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La Ceiba Carnival – The Honduras Mardi Gras!
Saturday, May 11th 2019
Saturday, May 25th 2019
- 1 What is La Ceiba Carnival?
- 2 When is La Ceiba Carnival?
- 3 Where is La Ceiba Carnival?
- 4 What is the history of La Ceiba Carnival?
- 5 How do they celebrate La Ceiba Carnival?
- 6 La Ceiba – Carnivalitos
- 7 La Ceiba Grand Carnival Parade (Grand Carnival de La Amistad)
- 8 La Ceiba Carnival Parade – Night Party
- 9 La Ceiba – Music
- 10 La Ceiba – Food & Drinks
- 11 La Ceiba – Street Vendors
- 12 La Ceiba – Games
- 13 La Ceiba – Safety
- 14 Tips for La Ceiba Carnival
- 15 How to get to La Ceiba?
- 16 How to get around La Ceiba?
- 17 Where to stay in La Ceiba?
- 18 What to do and see in La Ceiba?
- 19 Is La Ceiba Safe?
What is La Ceiba Carnival?
La Ceiba Carnival which is also known as the Gran Carnaval Internacional de La Ceiba, or Feria la Isidra, is an annual carnival that is held in La Ceiba, Honduras. It occurs at the end of May every year and pays tribute to the Catholic Patron Saint, Isidore the Laborer.
La Ceiba Carnival is Honduras’ best party! In fact, La Ceiba Carnival is regarded as the largest party in Central America, attracting over 500,000 tourists! During carnival the population of La Ceiba triples in size with people coming from all over Honduras and Central America to join in. Expect a uniquely Latin American celebration!
For a whole week, La Ceiba is in party mode! Every night of the week is a party! The streets are filled with people dancing, singing, playing games, live music and there is a general air of celebration. The carnival culminates on Saturday with the Grand Parade. Following the parade is another all-night party that lasts long into the night. It is a do not miss event!
One of the best descriptions of what La Ceiba Carnival means to the locals is by renowned local songwriter Guillermo Anderson who sang “Ella se Alegra Cuando Viene el Carnaval”, describing the happiness and joy that this carnival brings to the whole community.
When is La Ceiba Carnival?
La Ceiba Carnival is generally held every third or fourth Saturday of May. It is a two-week celebration that culminates in the parade, which is the highlight of carnival. The exact carnival dates are determined by the city’s tourism board.
This year La Ceiba Carnival will begin on Saturday May 11th, 2019 and culminate on Saturday May 25th, 2019.
La Ceiba Carnival is a celebration for St. Isidore the Labourer, the patron saint of La Ceiba who celebrates his day on May 15th, and it is an official public holiday.
Where is La Ceiba Carnival?
La Ceiba is a coastal Caribbean port city located in northern Honduras, Central America. It is the gateway city to the Bay Islands of Útila, Guanaja and Roatán which is a popular destination with tourists.
In the lead up to the parade the carnival party takes place in a different neighbourhood throughout La Ceiba. The main parade and after party take place along Avenida San Isidro and surrounding area.
La Ceiba Carnival is often called the Honduras Mardi Gras as its frequently compared to the New Orleans Mardi Gras. Interestingly, La Ceiba and New Orleans are sister cities! There used to be an important shipping route between the cities and in fact New Orleans is home to the largest number of Honduran immigrants in the US.
What is the history of La Ceiba Carnival?
La Ceiba Carnival goes back to 1917 when La Ceiba held its first fair known as “Feria la Isidra” to honor its patron saint. During this event the city picked the first Queen of the Fair! The celebration became an official municipal decree on March 15th, 1929.
The first parade was held in 1967 and had only 5 floats. The first ‘carnavalito’ was held in Barrio Mejia one of the local neighborhoods. The celebrations grew with every passing year and what once started out as a small fair has grown into a major carnival celebration.
How do they celebrate La Ceiba Carnival?
La Cieba Carnival has the whole city celebrating! This carnival is essentially one big public party! There are no private parties occurring, all the action takes place out on the streets! The celebration is filled with parades, pageantry, parties as well as cultural, sporting, music, gastronomic, commercial, religious and agricultural activities.
The parade begins on Saturday with a Tour of the Queens, and in the afternoon is the election of the Carnival Queen.
In the lead up to the parade, there are a series of “carnivalitos” or ‘mini carnivals’ that are celebrated in different neigborhoods of La Ceiba. These are filled with entertainment, food and music and the parties last all night long!
The Isidra Fair celebrations all lead up to the Great Parade, which is held in the early afternoon. The parade is the highlight of the celebration and brings out the biggest crowds. After the parade a huge street party occurs that lasts until morning.
La Ceiba – Carnivalitos
The Carnivalitos are one of the big draws of La Ceiba Carnival. Each night a different neighbourhood hosts a carnivalito or mini carnival. In fact, each neighbourhood competes with each other to see who can outdo each other and host the best party!
These carnivalitos don’t start until around 10:00pm and run until early the next morning. They are wild public street parties that attract hundreds of thousands each night. They are filled with stages that host live entertainment, bands and musicians. There is also lots of dancing, drinking, feasting and games.
The La Ceiba neighborhoods that host a carnivalito are:
- Barrio La Isla
- Barrio Ingles
- Barrio Mejia
- Barrio El Iman
- Colonia El Sauce
- Barrio Solares Nuevos
- Mall Mega Plaza
- Plaza Premiere
La Ceiba Grand Carnival Parade (Grand Carnival de La Amistad)
Carnival culminates in the Great Parade which is called the ‘Grand Carnival de La Amistad’ and kicks off in the early afternoon, around 2pm. The parade usually begins on the southern end of Avenida San Isidro and runs down the entire length of the road, ending at the beach. Huge crowds of spectators line the streets and the atmosphere is electric!
The parade lasts for hours and features loads of floats and local, national and international comparsas, which are carnival groups filled with dancers, singers and musicians that are popular in Latin American and Spanish festivities. The parade starts with an incredible display of horses and
Honduran horse riders performing tricks and finishes with a float parade.
You will also see the Gairfuna perform, who are an ethnic group in the country. There are motorcycle stunt drivers performing tricks, as well as the most colourfully dressed dancers, awesome live music, and floats of all sizes and shapes. And just like New Orleans you can collect some colourful beads which are handed out through the parade.
La Ceiba Carnival Parade – Night Party
After the parade, as day turns to night, the party kicks off! San Isidro Avenue, the Malecon Turistico,
Zona Viva, and the Paseo de los Ceibenos become venues for Central America’s biggest and best party!
Street vendors flood the streets, music fills the air, and crowds of hundreds of thousands of people fill the streets. It is fun and chaotic celebration that gives you a glimpse into life in Central America.
La Ceiba – Music
Music and dancing are an important part of La Ceiba Carnival. Every night the carnivalitos will have a couple of stages set up hosting live music concerts. You can obviously expect a lot of Latin and Caribbean like soca or reggaeton, because of its location.
During the night you will hear more variety of music, with plenty of techno, classic rock and pop songs played. There are lots of bands, DJs and international singers who will put on shows throughout carnival. One music show that you should look out for are the drums of the Garifuna people!
La Ceiba – Food & Drinks
You must try the local food! Street stalls are everywhere along the parade route, selling mouth-watering Honduran food and drinks! Not only is the cuisine delicious but it is incredibly affordable.
We highly recommend you look out for the baleadas stands, which are soft handmade tortillas stuffed with cheese, refried beans and your choice of extras. But there is lots of food options like meat skewers, grilled chicken, chips, beans and rice!
You must try the local drinks! Local beers like Salva Vida are sold in numerous vendors. Also try guaro, which is a liquor made from sugar cane! We recommend you look out for the Tito Aguacate truck selling calambres, which is a drink invented in one of the oldest bars in Teguigalpa! Drinking in public is allowed.
La Ceiba – Street Vendors
Besides the food and drink vendors there are loads of market stalls set up during carnival selling all sorts of things. In fact, you may have trouble getting around because the streets are so full of street vendors’ selling costumes, farm products, handmade clothing, shoes, t-shirts, cheeses, jewellery, souvenirs and other typical Honduran items. Honestly it is quite a sight you won’t see much else like it!
La Ceiba – Games
Yes, that is right! You can indulge in a lot of games during carnival. All the carnivalitos will have a range of games that have been set. Try knocking down cans, or firing a gun at a target, or even some gambling games like a roulette-style game where you bet money on picking what colour the wheel will land on.
La Ceiba – Safety
La Ceiba is relatively safe for Honduras but you should be aware that Honduras doesn’t have the best reputation for safety. However, during carnival there is a huge police presence all along the route making sure that people are not acting to crazy.
Many tourists report feeling safe during carnival, but it is important that you use caution, stick with the crowds and you should have little issues.
However, pickpocketing is very common! So just be aware of your belongings and leave anything valuable like your passport and credit cards back in your hotel. In fact, we recommend that you just bring some cash out with you.
Tips for La Ceiba Carnival
- The paradeis an absolute must! However, there are huge crowds, so you need to get there early to get a good spot!
- Do not rock up to the city without having your accommodation pre-booked because you will find it nearly impossible to find a place to sleep!
- La Ceibahas a tropical climate and is one of the wettest cities in Central America! It is incredibly hot and humid with temperatures ranging from around 16-36°C.
- Leave your valuables back in the hotel just bring cash. And you don’t need to bring that much cash about $50US will buy a lot of stuff
- Buy your meals from the street vendors as they are so affordable and delicious!
- Water and bottled drinks are sold everywhere!
- Be aware when it comes to using the bathroom, some public restaurants won’t allow you to use the bathroom unless you are a customer, others are more relaxed but may require a small fee, so be sure that you carry some small change or be prepared to buy something at the establishment. Of course, if your hotel is close to the celebrations, then you may just want to run back.
How to get to La Ceiba?
You can fly to La Ceiba as there is an airport located on the western side of the city, Golosón International Airport, also known as La Ceiba Airport. The airport has domestic flights going to most major Honduran cities, as well as international flights to George Town in the Cayman Islands, and Montreal. To get a quote for a flight click here.
Alternatively, you can take a bus from San Pedro Sula, which takes about 3-4 hours.
How to get around La Ceiba?
It is very easy to get around La Ceiba, as well as cheap! The city has numerous taxis. There are standard taxi rates so make sure you understand the fare before you jump in the cab. Also, don be surprised if your driver stops to pick up other passengers. Because it is a small town it is most likely that your driver will know the name of your destination. Get a quote for a rental car here.
There are also plenty of buses in La Ceiba, just stand on the side of the road and flag one down when you see it coming. If it doesn’t stop to pick you up it means the bus has reached capacity. Buses cost around fifty US cents to catch. To rent a bike or a scooter get a quote here.
Where to stay in La Ceiba?
Accommodation in La Ceiba during carnival is scarce so you must book ahead! It is a small city, but we recommend staying close to the parade route as it is convenient to escape the action, or even so you can use your own bathroom and avoid long lines.
There are some upmarket hotel options in La Ceiba which include, La Quinta, the Aurora, Quinta Real, Hotel Paris, and further out of down, the Coco Pando. Some decent mid-range options include Iberia. Some safe budget hotels include the Lastenia and the Catracho. Some locals will rent out rooms and there a numerous guest house option. There is lack of hostels in this region which may disappoint backpackers.
You can check out some accommodation deals here.
What to do and see in La Ceiba?
La Ceiba is a wonderful city filled with friendly and hospitable people. It has beautiful beaches, great hotels, cheerful bars. There is plenty of activities that will keep you busy around La Ceiba throughout the day. La Ceiba is emerging as a popular eco-tourism destination.
You could hike in nearby Pico Bonito National Park, go zip lining, snorkelling or white-water rafting. You could also pop over to the nearby Bay Islands for some scuba diving. The night life is one of the cities main attractions and has one of the best drinking scenes in the entire country. If you are an animal lover visit the Cuero and Salado Wildlife Refuge to see wild animals.
Is La Ceiba Safe?
La Ceiba is safe enough town but just follow the normal precautions. However, be aware during carnival when there are big crowds it is easier to get your stuff stolen. So be aware of your valuables at all times or even leave them back at your hotel and only bring some cash with you. Or check out Amazon and invest in one of these travel safety accessories, like a fanny pack hidden under your clothing to store your essentials in. If you have to take your phone out with you, don’t have it on show for long.
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