Mini-guide to Santa Rosa de Copan
Santa Rosa de Copan is located in the heart of mountainous western
Honduras, nearly equidistant between the cities of San Pedro Sula
and Guatemala City. Its altitude of 1,200 meters (3,900 feet) give
Santa Rosa an ideal spring like climate almost year round.
The history of Santa Rosa de Copan begins in 1765, when the Spanish
colonial authorities established the "Real Factorma de Tabaco"
(royal tobacco trading post) at what is now Santa Rosa. By providing
seed and implements for the cultivation of tobacco and a reliable
market for its purchase, the Spanish crown stimulated the cultivation
of tobacco and production of cigars in the area, and the settlement
of the region.
Tobacco cultivation and cigar production continue to be important
today, although in recent years coffee and commerce has become the
region's major economic activities.
Decorated Street During Easter Week
The geographic and psychological heart of Santa Rosa is it's historic
downtown, a lovely place to stroll and admire the restored buildings
and cobbled streets. Declared a national monument, the downtown area
is restored and protected by the Santa Rosa Historical Preservation
True to its roots, Santa Rosa is noted for the excellent hand rolled
cigars produced by Flor de Copan, makers of the famous Zino line.
The factory, located four blocks east of the bus station, offers guided
tours (in Spanish) 7:30 - 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 - 4:30 p.m. Monday -
Friday. There is a charge of US$2 per visitor. Cigars are available
for sale at the factory outlet, which is two blocks west of the central
Coffee lovers will want to visit Beneficio Maya, where fine coffee
is graded and roasted for export. Aside from being able to view the
process, visitors can buy fresh export grade coffee. Take a taxi to
the beneficio, as it's a little hard to find. There is usually something
to see year round, although most activity takes place during coffee
harvest season (October - February).
Ten minutes outside of town on the road to Gracias is the village
of La Montaqita. There you will find Doricentro, a privately operated
park with water toboggan, swimming and wading pools, light snacks
and beverages, picnic areas, and music. An entrance fee of US$1.50
includes use of the toboggan and pools. Doricentro is open weekends
Further along the road to Gracias is Las Tres Jotas (US$0.75), another
private park that is also a working tobacco farm and fishery. Have
the bus driver point it out, as the sign on the highway is easy to
miss. Aside from picnic areas and wading pools, Las Tres Jotas has
the freshest fish you'll eat. Las Tres Jotas is open daily and welcomes
Gracias is one of Honduras's most historic towns. Founded in 1539,
many colonial era buildings remain standing today. First stop is to
get your bearings at the fort of San Cristobal overlooking the town
with fine views of the valley and the surrounding Celaque range.
Central Plaza and Cathedral
A visit to Celaque National Park, one of the nation's finest, is
a must for anyone who enjoys nature. A nine kilometer dirt road leads
from Gracias to the park's entrance and visitor's center. There is
an entrance fee of US$0.75 payable at the center. There is no public
transport to the park, but a car can be hired at Guancascos Restaurant
in Gracias, where camping gear and box lunches for the trail are also
Hikers will enjoy ascending the principal trail through one of the
largest existing stands of cloud forest in Central America to Celaque's
2,849 meter (9,347 foot) summit, Honduras's highest. The cloud forest
is a great place for wildlife observation, including the beautiful
and elusive quetzal. Others, content to enjoy a walk in the forest,
can return to Gracias and relax in the nearby hot springs southeast
of town. Transportation to the hot springs can be arranged at Guancascos.
Another worthwhile side trip is to the Lenca village of La Campa,
sixteen kilometers beyond Gracias. La Campa is where much Lenca pottery,
both traditional and modern, is produced for sale in fashionable Tegucigalpa
and San Pedro Sula shops. The artisans are happy to display their
skills to visitors. Public transportation is available from Gracias.
Still another interesting day trip can be made from Santa Rosa south
to the mountain village of Belin Gualcho. Perched on the back side
of the Celaque range, Belin Gualcho is an enchanted place with steep,
twisting little streets occasionally opening up to give lovely views.
Be sure to check out the locally made fruit wines. On the way, you'll
pass through Corqumn, where little explored limestone caves tempt
the adventuresome. Buses depart Santa Rosa thrice daily for Belin
Gualcho, or you can drive (four wheel drive recommended) south, leaving
the highway at Cucuyagua.
Luxury: Hotel Elvir (US$42 double, tel +504 662-0103), two blocks
west of the central plaza, has been remodeled in colonial style. Aside
from the usual services, the Hotel Elvir is home to Lenca Land Trails,
which offers cultural and ethnic tours, hiking, birding, and horseback
Midrange: The newly remodeled Hotel Continental (US$17 double, tel
+504 662-0801), one block west of the scenic Puente Minerva, is an
Budget: Travelers on a budget often choose the Hospedaje Calle Real
($3 double, shared cold water bath), 1/2 block east of Pizza Pizza
on Calle Centenario.
Fine dining: For fine dining in a traditional atmosphere, try Restaurante
Las Haciendas, 1/2 block east of Casa Bueso. The well stocked bar's
television is often tuned to American sporting events.
Midrange: The American owned Pizza Pizza, four blocks east of the
central plaza in a restored colonial house and courtyard, features
fresh homemade pizza and pasta and doubles as a traveler's information
center and book exchange.
Budget: La Casa Vieja, one block east of the hospital, is the place
to go for authentic local food, atmosphere, and live marimba music.
Owner Amilcar Lara is well versed in local lore.
The CopaNet Internet Cafe is located on the second floor of the Plaza
Saavedra, 2 blocks east of the central plaza.
Jesus and Guard, Easter Procession
The hottest nightspot in town is the Jaguar Luna Discotheque, 1/2
block south of the main market. If you would rather sing than dance,
grab the mike at Manzanita's Karaoke Bar, in front of the main market.
If your interests are more highbrow, head for the city cultural center
(Casa de la Cultura) 1/2 block south of the central plaza. Most evenings
you will find an exhibition, performance, reading, or concert. Be
sure to ask about upcoming events.
WHEN TO GO AND WHY
A very special time to visit Santa Rosa is during Easter Week. During
the week before Easter, Santa Rosa presents some of the best processions
in the nation. Six in all, the processions are full dress street theater
reenactments of the different parts of the Easter story daily beginning
The most spectacular is undoubtedly the Holy Cross Procession, or
Via Crucis, on Friday morning. Bearing cross and under guard, Jesus
makes his way through the heart of Santa Rosa's historical district
along a two kilometer route beautifully decorated with carpets of
flowers and colored sawdust in the streets. Because the carpets are
ruined by the passage of the procession, you will want to arrive well
before the nine a.m. starting time to admire the handiwork of the
many Copanecos who have labored since dawn on the decorations.
My personal favorite, however, is the candlelight Women's Procession
Friday night. Mary and her friends march silently through the dark
streets in mourning for her son's death, the only sound their footfalls
on the cold cobblestones.
Another good time to visit Santa Rosa is during the annual fair in
the last two weeks of August. Dedicated to the local patron saint,
Santa Rosa de Lima, there are religious observances, a beauty pageant
and coronation, street carnivals, a rodeo, cultural performances,
Honduras's Independence Day, September 15, is marked by three days
of celebrations and parades with surprisingly intricate uniforms and
costumes. Each year schools compete to see which can display the most
striking or unique presentation. Kindergartens march on September
13, elementary schools on September 14, and high schools on September
HOW TO GET THERE
Traveling to Santa Rosa de Copan is easy. From San Pedro Sula it's
a 2-1/2 hour drive on the Western Highway. Copanecos, Toritos, and
Congolon bus lines all offer hourly service. From Tegucigalpa, you
can travel with Sultana line via San Pedro or enjoy one of Central
America's most scenic roads through the beautiful Opalaca Range (unpaved
between La Esperanza and Gracias; inquire locally in La Esperanza
before continuing). There are also buses from El Salvador, and from
the Guatemalan border.
If arriving by air, the nearest international airport is at San Pedro
Sula. Once in Santa Rosa, local travel agents can confirm your return
or onward flight. Other international airports in Honduras are at
Tegucigalpa and La Ceiba.
Visitor's Guide to Santa Rosa de Copan
Historical Preservation Commission of Santa Rosa de Copan
(site in Spanish)
Celaque National Park
Beneficio Maya's virtual coffee tour
Warren Post first came to Honduras in 1986 as a diplomat assigned
to the U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa, and returned to stay in 1990.
Since then Warren has occupied himself as a beach bum in Trujillo,
a marketing director for a ecotour operator, an English teacher on
a cattle ranch, a cybercafe owner, a jungle guide in the Mosquitia,
and a web designer and IT consultant. In 1994 he and his Honduran
wife Orlanda opened Pizza Pizza, a family restaurant in Santa Rosa
de Copan, which they continue to operate with their three teenage
© Warren Post, all rights reserved, used by permission only.