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Last Updated on July 24, 2023 by Madison Krigbaum
Honduras is a beautiful, affordable and incredibly biodiverse country that also happens to be rich in Mayan history. Unfortunately, it’s often left off of travelers bucket lists due to its dangerous reputation. Although there are areas of Honduras that you would be smart to avoid, there are many beautiful places that are relatively untouched and completely safe for tourists. Copan Ruinas is the perfect example of the beauty, serenity and history of Honduras. Below you’ll find my list of the best things to do in Copan Ruinas filled with Mayan ruins, macaws, chocolate and more things to see, do and eat in this ancient Mayan city!
Getting to Copan Ruinas from San Pedro Sula
Copan is unfortunately wayyy too small to have its own airport, so the easiest way to get there tends to be through San Pedro Sula. If you’re flying into SAP, grab an Uber to the Metropolitan Grand Central bus station. Although San Pedro Sula is mostly responsible for Honduras’ unsafe reputation, *the bus station is inside a shopping mall and is perfectly safe. However, the territory is ripe for pickpockets so keep an eye on your belongings.
If you’re departing on any day other than a Tuesday or Saturday, I recommend booking a bus ticket through Hedman Alas. Although it’s the pricier option ($20 vs. $5), the buses are much nicer, the journey is shorter and the schedule is a million times more reliable than your other option, the Casasola bus. The trip should take around 3-4 hours and you can book your ticket online! Keep in mind, as of November 2021, there is only one bus daily departing at 11:15AM.
If you miss the Hedman Alas or just decide to go with the cheaper option, buckle up. The Casasola, A.K.A. “chicken bus,” says it’s nonstop but as Angel Verde from AWOL: Air Water or Land put it, “this bus will stop more times than a Brooklyn bound local train in New York City.” Since we traveled to Copan on a Tuesday, we ended up taking the chicken bus there and the Hedman Alas back. Expect the Casasola bus to take at least an hour longer than Hedman Alas and make sure to take all your valuables/electronics out of your suitcase. Luggage is piled on top of the bus and covered by a non-waterproof netting.
*A quick heads-up about the San Pedro bus station. If you’re clearly a tourist, be prepared to get stared at…a lot. I would also suggest downloading Spanish on Google Translate before departing. Unlike the Bay Islands, it was difficult to find English speakers on the mainland.
Where to Stay in Copan, Honduras
Hotel Brisas de Copan was the perfect accommodation for two budget-conscious travelers. Centrally located and charming as hell, the hotel only cost us $100 for our five-night stay. That’s $10 per person per night!
We had our own private room with twin beds, a clean washroom, daily maid service and drinking water in the lobby. My only complaint was the one employee that decided to blast music on a Saturday morning at 7:30AM, but you can’t win them all.
You can find Hotel Brisas de Copan on Booking.com, but keep in mind you’ll have to pay for your stay in cash upon checkout. Heads up, the hotel is WAY cuter in person. The pictures on Booking.com don’t do it justice.
If you’re in the market for somewhere a little more luxurious, Hotel Marina Copan is one of the oldest and nicest hotels in the area!
The Best Things to Do in Copan Ruinas
Copan Ruins Tour
Let’s start with the most obvious activity on my list of the best things to do in Copan Ruinas. Since the town itself is named after the Mayan ruins, it would be a serious travel fuck up to leave Copan without visiting the Archaeological Park.
The land that once belonged to the Mayan people consists of parts of Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico and all of Guatemala and Belize. Although it was not the largest city by any means, Copan was particularly advanced when it came to stone carving and ancient arts, which makes it very popular among historians, archaeologists and tourists.
A Tuk Tuk to the ruins of Copan from the city center takes less than five minutes and will cost around 30-50 Lempiras. If you plan on visiting the ruins, I would highly highly recommend hiring a Copan ruins guide! Without someone to explain the history and significance of the ruins…you’re basically just looking at a pile of rocks and statues.
If you’re in the market for a ruins tour with an English-speaking guide, send Jesus Morales a WhatsApp message at +504 9831-6373. He’s very knowledgeable about the Copan ruins and speaks perfect English! His tours cost $30 for 1-5 people, $36 for 6-12 people and around $40 after that. You can pay for your park ticket with a credit card but make sure to bring cash for your tour.
Visit the Copan Sculpture Museum
The Sculpture Museum of Copan is located just across the parking lot from the ruins. It’s easy to see both during your visit to the Archaeological Park! A ticket will only cost you $7 and it’s well-worth the price to see the best-preserved stone sculptures from the ancient city.
The building itself was designed to reflect an ancient Mayan worldview. The entrance resembles a mythological serpent and symbolizes a portal from one world to the next. Upon exiting this tunnel, visitors will be met with a fantastic reconstruction of an early Classic Temple nested beneath an open roof and decorated ceiling.
Copan’s famous Bird Park, Macaw Mountain, actually started as a bird sanctuary in Roatan. Tourists would often adopt exotic birds and then donate or abandon them when they left the island. In the early 2000’s, the owners packed up their 90 birds, chartered a plane and moved the sanctuary to Copan Ruinas.
General admission costs $10 per person and, upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by the bird park’s official greeter, Polly the Parrot. Be warned: she bites!
Visit the Luna Jaguar Spa Hot Springs
No Copan Ruinas travel guide is complete without a half-day trip to the Luna Jaguar Hot Springs. $25 per person will grant you entrance to the spa and a transport service departing from Cafe Via Via in the middle of Copan. The shuttle leaves at 2PM, arrives at 3PM and departs the spa around 6PM to arrive back in Copan by 7PM. You can book tickets with cash or credit card at Cafe Via Via before boarding the shuttle. In the on-season, it may be smart to book tickets ahead of time at the Luna Jaguar Office in town.
For a trip to Luna Jaguar, I recommend packing flip flops, bug spray, a swimsuit, a towel and a light jacket. The springs are surrounded by jungle so the bugs get pretty bad as the sun sets. Towels are not included in your entrance ticket so be sure to bring your own.
Also BE CAREFUL! That place is gorgeous but slippery as hell.
Explore the Tea and Chocolate Place
A tiny tea and chocolate shop nestled in the hills of Copan, the Tea and Chocolate Place has earned its place on the list of the best things to do in Copan Ruinas. All of the tasty chocolate is processed and made on-site. They also serve a wide variety of natural teas made from the native plants on Mayan land.
In addition to tea and chocolate, the little shop sells soap, cosmetics, hot sauces, honey and light snacks. The views of Copan are beautiful and it’s a tranquil place to spend an afternoon of chocolate tasting!
The Tea and Chocolate place is only about a 15 minute walk from the center of town, but if you don’t feel like climbing any hills you might want to grab a Tuk Tuk.
Check Out the Weekend Market
There’s a charming little market that pops up on the weekends in Copan. Here, you can find local vendors selling jewelry, trinkets, clothing, fresh produce and more. The market is located near the central park and is a great way to spend a couple hours in Copan on a weekend.
Shop for Mayan Souvenirs and Explore the Charming Town
Copan has no shortage of ambiance, views and charming souvenir shops! If you’re looking for some handmade Mayan souvenirs, head to La Boutique Del Artesano. The adorable shop is filled with handmade items like jewelry, statues, scarves, shoes and more as well as books and guides full of fun facts about Copan and Mayan history.
Another great option for souvenirs is La Casa de Todo. They also have a fantastic restaurant!
Where to Eat in Copan
Central America is home to some seriously delicious local cuisine and Copan Ruinas restaurants are no exception. Make sure to try some local dishes during your stay!
Sol de Copan
Although German food isn’t exactly considered local Honduran cuisine…Sol de Copan is widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in Copan Ruinas. It’s the only authentic German brewery between Mexico and Colombia and the owner, Thomas, clearly knows his stuff when it comes to brewing delicious German beer.
All beer is brewed on-site, so he only offers a couple options at a time. When we visited Copan, the options were a tasty Hefeweizen and a Black IPA. Paired with some cheesy spaetzle, crispy schnitzel, potato salad and German sausages…you will not leave Sol de Copan hungry. If you make it there, tell Thomas that Madison and Michelle say hello!
We spent five nights in Copan and ended each and every one of them at Sol de Copan! It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Copan Ruinas.
La Llama del Bosque
This ultimate guide to Copan Ruinas wouldn’t be complete without a hearty lunch or dinner at La Llama del Bosque. The restaurant is huge, full of ambiance and serves tasty Honduran cuisine. Beware, their portions are huge! We split one chicken burrito between the two of us and it was plenty of food.
La Llama del Bosque also has a cage of charming parakeets that love to chat with visitors during their meal.
Cafe San Rafael
A North American style cafe in the middle of Central America, Cafe San Rafael offers delicious coffee and espresso drinks, tasty breakfast options, sandwiches, salads, cheese boards and more! They also have a wide variety of German beer and both local and international wines.
The cafe itself is adorably decorated, has amazing A/C and very strong wifi. It’s the perfect place to stop for lunch and crack out a couple hours of work!
Cafe Welchez is another great place to set up with your laptop! They offer a long menu filled with sandwiches, breakfast and tasty espresso drinks. With not one, but two upstairs patios, it’s the perfect place to down some caffeine and take in the views of the city! The food is very affordable and we found Cafe Welchez to have some of the strongest internet in Copan.
Comedor y Pupuseria Mary
If you make it to Comedor Mary, I would definitely suggest ordering the pupusas! They were clearly homemade and absolutely delicious. I decided on one filled with cheese and jalapeño and one with beans and cheese. Served with a pickled veggie salad, it ended up being one of my favorite meals in Copan Ruinas!
A charming rooftop restaurant with a simple menu, 3 Tiempos is a great option for a fun and casual dinner in Copan. We decided to order the chicken and mushroom fajitas and shredded chicken tacos with Honduran cheese. Two entrees, two local beers and two bottles of water only set us back about 500 lempiras or $20!
Restaurante La Casa de Todo
We stopped at Restaurante La Casa de Todo on our last morning in Copan Ruinas for some tasty breakfast, much-needed coffee and last minute Mayan souvenirs. We both ordered the breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs, ham, veggies and cheese wrapped in a tasty, homemade flour tortilla. The coffee was also delicious!
In addition to jewelry, purses, statues and other Mayan trinkets, the restaurant’s shop sells local chocolate, hot sauce, coffee, bread and more!
Carnitas Nia Lola
If you want to see waitresses balance dishes and wine glasses on their heads while climbing stairs, Carnitas Nia Lola is the place for you! The restaurant’s ambiance was unparalleled in Copan, with Christmas lights, live music and an incredibly talented and well-balanced waitstaff. However, we both left extremely unimpressed with the food.
In hindsight, Carnitas Nia Lola is the perfect spot for a couple drinks and maybe an anafre appetzier, but you may be better off eating dinner somewhere else.
Copan Ruinas is filled with rich history and exciting things to do as a tourist! In addition to these activities, many tourists go horseback riding, zip lining or take a short trip to Antiqua, Guatemala. If you visit Copan, leave a comment below and let me know your favorite part of your trip!
If you enjoyed my list of the best things to do in Copan Ruinas, you may also enjoy my related guides and travel tips to visiting the Bay Islands (linked below). Stay tuned for my ultimate guide to mainland Honduras, coming to the blog soon. To receive emails when new posts are live (and to grab my free guide to solo travel photography), make sure to subscribe below!