The natural paradise Cayos Cochinos (Pig Keys) are an coraline archipelago floating in the Caribbean Sea at Honduras west coast. Even though only 12 kilometers away from the mainland town La Ceiba, the islands are not that easy to reach and thus could conserve its authentic garifuna charm. The archipelago consists of two small islands – Cayo Mayor and Cayo Menor – plus 13 smaller keys which are of coralline origin. Most of the keys are uninhabited and are used by the local garifuna fisherman as a refugee place during longer fishing trips.
In 1994 the Honduran Government declared the Cayos Cochinos a Marine Biological Reserve. In an area of 460 square kilometers the NGO Honduras Coral Reef Fund now helps in nature conservation and protects marine as well as terrestrial flora and fauna from contamination, extensive, commercial fishing and climate change. In fact, the Cayos Cochinos are situated in the Meso-American Barrier Reef System, which is the second largest barrier reef in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
The Cayos Cochinos are a natural gemstone and well kept secret. You can enjoy its rich, untouched nature and immerse yourself into a colourful underwater paradise with extraordinary coral reefs. The sand beaches and the warm, crystal clear water, which is shining in hues of turquoise over sky blue to jade green make you fall in love with the Caribbean. It is the perfect scenery with blue water, white sand beaches and green palm trees as far as the eye can reach. Not for nothing are the Cayos Cochinos supposed to be one of the best and most sensitive place to be visited before you die. Also TV reality shows have already caught sight of these beautiful islands. The Spanish ‘Survivor’ reality show has filmed here six times, but also similar Italian and Israeli shows have used the deserted islands as their set.
As it is not yet overcrowded with tourists, the local garifuna community still conserves the traditional habits. They live from their fishing and most women produce jewellery from seashells and coconuts, which they sell to the tourists. Staying for some days on the island – for example on the typical garifuna Island Chachahuate – will give you the possibility to taste the traditional garifuna culture. Here a local fisherman runs the only hostel with restaurant on the island. It is the perfect place to let loose from your daily routine and relax on an almost deserted island like Robinson Crusoe. The restaurant serves typical garifuna food, mostly fresh fish with delicious rice and beans cooked in coconut water.
The best way to visit the islands, is to book a day trip with a local travel agency. This includes a visit to the scientific center at Cayo Menor and a stop at the Cayo Mayor. On the latter you will relax at a small beach, the perfect spot for some snorkeling and afterwards you will go in search for the famous ‘Boa Rosada’, a pinkish boa living in the woods of the islands. Unlike its ancestor on the mainland, this snake is peaceful and non-poisonous. It is told that the pinkish colour derives from its diet one the island. The tour ends at Cayo Chachahuate from where the boat brings you back to the mainland – or you can stay overnight on prior agreement.
The easiest way is to book a tour with a tour operator, e.g. Cayos Tour. They will pick you up at your hotel in La Ceiba, the boat will leave from the neighboring town Sambo Creek.