Copán was one of the great centers of Maya civilization over a thousand years ago. The beautiful ruins have some of the most impressive pre-Columbian art anywhere. Near the ruins is the village of nearly the same name - Copán Ruinas, with clean hotels and other facilities for visitors. Due to their proximity, both locations are covered by this article.
The ruins are quite substantial and a major tourist attraction in western Honduras. While less visited than the better known tourist attraction ruins like Chichen Itza, many people find them even more interesting.
Copán is in a fertile river valley and nestled among rolling hills, at an elevation so it is not so very hot as some of the Central American rainforest sites.
Although many tourists just stop by the ruins on a day trip, the town is very pleasant (and safe) and can be worth spending two days or so in.
The modern village of Copán remains relatively remote today, as such the Honduran government hasn't prioritized high quality road construction in this area yet. There is an airport a few miles from here, but no commercial flights serve it. So however you get here, expect a bit of a bumpy ride.
Copán Ruinas is not well connected to the rest of the country. For local connections, La Entrada will be your destination of choice, and for most any other Honduran service you'll need to start at San Pedro Sula. Getting here from Guatemala is possible on local busses, but if you have the extra coin, it will save you a lot of time and headaches to book direct transit from Guaté or Antigua.
Almost every bus in town leaves from the 1 Main Bus Terminal; it doesn't have any real amenities to speak of, it's just a small parking lot adjacent to the river on the east side of town. The only reason to not use this station is if you're boarding a luxury class Hedman Alas bus. The 2 Hedman Alas Bus Station is much nicer, offering a waiting room, clean bathrooms, and a snack bar. Although — when compared to the station — these worn-out busses leave much to be desired. This station is just down the hill from the village.
|La Entrada||1-2 hours||L40||41 mi (66 km)||Main Bus Terminal|
|San Pedro Sula||4-5 hours||L110||Starting at 05:00 when full||114 mi (183 km)||Casasola Express||Main Bus Terminal|
|San Pedro Sula||4-5 hours||US$20||Daily 14:00||114 mi (183 km)||Hedman Alas||Hedman Alas Station|
|Guatemala City||6 hours||144 mi (232 km)||Private shuttle||Your hotel|
|Antigua Guatemala||6-7 hours||Q150||04:00||176 mi (283 km)||Private shuttle||Your hotel|
From Guatemala City
Take a bus from Centra Norte to Chiquimula (every 10 minutes, Q45, 4 hr). From Chiquimula, take a small bus to the very calm border El Florido (every 10 minutes, Q16, 2 hr with connection in Jocotán.) Across the border, buses go every 20 minutes to Copán Ruinas (L20, 30 minutes.)
From El Salvador
Cross the border at El Poy, and from there get a shared taxi to Ocotepeque (L20). Next, board a San Pedro Sula bound bus and get off at La Entrada (L90), finally switch to a minibus for Copán Ruinas (L40).
There are also direct shuttles between Copán Ruinas and many tourist spots in El Salvador, such as Santa Ana, San Salvador, or El Tunco. Any of which may be booked in advance through your hotel, or online.
Your only option here is the same as the bus, driving down CA-11. This "highway" is riddled with potholes, and has certainly seen better days. To the west, Guatemala is right next door, while San Pedro Sula lies away to the east. Heading towards SPS, the quality of your trip should improve after an hour or so once you switch onto CA-4. However, road maintenance encountered during winter 2018 was just getting underway, and rendered CA-4 almost worse than CA-11. Pad a little extra time for your trip, and rent something with decent suspension and road clearance.
Copán is a small community, so don't worry about mapping sights before you get there. If you are a walker and sure-footed, it is safe to walk the cobblestone streets anywhere in town or walk to the ruins on foot. Streets are reportedly safe after dark, but standard precautions apply.
Mototaxis (Honduran rickshaws) will take you anywhere in town for a small fee (L10 around town, L20 to the Ruins/Macaw Mountain).
The Mayan Ruins are a short walk out of town and a further 20 minutes walk will take you to Las Sepulturas, a wonderfully open section of the ruins that many people fail to visit - don't! There is also a short nature walk at the main ruins that meanders around other smaller ruins.
Las Copán Ruinas (entry US$15/person) are the highlight of Copán. Although quite extensive, they are not as huge as Tikal in Guatemala or Teotihuacan in Mexico, but there is more sculpture here than any other Pre-Columbian city. The ruins are prized for the carved stellae of ancient rulers, and the well preserved hieroglyphics including the hieroglyphic stairway. Also in the archaeological park is a marvellous Mayan museum (entry US$7/person) with a reconstructed temple and fabulous artefacts. Fans of Maya art or ancient ruins can easily spend two full days between the two main ruins sites and museum. The tunnels are reportedly not worth the extra fee, and are not authentic, having been dug by archaeologists in the 1980s (these tunnels were originally dug for investigation and they show to the visitors the buried parts of older temples since the Mayans built on top of the older structures to make the new ones taller ). In July 2011 it was possible to visit the Sepulturas on the next day without purchasing a second ticket although the main ticket office may not tell you this.
It's recommended to be there when it opens at 08:00, as the site gets very hot by mid-day. Hire a guide at the entrance to the ruins for US$25 divided between however many people you can collect. Cesar (good accented English) and Antonio (few teeth, excellent English) are recommended if they're around.
Besides the ruins, the countryside is attractive. Slow paced local life is quite calm, and farming of corn, beans, coffee, and tobacco is the main vocation.
A LOT of wildlife can be seen at Copan Ruinas, especially at the ruins themselves. Many birds species are very commonly found there, including turquoise browed motmots (the national bird of El Salvador), collared aracaris (a type of toucan), and other birds such as woodpeckers and . The most famous bird here, however, is the scarlet macaw, which can be seen all over the ruins and even in the middle of town. Just listen out for their loud squawking.
- 1 Copan (Ruinas de Copán), firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 08:00-18:00. US$15/person; Central Americans US$8; Hondurans L80; students Free.
- 2 Sculpture Museum (Museo de Esculturas). F-Su 09:00-17:00. US$7/person; Central Americans US$5; Hondurans & students free.
- 3 Tunnels (Tuneles). Daily 08:00-18:00. US$15/person, Central Americans US$15, Hondurans & students L50.
- 4 Sepulturas. Archeological site adjacent to the Ruinas de Copán. Free with your Ruinas de Copán ticket.
- Luna Jaguar Aguas Termales. A natural hot springs spa under an hour's drive (25 km) from Copán Ruinas. Several man-made pools of differing temperatures mimic Mayan structures and are fed by the hot springs. A variety of adventure tour companies will take you there for US$10/person plus $60/group, which is outrageous considering the alternatives. For cheaper transportation, pickups and minibuses congregate at the soccer field (right before the bridge on the way to the ruins). Gather a group together, and you might negotiate a pickup for US$50. They may be willing to wait up to 3 hours for you. Even better, be patient, and a (tiny) seat in a minibus is only L35 each way. To get back to town, start walking, and a minibus will pass before long. The drive is very scenic, so enjoy it! One can easily spend the whole day at Luna Jaguar, but bring your own food. Massages available. entry US$12/person.
- 1 Macaw Mountain. An excellent bird sanctuary a short (L20/person) mototaxi ride from el Centro. The price may seem steep, but the sanctuary is commendable for its beautiful location, free tours in English, swimming hole, and obviously healthy, well cared-for birds. As of November 2023, the birds that are being rehabilitated are brought out for holding at 15:00. The ticket is valid for 3 days, so come back and swim for free. entry US$10/person.
- 2 Mariposario Mayan Hills. A butterfly sanctuary just outside town. entry L100/person.
- Canopy/zip line. Copán has one of the world's longest zip lines, including one about 1,000 meters (3,200 feet) long. ~US$35/person.
- Horseback rides. Horses can take you to La Pintada, a Maya Chorti village, and to Los Sapos, which is a small ruin not included in the archaeological park. La Pintada is interesting but overrated, while Los Sapos, though very small, is fascinating with a good guide. It's a 10-minute walk down to the river where you can swim for free. US$12-15/person for 3 hr.
- Casa K'inich Children's Museum, Fuerte Cabañas (straight up the hill past the Marina Hotel turn right into Fuerte Cabañas.), ☏ . Tu-Su 08:00-12:00. The Casa K'inich Children's Museum (Museo Escolar) is a unique museum that was opened in 2002. It has exhibits and interactive displays in three languages (English, Spanish, and Maya Chorti). It is the only children's museum of its kind near a Maya Ruin. The museum's totally interactive exhibits will help the visitor (adults and children alike) understand the glyphs at the ruins, what happened to the Maya, and shows how the Maya built their buildings along with a description of the famous Maya ballgame among many other subjects. Not to be missed, the museum only takes an hour or two to visit and the location has a beautiful view of the Copan Valley. Groups are welcome and student groups can call for and appointment or even have food set up during their visit. US$1 for adults children always free.
There are many community-building projects in and around Copán Ruinas. One site to check out is Mayatan Bilingual School, a locally-founded independent, non-profit school that educates local children in Spanish and English. The school relies on foreign volunteers to teach its English language courses (Pre-K through high school), and it always welcomes visitors. Mayatan is located on the path to the Macaw Mountain bird park, about 1.5 km from the center of town, or a L15 (75¢) taxi ride. Contact Tommy for more information.
There is an unimpressive market near el Centro. On Sundays, fruit vendors line el Centro with their pickup trucks.
- Copan Association Gift Shop, Ruinas de Copan (on the left inside the Visitors Center at the Archaeological Park), ☏ . Daily 08:00-16:00. This shop has a really good variety of gifts, t-shirts and souvenirs from the Copan area. Located inside the Visitors' Center of the Ruins of Copan they also sell water and soft drinks.
|This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:|
|Mid-range||$8 - $15|
Most places offer a plato tipico de Honduras. This includes beef strips (or sometimes chicken or eggs), beans, fried plantains, tortillas, cabbage and sour cream. Licuados are either water- or milk-based fruit smoothies that for L30 should be enjoyed every day. Local meals run L80-120.
- Comedor Mary. The best local restaurant in town for delicious, cheap, clean Honduran food. Great tipicos and pupusas. Unpretentious and authentic.
- 1 Llama del Bosque, Calle de la Plaza, ☏ . 10:30-21:30. Second only to Comedor Mary for dependable local food. Larger and busier, but an excellent value and good service. The chorizo burrito and fajitas de res are huge and delicious.
- 2 La Casa de Todo Restaurant, Avenida Centroamerica (one block down from Banco de Occidente), ☏ , Gestión@casadetodo.com. 08:00-21:00. Great food. Homemade bread, yogurt, organic coffee, etc. .
- 3 Cafe San Rafael, Ave. Centro America, ☏ . Daily 08:00-20:00. Excellent coffee and panini sandwiches, but best known for their farmstead hand-made gourmet cheese, available nowhere else in Honduras. L200-500.
- 4 Cafe Via Via, Calle de la Plaza, ☏ , email@example.com. 06:30-00:00. Good selection of breakfast, Honduran, Mexican and international food in a nice friendly environment. Recommended.
- Restaurant Glifos (inside Hotel Marina Copan), In Hotel Marina Copan, Avenida Centroamérica, across Central Park, ☏ . Daily 06:30- 21:30. Local and international cuisine, the highest quality steaks, pastas, soups, salads, affordable buffet breakfast and delicious desserts.
- Carnitas Nia Lola. A restaurant a little ways off the parque central that offers a wide variety of delicious food and has a good happy hour. Service can be either excellent or quite slow.
- Asados Copan. A local "steakhouse" that offers the traditional carne asada in a variety of ways (with onions, jalapeño sauce, on a kabob, etc.) The restaurant is located up the hill from Picame, just one block behind the Banco Occidente on a large open-air wood deck. An entree runs L100-200.
- Don Udo´s, Avenida Mirador (BarrioEl Centro), ☏ . 06:00-22:00. An open restaurant with garden patio and full service menu. The steaks are best known, but there is a large a-la-carte menu with special dishes and snacks.
- Sol de Copan German Brewery & Restaurant, Barrio Buena Vista Ave El Mirador (Copan Ruinas), ☏ . 14:00-22:00. Brewery, German beer on tap, German & Honduran cuisine.
- Cafe Welchez. Among the best coffee to be had in Copan Ruinas, possibly in all of Honduras. On the corner of the town square, downhill from the Marina Copan. You can go on a coffee tour, just outside of town, to see where and how their coffee is grown and processed.
- Espresso Americano. The Honduran chain, serving coffee roasted with brown sugar.
- Cafe San Rafael. It serves excellent gourmet coffee, grown from their own farms.
- La Casa de todo Cafe. In a beautiful tropical garden, it serves fresh roasted organic coffee.
- Sol de Copan (German brewery & restaurant), Barrio Buena Vista (Copan Ruinas), ☏ . 14:00-22:00. Very good German food, but the real attraction is the beer - excellently crafted, filtered, and some of the best you'll have, anywhere.
- 1 The Tea & Chocolate Place (El Lugar del Té & Chocolate). 14:00-18:00. Amazing selection of teas and artisan chocolates. Relaxing environment with a nice view.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:|
|Mid-range||$25 - 50|
The town of Copán Ruinas has all types of accommodations for all prices ranges. Most places are located within two blocks of Parque Central.
- Hotel San José. The cheapest place in town. The rooms are unattractive but clean with shared (and not so clean) bathrooms. privates for L100 per person.
- Hotel Marbella (across from Hotel San José). Clean rooms with private bathrooms and fans. Also has more expensive rooms with A/C. L250 for a double with private bathroom.
- 1 Iguana Azul, Calle Rosalila, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. An excellent hostel a short walk from el Centro. Dorm beds in small rooms L170, private single US$16, private double L380. Run by an American couple, free purified water and good information on the area. Very quiet at night. Highly recommended!
- Hotel Plaza Copán (on the square next to the church). This hotel surrounds a pool, bar and atrium area. 20 rooms with private bath, TV and A/C. Single/double US$50/$60.
- 2 La Casa de Café, Calle Rosalila, ☏ , email@example.com. 10-room B&B in two wings each with private hot water bath, wood-panelled ceiling, ceiling fan, writing desk, night table w/ reading lamp and an oversized picture window which looks out onto a great view of the Copán River Valley, the distant mountains and La Casa de Café's own lovely tropical garden. US$45/$55 single/double per night (plus tax).
- 3 Hotel Marina Copán (Hotel Marina Copán), across Central Park (in the center of town), ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 12:00. A family-owned and -operated property established in 1945, this hotel is known for its history, nice architecture and good services. It has 49 rooms. from US$95.
- La Casa Rosada -Bed & Breakfast, ☏ . Two blocks from central park and 1 km (0.6 miles) from the Mayan archeological site. The hotel has 5 rooms. All rooms have private baths with steam showers, dual head showers, bidets, and a selection of natural hand-made soaps and shampoos. Each room has a DVD/CD player, flat screen LCD TVs with cable, a small refrigerator, A/C and ceiling fan, and 100% cotton linens. The place is beautifully decorated and creates a very relaxing atmosphere. Guests are offered a selection of cigars and fine wine.
- Clarion Hotel Copan Ruinas, ☏ . 2 km (1.2 miles) from Copán Ruinas and Sepulturas. A little far away from town (3 km - 2 miles). Big rooms, private bath with hot water. Restaurant and Pool & Jacuzzi. Free scheduled shuttle service to town and Ruinas/Sepulturas.
- 4 Terramaya, Avenida Centroamerica (2½ blocks north of Central Park), ☏ , email@example.com. Six rooms each with either private full size terrace, private garden or private balcony. Hammock, a/c, ceiling fan, Egyptian cotton linens, lovely handcrafted hardwood furniture, wood beamed ceilings, library, massage pavilion, outdoor shower, free wireless internet, internet jack in each guest room, garden, complimentary coffee, tea and iced tea. Spectacular views from guest rooms. Single $85-105 Double $95-115 Triple $105-125 Add 19% taxes Rates include full breakfast and unlimited coffee, tea and iced tea all day.
- Hotel Plaza Magdalena, ☏ . It's two blocks west from the central park. Pool, free breakfast, restaurant, cocktails, wifi. L 1816 (Oct 2023).
- A highlight of any trip to Central America, Antigua Guatemala is that country's beautiful colonial capital. Its cobblestoned streets and graceful architecture are guaranteed to charm.
- Spend a few relaxed days exploring the lush area around Lake Yojoa. It's kind of like Lake Atitlán, except without any of the tourist infrastructure, for better or worse. A wide range of climates (lakes, jungles, cloud forest, and volcanoes) each harbors their own biodiversity to discover.
- While San Pedro Sula isn't high on many wish lists, it nevertheless owns a modern, gigantic, and well connected bus station. Secured just outside the city center, thousands of folks pass this way daily.