Omoa is a Caribbean coastal town in Honduras that is north of San Pedro Sula by some 40 miles. Located on a small bay just west of Guatemala and inhabited by about 30,000 people, Omoa was once the main Caribbean port of Honduras, but the town has seen its role as a port of call decline since the mid-19th century. Today, Omoa is a small picturesque, fishing town, seen by some as an up-and-coming vacation destination for city-escapers from San Pedro Sula.
Omoa was established in 1536 by Spanish authorities in Guatemala City looking for a safe place along the Caribbean coast to transport goods back to Spain. Omoa, however, did not get incorporated officially as a town until 1752. For centuries, Omoa was the most important port in Honduras and Central America for that matter. But since the 1820s after Honduras’ independence, Omoa’s importance as a port has declined due to silt built up along its bay, the development of nearby Puerto Cortes, and the construction of a railroad in 1880 connecting Puerto Cortes to San Pedro Sula, and effectively bypassing Omoa.
In its back pocket though, Omoa has a number of attractions that make it one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in Honduras. First and foremost are Omoa’s seductively warm and sandy beaches. Many tourists flock to these palm-tree filled shores to swim, fish, scuba dive, snorkel, surf, sail, and yacht. Boat trips to nearby Guatemala along the coast are especially popular.
Omoa also has some gorgeous waterfalls as well as interior mountains like the Merendon, which are inhabited by a host of exotic plants and wild animals, including a variety of tropical birds for the enthusiastic bird-watcher.
Most famously, however, Omoa is home to the iconic Fuerte de San Fernando de Omoa (or fortress of San Fernando). This fortress, nicknamed the “Castle” is the largest in Central America and one of the few that still exists in the American continent. The fortress was built by the Spaniards in the mid-18th century to protect the town against pirates looking to loot Spanish cargos carrying gold and silver mined from Tegucigalpa to Spain. Unfortunately, the fort suffered a humiliating defeat in 1779 when the English conquered it after a two-day siege and carried off all the gold, silver, and other valuables stored at the time in Omoa. After Honduras gained independence, the fortress of San Fernando was used as a prison by Honduran authorities and then later abandoned altogether. Today, the fortress is a national historic monument open to the general public. Many find it surprisingly pretty with its stone walls of pink and gray russett surrounded by mangroves from all sides.
Omoa is known for its delicious seafood dishes like the blue crab soup and the seafood casserole. The town also has some of best tasting tamales you’ll find anywhere.