 and pasta for US$9.50, but there are frequent specials (around US$12.50, and should be snapped up, especially the ribs or the brick-oven pizza). Portions are generous.

All three hotels, on a fine stretch of beach, make great places to have a relaxed few days near La Ceiba. To get there, either catch a Jutiapa or Tocoa local bus and get off at the turn, or take a US$12 private taxi from La Ceiba (a bit more at night). It’s possible to reach Sambo Creek by colectivo, at the taxi hub in Barrio Potreritos in La Ceiba, on 6 Calle between 4 and 5 Avenidas, behind Hondutel. Taxis leave every half hour.

Day trips to the Cayos Cochinos can be arranged through boatmen in Sambo Creek, either by asking around in town the day before if you already have a group or, if not, by checking in at the hotels listed here to see if they have any groups going. One boatman based out of Sambo Creek who runs tours to Cayos Cochinos is Omar Acosta (tel. 504/2408-1666 or 504/3383-8031, US$140 up to 4 pax, US$35 each additional person). His tours depart Sambo Creek at 8 a.m., visit two or three sites for snorkeling, Cayo Menor and its research center, the pink boa constrictors, and Chachahuate for lunch (price of lunch not included).

Those interested in diving can contact Pirate Islands Divers (tel. 504/3328-0009), based at the Paradise Found Hotel in Sambo Creek, offering dive trips, snorkel trips, and dive courses in the Cayos Cochinos. At US$321 for either Open Water or Advanced Open Water, including accommodations and meals, it is one of the best-value dive centers in the Bay Islands. One-day Discovery Scuba courses are US$65, while snorkeling trips to the Cayos with lunch included are US$46. A two-day, one-night dive trip to the Cayos with four dives, meals, and accommodations is US$210 per person. Tony, the shop owner, is a PADI IDC Staff Instructor, which in short means he’s really, really experienced (dive master internships are available), and although his shop is new, he previously managed a dive shop in Utila, so he has lots of local experience as well. Accommodations are either in the village on the island of Chachahuate, or on the private cay next door (Chachahuate II).

Just off the highway near Sambo Creek is the Sambo Creek Canopy Tour (tel. 504/3355- 5481, 7 a.m.–6 p.m. daily, US$45). Prices include a 40-minute horseback ride to the zipline site and a stop in nearby hot springs. They also offer just the hot springs and horseback riding for US$25 per person, which may be something to consider, as the canopy platforms haven’t always been sturdy in the past. It is also possible to visit the hot springs at Glenda’s (tel. 504/3349-1075), although they aren’t quite as hot there.

Four kilometers past Sambo Creek toward Jutiapa, 22 kilometers from La Ceiba, is an upscale beachfront hotel complex, Palma Real Beach Resort (tel. 504/2429-0501, U.S. tel. 888/790-5264). The large complex of pastel-colored buildings right on a fine beach houses 161 well-equipped rooms, each with a balcony or terrace. Facilities include two swimming pools, tennis and basketball courts, kayak rental, a restaurant and snack bar, a bar, a disco, and a theater. Popular with wealthy Hondurans and Salvadorans, as well as tour groups from Canada, the hotel offers package deals with food and drink included for US$97–118 for one person and US$132–160 for two, with rooms that can sleep up to six, and discounts for children. Payment is required in full upon reservation, and cancellations have heavy penalties (and are simply not possible within 10 days of arrival date). Prices are higher during Semana Santa and over the year-end holidays.

Near the entrance to Palma Real is Water Jungle (9 a.m.–5 p.m. Fri.–Sun.), Honduras’s largest water park, with a wave pool and pool games for small children, as well as huge water slides. It is closed during the rainy season.

Also nearby is the new waterfront restaurant Le Bistro du Capitaine (tel. 504/2408-5091, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. daily), owned by a pair of French-Canadians. In addition to the usual seafood soup and garlic shrimp, there are plenty of dishes with a European twist, such as beouf bourguignon and Swiss chicken breast (US$6–12 most mains). There is a large swimming pool that guests can dip in, as well as two guest rooms.

Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Honduras.