The Pacific Coast
Honduras’s Pacific coast is a hot plain facing the Golfo de Fonseca (Gulf of Fonseca), which it shares with El Salvador and Nicaragua. Coastal beaches do exist, most notably at Cedeño and Isla del Tigre near Choluteca, but they can’t compare with those in nearby El Salvador or on Honduras’s Caribbean coast.
Set back from the coast is cooler hill country, dotted with dry forests and old mines. Aridity along the coastline is traded in for humidity during the rainy season (June through September), while the hills remain fairly green year-round. The region’s struggling economy, one of the poorest in the country, is dominated by shrimp-farming and cattle-ranching.
Three major rivers—the Choluteca, Goascarán, and Nacaome—trisect the narrow Choluteca Plain. The country’s only volcanoes, the termination of the volcanic chain of the Colinas de Juacarán beginning in El Salvador, are found here. Isla del Tigre (Amapala) is an example of one of these extinct volcanoes.
Much of the Pacific coastline is, or was, covered with mangrove swamps, but in recent years the growing shrimp-farming and cattle-ranching industries have severely threatened these fragile ecosystems. The Bahía de Chismuyo, not far from the El Salvador border, is a protected area of mangroves in name, but shrimp farmers have been clamoring to be allowed to clear more land there. One of the country’s most forceful environmental groups, the Comité para la Defensa y Desarrollo de la Flora y Fauna del Golfo de Fonseca (Committee for the Preservation of the Fauna and Flora of the Gulf of Fonseca, or CODEFFAGOLF), wages an unending fight to halt the expansion of the shrimp farms.
The Choluteca Plain and surrounding hills have been heavily farmed for years, and the deforestation and massive use of pesticides and fertilizers have combined to wreak havoc on the land. Desertification is advancing relentlessly in the south, and many campesinos have been forced to migrate to other parts of the country because the land is no longer arable.
One unavoidable fact about the Choluteca coastline is the heat. For much of the year, especially outside of the May–October rainy season, it is extremely hot, often reaching temperatures as high as 40°C (104°F). Rainfall on the Pacific coast is not as intensive as on the Caribbean side, and the wet and dry seasons are much more clearly defined. The rains start in April or May and continue until November, while the remaining months are invariably cloudless.
© Chris Humphrey and Amy E. Robertson from Moon Honduras, 5th Edition