More interesting than the town itself is its history. Puerto Cortés was founded in 1524 by Spanish colonizers drawn to its potential as a deepwater port. The port was originally called Puerto Caballos (Port of Horses); as the story goes, when explorer Gil González Dávila arrived, a powerful storm blew in and he had to throw several horses overboard in order to survive. How throwing the poor horses in the ocean improved the situation remains unclear, but the name stuck until 1869, when it was changed to Puerto Cortés.
The port quickly became one of the region’s most important ports, and remains so today. Over half of the country’s exports – mostly bananas, pineapples and other produce – pass through here. The port has also fueled the explosion of maquilas (factories) along the corridor between Puerto Cortés and San Pedro Sula. Thousands of Hondurans work here, especially sewing clothes and producing textiles for major US brands.