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Go Beyond… the Copan Maya Ruins in Honduras

Go Beyond… the Copan Maya Ruins in Honduras

Last Updated on February 4, 2024

A town called Copan Ruinas is going to be most famous for the nearby Mayan ruins, but after spending a week in the small Honduran town just 12 miles from the Guatemalan border, we found there to be much more to Copan than first meets the eye, including several lesser known Mayan ruins scattered throughout the hills beyond town.

The town of Copan Ruinas, Honduras (Copan for short) can easily be reached by shuttle from the popular tourist town of Antigua, Guatemala, meaning that many travelers opt to visit the ruins on a day or overnight trip. The turnover rate for hotel beds in Copan is an average of 1.3, meaning that only 30% of visitors who stay in a hotel in Copan remain for more than one evening. However, despite a minuscule population of 6,600 inhabitants, there is plenty both in town and out in the verdant valley to entertain visitors truly curious about Honduran life.

Copan RuinasThe well-preserved town center is lined with colonial buildings which are by far the most well-maintained in all of Honduras and the cobblestone streets are filled with tourist-friendly cafes and restaurants. Grab a strong cup of coffee from the Espresso Americano coffee shop on the main plaza and watch the Honduran cowboys and macho reggaton-types mingle while children play catch and ladies sell freshly sliced fruit.  Another option is to head up to the view point (mirador) on north side of the town. Although it is a steep climb, the views over the bright green hills are worth it.

Copan RuinasThe day before our visit to the official ruins, we set off on a hike through ViaVia Hostel/Café, which we booked through their on-site Basecamp tour agency. Setting off at 8am with a French couple and one of the three Belgian owners of the hostel, we hiked four hours through the mountainous countryside to the south of town.

Throughout the semi-arduous hike, our guide pointed out several Mayan sites, including several stelaes, which are large stone poles serving as location markers and telling the story of the village. From the highest stelae up on the furthest hill, we were able to peek onto the official Mayan Ruins site, too. There was also a giant stone frog, which is thought to be a site where Mayan women prayed for fertility. Definitely book a guide, as you will see many more ruins, and we also learned an immeasurable amount of Honduran culture from our guide, who after 9 years in Honduras, could relate both to our perspective and as a Honduran insider’s.

Copan RuinasBirdwatchers will love Macaw Mountain, a bird sanctuary outside of Copan with 170 different species of birds. The ultimate forest chill-out spot, visitors pay the Nature Reserve entrance fee, and can hang out in hammocks, hike, interact with several bird species, visit the on-site coffee roasting house or eat at the riverside restaurant, owned and operated by the very popular Tanya of Twisted Tanya’s restaurant in town.

There are loads of other activities around Copan: you can visit the Butterfly Museum, tour the Finca El Cisne coffee plantation, visit a Maya village, go horseback-riding or spend a day relaxing in the nearby hot springs.

Copan Ruinas: Practical Information

Where to eat in Copan Ruinas

Cafe San Rafael – if specialty coffee, cheese and wine sound like your perfect meal, don’t miss this beautiful restaurant & cafe

Llama del Bosque opposite the ViaVia bar and hostel has good and cheap breakfasts and local dishes.

Café Welchez on the north west side of the Parque Central has a great selection of cakes (even Banoffee Pie!).

Espresso Americano, a nationwide chain of coffee shops, is located on the north east side of the Parque Central and has excellent coffee.

ViaVia does not have the best food, but is a good place to hang out at night and has 2 for 1 on various cocktails & beers during Happy Hour.

Copan Ruinas

Where to stay in Copan Ruinas

Home to a major Central American tourist attraction, Copan Ruinas has a wide range of accommodation that caters to cheapie budget spots to high end luxury.  We found various mid-range hotels with double rooms for US$25, not much more expensive than a double room in hostel, which are priced between $12-16. A bed in a dorm room can be found for US$6-$7.

ViaVia has double rooms with private bathroom for US$16, although it can get loud when there is live music in the bar at the weekends. There is good wi-fi in the restaurant.

Hotelito Marjenny has clean basic rooms with free wi-fi and ensuite bathrooms for US$15.

Hotel Jaragua on the south east side of the Parque Central has rooms with private bathroom, hot water, TV and wi-fi in the room for US$25.


Copan Ruins!

Thursday 28th of January 2016

Beautiful photos. I didn’t check out the tunnels when I was there. I kind of wish I had. We totally tried to bribe the guy who was guarding the gate to let us both in for $10. No joy. Since when can't you bribe someone in CA? Maybe next time. Copan was by far the favorite of all the ruins we visited in CA.


Friday 1st of February 2013

any irish in copan? Irish pub near macaw mountain?


Saturday 24th of September 2011

I'm from Copan Ruinas Honduras... I agree with you, it is a nice place. Another interesting place to go is Fuerte Caba?as & it have a museum. If you like to have a nice dinner with your girlfriend or boyfriend my suggestion is Hacienda San Lucas. And if you want to spend money and want to be in a nice hotel my suggestions is, Hotel Marina Copan, Acropolis Maya or Hotel Brisas del rio...


Sunday 25th of September 2011

Hi Alejandro, thanks so much for your suggestions. We'll have to check out those hotels next time we are in town, it's so great to get advice from locals!! Thanks again for stopping by!


Thursday 30th of June 2011

For accomodations, I loved Yat B'alam. It's a small (only four rooms?) boutique hotel. It doesn't really fit into the budget-travelers price range, but if you have a bit more to spend ($60-$80) I highly recommend it. The rooms are clean, the beds oh-so comfortable, and they have warm showers, plus there is a bar in the same corner (and you can still sleep through the night because the windows are sound-proof, besides the beds are so comfortable!). I'm dying to go there with my boyfriend when I take him to visit Honduras. It is a great get-away place. I love copan! Zip-line is also a must in my opinion. At one point you go from one mountain to another and you also have a view of the ruins at one point if you're brave enough to look around :). Also, the guides do tricks for you (though they are not supposed to...but that's catrachos for you). Macaw mountains was lovely. We swam in the river despite it being freezing cold and then had coffee at the restaurant by the river to warm ourselves. The fact that you can't make a lot of noise, since the birds get nervous easily, really makes the place feel really peaceful. Loved the post and your blog. I just discovered you guys so I have a lot of catching up to do.


Monday 4th of July 2011

Hi Paola, thanks so much,we're really happy you love our blog! :-) Your tips for Honduras are great! We didn't do the ziplining, but it sounds awesome, and everyone raves about the Macaw mountains, too! We were very pleasantly surprised with Copan, the ruins and the landscape outside of the city was just so beautiful. We went that hike outside of town and were really impressed with the area. Hope you enjoy that next trip to Honduras!


Wednesday 16th of March 2011

I always love pictures of parrots. They seem to have a curious yet friendly look on their face.


Sunday 20th of March 2011

These parrots were amazing! They were hanging out at the entrance of the Copan ruins and were not afraid of people at all! I loved their colors, and there were so many of them!