Copan Ruinas is located in the western highlands of Honduras near the Guatemalan border.
There are international airports in Guatemala City and San Pedro Sula, Honduras as well as San Salvador, El Salvador.
Although San Pedro Sula is 3 hours by bus from the north and Guatemala City/Antigua 5-6 hours from the west, arriving from Guatemala City/Antigua is recommended over San Pedro Sula. Due to continual bus route changes, San Salvador is more complicated to get to and from.
Whlie seemingly awkward to travel in the opposite direction from Copan, the lovely colonial town of Antigua is only 45 minutes west of Guatemala City airport and easily accessible by one of the frequent and convenient mini-busses that run daily between the airport and this world-renowned UNESCO World Heritage site. Most travellers would agree a short stay in Antigua is infinately favorable over San Pedro Sula, which is a friendly yet jumbled and not very scenic city.
From Guatemala City / Antigua:
While Antigua hosts thousands of visitors each year, it remains a quaint yet cosmopolitan old colonial town with literally hundreds of small guest houses, or posadas, and restaurants ranging from traditional Guatemalan to Greek catering to budget, mid-range and upscale travellers and tourists.
There are many posadas which are full of character charging between $10-16 a night for one or two people. Casa Amarillo is very popular, and often full, but most guidebooks have extensive and up-to-date listings.
It’s also possible to relax in a cafe or the central plaza while getting your bearings and to ask locals and other tourists for recommendations. Everything is so conveniently located it is easy to change posadas if your first choice is not exactly what you’re looking for. TripAdvisor.com, VirtualTourist.com and Hostelz.com all offer some suggestions from other travellers.
From Antigua there are several daily shuttles to Copan Ruinas.
These are very popular and can be booked in any one of the myriad of travel agents or booking agencies dotted throughout the town. For between $18-22 one way, mini-vans pick guests up at their hotels at around 5am or so and make the direct trip across the border to Copan Ruinas in about 6 hours. As this is a pretty competitive and lucrative business it seems almost all the companies and drivers are very reliable and professional.
From San Pedro Sula, Honduras:
It is important to note that if your flight is scheduled to arrive into San Pedro Sula after 8am in the morning it will be very tight to get through immigration, claim your bags and take a taxi to the station in time to catch the 10:50 Hedman Alas bus, which is their last bus of the day to Copan. Alternatively, Cassasola Express runs busses later in the day at 1pm and 2pm. However, the 2pm Cassasola Express is the very last bus of the day to Copan and if you don’t arrive in time to catch this, you will most likely need to spend the night.
For accommodation in San Pedro Sula, there are many options and most guidebooks have up-to-date information. However, few if any are as charming or convenient as in Antigua. Most of the very low-end places are safe but not the kind of places you would ever want to spend more than one night.
Despite being an international chain, the Holiday Inn is actually a locally owned franchise and an excellent place to get your bearings, especially if you are arriving in Central America for the first time and/or speak limited Spanish. Although the rooms are very standard-issue American Holiday Inn and the staff a bit robotic, it is a clean, comfortable sanctuary. Their advertised rate of $90+ a night can be negotiated upon arrival down to $50-ish, which, considering the lovely rooftop pool and free breakfast buffet, is quite a good deal.
From San Pedro Sula, the Hedman Alas bus company currently runs luxury busses to Copan at approximately 7am, 9:50am and 10:50am from their private and secure bus station in the center of town. Reservations are not generally needed and the cost is around $20 per person one way. It is definitely advised to check out their English language website to ensure the most up-to-date information.
Another option is the Casasola Express which departs daily at 8am, 1pm and 2pm from the Transportes Norteños Terminal. While not as luxurious as the Hedman Alas fleet, the Casasola Experess is locally owned, about half the price of the Hedman Alas and prefered by most Hondurans, meaning the trip is usually much more lively and fun. Busses are usually well-kept former American Bluebird school busses which make more frequent stops and generally take around an hour longer than Hedman Alas. They dont have a website and reservations aren’t necessary.
A taxi ride from anywhere within the San Pedro Sula city center to either of the stations will cost $2-3 per person plus possibly a dollar per bag depending on the taxi company. With both bus companies, schedules are fairly regular.
Nelly’s house is roughly between 14 and 25 on the Map of Copan — mid-block on the eastern side.
From anywhere in Copan you can take a tuk-tuk directly to the house. Just tell the driver you want to go to Nelly and Tonino Espinoza’s house. It’s a pretty small place and most people, especially if they’ve grown up there know each other or at least can ask another driver
Tuk Tuk rides are about 50 cents each per person.
Otherwise, from the Parque Central (some of the mini-vans from Antigua disembark in different places around town) head toward the southwest corner.
The Hotel Camino Maya is on that corner, more or less across from the Museo. Walk down one block on the Camino Maya side of the street. There are several street food vendors on the other side as this is the entrance to the market, even though it is quite small. If you need to ask directions, ask for the Cafe Via Via as that’s the direction you want to head in.
Before getting to the block of Cafe Via Via, turn left at the first cross street. There is a grocery shop on the corner — doors are always open.
Then about half way down the block the big metal gates to Nelly’s house are on the left side of the street.
This is a good interactive map, which might be useful.