Tela’s Banana History


Tela is the oldest post Colombian city in Honduras. It was founded by Cristobal de Olid, one of Hernan Cortes’ generals who came to conquer Honduras. He arrived at the Caribbean Coast of Honduras on the third of May 1524. This day the Catholic Religion celebrates the day of the Holy Cross. As such, Olid named the town Triunfo de la Cruz. As the name was rather long, locals would abbreviate it as T de la Cruz, and eventually became on Tela. During several centuries, Tela was a sleepy fishing village. Several Garifuna communities established themselves in the vicinity of Tela and gave the city a unique, festive atmosphere. It was during the early XXth century, when the government of Honduras gave land concessions to the United Fruit Company, that Tela found itself in the heart of the growing banana business. This is where Tela’s banana history begins!

Tela’s Banana History

The iconic Accounting Buidling in Tela

The Tela Railroad Company was incorporated in 1912, during the government of President Manuel Bonilla. This was when they were awarded their first land concessions to grow bananas. In exchange, the Tela Railroad company was to build a railroad network that would eventually connect with the capital city, Tegucigalpa. However, the banana companies were more interested in building a railroad network to their banana plantations that to the capital city.

The Tela Railroad Company brought a huge economic boom to Tela and surroundings. Unfortunately, it was not long lasting, as eventually, the company moved its headquarters to the city of Lima, in the Sula Valley. However, by the time they moved their headquarters, they had already built an important infrastructure that remains to this day. These buildings are an important part of Tela’s Banana History. Without doubt the most iconic of all is the old accounting building, and what is left of the old dock that was once the largest banana export dock in Central America.

Tela’s Banana History

Tela’s dock. One of the more popular spots in Tela

The old dock was destroyed by a fire years ago. It was a total loss. It was rebuilt in concrete, and it is one of the most visited spots by locals. At just about any time of the day or night, you will find locals fishing off the old dock. The most iconic building is without doubt the old accounting building, which is very close to the old dock. After years of being abandoned, it has been brought back to life under the leadership of the municipality of Tela. The building is two story building, and the first floor is now home to a small museum with artifacts that refer to Tela´s Banana History. The second floor is perfect to host events. It is easy to imagine the old days when steam locomotives came to the dock to unload their banana loads into the ship’s cargo holds.

Another important site that is part of Tela´s Banana History can be seen is the old residential area for the executives. This, together with the Masapan district in La Ceiba were the first gated communities in Honduras. This area is now home to Telamar Resort, and some of the original buildings, including the old dance hall, and some of the homes for executives are still standing today. These are lovely old wood buildings with a typical banana architecture. Many of these villas are now part of the resort, and both national and foreign tourists stay here when they come to enjoy the best beaches in Central America. Nearby, the old Tela Golf course is still open for business. This was the first golf course in Honduras and today is part of the World Class Telamar Resort.

Golf in Atlantida

The golf course at Telamar Resort is the oldest golf course in Honduras

Golf was always an important part of the banana companies’ culture in Central America. After the Tela Railroad Company moved Lima, they built a golf course there. Today this aspect of Tela´s banana History is very present in town, with two magnificent golf courses. The old Tela Railroad company golf course at Telamar Resort, as well as the new Championship Golf course at Indura Beach and Golf Resort. Finally, another important part of Tela’s Banana History can be found at the Lancetilla Botanical Garden. Yes, the largest tropical botanical garden in Atlantida and in the Americas is part of the Banana Heritage that you can find in Tela. This garden was established to find which exotic tropical fruits from around the world could adapt to the climate in Honduras. Therefore, you find exotic fruits like rambutan, durian and mangosteen in Honduras!

The commercial area within Telamar Beach Resort

El Centro Comercial de Telamar Resort mantiene su arquitectura original. Foto: Cortesía Jafeth Zablah

After the Tela Railroad company moved to La Lima, it took the city some time to find its calling. Today Tela is one of the brightest stars in Atlantida. It shines not only because of its rich banana history, but also because of the high quality of its diverse tourism related services. Some of the best beach and golf resorts can be found in Tela. Many of the different tours are within the different national parks in Tela. There is no doubt that Tela’s Banana History, its spectacular white sand beaches and the first-class tours to national parks make it one of the most authentic tourism destinations in Central America!