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Jungle Jeeps: We Go to Honduras

Posted in Events on February 11, 2019
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Plenty of off-road shops all over the country put on customer-appreciation events, but few venture very far away with their suppliers and patrons. There are exceptions, and recently we participated in an event that went far beyond the ordinary. Miami-based Roco4x4 recently held its Roco4x4 Adventure Week (RAW), a Jeep trip to Honduras. This trip was equal parts of overlanding, hardcore rockcrawling, and mud wheeling—all thrown together with some adventures and then mixed up during a long but fun week.

We started our adventure by visiting the San Fernando Fortress and then hiking through Rawacala Eco Forest to this waterfall. What else would you expect from RAW but a trip to RAWacala!

Day 1: Miami to Omoa

The first day of our trip began with a short two-hour flight from Miami to San Pedro Sula. The Jeeps had been shipped two weeks prior and were waiting for us at the airport upon our arrival. From there we wasted no time. The first day was our tourist day before the expedition. Carlos Flores, the marketing director for ROCO4x4 in Miami and a Honduran native, led our convoy to the historic San Fernando Fortress for a tour and a visit with Honduran tourism officials. From there we explored the Rawacala Eco Forest, enjoyed the sunset at Rio Salto, and then headed to the luxurious Paraiso Rainforest and Beach Hotel for the night. We dined at the hotel and were entertained with traditional Garifuna song and dance. Secure in the knowledge that all of the vehicles were parked in a locked compound, resting in rooms that were clean and comfortable, and with the sound of the ocean lapping at the beach, we were soon sleeping soundly.

Traveling through remote villages provided the chance to see what traditional life in Honduras looks like. Few tourists ever get this opportunity, but driving through Honduras in our own Jeeps meant that we could venture off the beaten path.

Day 2: Omoa to San Pedro Sula

The roads near the industrial center of San Pedro Sula were paved and well maintained, but as we got into more remote corners of the country we never saw pavement. Off-roading is a daily occurrence for most Hondurans, with little pickups and motorcycles being the most common modes of transportation. Aside from walking, that is.

Heavy rain forced a change in plans for the day, and many participants were saddened to learn that we had to take the “easy” route through the mountains to return to San Pedro Sula. Any disappointment in the trails being too easy quickly vanished though, and before we knew it, we were winching while still in the middle of a village! Slick clay resulted in a complete loss of steering control, sending vehicles downhill no matter which direction the wheels were pointed. When the trail leader had Boggers, we should have known there would be some real mud.

This was an actual road through a village outside of San Pedro Sula. Recent rains had washed away much of soil, exposing rocks that required low range and lockers to traverse. Motorbikes that weaved their way around the boulders made for the only local traffic we encountered.

The vehicles in the front of the pack had an easier time traversing the newly cut route through the jungle, but as the ruts got deeper and the mud became softer, forward progress became impossible. The Warn recovery gear got a workout, and everyone donned their rubber boots to keep the group moving. It took our collection of incredibly capable vehicles 12 hours to travel just 6 miles through the jungle. The upside was that despite the heavy rains, the temperatures were cool and humidity was surprisingly low during our November visit to Honduras.

After finding hard ground we aired back up and retuned to San Pedro Sula just in time to make a car show. Fortunately, the sun was setting, so our muddy vehicles and even muddier clothing weren’t too disturbing to the owners of vintage Porsches and classic muscle cars. We had spent the last 63 miles mostly in mud, so we cleaned up, and then warmed up with some hot coffee and a delicious steak dinner at El Portal de las Carnes, rumored to be the best steak house in all of Honduras. Once the caffeine wore off we drifted off to sleep with muddy dreams.

The Sprintex supercharger on Jose Maza’s stretched two-door JK came in handy when cleaning out the tires in the sticky Honduran mud. The more vehicles that passed through the trail, the deeper the mud became.

Day 3: San Pedro Sula to Pulhapanzak Falls

After the winch-a-thon the previous day we bypassed some of the jungle route on our trip to Pulhapanzak Falls. Instead, we passed through small, traditional Honduran villages where the locals were harvesting coffee beans and cocoa. The abundant rainfall makes the entire country of Honduras green and lush, making it the perfect place for agriculture and Jeeping. However, the highlight of the day was crossing a questionable suspension bridge over Río Chamelecón. Holes in the floor of the bridge and its propensity to swing required us to cross one at a time. Some played on the boulders along the shore as they waited for their turn to cross or for the rest of the group to make it across once on the other side.

We traveled over almost 100 miles of dirt that day, and at one point we thought we were in a truly remote area only accessible by Jeeps…right up until we were passed by groups of tuk-tuks. Also known as an auto rickshaw, these three-wheeled taxis use two-stroke engines and are often customized by their drivers with chrome and tinted windows. Despite the tiny tires, they seemed to go just about anywhere.

The trail we traveled on the second day of the trip had only been cut through the jungle a week prior. Heavy rain turned what would have been an easy trail into an all-day winchfest that ran well into the night.

Day 4: Pulhapanzak Falls to Lago de Yojoa

The morning started with a two-legged adventure instead of the four-wheeled variety. We hiked under the thundering Pulhapanzak Falls, jumped off of cliffs into Río Amapa, and even went ziplining over the 150-foot-high waterfall to start our day. After leaving the falls we drove about 40 miles of backroads and mountain passes to the property of Gaspar Pineda, where we were treated to a tour of his coffee plantation.

Gaspar had a little surprise for us that day though, one that was even more energizing than his coffee. He and his son had constructed a tough truck-style course with a rock garden and hill and hole obstacles for us to enjoy. Everyone ran the course for time, and more than one vehicle momentarily left terra firma during its effort to record the lowest time. Did everyone make it through unscathed? There was just too much great Jeeping adventure to fit into one story, so you’ll have to check back in with us next month as we continue our journey through the jungles and mountains of Honduras to explore shipwrecks and Mayan ruins.

Local food was one of the highlights of our time in Honduras. We were treated to snapper in the seaside town of Omoa, while inland our meals consisted of fried plantains, black beans, and steak. Baleada, which consists of beans and cheese in a tortilla, was a staple for lunches on the trip.
Garifuna is a rhythmic music found throughout the Caribbean. It is typically played with drums, maracas, and conch shells for horns. We were treated to Garifuna music during our stay at Paraiso Rainforest and Beach Hotel in Omoa.
There were a variety of Jeeps on RAW 2018, from JLs to JKs to XJs. Roco4x4 shipped a brand-new JL Wrangler to Honduras for RAW 2018. The Jeep JL had a BDS suspension to clear 39-inch BFGoodrich Krawlers. While this is a lot of tire for the stock axles, the JL didn’t experience a single mechanical issue all week long.
We traveled one at a time over this suspension bridge at the Río Chamelecón. Abel Sandoval’s two-door JK is light enough that a tuk-tuk decided to join him on a bridge. These tiny three-wheeled taxis are found throughout Honduras and highly customized by their drivers.
When you have a caravan of a dozen Jeeps on huge tires, you are bound to draw some attention. The people we encountered during our adventure through Honduras were friendly and accommodating.
Guillermo Hepburn set much of the route for RAW 2018 with Carlos Flores and Gaspar Pineda. Guillermo’s built TJ has a Dana 60 front axle and Ford 8.8 rear axle to withstand the 39-inch BFGoodrich Krawlers.
Jota Mauco shipped his XJ from Miami for RAW 2018. The exo-caged Cherokee has a Dana 44 front axle and Ford 9-inch rear axle to stand up to the 37-inch Maxxis Trepador tires. Despite some issues, Jota never ran into a problem that he couldn’t resolve during the trip.
Andreas Gomez came to Honduras from Madrid along with Jose Gayoso from Roco4x4 Spain. Andreas has competed in off-road events for years and spotted most of the vehicles through the more technical obstacles on the trail.
Coffee is Honduras’ main export product, and it is grown throughout the mountains and valleys of the country. During our visit to Gaspar Pineda’s coffee plantation we were given the chance to pick our own coffee beans.
The third day of the trip led us to Pulhapanzak Falls. The same rain that had turned the trails into a muddy mess had the Río Amapa flowing fiercely over the 150-foot-tall falls during our visit.
Rebeca Olavarrieta of Roco4x4 piloted her four-door JK through the trails of Honduras. The Jeep boasts 1-ton axles, a whole host of GenRight armor, and 39-inch BFGoodrich Krawlers mounted on Raceline Monster beadlock rims.
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