La Ceiba is the third most important city in Honduras and the head of the Atlántida department and the homonymous municipality.
The first inhabitants of the region are of Tolupan origin. La Ceiba was born with the arrival of the settlers from the surroundings of its current population, settling on the coast very close to a large Ceiba tree, since the last decades of the 19th century the inhabitants dedicated themselves to the banana activity.
The locality acquired the level of municipality on August 23, 1877, with the creation of the department in 1902, La Ceiba became the departmental head.
General Information of La Ceiba
Origin of the name: This municipality obtained its name due to the abundance of Ceiba trees (Ceiba Pentandra), or Ceibon, which led the inhabitants to refer to this place as “La Ceiba.”
- Territorial Area: 639.45 km2
- Population: 196,500 inhabitants (2012)
- Date of Creation: August 23, 1877
- Patron Saint Fair: May 8-23, on the day of San Isidro.
- Villages and Hamlets: 7 villages and 98 hamlets. Altitude: 4 meters above sea level.
The first people who inhabited this municipality were mostly Tolupan indigenous people, organized in tribes. They settled first in front of a ceiba tree. In the 19th century, the inhabitants of this municipality focused heavily on banana cultivation. This municipality acquired the title of municipality on August 23, 1877.
The city’s name comes from a gigantic ceiba tree that stood on the shores of the Caribbean Sea, where the main avenue and the first street now converge. The greatness of this ceiba tree was so impressive that the first settlers (Garifuna people from the island of San Vicente) claimed it was “the ladder it used when descending from heaven to visit Earth.” In fact, there were so many ceiba trees, or Ceibon, that the inhabitants got used to calling this place “La Ceiba.”
The port city began to form in 1872 when Mr. Manuel Hernández built a hut under the colossal tree. Other neighbors began to settle around it, attracted by the source of wealth it offered at that time: banana cultivation.
The trade of this fruit attracted the attention of large American banana companies, which began to establish themselves in the city, and it became populated with national and foreign immigrants. This led to the organization of the urban conglomerate, with Avenida San Isidro still standing out as a commercial area. Over the years, the city’s infrastructure improved, but the Caribbean historic center with its wide streets remained.
La Ceiba was declared a municipality on August 23, 1877, during the government of Dr. Marco Aurelio Soto, becoming the core of the banana empire and the axis around which the entire regional economy revolved. This led to the birth of new and larger national companies.
Currently, La Ceiba is the third-largest city and the second most important port in the country, with over 250,000 inhabitants in more than 260 neighborhoods and settlements spread across an area of approximately 6,000 hectares. It has the highest literacy rate in Honduras.
The climate of La Ceiba is classified as equatorial, characterized by high temperatures and abundant rainfall. The average annual precipitation is 2,858 mm, which is the second highest for urban areas in Central America with over 100,000 people, behind Colón, Panama.
La Ceiba is located on the coastal plain of the Caribbean. It borders the Caribbean Sea to the north, the municipality of Olanchito to the south, the municipality of Jutiapa to the east, and the municipality of El Porvenir to the west.
- North: Caribbean Sea;
- South: Municipality of Olanchito (Yoro);
- East: Municipality of Jutiapa;
- West: Municipality of El Porvenir.
Main Economic Activity
Agriculture and Livestock
Among the main crops in this municipality are African palm, banana, taro, citrus fruits, sugarcane, maize, cassava, cocoa, rice, plantain, tobacco, and watermelon.
Livestock in the municipality is based on the breeding of sheep, cattle, pigs, and horses; poultry farming and rabbit farming.
La Ceiba is accessible by air, land, and sea. It has an airport capable of receiving aircraft of various sizes. For more information, please consult your favorite travel agency.
The roads connecting the city with the rest of the country are well-maintained due to the commercial importance of the area. There are land transport companies that depart daily from Honduras to Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.
The Cabotage Pier receives daily cargo and passenger vessels from the island department of Bay Islands, which offers an easy and economical trip.
The city of La Ceiba has Golosón Airport, which has the longest runway in Honduras and is considered the airport with the highest number of operations in the country due to its strategic location in the Honduran Caribbean.
Golosón Airport serves as the base for most domestic airlines in the country, such as Isleña Airlines, Aerolíneas Sosa, and Lanhsa, and during certain seasons, charter flights from Canada arrive.
These airlines operate flights to and from La Ceiba to various domestic destinations:
- San Pedro Sula
- Puerto Lempira
- Brus Laguna
There are excellent daily connections to international destinations from Ramón Villeda Morales Airport in San Pedro Sula and Toncontin Airport in Tegucigalpa. In October 2009, the first regular official flight from the Cayman Islands operated by Cayman Airways arrived. In 2010, the La Ceiba Chamber of Tourism is working on a campaign to attract direct airlines to La Ceiba, and in March, the Belizean airline Tropic Air is scheduled to arrive.
La Ceiba is known throughout Central America for its Isidra Fair, which takes place in May and culminates with the Grand International Carnival of Friendship on the third Saturday of the month. The main avenue turns into a gigantic dance floor, where people have fun to the rhythm of Caribbean music. Even without the carnival, the festive atmosphere is maintained throughout the year in the “zona viva,” with its various types of nightclubs and bars.
Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge
It is a protected area located in the triangle formed by the Cuero and Salado rivers, with dry and river channels where you can observe animals in their natural state and very interesting wetland birds hidden among the vast vegetation. This place provides protection to about 35 species of animals, including manatees, jaguars, white-faced monkeys, and lizards. With some luck, you may spot a beautiful manatee, an endangered species that has found a safe place to live here.
The beaches of the Caribbean Sea in La Ceiba are another very attractive feature. They border the entire northern part of the city, and within a short drive, you can reach the beaches of Perú and El Porvenir, as well as Corozal and Sambo Creek, where Garifuna populations reside, preserving their Afro-Caribbean language and culture.
Excursions and Scientific Visits
In La Ceiba, you will find many interesting places for outings, excursions, and scientific visits. It is recommended to hire tour operators. However, visits to national parks and rafting activities should be done in the company of specialists who will guide you during the journey.
Pico Bonito National Park
(See expanded article on Tourism in Pico Bonito National Park)
It is the most diverse national park in Honduras and the second largest in terms of area. Its terrain varies in altitude from sea level to 7,300 feet above sea level, resulting in the existence of several types of forests (cloud, tropical rainforest, and dry forest). Due to its varied habitats and ecosystems, it is home to a large number of animal species.
A site of tourist and scientific interest, this garden offers a wide variety of fruit, spice, and timber plants native to the humid tropics. You will be amazed by the variety of existing species.
Butterfly and Insect Museum
The largest private museum in Honduras, with insects collected by Mr. Robert Lehman for over 30 years. Here you will find over 11,000 specimens, including 2,200 specimens of Honduran butterflies, 2,400 exotic insects from Honduras, scorpions, tarantulas, centipedes, millipedes, beetles, and the African Emperor Scorpion (the largest scorpion in the world).
Located in the Pico Bonito National Park Reserve, it is one of the best places in La Ceiba to enjoy waterfalls and take a refreshing swim in any of its pools.
Ideal for a picnic, to reach its pools of crystal-clear and fresh water, you will have to walk a few minutes through the humid jungle, enjoying an incomparable view of the ocean and the Cayos Cochinos.
Los Chorros is one of the most popular water recreational areas in the city. It consists of a series of pools and waterfalls where you can appreciate a variety of birds, making the area truly paradisiacal.
Garifuna Villages: Sambo Creek and Corozal
Visit these two villages, learn about the life of the Garifuna people, and enjoy their typical food: machuca, cazabe, fried fish, conch soup, various beverages made from rum, their joyful music, and the Punta dance.
A wide stretch of sand located 10 km from the city, bordering the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea, ideal for walks and water sports.
Located in the community of El Cacao, approximately 24 km east of the city. This lagoon, located next to the sea, is completely surrounded by mangroves. In the area, you can observe a wide variety of birds as well as troops of howler monkeys and white-faced monkeys.
From the northeastern part of the city, you can see the Cayos Cochinos. In these cays, you can find the unique Pink Boa.
Canopy on the Cangrejal River
One of the best rivers in Central America for rafting or kayaking, with Class 2, 3, and 4 rapids. You can appreciate the fascinating mountainous landscape of the Honduran rainforest or have direct contact with it by walking along the trails.
Experience the popular extreme sport, admire the jungle from the treetops, and feel the freedom of flying.
Rafting on the Cangrejal River
Excellent rapids for this sport. La Ceiba is considered the ecotourism capital of the country due to its diverse activities. Despite its natural richness, there is a great depletion of natural resources (non-metallic minerals, fauna, flora, etc.) and significant pressure for housing and commercial growth in protected areas. This situation is aggravated by the fact that the municipality does not have a land-use planning, which is becoming increasingly urgent due to the pace of growth.
Therefore, with increasing promotion as an eco-tourism attraction, the municipal authorities have a greater responsibility to strengthen environmental control and work in collaboration with existing environmental organizations in the area.
This city, also known as “La Novia de Honduras” (The Bride of Honduras), is considered the city in the country with the highest number of entertainment centers per capita. A large number of tourists visit this city, especially during the celebration of its festivities in honor of San Isidro, which take place on the third Saturday of May when the famous carnival is held.
La Ceiba is home to two teams in the Honduran National Football League: Club Deportivo y Social Vida and Club Deportivo Victoria, which are a source of pride for the Ceibeños population. Together, the two teams have won a total of three national championships. They have also been significant contributors of players to Honduran football and the national football team of Honduras. Both clubs play their home matches at the Estadio Municipal Ceibeño, which has a capacity of around 20,000 spectators.