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Copan with Kids

Updated: Aug 8, 2022

Located just twenty minutes from the Guatemalan-Honduran border (El Florido), Copan is small, cheap and lovable. With its colourful houses and laid back vibe it also has a real off the beaten track feel owing to the complete absence of other travellers (at least in July 2022 when we visited with our three young children). Despite being a tiny town, it has a lot to do and the small distances feel very walkable and difficult to get lost in (easy, despite the temperatures and giant hill in the middle) but a cheap tuk tuk will also provide some enjoyment if little legs are not up to the challenge. Surrounded by mountains and full of classically bright bungalows, even the entrance to the town is adorable with a welcoming arch and a lovely mural, both featuring Macaw motifs.

If you want to comfortably see the best places to visit in Copan, we recommend spending three days here. We stayed two and it wasn’t enough! We were initially attracted to the town as an interesting way to break up an extremely long drive between Guatemala City/Antigua area and the Caribbean coast of Honduras but found it really charming. If time is not an issue, you can stay a few days longer to fully enjoy everything the city has to offer and to relax a bit more. Here are our top tips for Copan with kids.


Copan Ruins


Let’s cut to the chase, this is the main reason you considered stopping here right? You’ll be glad you did. Copan ruins appear to be the most well maintained and best manicured grounds of any of the ruin complexes we visited on our trip! The grass around the main complex was lush and bright green. The preservation of the sculptures at Copan really stands out and there are loads showcased in a museum on site (which also has a replica temple!) Copan represents the boundary of the Mayan Empire at its largest expanse and thus, this would be our last ruins of the Central American adventure.


As we had been one of the only few tourists at all of our previous Mayan ruin trips and Copan receives less group tours than others, we decided on a bit more of a relaxed pace in the morning and didn’t arrive until 10ish. This was just fine, still practically no one around! As soon as we arrived we could hear the macaws screaming from the trees and immediately spotted six just hanging out in the low branches! The nearby conservation centre releases captivate-bred parrots twice a year or so (see below) so you’re likely to find a few here.


First thing of note is that the tickets are quite pricey. We got tickets for entry to the sculpture museum on site as well and this came to HNL 1,584 (£54) for two adults and one child (our 3 and 1 year old went free). They are valid for two days though, you can also get a third ticket for the digital museum which sadly we didn’t have time for. We declined a guide in favour of using our book, but they seemed to have a really good standard of English and were around £30.


Getting to the ruins couldn’t be easier. It’s around 10-20 minutes walk from the centre of town (depending on how quick the kids are walking that day!!) or a $3 tuk tuk.

Luna Jaguar Spa


For £22 you can spend the day relaxing at this natural hot spring complex in one of the many thermal baths that range from scolding hot to a temperate cool. The price includes transport there.


This was sadly the first of plans to go wrong during our Central American backpacking adventure (4 weeks in isn’t too bad!!) We had planned to spend half a day here and headed out after a much later lunch than planned, only to discover our Google map search had brought us to the Luna Jaguar Spa ticket office in the centre and NOT the spa itself, which is an hours drive outside of town. This was devastating as it was our last day in Copan and we just didn’t have time to get there and back and enjoy £22 worth of relaxing before the kids tea/bedtimes. Such a shame but we found alternative fun in the end (keep reading to find out!).


The Tea and Chocolate Place


For Brits on the road what would be more appealing than somewhere priding itself on TEA AND CHOCOLATE?! We knew we had to go there but really couldn’t find much information about what it was and how long it would take. We walked there from our accommodation around ten minutes (but took a tuk tuk back up the hill full of chocolate on return for a $2!).


This is the perfect place to spend an afternoon (must be afternoon - it’s only open from 4 to 6 pm every day except Sundays when it is closed). We spent about an hour there.

It’s hard to define what the Tea & Chocolate Place actually is. It’s not solely a cafe or restaurant, it’s also a shop and a place to teach people about the effects we have on the environment while educating them about sustainable ways of growing and harvesting cacao (production of which has been deeply impacted by climate change as it requires specific water and temperature conditions to thrive). You can sample all the bars they produce onsite, which included an unbelievable turmeric blend – it shouldn’t work but it DOES, and was beautiful. I am going to attempt to make this myself at home one day, absolutely. You can buy all the chocolate you want here, as well as some cacao cosmetics and all the tea varieties. The restaurant offers traditionally made hot chocolate drinks (which were rustic but great!) as well as loads of other chocolate goodies and some sandwiches.


Hiking:


There are a number of hikes in the local area some that have seem really quite off the beaten track and alternative that would show off a different side of Honduras. Sadly we were unable to partake as the one we were interested in was a minimum of 6 paying people and was out of our budget, but we were recommended some with Via Via here which take you behind the scenes of the daily life in a town in a third-world country. Tourists usually don’t get to see a lot of this stuff, including farms and even abandoned drug dens! Learning about the disparities between rich and poor and the societal and economical issues of the countries we visit is required if we want to educate ourselves and our kids on the whole picture and not just the beaches and ruins! These hikes also support local educational projects.

Macaw Mountain


We were really excited for this one, all our kids loves any wildlife, especially birds. The Macaw is an important symbol of ancient Mayan culture. We saw them reflected in many of the sculptures and headdresses displayed around the ruins and museums we have visited so far on our trip.


Macaw Mountain is a bird rescue, rehabilitation and release centre that has been operating since 2001. They work with many tropical bird species, not just Macaws, and perform party-like release festivals a few times a year where the local community are involved, educated and participate in releasing each years cohort of captive bred birds into the surrounding area! The park is built within 10 acres of rainforest in a stream-fed valley, just outside of Copan. It takes about ten minutes to get there by tuk-tuk. They are a multifaceted eco-tourism project and have planted tons of different trees and plants to create a prosperous land for the creatures there.


Paved walkways snake around a number of aviaries, which are suitable for heavy duty pushchairs. The river that flows through the centre of the park is open to paddle in during the hot sunshine. At the end of the walk around a load of the long term residential birds were displayed outside their aviaries for photos. You can sadly no longer hold the birds due to covid-19, I’m unsure whether they will bring back that particularly awesome feature in the future. The staff in the gift shop and reception spoke really good English and called us a tuk-tuk for our return journey.


Central Park


You’ve always got to hang out at the heart of the city and Copan is no exception. At this tiny square one can observe locals selling fruits, bbqs with various meats, kids playing, loads of tuk-tuk drivers parked up and chatting and a cute white church. This is where you’ll find the Mayan Museum, Archaeological Museum and the Digital Museum if you have time for these. Some of the streets have nightly markets under bunting strewn across the road. We spent one early evening in this pleasant square gulping down a 500ml tub of ice cream purchased for a $2 or so at a shop on the corner of the square while the kids played with some local children, chasing each other about. I love how kids can just enjoy each other’s company regardless of language and culture!


Mayan Hills Resort – Mariposario and Pool


Remember our dumb screw up with the location and timings for the Luna Jaguar resort? This is what we did instead. In a desperate attempt to provide the kids with the swimming I had promised (they were already in their costumes when we arrived at the mistaken ticket office!!), I decided to pay the $8 for a day pass to a local resort type hotel to use their facilities. It was an odd place – beautifully landscaped in places, completely unfinished/barely started in others. Located outside the centre of town, it had a butterfly farm in its centre, and a decent pool with faux waterfall in the rear and a little play park as well. The price of $8 also includes a meal from their substantial inclusive menu, and a drink which made this quite reasonable. We had the place to ourselves, as we have with almost everything we've done on this trip, so felt like a really nice treat, and the kids loved it!


Where to Stay and Eat


You won’t need to search hard to find good, cheap and local food here. The Honduran take on the humble tortilla is the “Baleada”. It’s a large tortilla folded in half and containing refried beans, cream and cheese as standard, and then the filling of your choice, sometime like eggs, tomatoes, chicken, beef etc. You can’t go wrong with “Buena Baleada” a minute or two from the central square – and $2 per baleada you must try this for a cheap and cheerful tea!


We also treated the kids to a pizza while in Copan as it was exceptionally cheap – at $15 for a large pepperoni pizza and a 2l bottle of coke (for me!!) at Moli’s Pizza. This put the day at around $20 for food for all five of us! Not bad.

We also ate at Copan Ruins even though we usually try not to eat at tourist attractions - we got there quite late! It was ok, bit pricey, but I was surprised that they had this beautifully hand painted highchair! If I could have my time again I would have eaten more at the Tea and Chocolate Place!


Copan is so small I doubt you could go far wrong with any accommodation in town. We stayed at the Hotel La Escalinata, which was around $30 for a large room with 2 double beds, a nice balcony with a fantastic view (below), with AC, cold drinking water dispenser and a massive, lovely breakfast for all of us. We were sad we couldn’t stay for longer – the hotel patron spoke great English and was very helpful in organising our onward travel (see below).

Getting to Copan


Copan is sadly in the middle of nowhere and is a pain in the arse to get to. Most are either coming from or going to Guatemala City/Antigua (as we were) or San Pedro Sula or Le Ceiba (our next stop). It is a 6-7 hour drive from both and therefore makes a very worthwhile stop considering how much there is to do here.


There are a number of daily buses in both directions. Hedman Alas goes both ways and is a well-known transporter in Honduras and Central America featuring air conditioning and an actual website you can book in advance.


There are tourist shuttle type buses both ways, a step between local chicken bus and AC coach - the Casasola Express bus goes to San Pedro Sula, around £10 for the 4-5 hours.


I had contacted a number of private transport companies for a bespoke trip all the way to Le Ceibe with a long swimming stop at Tela (see more about this in our Honduras summary blog here) and they ranged from $350 for a Toyota Corola to $280 for a 12 seater minivan – yes you read this the right way around – there was large variation between providers, so do your research and haggle if you’re interested in this. The manager at our accommodation found the best one.


Is there anything about Copan you’re still curious about? Get in touch via the comments or contact form.

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