EFAM | Escape From America Magazine

The Truth About Living in Honduras: The Upside and Downside

my dream house on 17 ½ acres of wooded mountain land

I’ve done volunteer service trips from the U.S.A. to Honduras, Central America for thirty-five years and have been living in Honduras for six years as a retiree. The country holds no secrets or illusions from me. I only tell things the way I see them, so be assured that this short overview is not going to be yet another glowing tourist-luring travelogue. After reading this article you might decide that living or retiring in Honduras could be right for you, and then again, you may not.

Before moving to Honduras as a retiree, I spent three years in Sarasota, Florida – “America’s Finest Small City,” bordering “America’s Most Beautiful Beach,” according to the magazines that conduct these kinds of surveys. After endless symphony concerts, ballets, Broadway and off-Broadway-style theater, art gallery openings, conferences and political fund-raising parties, I felt as spoiled, bored and saturated as one might feel from eating dozens of fancy chocolate candies every day.

I was a by-stander, watching life instead of participating in the real world which is how I felt when I was working on projects and playing on the beaches and in the hot springs of Honduras. I was also calculating the financial realities of retiring in the U.S. versus retiring in Honduras. I was fast approaching my seventies. I knew I would need help, being a single woman, not fragile by any means, but delicate, not a heavy lifter or mountain climber anymore.

I had worked in low-paying social services jobs and had no pension or savings other than a small Social Security check of $730 coming in each month. Almost all of my money had gone into renovating my little house in a traditional old African American section of Sarasota. If I stayed in the U.S., I would eventually be faced with the probability of having to move into a “low income senior independent living” apartment.

To me, this was not acceptable. I would feel like a parakeet in a tiny cage, possibly surrounded by other senior apartment dwellers whose cigarette smoke, sneezes, coughs and snores would permeate through thin walls, doors, floors and windows (as they had when I had tried living in one of these senior apartments some years back, and had only stayed for two months before the deadly second-hand cigarette smoke seeping into the apartment became intolerable.) Luckily, I had only rented out my house in Upstate New York temporarily and was able to return, in gratitude and appreciation of it after this failed experiment in senior housing.

In Honduras, it is possible to have a full-time handyman/gardener/driver plus a full-time housekeeper/cook for less than $500 per month. In the U.S. the same assistance could cost $5,000 a month or more. I figured that I would be able to sell my freshly renovated house in the U.S. and build or buy one in Honduras with enough money left over to invest and boost my retirement money by enough to live comfortable and afford the help I need, as a retiree (“pensionado”).

I also planned to find a few other retirees in Honduras who would be welcome to live with me, rent and mortgage-free, sharing only the low-cost maintenance and salaries of our assistants (and God(dess) laughs when humans make plans, right?).

I flew down and took a modern Mercedes bus, equipped with movies, bathrooms and snacks, to Copan Ruins, a small town that attracts tourists from all over the world to visit the extensive Mayan ruins there. I had been attending a yearly conference put on by Project Honduras (www.projecthonduras.com), and fell in love with the many interesting restaurants, including the venerable and traditional Llama del Bosque (“flame tree”) and Twisted Tanya’s, located on a second-floor terrace, with gourmet and vegetarian dishes and a well-stocked bar.

My favorite of the nearby attractions is a wild bird park, Macaw Mountain, which was built by two North American men. They also own a fish processing plant on Roatan, Honduras Bay Islands, and a coffee farm, so eating at the Macaw Mountain Restaurant is a delicious adventure in good eating, with fresh ocean fish and shrimp, homegrown and roasted coffee. Besides watching the exotic parrots, macaws and other birds (all rescued, not captured), it is possible to have a photo taken with a bird on each shoulder, and to swim in the mountain stream that runs through the park.

There are dozens of other attractions, restaurants and fine hotels in Copan Ruins. I won’t go into any more details about them, because all of that information is available online at www.hondurastips.com, and in the official travel guide book of Honduras, also called Honduras Tips, available at hotels and restaurants throughout the country and mailed free of charge from the Miami-based Honduras Tourism Office.

I rented a modern house in Copan Ruins and was looking for a tranquil piece of land in the nearby countryside when I learned that foreigners (“extranjeros”) were only allowed to buy 400 meters of land near the international borders. Copan Ruins is ten minutes from the border of Guatemala. This meant that I could only buy a small home in town, which was much too noisy and crowded for this country girl, or I could marry a Honduran man and thus be eligible to buy land in his name. Neither of these options appealed to me.

Friends advised me to take a look at Santa Rosa de Copan, which in the U.S. would be referred to as “the county seat,” with the municipal buildings, courthouse, police headquarters, three universities and a bilingual international school for the children. I met with the one real estate broker in town in that year. He showed me houses and land all over the surrounding areas of this charming colonial town, one hour and forty minutes from Copan Ruins.

With a referral from a well-trusted local attorney, I was introduced to a builder/contractor who described himself as an architect. I later found out, much to my dismay, that he had never graduated from architectural college, nor was he a member of the Honduras Architectural Association. He was still working on my house three years after the six-months contract that I signed with him. He once said to me “This house is my experiment.” I told him I was tired of his being two and a half years late on our contract and of his “experiment,” at which point I fired him and have gradually completed the work myself, with the expert and loyal help of the assistant I hired then to help me. Unfortunately, the house cost almost three times the original estimate, which left me without any savings at all.

When I spoke to another local attorney and a justice of the peace mediator about recouping the $15,000 in fines this contractor owed me for the extra 2 ½  years, as stated in the contract, to cover the expenses I had for renting an apartment in town during this time, I was told that there was nothing I could do. Justice is truly blind in Honduras. In fact, much of the legal system is like living in anarchy. There are laws, but they are difficult, if not impossible to enforce. That is handy for driving fast and parking illegally, but not so great if you actually have a legitimate legal grievance.

Despite this aggravation, my dream house on 17 ½  acres of wooded mountain land, just seven minutes from town, was completed and I moved in three years ago. It is much larger than I had imagined. I don’t know much about the metric system, so when I looked at the plans of the house on paper it looked like a small house, but once it was built, it turned out to be a large, impressive villa. I absolutely love it.

My loyal assistant and I have lovingly landscaped the yard, three fifty-foot long, seven feet wide terraces of baby fruit trees, bananas, pineapples, papayas, organic fruits, vegetables and herbs. We’ve created a reliable water and irrigation system and located three possible stream-side lots for little retreat cottages, similar to the caretakers’ cottage that I had built and lived in during the three years the big villa was under construction. All that’s needed now is the extra time, energy and money that it would take to continue to maintain this tropical paradise (and add a few extras, such as a lap pool in the backyard, a fish pond down near the stream, more orchids, fruit trees, re-painting when needed.).

A friend of mine is coming for a visit in April, with a definite interest in living and retiring in Honduras (and possibly volunteering to teach English or other projects). If he,and possibly one or two others come, Villa Mariposa will be our home for the rest of our lives. The weather is cool and dry, not buggy and humid and hot, as the beaches and cities anywhere south as in Georgia and Florida and here tend to be.

Santa Rosa is known for its refreshing mountain air. I never need to use the ceiling fans or the propane gas fireplace. We have a new supermarket, pharmacy and hospital within seven minutes of my house, as well as the bilingual school. My assistant and his mother take great care of the property and the house, and if our plans come to fruition we will be able to raise their salaries.

Sometimes there are lots of potholes in the roads and sometimes none. Occasionally there are problems finding U.S. made products in town and we have to ask friends from the States to bring a couple pairs of all-cotton socks or a jar of “Bacos” or some herb or vitamin that hasn’t made it into the local stores yet. This is about the extent of “roughing it” in Santa Rosa.

Crime in cities and along beaches has increased due to drug trafficking filtering in from Colombia and gangs being recruited from L.A. and Miami. There is a very low crime rate here in the mountains, and many non-government organizations, missionaries and educators are volunteering their lives to help Hondurans evolve smoothly into the 21st century. There is a lot of catching up to do, for people who lived in adobe and palm-thatched huts (“champas”) just thirty-five years ago when I first came here. Electricity, television, Internet, cars and trucks, jet airliners have changed all that. The cities have their megamalls and resort hotels, but they also have confused country folks sleeping in corners of tall cement buildings, wondering where all the great jobs are, that they saw on TV for the first time.

So, there you have it: Honduras has ups and downs, just like every other country and state I traveled in throughout a long lifetime (29 countries and 49 states, so far). I still think Villa Mariposa (“butterfly house”) is just about perfect. The only thing is I can’t keep it up alone much longer, so I have actually put photos and a description on EscapeArtist.com.

If no one comes to share my paradise, $730/month just isn’t enough anymore. Two of those checks would do it. As The Way-Shower once said, “Where two or more of you are gathered, there I will be.”  I’m hoping others will come to live and play here on my mountain so I don’t have to sell it. But that may be my plan and not God(dess)’s.

If you’d like to contact me for any more information about Honduras, I’ve traveled in just about all parts of it, except for the far Mosquitia, and would be happy to answer your questions or be your hostess and tour guide should you decide to visit and check it out. I hope to hear from some adventurous Escape Artist travelers. [send me an email ]

If you are planning to Live In Honduras you should visit the resource pages on EscapeArtist where you will find links to articles and information all free for you to browse.

Links to other resources on Living in Honduras

Maps of Honduras

Real Estate in Honduras

Self Service Shipping to Honduras

Jobs Overseas and in Honduras

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36 Comments

  1. Victor March 9, 2011 at 8:44 am

    Very sensible tale of a seemingly charming lady about her living experiment
    in Honduras !

    More than a plain article ; I wish, for one, that Escape America online newsletter
    would put out more of the same articles.

    How about giving this lady a monthly column in Escape America about her
    adventures in Honduras ?

  2. Matt R. March 9, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Nice summary! I appreciate your candor.

  3. Jean Finney March 10, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    Hi – your place looks lovely – have you thought about renting a room with some kitchen use, to tourists, for extra income? you could put an ad in craigslist and use other services too – That might help you get by and provide a nice experience for others too – I was in Honduras once, to see Copan, I wanted to see a little more so I went on to Gracias which I didnt like – too dry, plus I stayed in the worse possible room in the world in a recommended hotel, I fled back to Copan the next day – I regretted not stopping at Santa Rosa instead and would have leaped at the chance to stay at a place like yours for a reasonable rent – Think about it and good luck!

  4. Michael Johnson/Senor Pescador March 11, 2011 at 12:39 am

    Hola, question, who are the guys with the fish processing plant in Roatan?

    you know David Guy, Tony’s rent Jeeps?

    also I have driven all over Honduras, last time 1991? maybe
    all is good

  5. James W. Morris August 7, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Hello, Young Lady: Very nice story, I’m going to tell you my story. I also own a house in Santa Rosa de Copan, it’s located on the road to Salitrillo, it’s the big house on the left just pass the old dump area. I had it built afew years back and for a while spent several very nice weeks there. I haven’t been there for over 2 years. I had 4 or 5 break-in and the people stole many value things. Presently, there are 4 people in jail for the last beak-in. I have a couple living there now and the man is a cop with the local police. I,(like u love the place, people,SRdC,& Honduras), but I’m not sure I want to live there now. The place is for sale and I will care part of the mortgage @ 8% for 10-20 years to a well qualified buyer. If anyone knows an honest realtor, please let me know, also I need an honest local attorney. I’ve heard about the crime and the last time I was there had to hire 2 bodyguards/guns, the crime is a big factor for me and I know all about the drug traffing, my best friend there had his head blown off whit a shotgun from 3 feet, however that’s not the biggest reason
    I don’t want to live in SRdC, it’s because I’ve been very sick and can’t travel very much. Nice Lady, please E-Mail me, & I’ll send u info on my house/land (40 acres). Thanks

  6. Melisa December 4, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    I loved your story……I’m glad you found comfort in this country, it has been very educating to read your story probably because hondurans are always looking for the way to move to the U.S. without really knowing how it is….but you came here instead…:)

    • Ashley January 30, 2012 at 3:42 pm

      I am traveling to meet my husbands family in Olancho and would like to now if you have any information you would like to share about this particular place. Thank you in advance for your reply.

  7. Melissa Goodwin January 31, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    Are you still there?

  8. Terry Schmidt February 24, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    I’ve and looking to relocate. I too am living on social security and therefore limited in my options, but still want the best in a place to retire. Would love to hear more about your place, are you still looking for roommates. Any information is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    Terry Schmidt
    Santa Fe, New Mexico

    • Amber July 8, 2013 at 8:54 am

      Terry…did u ever make it to Honduras?? I too am from Santa Fe and am thinking of moving there in the next year or so. Any advice you could give would be appreciated…

  9. barbih May 12, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    My husband and I are keen to speak to you about this if you have not already found people to share your home…

    We look forward to hearing from you.

    barbi

  10. blanca brewton July 4, 2012 at 11:55 am

    My sister Nohemi franco will contact you, we are interested in purchasing your home

  11. MEL GORDUYN July 15, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Loved your story and pray that you are able to stay and complete your dreams. Any comments on Truijllo Hondures? thanks

    • Kelly Ann Kirkconnell August 30, 2012 at 5:03 pm

      Very nice story :)

      I lived in Guanaja Honduras, as this is where much of my family is from, and very often we would take our boat to Trujilo. It was very beautiful. I am seriously thinking now of buying my own property there.

  12. SONDA W. September 17, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Loved this story, i have been searching the web for information…I want to move to the beach area and wasn’t sure if Americans can own land or own and run a business. I am an Rn and i would like to open a type of first aide type of business plus work up to maybe having several palapas or individual huts close or on the beach. M husband would like to teach english and music. My daughter has CP but she wants to help in the small clinic. My question is…..are Americans aloud to do this? If so…how? Please give me some pointers. Thank you and God bless.

    Sonda Williams RN

  13. Alex Martinez November 12, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    I love the article and truth of the matter is that people can’t afford to retire in the states anymore. Born in Honduras I truly appreciate you telling the truth about my country, like every where else it has its beauty and bad areas. More and more people are searching for options, now I understand why my brother offers assisted living to folks who can’t afford pay $3400, $4000 month for half the price in Honduras and yet they get a better quality of life. I love the picture and the scenary on the photo and next time I travel to Honduras my family and I could come visit, if that’s ok with you. Thank you again for telling the Truth about Honduras and telling it like it really is.

    N.A.M

  14. carmen rodriguez December 20, 2012 at 3:04 am

    HI WILL LOVE TO SPEAK TO YOU. IF I HAVE YOUR OK OF COURSE. I BEING THINKING OF MOVING WITH MY SON WHO IS AUTISTIC TO HONDURAS, BUT NOT HAVIN FAMILY THERE IT LOOKS SO DIFFICULT TO ME, PLEASE MAIL AN ANSWER TO THIS .
    CARMEN

  15. Shar-Lee Davis February 12, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    hey, i am young but i am thinking of moving to honduras. i would love a host or experienced tour guide, as this is a serious decision for me. i tried the link for emailing you but it returned an error message. i would love to hear from you.

  16. Gary February 24, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    Can you let me know how I can talk to you about Honduras. I have some friends who live there. I am thinking of moving there when I retire. Thanks.

    • Sara Laing March 3, 2013 at 2:46 pm

      Hello Gary,
      I hope you have had some luck and found this lady,s
      contact.I would also like to contact her but have no email address.
      If you have it then please le me have it.
      Thank you

      Mike Kavanagh

      • Miriam Alfonso May 5, 2013 at 10:56 pm

        I would love to meet and make friends with men and women who wish to retire in latin America, I speak, read and write Spanish,Italian, Greek and some of my ancestral French language that my mother’s mother and her family spoke in Cuba.

        If you wish contact me.

        Miriam

  17. Gary February 24, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    I am trying to get in touch with the lovely lady who wrote this article. If you know how please email me at rolltideroll549@gmail.com

    • Amanda May 29, 2013 at 3:28 pm

      From the “send me an email” link at the end of the article, her email address is earthpilgrim@hotmail.com. Good luck!

  18. Toni April 13, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Hello,

    I am thinking of making a big move from the northern U.S to anywhere else. I am not retired and actually have 2 children that I will be taking with me. I currently work as a nurse and was wondering if there are jobs for me(outside of nursing) that I can do to make a living.

    Look forward to hearing from you,

    Toni

    • Paul Velasquez August 13, 2013 at 3:37 pm

      Toni,
      Hi,

      I’m a native from Honduras, and an US citizen living here mostly of my life. I don’t know your reasons to want to work outside of nursing, but your experience will be an asset to work in Honduras.

      There are good medical (private hospitals) in Honduras, mainly in the capital Tegucigalpa, or San Pedro Sula, the second largest city, another option will be to check in the island of Roatan, where many Americans live already. In this moment I don’t have any hospital in mind, but navigating the net you will find something.

      If you have some money to invest, Honduras also give good benefits to investors. If you have some questions probably I can help you, let me know. Good luck.

      Paul

    • Paul Velasquez August 13, 2013 at 3:38 pm

      Toni,
      Hi,

      I’m a native from Honduras, and an US citizen living here mostly of my life. I don’t know your reasons to want to work outside of nursing, but your experience will be an asset to work in Honduras.

      There are good medical (private hospitals) in Honduras, mainly in the capital Tegucigalpa, or San Pedro Sula, the second largest city, another option will be to check in the island of Roatan, where many Americans live already. In this moment I don’t have any hospital in mind, but navigating the net you will find something.

      If you have some money to invest, Honduras also give good benefits to investors. If you have some questions probably I can help you, let me know. Good luck.

      Paul

  19. Retired Lady December 29, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    hi i also would like to know more about hondorus, want to retire and buy some propertie thier to. is their anyone out their that can help me to find some land near the ocean..

  20. Retired Lady December 29, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    if we came to your house, would there be room for one to stay, ofcourse we would pay for our rooms and such.. thanks email me at tlctanya@hotmail.com

  21. David January 21, 2014 at 1:34 am

    I was stationed in Honduras in 1992, 101st Airborne and am considering a retirement/disappearance in a couple of years. What can you tell me about the political climate and security after the coup? The state of the infrastructure?

  22. Betty Dougia January 30, 2014 at 2:40 am

    Sounds like life at its best. How hard is it to get residency there.

  23. TERESA MICHEL February 17, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    we are looking for a place to call home; the U.S. is getting crazier everyday and Florida is too
    crowded. Send an email address so we can correspond as you had indicated we should send
    you an email but no email address was given.

  24. vicente castillo March 10, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    I am a native Honduran currently living in the US and couldn’t have put it any better,I’m actually hoping to do what you did when my time to retire comes and you picked a pretty good area to live, I hope you find someone to help you with villa mariposa good luck to you ma’am.

  25. Andrew Belanger April 3, 2014 at 11:45 am

    Sara! Great article. A needed reality check in the world of paradise prompters! Thanks for your insights.

  26. Sarah Machado May 29, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    Hi my name is Sarah. I live in Bradenton Florida and was so excited to see you had lived in Sarasota. Anyway i was wondering if you have an opening or know of any place around their. My husband may be deported and I’m looking for a safe place to live if it happens. Thank you and thank you for the beautiful article.

  27. ken sloane June 1, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Did you save your home? I am planning to retire in Honduras. My wife is a citizen of Honduras. Her mother owns property and a home about 20 miles south of Tegucigalpa. There is a small house on the property we could buy for $6,000. But living up high has much more appeal. I met my wife 14 years ago while doing a short volunteer stint at an orphanage called “Nuestro pequeno hermanos”. It was pine forest and beautiful. I thought Santa Rosa de Copan might be like that too, and not too far from a carribean beach holiday as well. I only have my social security and a very small amount to start things up. Any ideas or advice?

  28. Ken Peters June 3, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Would like to know more about Villa Mariposa. I will be relocating to Santa Rosa and am willing to rent from you especially as that seems to be the way you can stay there. Hoping to hear from you and thanks.

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