Why You’re Completely Wrong About Honduras Real Estate
If the country’s crime rate is the thing that’s keeping Honduras real estate off the list of properties you’re considering abroad, then I have some good news for you.
It’s not that the Honduras crime rate is lower than what you’ve heard. (If anything the situation is probably way worse.) But fortunately, the problem areas are all a considerable distance from where you’ll find the most desirable Honduras real estate.
So just how bad is crime in Honduras?
I’m not going to sugarcoat or gloss over the statistics. Honduras has a very real crime problem. In fact, it has the highest rate of intentional homicide in the entire world, at 82 out of every 100,000 people. That number is even drastically higher than neighboring El Salvador which, as the second highest homicide rate, only experiences 66 homicides per 100,000 deaths.
There are a number of factors that contribute to these high rates of crime and murder.
For starters, the country is extremely poor. Its education system is only so-so, and it experiences a high rate of unemployment. Gangs are common, particularly among youth, and the apprehension and conviction rates of offenders is low.
One of the largest contributors to the country’s crime problem is its role as a major drug route to the U.S. The illegal drug trade in Honduras is prevalent and has gained steam in recent years following the 2009 coup d’état of then president Manuel Zelaya, at which point the U.S. suspended anti-drug support.
What are the areas to avoid?
Despite the crime problems that do exist, potential expats and visitors to Honduras will be happy to know that these conditions are not homogenous throughout the country as a whole. In fact, there’s a stark difference between mainland Honduras and the Caribbean islands, which are the areas most frequented by travelers.
That’s not to say that crime can’t happen anywhere. It can, and it does. No place in the world is exempt. But in general, there are two major areas to steer clear of when traveling in the country or shopping for Honduras real estate.
San Pedro Sula
With the highest murder rate on earth, as of 2014, San Pedro Sula is the country’s second largest city. Located near the country’s Caribbean coast, its homicides recently topped that of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, another city that’s plagued with crime related to drug and gang activity.
It’s home to Ramón Villeda Morales International Airport, so visitors flying into the country’s mainland are advised to use caution when traveling. Busloads of tourists have been known to fall victim to robberies, sometimes by armed hijackers.
Francisco Morazan Department
Home to Tegucigalpa, the nation’s capital, this department (similar to a U.S. county) is another place to avoid in Honduras. Located in the central part of the nation, it’s considered to be the most violent department overall.
Thankfully the area, which is quite mountainous, has little to offer tourists. Some of the highest peaks house cloud forests, such as Cerro Uyuca or La Tigra National Park. The northern portion of the department is home to the Jicaque people.
Now for the good news
It doesn’t sound much like I’m trying to convince you to consider making a home in Honduras, does it? In fact, if anything, I’ve probably only confirmed your reservations about the Central American nation and its increasing crime problem. But here’s the good news.
A completely different world awaits you out on the Caribbean islands of Honduras.
There you’ll find pristine beaches, a stunning tropical landscape with exotic flora and fauna, the world’s second largest reef system, a well-developed tourist infrastructure, a vibrant expat community, and almost any modern convenience you can think of, and virtually no violent crime to speak of.
Are the Bay Islands, including Roatan, crime-free?
Like I said, there’s no place on earth that’s a complete paradise, free of any crime. However, the difference between the crime rates on Honduras’ mainland and its Caribbean islands, such as the increasingly-popular Roatan, is extremely refreshing. Here are a few key reasons for the contrast.
- Access to the islands is limited. People who visit Roatan and the other islands can only arrive through a limited number of controlled access points: the airport, the cruise docks, or the ferry from the mainland (whose passengers must pass through a metal detector). However, it should be noted that Roatan can also be reached fairly easily from the mainland by small, private watercraft.
- Numerous steps have been taken to prevent crime on Roatan and the other islands. Police stops on Roatan are common, as the island only has one main road. There’s also a naval base on the island of Guanaja, which the U.S. constructed to help combat drug trafficking. Two more are also under construction on the mainland’s Caribbean coast.
- A special police force exists specifically to protect the safety of tourists. They’re mostly on foot, but as a result of their presence most tourist areas tend to be safe, even after dark.
- Private guards can be hired for reasonable prices. Most people who own expensive homes, especially if they’re remote or only used seasonally, hire guards to watch their property while they’re away.
- A little common sense goes a long way. Any crime that does occur in Honduras’ more heavily touristed areas typically involves minor crimes like pickpocketing or petty theft. Much of this can be avoided by walking in well-lit areas, keeping valuables out of sight, sticking together with a group, relying on native guides who know the area, and avoiding remote beaches or slums at night.
Roatan and the other islands do have their occasional issues, but they’re few and far between. For example, home invasions by armed intruders have occurred in some remote homes. Travelers on the unpaved road from Punta Gorda have fallen victim to robbers. Paya Bay, on the eastern side of the island has seen its share of thefts as well.
In general, the island’s western end is much more developed and, consequently, safer than the more isolated eastern end. Coxen Hole, the island’s largest city, has a low-lying area called “the swamp” that’s littered with slums and is unsafe at night.
Why you’ll never have to worry about leaving the islands for the mainland
So, it sounds like the islands are about as safe as you can get for a developing nation. But, how can you be sure you’ll never find yourself having to travel to the mainland where the more serious crime problem exists? Here’s your answer.
Roatan is accessible by direct flight from the U.S.
Roatan’s Juan Manuel Galvez International Airport is nice, modern, and receives direct flights from the U.S. (as well as a number of other nations) via several major airlines such as American, Continental, Delta, Taca, and Iberia. Because of its close Caribbean location, you can even be there in a few short hours from cities like Miami or Houston.
There are also regional flights from the mainland, as well as a ferry. But, with such readily available air access from abroad, you likely won’t ever need to use either.
Once you arrive you probably won’t ever have to leave
When visiting or even living on Roatan or one of the other Bay Islands, you’ll likely find everything you need in the way of consumer goods and services. On Roatan, the cities of Coxen Hole and French Harbour, the two main commercial towns, have all the basic establishments you could expect.
There are supermarkets, banks, hardware stores, and more. There are public and private hospitals and even a decompression chamber for divers. Among the franchises represented on the islands are Subway, Ace Hardware, Wendy’s, and Applebee’s.
If you can’t find what you need on the islands, there are also a number of shipping centers where you can have goods shipped over from the U.S.
There are also options for those seeking a bit of solitude amidst all of this tourist development. Though it has plenty of modern amenities and conveniences, there are parts of Roatan that are still relatively untouched. You can find quaint little fishing villages and even miles-long stretches of deserted beaches. There are even a few villages that still don’t have electricity.
And I can guarantee you certainly won’t WANT to leave
For starters there are the spectacular scenic views and abundance of nature that are sure to hold your attention. Roatan’s varied topography includes sandy white beaches, jungle-covered mountains, and shadowy mangroves. And it’s all surrounded by the second largest reef system in the world.
Due to the prevalent reefs, many of which stretch almost to the shore, Roatan is a world-class diving and snorkeling destination. Around it lie some of the most species-rich waters in the entire Caribbean, much of which are protected by the Honduran government. There you can swim through caverns and canyons or just hang out closer to the surface and still enjoy incredible visibility in the clear waters.
You’ll also find tropical forests full of fruit trees, ferns, orchids, and palms. The islands are home to 12 species of mammal, including white-tailed deer. You can also find 40 species of reptiles, including lizards, frogs, and endangered sea turtles, but only one species of poisonous snake. Add to that around 120 species of birds, including hummingbirds, woodpeckers, ibis, pelicans, and the yellow-nape parrot, and Roatan is a nature lover’s paradise.
The temps hover around 80 degrees, with constant trade winds that make it feel slightly cooler. The rainfall totals are manageable, with most falling between December and February, and what the islands do get helps keep everything lush and green.
There’s even plenty to entertain the adrenaline junkie
I talked about the diving, but that’s by far not the only reason people come to live or play on Roatan. Adventure loving expats can also go kayaking or even sailing. The sport fishing is top notch, with anglers reeling in tuna, marlin, and tarpon. The more laid-back fisherman can even go fly fishing in the mangroves and sand flats.
On land, there are dozens of places to go hiking or exploring. Tour companies offer zip-line canopy tours, horseback riding, and other guided tours of the island. There are also mangrove tours and glass-bottom boats. You can swim with dolphins, dive with whale sharks, or hop aboard a submarine that dives to depths of 2,000 feet.
For more easy-going family-friendly outings, there are botanical gardens, a hydroponics farm, and an iguana farm. You can also travel to Punta Gorda to spend time with the Garifuna people, an indigenous tribe of Afro-Caribbean descent. And don’t forget about one of the most popular hobbies of all…relaxing on the beach.
Honduras real estate that’s currently available
Here are a few examples of what you can get if you don’t shy away from Honduras real estate and the magnificent Bay Islands just because of the horrible (but true) things you’ve heard about the crime problem on the mainland:
- For $184,000, you can buy a 3 bedroom home in the development of Green Bamboo in West End. It comes fully furnished and includes outdoor living space, a pool, and a short walk to the beach.
- Your $219,000 gets you a 3 bedroom, 3 bath home overlooking Anthony’s Key, complete with furnishings, numerous upgrades, and even an SUV for traveling around the island. This gated oceanfront property has been recently renovated, with 2 tiled decks, an alarm system, and beautiful landscaping.
- With $579,000 you can own two homes on 1.8 acres of seaside property inside the Sandy bay marine reserve. It boasts panoramic ocean views, 130 feet of beachfront, and a short drive to all the popular tourist hotspots.
Aren’t you glad you didn’t dismiss Honduras real estate too hastily?
Does all of this sound starkly different than the mainland I described earlier in the article? It should. Because it is.
Mainland Honduras is a poverty-stricken, crime-laden third-world nation. Its Bay Islands are a well-developed tourist mecca with all the modern conveniences and a refreshingly laid-back Caribbean beach town vibe.
Don’t let the former steer you away from the latter. Learn more about Roatan and the surrounding islands, or I’m afraid you might be sorry you missed out on a great opportunity.
Map of Roatan, Honduras
Roatan, Honduras Fast Facts
- Population: 50,000
- Typical temperature: From 80 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit
- Nearest airport with U.S. flights: Juan Manuel Gálvez International Airport
- Nearest U.S. consulate: Tegucigalpa, Honduras
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