La Ceiba Carnival
The La Ceiba carnival is a week-long celebration involving street fairs, live music, a huge parade, and a lot of beer. We just had to go!
La Ceiba Carnival
The carnival is held each year in La Ceiba, on the coast of Honduras, to celebrate San Isidro, the patron saint of the city. The week-long celebration takes over the city, and every night sees people dancing in the streets, playing games at the street stalls, and watching live music performances. The festivities culminate on the Saturday with a parade in the early afternoon and celebrations that last long into the night. The parade itself features floats from various groups from La Ceiba, who dance, march, or ride horses through the street, throwing coloured beads into the crowd as they pass.
The La Ceiba carnival is popular with Hondurans, but often remains unheard-of amongst travellers. I don’t know why! It was one of the most fun weeks we have had in Central America, and it’s well worth a trip.
When To Go
La Ceiba carnival, also known as the San Isidro fair, takes place each year on the third or fourth week of May. The festivities ramp up throughout the week with nightly street parties and fairs, and the parade and final party are held on the Saturday.
Where To Go
The carnival takes place throughout the city of La Ceiba, in a different location each night. The Saturday parade takes place along Avenida San Isidro, and the party then takes over this street and the surrounding area.
We stayed at hostel Guacamayos, a wonderful hostel where we met a fun group of people to spend the week partying with. The staff knew where the party would take place each night (most of which were walking distance from the hostel), and they usually ended up coming out with us!
What To Do
Try the local food. Street stalls throughout each party sell tasty Honduran food. My favourite were baleadas– soft tortillas filled with refried beans and cheese. Most stalls sell snacks to eat on the go, including meat skewers, sausage and chips, and grilled chicken. Others offer complete meals, including meat, rice, beans, salad, and tortillas, for when you need to sit down and refuel.
Try the local drinks. Local beers such as Salva Vida are also sold at stalls throughout the parties (poured into paper cups for safety!). If you’re feeling more adventurous, try guaro, a liquor made from sugar cane.
Take in some music (and dancing). Each nightly party has a few stages hosting live music and scantily clad dancers. The music throughout the week is usually the typical Central American fare, but there is more variety on the Saturday night (we took in some classic rock followed by some techno!).
Try some gambling. A range of games are set up throughout each party, and feature challenges such as knocking down cans with a football or firing a gun at a target. Our favourite was a roulette-style game where you bet money on what colour the wheel will land on.
Watch the parade. You need to get to Avenida San Isidro early to get a spot near the barrier, but it’s worth it. The parade lasts for hours and features everything from bike stunts, to colourfully dressed dancers, live music, free giveaways, and decorative floats. Presenters are on hand to chat to the crowd and keep the energy up (somewhere out there is a clip of me giving an interview in broken Spanish!).
Collect some beads. Colourful strings of beads are handed out throughout the La Ceiba carnival. The best way to collect them is by catching them as they’re flung from the parade floats (and by having quicker reflexes than the crowd around you!).
Tips for La Ceiba Carnival
The city of La Ceiba is perfectly safe to visit, and we had no hassle walking around even at night. The parties themselves are heavily patrolled by armed police officers (a group of whom asked us to pose for photos with them!).
Pickpocketing is something to look out for, however. Just take the cash you will need, and keep it in a zipped pocket if possible.
There are plenty of activities to keep you busy around La Ceiba throughout the day. We took in a hike in the nearby Pico Bonito National Park, and there are also adventure activities such as zip lining and white water rafting.
Wondering what to do after the La Ceiba Carnival? Then pop over to the nearby island of Utila for some scuba diving…