There are plenty of things to do in Copan Ruinas, Honduras! Visit ancient Mayan ruins and explore the town’s museums. Includes where to eat and where to stay.
*Make sure to watch our Copan Ruinas video at the end of the post!*
Of course, the main reason people travel to Copan Ruinas is to visit the Mayan ruins just outside of town. The great Mayan civilization included the areas of eastern Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula, Belize, Guatemala, and western parts of El Salvador and Honduras.
We’ve visited the Mayan ruins in Tikal, Guatemala and thought it’d be really cool to see some of the ruins in Honduras so we traveled from Tegucigalpa to Copan Ruinas by bus. We arrived in the afternoon so we waited until the next morning to go see the ruins. We suggest doing the same; getting there when they open at 8am ensures smaller crowds and cooler temperatures.
So, we spent that first afternoon exploring the town itself and we were very happy with what we found. On our second day we visited the ruins, had lunch, and then got ready to head to our next destination in Honduras. Below are the Copan Ruinas attractions that we were able to visit…
Other than seeing the Mayan ruins in Copan, we were most excited about visiting The Tea And Chocolate Place, or as they say in Spanish, El Lugar del Te y Chocolate. We walked straight there after we arrived in town and checked into our hotel. You do have to time your visit just right though because they’re only open from 4pm to 6pm, Mondays through Saturday.
The walk was a bit uphill, but not too bad. Make sure you look for small green signs with arrows or you’ll miss where to turn. As we walked in, the entry way was gorgeous with lush plants and flowers. The aroma of chocolate beckoned us to keep walking through…
We must stop here to point out that The Tea And Chocolate Place is not considered a restaurant or cafe; it is more of a visitors center. You see, they are actually a reforestation program. The Copan 2012 Botanical Research Station is a pilot program that is planting trees and other plants that will renew soil and regenerate the steepest and most eroded landscape of the Copan Valley.
Because they are highlighting native plants and regrowth, there is no pressure to buy anything. However, you can sample teas and buy drinks and small snacks. Everything is natural, organic, and made in-house. They also use absolutely no plastic.
We enjoyed a big cup of Cold Chocolate for 75 Lempira (about $3) on the balcony that overlooks the forest. It’s a lovely place to relax and enjoy delicious chocolate. There are hammocks and cute decorations so it is very charming.
We highly recommend visiting this museum, located on the main square, before you go to the actual ruins. In our case, we visited the evening that we arrived in Copan Ruinas. It’s not a large museum, but it does offer visitors a glimpse into what Copan Ruinas looked like decades and centuries ago.
The museum has artifacts and photos, with descriptions in both English and Spanish. There’s a short video about the ruins (they offer it in different languages) and there is also a small TV with a digital version of the ruins (hence the name of the museum) where you “walk” around the ruins by using a controller.
You learn a lot about the ruins and the Mayan culture at the museum which is why we recommend visiting it before going to the ruins; that way when you’re at the ruins you already have an idea of what you’re looking at. The museum is open in the afternoons from 1pm to 9pm and it costs 66 Lempira (just under $3).
Pro Tip: If you have time, we heard the Museo de Arqueologia Maya is also a good museum to visit.
The Copan Archaeological Park is about a 15-20 minute walk along a main road just outside of town so it’s easy to get to. The cost to enter is $15. We spent an additional $15 to be able to enter the tunnels underneath and $30 for a guide. If you don’t want to pay for the extras, you can still enjoy the ruins on your own.
We did enjoy having a guide though. His name was Elvin and he’s been a guide for over 30 years so he really knew a lot and was able to answer our questions. The tunnel network wasn’t large, but there were some pieces down there that were cool to see. It’s fairly dark though so we didn’t get any good photos.
Overall the ruins are fascinating. In particular, what makes these ruins unique compared to others in the area, is the amount of detail on the carvings. On many pieces you can even still see red paint; the city was originally painted red and white.
The Hieroglyphic Staircase is especially important because it is a record of the royal history of Copan. The staircase, which is almost 30 meters high and was completed around 755 CE, documents the rule of 16 kings, listing their names, births, deaths, and any important events that happened during their rule. The staircase, as well as some other sculptures, are now covered to protect them from the elements.
It looks like a castle! This building was once a fort for the Honduran Army and has four towers, one on each corner. Inside there is a children’s museum that is supposed to be pretty interactive and teaches about the Mayan culture. On the day we went, it was closed to visitors because of a private event.
We would’ve liked to go into one of the towers and climbed to the top, but even from outside the fort you get some pretty great views of the town. It is on a hill, so we recommend taking a tuk tuk up and then walking back down into town.
If you’re wondering where to eat in Copan Ruinas, we have two recommendations. The first is a wine bar that we visited the evening of our arrival and the second is a small restaurant we visited for lunch after going to the ruins. There are a lot of restaurants and shops where you can get snacks around the main square, but these two were highly recommended by locals so they’re the ones we visited.
If you’re on the southwest corner of the main square, continue south along Avenida Centro America for two blocks and you’ll reach San Rafael. This beautiful bistro sells local coffees as well as teas, fruit smoothies, and milkshakes. They also serve various breakfast plates and sandwiches.
We, however, went for their wine and cheese platters. We would have liked to sit in their outside seating area since it was so cute, but it was a bit crowded. Instead we sat inside, but enjoyed looking at the rows of bottles of wine on the wall. We ended up ordering a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon for 95 Lempira (just under $4) and a personal cheese platter for 150 Lempira (just under $6).
Right on the southern border of the main square, on Calle De La Plaza, is Restaurante Yaxkuk Mo. It’s small and quaint and they serve traditional local dishes. We’d heard they make great pupusas, so that’s what we went in for.
Pupusas are a thick cornmeal flatbread, similar to arepas, but they are filled with different ingredients. They are very popular in Honduras and we like ours filled with cheese and refried beans. We paid with cash so we don’t remember exactly how much we paid, but it couldn’t have been more than $3. It was delicious and we wish we’d gotten two!
There are a few choices when it comes to Copan Ruinas hotels, but a fellow blogger recommended the Hotel Cuna Maya and we’re so glad that we decided to stay there. It’s only a couple of blocks from the main square, making it easy to walk everywhere. We even walked from the hotel to the ruins!
The room we stayed in wasn’t large, but the bed was big and comfy. There was also cold AC and hot water in the shower. It was our first time using a square toilet, which was interesting, but the bathroom and room were clean and cozy.
There is free WiFi and even better, free breakfast. It’s a large “typical” breakfast, which we love when we’re in Central America. The coffee was also delicious and the views from the second floor eating area are a nice way to start the day.
Click for current Hotel Cuna Maya rates!
What we loved most about the hotel was the family feel it had. It’s run by Enelda and her three teenage sons, who were all so helpful and kind. We chatted with Enelda a few times as we came in and out and she was the one that recommended where we should go for pupusas. She was able to draw everything on a map for us and even gave us opening and closing times. She really was the best!
In this video, we show the things we did in Copan Ruinas over 2 days.
We really enjoyed our time in town. Although we were there less than two full days, we feel we managed to see quite a few things. If our overall schedule hadn’t been so rushed, we would have easily stayed another day or two. It would have been nice to try more Copan Ruinas restaurants and visit more museums. We heard Macaw Mountain is good too if you’re into birds and that there are some spas in the area worth checking out too. Oh well, next time!