Copan Ruinas To La Ceiba: All Transport Explained 2024

It’s time to discover a different part of Honduras as you travel from Copan Ruinas to La Ceiba. It’s time to swap the ruins for the portside city which is the gateway to the islands and backs onto the Pico Bonito National Park.

So let’s get into how to travel to La Ceiba by shuttle, chicken bus, or taxi, I will let you know how to book, prices, and more!


Once you are done exploring the incredible town of Copan Ruinas, you’ve explored the ruins, made friends with some beautiful birds, and hit up some delicious foodie spots, it’s time to move on to elsewhere in Honduras.

Now, if you are following the normal Honduras itinerary, and the backpacker gringo trail down Central America, it is likely your next destination is La Ceiba. Though how easy is it really to travel Copan Ruinas to La Ceiba?

The reason a lot of people decide to travel to La Ceiba is because it is a main stop on the route to islands such as Roatan and Utila. Though having such a long journey from Copan Ruinas to La Ceiba I wanted to spend at least a couple days in the area before venturing out to sea.

Unfortunately looking online, hostels in the city center looked a bit average, and it didn’t seem like somewhere you would want to stay more than one night.

Luckily enough I stumbled upon Jungle River Lodge, a beautiful hostel located in the middle of Pico Bonito National Park, a short drive from the city center of La Ceiba.

Though before I could check in, I had to travel from Copan Ruinas to La Ceiba, and unfortunately it wasn’t smooth sailing like I had experienced everywhere else in Central America.

I think this is a combination of Honduras not being overly touristy compared to its neighbors, and travel hasn’t ramped up to its old numbers post covid. Therefore transport only ran on certain days, and of course, my plans didn’t line up.

Likely enough I made it in the end, and I am here with you to share how exactly to travel from Copan Ruinas to La Ceiba. Ultimately allowing you to have a smooth journey and avoid making the same mistakes as me.

TimeCostHighlight
Tourist Shuttle7 hoursfrom $50Comfortable journey
Bus8 hoursfrom $25Adventurous
Taxi5 hoursfrom $200Easy and stress-free
Fly4 hoursfrom $53Fastest Option

Copan Ruinas To La Ceiba: The Best Ways To Travel Explained


Copan Ruinas To La Ceiba Distance

Well unfortunately the distance from Copan Ruinas to La Ceiba is a pretty long one being around 360 kilometers. If this were Guatemala that would be a multiple-day journey, though luckily this is Honduras, and I have to be honest. The roads here are pretty damn good.

If you decide to take the tourist shuttle or a private taxi they will use the main roads and take this route. Though be aware if you are wanting a bit more of an adventure and instead take the bus, this will be a bit longer as you will need to go into San Pedro Sula, rather than just going around the outskirts of it.


Copan Ruinas To La Ceiba Travel Time

As I said it is a relatively quick journey from Copan Ruinas to La Ceiba, considering the distance. Nevertheless, this is a full day of travel, so best to limit your plans on this day.

Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend booking or planning to take the ferry from La Ceiba to Roatan or Utila for the same day. Though the tourist shuttles do try to arrive before the last ferry departure. A lot can happen on the roads which can cause delays.

Instead, book a cheap stay for one night and take the morning ferry out. Alternatively, you can do what I did and book a stay in the gorgeous Pico Bonito National Park for a few nights.

Nevertheless depending on the transport method you decide to affect how long it takes to travel:

Tourist Shuttle: Your trip from Copan Ruinas To La Ceiba will take around 7 hours.

Bus: You cannot take a direct bus from Copan Ruinas to La Ceiba, and instead will need to change buses in the city of San Pedro Sula. Though services depart regularly from here and in total your journey time will end up around 8 hours.

Taxi: Enjoy a quick and direct journey in a taxi which will take you 6 hours.

incredible views at the window of pico bonito national park in honduras
incredible views at the window of pico bonito national park in honduras

Can I Catch A Ferry On The Same Day

Now can you take a ferry to Utila or Roatan from La Ceiba on the same day you take a bus or shuttle from Copan Ruinas? Technically yes. Do I recommend it? Not really.

If there is one thing I have learned from my years of backpacking it’s not to cut things too close with timing. Especially if it is going to cause you unnecessary stress.

Though you can easily book tickets at the ferry terminal, and the shuttle driver won’t ask you where you want to be dropped off until you are pretty close to La Ceiba. This way you will know what approximate time you will arrive, and see how that is in relation to the ferry timings.


La Ceiba To Utila

Catching the ferry from La Ceiba to Utila is a convenient and affordable way to travel to the smallest of the major Bay Islands of Honduras. Utila is known for its coral reefs, diving opportunities, and laid-back vibe.

The ferry company that operates the route is Utila Dream Ferry. They have a modern and comfortable catamaran with a capacity for 240 passengers.

The ferry terminal in La Ceiba is located at Muelle de Cabotaje, which is a 15-minute taxi ride from the center of town. You should arrive at least 30 minutes before departure to buy your ticket and pay the port tax.

The ferry departs from La Ceiba to Utila daily at 9 a.m. and 4.30 p.m. Though if you are wanting to travel from Copan Ruinas to Utila on the same day you will be looking at the afternoon ferry. The journey takes around 45 minutes and costs between $21 – $45 depending on the class.


La Ceiba To Roatan

Even though it doesn’t fit the usual backpacker vibe I actually choose to travel from La Ceiba to Roatan over Utila. Roatan is known for its white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and diverse marine life. My partner’s family actually grew up here as his uncle owned a dive shop, so we had to come back.

The ferry companies that operate the route are Galaxy Wave Ferry and Utila Dream Ferry. The ferry terminal is located at the same spot at Muelle de Cabotaje. Again, you should arrive at least 30 minutes before departure to buy your tickets and pay the port tax.

The ferry departs from La Ceiba to Roatan daily at 9.30 am and 4.30 pm with Galaxy Wave Ferry and at 10.30 am with Utila Dream Ferry.

If you are planning to do this journey straight after getting off your transport from Copan Ruinas to La Ceiba you will need to take the Galaxy Wave Ferry departing at 4.30 pm. The journey takes around 1h 15m to 1h 30m and costs between $21 – $45 depending on the company and class.

The ferry terminal in Roatan is located at Coxen Hole, which is a short taxi ride from the airport and the main tourist areas of West End and West Bay. It is quite common to take shared taxis in Roatan which will help keep your budget down.

waiting at the ferry terminal in la ceiba // view arriving on the ferry in roatan
waiting at the ferry terminal in la ceiba // view arriving on the ferry in roatan

Tourist Shuttle From Copan Ruinas To La Ceiba

Honestly, for me, the easiest way to travel from Copan Ruinas to La Ceiba is by taking a tourist shuttle. Using this method all the hard work is done for you, you just need to get up for the early start.

There is no need to worry about transfers in different cities, and instead, you can just sit back, relax, and watch the views out of the window.

Drivers may speak limited English, but you will quickly learn enough Spanish to get by when traveling Central America or someone else will and be able to relay that information to everyone else.

You will likely make around 3 stops on this journey, one for breakfast, one for lunch, and a fuel stop outside of San Pedro Sula. Honestly, we did find the stops to be a bit unnecessary and would have rather traveled with just one or two stops, though I understand the driver needs a break as well.

Your journey will take around 7 to 8 hours depending on how long the driver decides to stop. Though there is also the chance of road closures and traffic which could add to your time as well.

This is why it can be a bit risky to reach the ferry terminal for the last boat, though the drivers will try their best to get you there on time.

sleeping in the shuttle // a quick stop in san pedro sula while traveling from copan ruinas to la ceiba
sleeping in the shuttle // a quick stop in san pedro sula while traveling from copan ruinas to la ceiba

How To Book Tickets

These tourist shuttles are super easy to book, you can either do so in advance online or instead wait until you are in Copan Ruinas. Though when booking online I do prefer to do so with a reputable company, such as GuateGo which I use in Guatemala, Belize, and Costa Rica.

Unfortunately, they don’t operate in Honduras, and in this case, I recommend waiting until you are in the town before booking.

Once in Copan Ruinas, it is pretty easy to book shuttle tickets through your accommodation as they will know which operators are currently going. This is exactly what I did, and we found out once there that these shuttles only operate on Wednesdays and Sundays.

As we were planning to leave on a Tuesday we did have to stay an extra day. Though we ended up sharing the shuttle with just one other couple, so it’s easy to see why they don’t operate daily.

It cost us L1000 / $42.00, so tickets showing online are a bit more pricey such as through Marvelous Bookings.


Where Does The Shuttle Drop You Off

Honestly, you will find that there aren’t too many places travelers want to go in La Ceiba so the drivers are generally happy to drop you wherever. The most popular place is definitely the ferry terminal so if this isn’t where you want to go make sure to confirm this with your driver.

Alternatively, there are some hotels and hostels around that you may find yourself at for one night. The drivers should know where these are, though it can be handy to have a local sim card with data so you can pull up Google Maps and direct the driver if necessary.


My Experience Taking The Shuttle From Copan Ruinas To La Ceiba

So after arriving in Copan Ruinas we quickly figured out that shuttles from here to La Ceiba don’t go every day. Having traveled a lot of Central America this isn’t something I had experienced before so didn’t think to research it prior to arriving.

After extending our stay in order to take the shuttle we booked it in with our hostel at the cost of L1000 / $42.00 each.

The morning of we packed our bags, including a few snacks, and started the day super early. having checked out the night before considering it was a 5 am start we sat waiting for a white van to roll on up.

Soon enough this happens, and we load our bags and jump onboard. With one other couple already there, we think we will drive around a bit longer collecting people, but no. It’s straight on the road, it’s just the four of us travelers for today.

I fall back asleep pretty quickly considering how early it still is, waking a couple of hours later as we pull over for our first stop of the day. It’s a little side of the road locally run restaurant where we all grab a typical breakfast consisting of beans and rice, scrambled eggs, tortillas, and plantains.

The bathroom is basic but it does the job, and we jump back on board ready for the next part of the journey.

To pass the time we play phone games and just chill out. The scenery in Honduras is nice, but nothing compared with the impressive hilly and mountainous landscapes of Guatemala. The second stop soon comes around on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula.

We pull into a gas station for a bathroom break and to grab some snacks for the remainder of the journey. It’s pretty easy to notice you aren’t far from the ‘murder capital of the world’ and what is also considered a pretty unsafe city.

Nearly every person in the gas station seems to be carrying a gun, obviously except the workers, and there is a high-security presence around. Nevertheless, we all felt safe the entire time.

Back on the road about an hour or so later we stop again for lunch. Though we are all full from our gas stop break and basically just want to get to La Ceiba at this stage. We all decide to skip lunch, though, understandably the driver is hungry so has a quick meal and we are back on our way about 20 minutes later.

Now honestly all was quite uneventful as I watched us on Google Maps solely move closer to La Ceiba. Though on the outskirts of arriving, we very quickly notice there seems to be a lot of traffic and we are now basically moving at a standstill.

Turns out there is a massive carnival fair thing on the side of the road and it seems absolutely everyone who lives here or near the city is visiting. Honestly, this was quite painful as we were so close but so far.

All in all, we end up being stuck in traffic for over an hour before we finally pass the turn-off and the cars start thinning out on our side of the road.

Finally arriving I stop at the same hotel as the other travelers and organize a taxi to pick me up from there. As I said earlier, there really seemed to be nothing in La Ceiba for me so I instead decided to spend a few nights at Pico Bonito National Park, though now I had to get there.

Luckily enough the hostel, Jungle River Lodge, has some excellent, and affordable taxi contacts who I was easily able to Whatsapp to organize pick up. I won’t go into too much detail but it was a very bumpy, incredibly scenic hour-long drive into the jungle.

Finally arriving we had made it to one of the most beautiful places in the country, isolated from the craziest of busy cities.

my view from in the shuttle // a cheeky photo somewhere into our 8 hour drive from copan ruinas to la ceiba
my view from in the shuttle // a cheeky photo somewhere into our 8 hour drive from copan ruinas to la ceiba

Bus From Copan Ruinas To La Ceiba

Now if you are looking for a bit more adventure, and perhaps want to see more of the country then taking the bus from Copan Ruinas to La Ceiba could be the perfect choice for you. Be aware this can be a controversial transport option.

For the most part, it appears the locals understandably don’t want tourists to take these buses due to safety concerns, and being a foreigner you generally become a target. Though travelers think this mindset is quite old school, not a realistic approach, and if you use common sense you will be fine.

You know you best, and whether or not this will be an appropriate option. Nevertheless, it will for sure be an adventure for travelers looking to get off the beaten track and have meaningful experiences with locals.

Just be aware there are no direct buses from Copan Ruinas to La Ceiba so either way, you will need to transfer at least once, and depending on how busy it is you could be waiting around for a little while for your next bus.


How To Take The Bus From Copan Ruinas To La Ceiba

Now you do have a couple of different options, and routes when it comes to making this journey. Depending on your choice you may be able to save a little bit of money, though it will take you a bit longer.

Bus via San Pedro Sula: This is the most common and convenient way to travel by bus from Copan Ruinas to La Ceiba. You will need to take a bus from Copan Ruinas to San Pedro Sula, then another bus from San Pedro Sula to La Ceiba.

The buses are operated by companies such as Hedman Alas and EMTRAIOL. They are comfortable and air-conditioned, and some of them have wifi and snacks. It will take around 8 hours and the cost is around $30.00 to $40.00 per person. You can buy your bus tickets online, at the bus stations, or through your hotel.

Bus via Tela: This is a cheaper but longer way to travel by bus from Copan Ruinas to La Ceiba. You will need to take a bus from Copan Ruinas to San Pedro Sula, then another bus from San Pedro Sula to Tela, and finally another bus from Tela to La Ceiba.

The buses are operated by companies such as Transporte Casasola Express and Transportes Cristina. These buses are basic and may not have air conditioning. The total travel time is about 9.5 hours and the cost is between $25.00 to $30.00 per person.

taking the hedman alas bus in honduras
taking the hedman alas bus in honduras

Taxi From Copan Ruinas To La Ceiba

If you are looking for a fast and direct way to travel from the historical town of Copan Ruinas to the lively city of La Ceiba, you might want to consider hiring a taxi. A taxi will save you the hassle of changing buses or waiting for a shuttle and will take you straight to your destination.

However, this option will also cost you more than other modes of transportation. Also, you will need to negotiate the price and the route with the driver. Here are some tips on how to hire a taxi from Copan Ruinas to La Ceiba.

Finding a Taxi: You can find taxis in Copan Ruinas near the central park, the bus station, or your hotel. You can also ask your hotel to arrange a taxi for you in advance. You will need to look for a white or yellow car with a taxi sign on the roof. Make sure the taxi has a license plate and a meter.

Negotiating the Price: The price of a taxi from Copan Ruinas to La Ceiba will depend on several factors, such as the distance, the time of day, the traffic, and your bargaining skills. You can expect to pay between $250 and $350 for the whole trip.

You should always agree on the price before you get in the taxi, and ask for a receipt. You can also try to share the taxi with other travelers to split the cost.

Choosing the Route: The distance from Copan Ruinas to La Ceiba is about 370 km, and the driving time is about 5.5 hours. The most common route is to take the CA-4 highway from Copan Ruinas to San Pedro Sula, then take the CA-13 highway from San Pedro Sula to La Ceiba.

This route will pass through several towns and cities, such as Santa Rosa de Copan, El Progreso, Tela, and La Masica. You can ask your driver to stop along the way for breaks or sightseeing.

a quick selfie to break up the long journey // google maps showing a six and a half hour travel day, though it definately took us longer
a quick selfie to break up the long journey // google maps showing a six and a half hour travel day, though it definately took us longer

Flying From Copan Ruinas To La Ceiba

If you are looking for the fastest way to travel from the historical town of Copan Ruinas to the lively city of La Ceiba, you might want to consider flying there. Flying will save you a lot of time and hassle, and will allow you to enjoy more of your destination.

However, this option will also cost you more, and you will need to book your flight and transportation in advance.

There is no direct flight from Copan Ruinas to La Ceiba, and instead, you will need to fly from San Pedro Sula Airport (SAP) to La Ceiba Airport (LCE). San Pedro Sula Airport is about 180 km away from Copan Ruinas.

The flight time is about 30 minutes and the cost is between $53 and $366 per person depending on how far in advance you book. The airlines that fly from San Pedro Sula to La Ceiba are APG Airlines, LANHSA Aerolineas, and CM Airlines.

You will need to take a bus from Copan Ruinas to San Pedro Sula Airport, which will take about 3.5 hours and cost between $15 and $20 per person. Once in San Pedro Sula, you can then take a taxi or a shuttle from San Pedro Sula to the airport.

Though if you are planning to do this all in one day you will need to be careful you get the timing correct and don’t miss your flight. Honestly, I don’t recommend this method.


FAQs About Traveling from Copan Ruinas To La Ceiba

How many days to spend in La Ceiba? Depending on what you plan to do in La Ceiba will affect how long your want to spend there. Personally, there didn’t seem like there was too much going on in the town so I instead headed out to the national park.

If this is also your plan I would recommend 3 nights. Otherwise, if you are simply using it as a jumping point off to the islands then one night is fine.

How far in advance do I need to book tickets? It is recommended you book tickets in advance to ensure you can travel with a reputable, clean, and safe company. You should try for at least a week in advance to be safe. Though if you are not worried about this then book at least 48 hours in advance.

Unfortunately, there is currently not anywhere online that I recommend you book through. Instead, in my opinion, it is best to wait until you are actually in Copan Ruinas, and then talk to the staff at your hostel to organize it. Otherwise, the Hedman Alas office is a short walk from the city center.

hanging out at our incredible hostel, a short drive from la ceiba called jungle river lodge
hanging out at our incredible hostel, a short drive from la ceiba called jungle river lodge

Where To Stay In La Ceiba?

La Ceiba is definitely on the backpacking Honduras itinerary, though most people decide to simply stay here one night on the way to the islands. This means a lot of accommodation in the city center does leave a lot to be desired, even the hostels are quite on the basic side.

If you are also simply planning on staying in La Ceiba one night then this is perfect. Though if you are wanting to discover more of mainland Honduras I highly recommend spending a few nights in the Pico Bonito National Park.

I decided to stay at Jungle River Lodge here which is an excellent hostel located right in the middle of the jungle alongside the river. It was surprisingly budget-friendly with some of the cheapest white water rafting I have ever seen.

There are also some hikes you can do around the area to nearby waterfalls. They have dorm rooms available, as well as privates.

shark hostel

Jungle River Lodge

A hostel stay right on the river in Pico Bonito National Park. Dorms start at $19.00 per night.

BOOK NOW
218705605

Omega Tours Eco Jungle Lodge

More of a luxury stay in Pico Bonito National Park. Rooms here start at $80.00 per night for a private room.

BOOK NOW
294616188

Hotel La Guacamayos

A basic hostel in the city center of La Ceiba. Dorms here start for around $13.00 per night.

BOOK NOW
165099401

Hotel El Dorado

A basic and affordable hotel in the town of La Ceiba. Private rooms here start at $26.00 per night.

BOOK NOW

Things To Do In La Ceiba

Honestly, La Ceiba isn’t a town where you will find a whole heap of backpackers hanging out. If anything you will stay here one night coming or going from the islands to Utila or Roatan. It is known for its natural attractions and nightlife. Here are some things you can do in La Ceiba:

Stay In Pico Bonito National Park: This is what I decided to do in La Ceiba and I can highly recommend it. There is a small assortment of accommodation options here and you can easily hike to waterfalls, go canyoning off massive boulders in the river, watch for wildlife, and my personal favorite was white water rafting.

Cathedral de San Isidra: This a beautiful church with stained glass windows and a clock tower. You can admire the architecture and learn about the history of the city.

La Ceiba Beach: Why not enjoy the beach and the sun at La Ceiba Beach, a popular spot for locals and tourists? You can swim, surf, play volleyball, or relax on the sand. You can also find many restaurants, bars, and clubs along the beachfront.

Discover The Garifuna Culture: Learn about the culture and traditions of the Garifuna people, an Afro-Caribbean ethnic group that lives in La Ceiba and other parts of Central America. You can visit their villages, watch their dances and music performances, and taste their cuisine.

Wild Night Out: Experience the nightlife at Zona Viva, a lively area with many pubs, discos, and karaoke bars. You can dance, sing, drink, and have fun with your friends or meet new people.


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It's time to discover a different part of Honduras as you travel from Copan Ruinas to La Ceiba. It's time to swap the ruins for the portside city which is the gateway to the islands and backs onto the Pico Bonito National Park. So let's get into how to travel to La Ceiba by shuttle, chicken bus, or taxi, I will let you know how to book, prices, and more!

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. So, if you click on it and purchase something, I get a small percentage at no extra cost to you. As always all opinions are my own and your support is much appreciated.

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