Honduras is best known to the tourist for its ruins of the great Mayan civilization, Copan, first discovered by an American in 1837. The capital, Tegucigalpa, population 267,000, is fairly comfortable weather-wise because of its altitude. The people of the Bay Islands, offshore in the Caribbean, speak English as a first language and Spanish, the Honduran national language, second. The islands once served as sanctuaries for English buccaneers who left their descendents and their language. The Bay Islands have the distinction of sitting on the second largest barrier reef in the world (after that of Queensland, Australia). Barrier reefs offer good snorkeling and scuba diving. Adventuresome Canadians, Americans, and Englishmen operate small Bay Island resorts catering to divers and yachtsmen. A problem for the visitor is getting there. Several plane transfers are usually necessary to get to Riordan, the departure point for the islands.
Honduras is mountainous, with volcanic peaks reaching as high as eighty-two hundred feet. If the term Banana Republic applies to any country, it is Honduras. The United Fruit Company developed banana plantations before the turn of the century and bananas have been the primary source of income ever since. The government changes presidents frequently as one military man removes another and steps in to acquire wealth and move on. Ninety percent of the 3.5 million residents are mestizos (European-Indian). The country has a small coast on the Pacific as well as its coastline on the Caribbean.
El Salvador, the smallest country in Central America, borders Honduras on the east and south, Guatemala on the north. It has a narrow coastal strip on the Pacific. A central plateau runs between mountains, including active volcanoes. Four million people crowd into this tiny country, creating the greatest population density on the American mainland. San Salvador, the capital, alone has a population of almost one million. Coffee plantations run almost up to the rims of many of the country’s twenty-two volcanoes. Political unrest has resulted from the fact that a few families have controlled the country and most of the wealth for many years.