San Lorenzo is on the southern coast of Honduras. It is right on the Gulf of Fonseca, which Honduras shares with El Salvador and Nicaragua. It is the most important city in the department of Valle and home to the port of Henecan. This is Honduras’ port on the Pacific. San Lorenzo is only 95 Km. (approximately 57 miles) from Tegucigalpa.
The City of San Lorenzo is a young. It was founded in 1522, but did not receive the status of city until 1909, when the National Congress declared it a city and municipality. Its development has come hand in hand with the construction of the Port of Henecan. This facility took over the port activity from Amapala. Amapala was the historical port in Southern Honduras on the Isla del Tigre. The island is also within the department of Valle. The old port had the handicap of being on an island. This meant shipping all merchandise from the mainland to the island port or vice versa. This made the shipping process expensive, risky and lengthy. The new port generated a series of opportunities, both in Valle and Choluteca. Local produce now has access to international markets. Thus, the agricultural and industrial development of the area has surged.
San Lorenzo is a progressive city; amongst its assets is a modern market that locals refer to as the “South Mall”. The market has earned this name because of its size, architecture and cleanliness. This makes it the envy of all other cities in Honduras. The Casa de la Cultura, is across the street from Central Park offers a large auditorium. There is also municipal library in operation there. An artistic mural depicts the most important historical moments of the city and municipality of San Lorenzo.
Central Park offers a perfect setting for all family members to enjoy. You will find a series of parks and plazas depicting marine themes have been set up around the city. Each one has a native sea related animal, such as a shark, a pelican, a shrimp, etc. The small park at the old dock provides a nice spot to stop and enjoy a sunset. I find it fun to watch the local kids playing and swimming at the old dock during high tide. An important asset to the city is the friendliness of its inhabitants. San Lorenzo is famous for the hospitality of its people, the seafood served in its restaurants and its night life.
Inhabitants from neighboring Choluteca prefer to make the 34 km. drive ( 20 miles) to have lunch or dinner, despite the fact that there are good restaurants in their city. The fact is that people have fun in San Lorenzo. Without doubt, the “funnest” time in town is in August. This is when the city celebrates its patron saint. The celebration comes to a climas during the Gran Carnaval del Pacífico. Another festive date that are worthwhile is the 25th of December. This is when the “Festival del Marisco” (Seafood Festival) takes place.
This is a great time to enjoy a variety of seafood dishes that have made San Lorenzo famous. Conch soup, seafood soup, shrimp, fish and other seafood dishes are all part of the show! On the 24th of June, the “Danza del Canecho” or crab dance takes place. This coincides with the mating season for crabs and is always celebrated on the day of St. John.
One of the favorite activities for the locals is to tour the mangrove canals that lead out to the Gulf of Fonseca. Exotic wildlife has made of this area a haven for birdwatchers. The abundant marine life provides an opportunity for local fishermen to make a living. You may see them at work as you tour the mangrove canals in the Gulf of Fonseca. During a tour, secluded beaches and islands provide the setting for a Robinson Crusoe experience!
The most prominent tourist attraction in the area is the island community of Amapala. This charming town is on the Isla del Tigre in the Gulf of Fonseca. The island, which is of volcanic origin, has an almost perfect conical shape. For years, it was the main entry point to Honduras from the Pacific. The island community came to a standstill when the port of Henecan started operations in the middle of the past century. The town of Amapala retains a unique architecture. Unfortunately, it is somewhat dilapidated due to the economic slump suffered by the community after the port closed. Recent efforts to restore the economy within the community have been based in tourism. There are several hotels in Amapala where you can stay during your visit to the island.
Getting to Isla del Tigre is only possible by boat, and the usual route is through Coyolito. Coyolito is a sleepy beach side fishing community. It has gained fame in Honduras as the beach resort for the “rich and famous” from Tegucigalpa. The access to Coyolito is via a paved road, through a detour clearly market on the Pan American Highway CA1 between Jicaro Galan and San Lorenzo. At Coyolito you can hire a boat to take you across the calm waters of the Gulf of Fonseca to Amapala.
The Gulf of Fonseca has various of islands, some of which belong to Honduras and others to El Salvador. You can be standing in Coyolito or Amapala and see El Salvador and Nicaragua! Are looking for a breathtaking view of the Gulf of Fonseca? If you are willing to walk in the sun, the hike to the top of the Isla del Tigre will reward you with a a fantastic view. You will see the three Central American countries.
An important part of the Gulf of Fonseca’s coast consists of mangroves forests. The Bahia de Chismuyo Wildlife Reserve, west of Coyolito provides protection no many of these coastal forests. You can visit this area hiring a boat at Coyolito. Another option is to take the detour towards the West just after the El Relleno Village. Follow the road till the end where you will find a small fishing village called Puerto Grande. En route you will have nice views of the Bahia de Chismuyo Wildlife Reserve. Once in Puerto Grande, you can hire a boat to take you into the Reserve. Last time I was there I found a small hotel called the South Beach Hotel in Puerto Grande. I am not sure if it currently open or not.
The swampy, coastal areas around the Gulf are ideal for shrimp farming s and salt producing fields. Watermelon and melons are also produced in the region in the fertile lowlands. Both are an important part of the local economy.
The department of Valle has a strong Spanish Colonial heritage. There are many interesting towns with colonial architecture. Many have artisans that produce varied handicrafts. You can not miss the roadside vending areas with colorful ceramic roosters. There are also some much more sober and unique two tone ceramic pieces.
The most important colonial town in Valle is Nacame, the capital of the department. Nacaome has the distinction of being the hottest city in Honduras. Langue, located further west, has a lovely colonial church. There is now a nice hotel in Langue, called Hotel El Centro, where you can relax and enjoy the town. The Hotel is almost on a corner at Central Park. Langue is famous for its hammocks and you can also find nice ceramic pottery here.