Much has been said of safety in La Ceiba, especially in the Bay Islands, where the local inhabitants love to say that La Ceiba is extremely dangerous. The US State Department Travel Warning also mentions the department of Atlantida, whose capital city is La Ceiba, as one of the areas that should be avoided or visited with extreme caution… So what is the reality about safety in La Ceiba? The bottom line to the traveler is whether it is safe or not to visit this area. One issue that has a big influence in this question is the fact that unless you are flying directly into Roatan, La Ceiba is right on your path to the islands. In the end, many of the tourists that do visit the Bay Islands, which are the most visited destination in Honduras, must come through La Ceiba. Most of them use it as a transfer point, simply getting off the bus, jumping in a cab and rushing across the city and then swiftly jumping into the ferry to head off to the islands. Considering that not one single tourist has had a problem in this operation, you could easily conclude that La Ceiba is not truly that dangerous! But let’s look into the situation a bit deeper and see if we can find the truth!
There are some neighborhoods in the city that are outright dangerous. La Merced, La Suyapa and Bonitillo are probably the 3 most dangerous areas in town. Until recently, gangs operated freely in these areas, and although progress has been made in bringing these under control, the fact is that they are still dangerous areas. But then, every city in the World has areas that are dangerous; Detroit, Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago are all proof of this, and yet tourists flock daily to most of these cities and nothing happens to them! Why is this? Simply because there is nothing for them to do or see in the dangerous parts of the city and therefore they do not visit them! The same applies to La Ceiba. Most of the city is very safe, and you can visit the nicer tourist areas without any problem. The Zona Viva, where some of the better hotels and restaurants are established is safe, and the old municipal dock, where the Standard Fruit Company (Dole) used to export its produce from is being renovated and turned into a pedestrian area where you will be able to walk and see locals fishing, enjoy tales of old times, see the magnificent views of the Nombre de Dios mountains or watch a spectacular sunrise or sunset. Now one word of caution: if you stay up late till the wee hours in the zona viva, drink yourself silly and then walk down the streets alone letting everyone know you are absolutely drunk, yes, you are asking for trouble. You have just made yourself an easy target! You will probably be lucky enough to get away with it, but is the risk worth it?
Other areas that are normally visited by tourists in La Ceiba are the Cangrejal River Valley, the Garifuna communities of Sambo Creek and Corozal, the areas around Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge and the Cacao Lagoon. These areas are definitely safe, and very tourist friendly. The Cangrejal River area offers a variety of lodges and B&B, and one of the most outstanding ones in La Villa de Soledad B&B, a lovely Boutique Bed and Breakfast nestled on a small hilltop overlooking the valley and the Cangrejal River.
So now you know the truth, La Ceiba is a safe city for tourists. It offers a huge variety of attractions, which can be enjoyed by the visitors, there is something for every taste and interest, most of all, it is a unique destination in Central America, because of the nature that surrounds it; the fact that it is on the Caribbean Sea and a gateway to the Bay Islands of Honduras. You should definitely plan to stay a few days in the area, take advantage of the ecotourism activities offered and if you are adventurous, do some white water rafting or ziplining. If you are into hiking, there are great options with good trails into Pico Bonito National Park, and you can do some outstanding kayaking in the lagoons and mangroves at Cuero y Salado or Cacao Lagoon, sneaking up on the monkeys, the alligators, and maybe even a manatee! All of this and more… So what are you waiting for? You now know the truth about safety in La Ceiba!