Although it’s the fourth-largest city in Honduras , with 154,000 residents, Choluteca feels more like an overgrown village. The small colonial downtown area remains much as it was a few centuries ago, with its parque central, narrow cobblestone streets, and one-level, tile-roofed colonial buildings, most of which are in a sad state of disrepair. Sights in Choluteca are limited, but it can be an interesting place to spend half a day, especially if you are traveling between Honduras and Nicaragua or El Salvador.
The name Choluteca, which is thought to mean “broad valley,” derives from the preconquest inhabitants of the region, the Chorotega Indians. The Chorotega, related to the Toltec, were relatively recent arrivals themselves, having migrated from Chiapas, Mexico, sometime around A.D. 1000.
The area around Choluteca was first explored by the Spanish under the command of Andrés Niño, as part of a 1522 expedition led by Gil González Dávila up the west coast of Central America from Panama. Capt. Cristóbal de la Cueva founded Xérex de la Frontera—later called Choluteca—in 1541.
During colonial times, Choluteca grew quickly, its economy driven by the active Pacific seaport and the rich mines of El Corpus , in the hills above Choluteca. The town was originally settled on the west side of the Río Choluteca, but after pirates sacked and torched the town in the 17th century, colonists relocated to the present site.
Anyone interested in the history and legends of Choluteca and the region, and who reads Spanish, should look for three books published in 1996, Por Cuentas, Aquí en Choluteca, Por Cuentas, Aquí en El Corpus, and Por Cuentas, Aquí en Nacaome.
Local officials talk about restoring many of the colonial buildings downtown in an effort to boost the town’s meager tourism potential, but they’ve yet to take action. The annual Feria Patronal of Choluteca, held December 6–14, is reputed to be quite a bash, with lots of good food, drinking (lots and lots of drinking), music, dancing, and fireworks on the last night.
Mi Esperanza (tel. 504/782-0841) has inexpensive regular buses to Tegucigalpa  from a private terminal a couple of blocks north of the main terminal, charging US$3.90 for the three-hour ride. Buses run every two hours 4 a.m.–5 p.m. El Dandy (tel. 504/782-0204) has buses that depart every 45 minutes from the main Choluteca terminal, a dozen blocks southeast of the square, to the Mercado Mayoreo in Comayagüela (Tegucigalpa). The four-hour ride costs US$3.40. Astrasur, also located at the terminal, has similar prices and services.
For express, Líneas de Lujo has an office a block from the terminal and charges US$10 for the 2.25-hour drive. Saenz (tel. 504/782-2712) has buses at 6 a.m., 10 a.m., 2 p.m., and 6 p.m., and charges US$11.40.
Direct buses to Guasaule  on the Nicaraguan border leave from the terminal daily every half-hour between 5:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., charge US$1.50, and swing by the main terminal to pick up passengers before leaving town. It’s a 1.5-hour ride, and the bus drops passengers off right at the bridge over the border. A microbus from the terminal costs just 10 cents more for the nonstop ride. They operate 6 a.m.–5 p.m. and leave as soon as the van is full, about every half hour.
Buses leave the main terminal for San Marcos de Colón  frequently between 4 a.m. and 6 p.m. for US$1. From San Marcos, you can continue on to the Nicaraguan border at El Espino . Buses also frequently leave the main terminal heading to El Amatillo  at the Salvadoran border.
Buses to El Corpus  leave regularly between 5:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. from the terminal and markets, charging US$1.50 for the one-hour ride (look for buses marked El Triunfo).
Many buses also have stops around the Mercado Viejo. Buses to Tegucigalpa leave from in front of El Nilo on the east side of the market between 6:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., charging US$3.40, and buses to El Amatillo leave from the corner south of Hotel Santa Rosa. The first bus heads out at 3:30 a.m., and they leave roughly every 25 minutes thereafter until 5:50 p.m. The ride takes two hours. (It’s not advisable to hang around the market before dawn, but if you were staying at the Hotel Santa Rosa you could lurk in its doorway until the bus appears.)
All buses leaving from the terminal invariably take a spin through town to look for more passengers, so if you can’t get to the terminal, it’s often possible to flag one down. Taxis to the terminal cost US$0.75 from the square.
The main highways leaving Choluteca toward Guasaule (47 kilometers), San Marcos de Colón (56 kilometers), El Amatillo (85 kilometers), and Tegucigalpa (142 kilometers) are all paved and in relatively good condition.