It is the third largest city in Honduras, containing roughly 250,000 people. The town is just beginning to have a tourist infrastructure for westerners. There are good hotels, ATM machines and internet cafes. Many people who visit La Ceiba do so to use the city as a base to visit Pico Bonito National Park, the Cuero and Salado Wildlife Refuge or beaches and ethnic Garífuna villages nearby. Or people just stop off for a night on their way to the Bay Islands or the Hog Islands.
There are buses from San Pedro Sula for L125 from the central bus terminal or from Santa Marta (the taxis will know where this is) and the journey takes around 4 hr, as one may have to wait an hour or two for the bus to actually leave from the terminal whereas Santa Marta also has buses that come from Trujillo and Olanchito. Hedman Alas provide a slightly more expensive air-conditioned service froma separate terminal. There are buses going directly to Olanchito, Tocoa and Trujillo as well as direct buses to Tegucigalpa, which again go from their own terminal, e.g. Cristina. In addition, there are several flights to La Ceiba. air viva offers connections from Tegucigalpa, Roatan, San Pedro Sula and more cities.
From Guatemala City take a bus to San Pedro Sula (8-11 hr) or Copan and change. Ferry- Roatan has many flights from the U.S. so flying into Roatan and taking the ferry from Roatan to La Ceiba is a simple inexpensive option. The only drawback is that the ferry only runs twice daily so depending on your arrival time you may need to overnight but there are many hotels to accomodate. Just search "Galaxy Wave" ferry
Getting around La Ceiba is easy and cheap. Within the city and to the airport there are standard taxi rates. It is 25 Lempiras (May 2013) per person within the city limits. This jumps to 30 Lempiras after dark and goes up the later you are out. A ride to the ferry dock is 50 Lempira per person. As fuel prices have increased what constitutes a "downtown" trip has shrunk. Do make sure you know the fare before you get in the cab, particularly if you are leaving downtown for the port or the airport. Prices are generally quoted per passenger except from the airport. Don't be surprised if your driver stops to pick up additional passengers.
The streets are very common to every single citizen. Since its a small town, everybody knows where everything is. Know the name of your destination or have it written down (for the more obscure destinations, include the barrio or colonia in which it is located). However, you can also say names of important buildings and the taxi driver will most likely know what you're talking about.
There are plenty of buses in La Ceiba. The cost is 8 Lempiras within the city. A bus will continue to pick up people until it is full. Be advised that if a bus doesn't stop to pick you up it's because it has reached capacity. Just stand at the side of the road and flag one down when you see it coming. The people who ride the buses are locals that want to travel in a more economical manner.
Excellent options with children are:
The Banana Republic hostel located between 12 Calle and 13 Calle on Ave La Republica (3 1/2 blocks south of Parque Central) offers daily commutes to and from their Jungle River Lodge, ~20miles north in the Pico Bonito national rain forest. Here they offer adventure in the form of canopy tours (i.e. ziplines from platform to platform built into the treetops) and whitewater rafting (very intense during the rainy season) among other activities.
Ask a local about nightly football games at the Municiple Stadium located about 4 blocks east of Parque Central. The East side of the stadium has a much more lively atmosphere than the family outing-like setting of the West side; the tickets are a slightly more expensive but certainly worth it for a more authentic experience.
The souvenir shop with the largest selection in La Ceiba, including a good variety of local art and artisan work, is the Rain Forest located just to the northwest of the stadium in Colonia El Naranjal. Local hammocks can be purchased around central park at a reasonable price, but start your negotiations at half the asking price.
A great place for tourists and ex-pats alike is Expats Bar previously Expatriados, any cab driver or local will know its roof top downtown location (in Barrio El Iman at the end of Calle 12). The menu is typical American/Honduran. Great burgers and imported/domestic beer. The cost for a meal is expensive compared to the non ex-pat places but much cheaper then a fancy restaurant. A night of dinner and drinks for 2 will run you about $30USD
The Mango Tango was one of the popular restaurants in the Zona Viva, however it has been closed for several years.
Ricardos was arguably the best restaurant in La Ceiba. It was located on Avenida 14 de Julio. Unfortunately, they closed down several years ago. They are truly missed!
A bit outside of town in the Cangrejal River Valley, you will find the Restaurante La Jungla, located in the the Omega Tours Jungle Lodge. Great German food, as well as outstanding veggie dishes. A full service bar also operates at this really nice setting. Well worth a trip to the Cangejal River for a great day of nature and some delicious food.
There are safe budget hotels in town such as the Catracho and the Lastenia. A good mid-range hotel is the Iberia. There are upmarket hotels in La Ceiba, including the Quinta Real, La Quinta, Hotel Paris and the Aurora.
A big draw-back for budget travelers is the lack of hostels. There are only a couple and both are surrounded by dark streets after 7pm, offering very little. There is a hostel located in La Ceiba called Banana Republic but it has problems with security, most recently (date unknown) involving a series of break-ins. Fortuanetely there are many hotels which offer reasonable cleanness and wifi with a provate bathroom for no more than $15.
Lastenia Hotel is nice and cheap place to stay, they have a really tiny swimming pool upstairs, a cafeteria next door, you can get a room with a/c or fan, depending on your budget. 3 people can stay for about $15.00 a night and they now provide transportation to Bus station, airport or Ferry terminal for about $3.00 per room, not per pax, per room.
Hotel Gran Ceiba is another seemingly good quality hotel, but travelers who stayed there in February 2009 were robbed by someone with access to the hotel keys, so buyer beware.
Avoid the beach area to the west of the old pier that juts out to sea from the end of Avenida de la Republica, as it is allegedly the territory of a heavily armed gang. The east side, including Barrio la Isla, is safer, and is also where much of the nightlife is to be found. Walking alone at night in some parts of La Ceiba should be avoided as robberies or sometimes murders may occur, but out of the three major cities La Ceiba is generally safer in terms of crime rates. Taxis are abundant and cheap and the safe way to travel at night no matter what part of La Ceiba you are in.
There is a shuttle service to Leon, Nicaragua. The vehicles are all equipped with Wifi, HDTV, and air conditioning and the trip takes 12-14 hours. For more information check out www.leonlaceibashuttle.com
There are twice daily boats to Roatan (753 HNL one way (as of January 2016) and Utila (weather dependent) as well as flights in small single or twin engined planes (also weather dependent). Boats leave from the ferry terminal which is a 15 minute taxi drive costing about 150-200 HNL (as of January 2016) from the center depending on traffic.
There are many buses to San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa, and other destinations in Honduras. Diana Express which operates from its own station (near the intersection of Carretera Muelle de Cabotaje and Carretera a Trujillo) in La Ceiba to the main bus terminal in San Pedro Sula costs 115HNL per person one way and 200HNL return (as of January 2016).