A 17-kilometer dirt road rings Isla del Tigre , so named for one of the island’s long-extinct animal denizen—it makes for a great bike ride, although you’ll need to bring your own bike. Many extremely poor campesino families live in simple huts along the road, scraping a living from little agricultural plots on the mountainside.
From Amapala heading southwest (counterclockwise), about 20 minutes from town by foot and just past the Honduran military post, a dirt road turning inland leads to the top of the volcano, the site of the now-deserted DEA base. The walk takes about two hours of hard hiking, and the views, especially in the early morning when the sky is clear, are superb. (It’s also smart to get your hike in as early as possible before the heat really kicks in.) It’s possible to spend the night if equipped with tent, water, and food—sunrise is usually lovely.
About 45 minutes from Amapala on foot, not far past the mountain road, is Playa Grande, a swath of black sand facing El Salvador and lined with several fish restaurants. At the north end of the beach is La Cueva de la Sirena, a bat-filled red volcanic rock cave with two entrances, one on the ocean. Local legend has it that Sir Francis Drake hid a stash of his ill-gotten booty here.
Of the popular beaches, Playa Negra is by far the cleanest, and it’s actually possible to see through the water to your feet if the water is calm. Many other less obvious and usually deserted beaches are located around the island, awaiting exploration. Playa El Zapote is one of the only white-sand beaches on the island (white from crushed shells) and there is a hotel, but there are also a lot of biting pulgas de mar (water fleas). From Playa Caracol on the west side, you can walk across the shallow water to the barely inhabited Isla el Pacar, where you can pitch a tent, or navigate around the outcropping to the right for a beach all for yourself.
The waters virtually lap the edge of the restaurants at Playa Grande and Playa El Burro during high tide, so plan accordingly. Avoid swimming at the beaches where fishermen work, as manta rays and jelly fish like to swim nearby in search of fish discards.