San Pedro Sula is Honduras’ second largest city and the country’s unofficial industrial capital. It is located in the northwest corner of the country and is considered the economic heartland of Honduras. Many factories, businesses, and plantations are headquartered in San Pedro Sula. And many tourists interested only in visiting the Mayan ruins in Honduras’ western highlands don’t even bother with the capital, Tegucigalpa. They fly into San Pedro Sula, making it their base for exploring the Honduras’ western and northern regions.
San Pedro Sula’s history dates back to 1536 when it was founded by Pedro de Alvarado and his fellow Spanish Conquistadors. At the time, the town was situated in swamp land surrounded by tropical forests with scarce agricultural lands; this did not matter as the town served as the Spanish Conquistador’s colonial mint. Gold and silver mined in valleys like the Sula, Naco, and Quimistan to the west of San Pedro Sula were brought into the town for smelting. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the city was raided and sacked at various times by English, Dutch and French pirates, so the Spaniards eventually moved San Pedro Sula to its current location along the Chamelecon River. Today, the city is spurred economically by its banana, coffee, and sugar plantations as well as its garment manufacturing.
San Pedro Sula itself offers great museums, shopping opportunities, and nearby eco-tourist forests and waterfalls. Any exploration of the city should begin at the town center, Parque Central, which is easily spotted across the street from the landmark Hotel Gran Sula. At Parque Central, you’ll find various vendors, shoe shiners, and locals lounging around. Close by is the Catedral de San Pedro Sula, a neoclassical structure only recently completed. This church is treated like a community center and is always buzzing with activity.
San Pedro Sula has a few worthwhile museums. The Museo de Antropología is one of them. The museum showcases Honduras’ history and culture and houses the country’s archaeological and historical collections, including various sculptures, paintings, and ceramics. The Museo de la Naturaleza is another museum of the city; it showcases the unique flora and fauna surrounding San Pedro Sula, including exotic insect species and the wild animals of the Merendón mountains.
Outside of San Pedro Sula, there are a few must-visit natural attractions. About 12 miles west of San Pedro Sula is the Parque Nacional Cusuco, a protected subtropical forest with the tallest pine trees in Central America. The Cordillera del Merendón mountains also run through the park, whose highest peak is 7,355 feet above sea level at Cerro Jilinco. The park is also home to the cusuco armadillo, howler and white-faced monkey, toucan, parrot, quetzal, and 300 various bird species, making Parque Nacional Cusuco a favorite among bird-watchers.
The Cascadas de Pulhapanzak waterfalls are a tourist favorite as well. The waterfalls are the highest in the country at close to 330 feet, generating thunderous noises that can be heard a way’s away.
Shopping in San Pedro Sula can be done at the City Mall Circunvalación, the city’s largest and most lavish mall. It hosts shops of all kinds, selling antiques, electronics, and household items. The Multiplaza is the city’s second largest mall and is home to a number of fine stores, selling similar items as the City Mall Circunvalación.
For traditional market shopping, Mercado Guamilito is the place to be. It is located in the northwest part of town and sells many handicrafts, baskets, leather goods, ebony carvings, and other souvenirs.
The nightlife in San Pedro Sula is decent. Most of the clubs and bars are located in Zona Viva and open up around 10:00PM. You’ll find the classic beer joint as well as the odd karaoke venue and the ever-popular dance clubs.