Isla del Tigre is an island in the Gulf of Fonseca in Pacific Honduras.
The tranquil island is essentially just a volcanic peak that sharply rises from the ocean. It is a short boat ride from Coyolito on the mainland of Honduras. On the weekends and holidays it attracts a fair bit of upper class tourists from Tegucigalpa. International visitors are not very common on the island and there is virtually no tourist on the island during the week.
In the late 19th century, German immigrants established Ampala as the major port of Honduras in the Pacific. The town raised to some wealth, the remnants of which can still be seen today. Eventually San Lorenzo became the favorite port for the Pacific, and by the 1930s the port fell mostly out of use and most of the Germans left. Since the waterways to San Lorenzo pass through some wetlands and are therefore hard to maintain, a group of South Korean investors showed interest to reestablish a port on the island.
During a civil war in Nicaragua, Honduras allowed Nicaraguan rebels to install a base on the peak of Cerro El Tigre. Some ruins of their base are still there.
Several villages are scattered around the island. They are usually named as the beaches they are closest to. The main town on the island is Amapala. To its south there is a base of the Honduran Navy.
With high levels of unemployment, most of the population is poor, especially those living in villages on the Eastern side.
Buses go from el desvío, a crossing North of San Lorenzo, to Coyolito (L25). From there boats go frequently to Amapala (L20) and Playa Burro (L15).
From San Lorenzo or Choluteca any bus to Tegucigalpa passes by el desvío.
You could also come here directly on a chartered boat from El Salvador (very close) or Nicaragua. However, since there is apparently no immigration office on the island, getting the formalities sorted out might be tricky.
Checking into the country via sailboat was a breeze with both port captain and immigration offices on the end of the pier - and it is free.
Tuk-tuks are virtually the only means of transportation on the island. They always charge per person and will pick up more people as they go. They usually charge L5 within a village and up to L30 for larger distances.
The road around the island measures 18 km, so you could walk all distances if you are fit.
See and do
- Amapala. A few old buildings that might make a stroll in the streets worth your while.
- Beaches. The beaches are very calm. Even on the Pacific side, the waves are usually not very high. With a mix of volcanic and normal sand, most people might not find the beaches too attractive. However, the views of the neighboring islands are spectacular.
- Climb Cerro del Tigre. Two trails lead up to the antenna on the peak, one from Playa Burro in the north and one from the Naval Base in the west. Neither of the trails is marked. The trail from Playa Burro is apparently not obvious at all. You might need to hire a local to guide you to the top. The trail from the Naval base is steep but relatively easy to follow. It forks a few times but it usually becomes obvious if you picked the wrong option. There is also a detailed map of the trail on openstreetmap.org. At the end of either trail, you get to the antenna and ruins of a Nicaraguan rebel base. Just before reaching the antenna, you are rewarded with spectacular views of the coast of Honduras. The antenna has been decomissioned because of the complicated maintenance; since then many parts of it have been stolen, so it is probably not recommended to attempt to climb it.
- Walk around the island. The road going around the island measures 18 km (11 mi). Without much elevation change it is relatively easy to walk around the island. There are some viewpoints next to the road in the South. Should you change your mind, Tuk-Tuks are passing by from time to time which can pick you up. Though a government program has provided most poor people on the island with (identical) small houses, you might see families in some fairly poor living conditions as you walk around the island.
Nice street food can be found two blocks up from the docks. They don't have a large selection of drinks but they don't mind if you bring your own from La Comercial one block north.
Velero. Snacks (golosinas) for L20, good fries for L30. Try the great Fresco de Sandía for L5.
Lodging on the island seems to cater to wealthy visitors of the capital. Most rooms are expensive and at the same time not very attractive.
There are plenty of unattractive options for L500 or more in town. Just ask around and people will be happy to point out places to you.
El Parque (the public park at the waterfront that is a few blocks south from the main dock). Camping is allowed, free, and safe in this fairly attractive and clean park. There is plenty of grass to pitch a tent or trees for a hammock. To get some shelter from the rain you can also set up in the kiosko. There is a well and a pila down the steps in the south-west corner. To get a bucket (cubeta) for the well (pozo), just ask around at the houses neigbouring the park. Likely, you will get invited by the people occupying the old casino just west of the park to camp on their territory. The family living there is slightly weird but harmless. free.
La Comercial (one floor up from the shop on the main square). The grumpy owner has a very spacious double which she gives out with some haggling for L400. However, the shower was broken in 2016. The other rooms are very unattractive. L400-600 for a spacious double. L300-400 other doubles.
Rooms start at L1000.
Velero (next to where the boats from Coyolito land). The rooms with AC, a terrace with hammocks, and the attached restaurant are a pleasant exception to all the overpriced lodging options on the island. The doors are not exactly waterproof, so be careful what you leave on the floor. During a thunderstorm, rain might get in through the doors. L300 for a double with AC.
Claro provides cell phone coverage on most of the island. However, since the communications tower on Cerro el Tigre is not working anymore, only Amapala and its vicinity get proper 3G+ coverage.
Hotels and restaurants on the island typically do not provide WiFi for their guests.
There are no internet cafes on the island.
During the rainy season the entire island experiences lengthy blackouts almost daily. The power is usually cut well before the daily downpour and reestablished some time after.
The island has the feel of a small village and feels very safe. Locals will also confirm this. Apparently very few incidents happen on the island.
Septic sewage is used almost everywhere on the island. You need therefore not be afraid of greywater being fed into the water near the beaches.