Isla del Tigre
The 316-square kilometer volcanic island of Isla del Tigre is hardly more than spitting distance from the Honduran mainland, but it has a few decent beaches, some good seafood, and an appealing lost-in-time feel. Amapala is its only town, and Hondurans often refer to the whole island by the town’s name.
Amapala was once Honduras’s primary Pacific port, but it has long since been superseded by Puerto de Henecán near San Lorenzo. Amapala is now a decaying 19th-century relic, looking for a way to survive. The primary attraction in the town itself is the well-restored church, dating from the late 1800s.
The surrounding water is warm (although rather dark from mud stirred up from the sea floor), and several beaches around the island are worth checking out. Tourism is perhaps the island’s best hope for survival, and so far it’s enticing 1,000 cruise shippers a year to visit.
Andrés Niño first sighted Isla del Tigre in 1522, but the Spanish didn’t settle there initially. Pirates used the island as a hideout until 1770, when the governor of San Miguel, El Salvador, ordered a town built. For a short time during the presidency of Marco Aurelio Soto, Amapala functioned as the capital of Honduras.
Although subject to the same heat as the Choluteca plain, the island is often graced by an ocean breeze, making the climate more hospitable. Isla del Tigre is six kilometers in diameter, and the volcanic peak is 783 meters high. Until the early 1990s, a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) contingent staffed a base at the peak, but now it’s deserted.
A small tourist office at the dock in Amapala can help answer questions about where to go on the island—when it’s open that is (8 a.m.–noon and 2–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 8 a.m.–noon Sat.).
Getting to Isla del Tigre
To get to Isla del Tigre by public transport, get off a Choluteca–Tegucigalpa bus two kilometers west of San Lorenzo to the dirt road turnoff to Coyolito. Here, hop one of the hourly buses or hitch a ride the 30 kilometers to Coyolito. Alternatively, you can get a bus to San Lorenzo and catch a Coyolito-bound bus from the center of town.
Colectivo boat rides from Coyolito to Amapala cost US$1.30, or US$7 for a private boat ride. These same boats charge about US$26 for a half-day tour around the island or varying prices to specific destinations (other nearby islands, mangrove forests, etc.). For more information, check with the Capitanía del Puerto in Amapala (tel. 504/795-8643). One direct bus goes to Tegucigalpa at 3 a.m. each day, but it’s easy to take a bus to the main highway and catch a passing bus to either Tegucigalpa or Choluteca.
One bus circles the island each day early in the morning, and there’s some traffic in the morning—good for hitching rides—but in the afternoon, it’s usually deserted. Pickup trucks stand in for taxis on the island, and rides can cost US$3–7 depending on the destination.
© Chris Humphrey and Amy E. Robertson from Moon Honduras, 5th Edition