Understanding Mayan archeology is generally more difficult than Medieval European History, or of archeology of Greece, Rome, Egypt or Syria. The literary glyphs are linguistic based writing which can be read, but only deciphered as recently as the 1970's. Numeric glyphs are much easier to interpret but still take some practice.
While deep reading isn't always possible, at least skip the bogus books written by hack writers. Barbara and William Fash, who are still active in Copan, are excellent research writers to look for on Amazon.com. This is my favorite text that focuses on gather artifacts to understand the lives of the people who created Copan:
Copan: The History of an Ancient Maya Kingdom Andrews, W, and Fash, W. (Eds), 2005
But, you can also find tons of stuff on-line. Naturally, if all this reading makes your head spin, then it's time for some field observations. Good maps are easy to find at the ruins or within Copan Ruinas, and the bookstore also has a number of good texts for study after you browse the ruins.
You will find browsing the ruins must more pleasurable if you come knowing something about them, and you will remember better what you saw in the field if you follow up with further study after the trip.
The best tip I can give you about a visit to Copán is: come as early as possible! The park opens at 8:00 in the morning, but most tourists come from places like La Ceiba or Antigua and are on a daytrip. Because of the distance they have to cover, they only arrive around 9:00 or even later.
When you spend the night in Copán you can make sure you are there before 8:00. We did when we were there and for the first hour we had the completepark for ourselves alone. Only after 9:00 the first tourists started to slowly enter the park.
Fondest memory: It is great to be the first ones in the park and to -for example- have your breakfast on top of one of the ruins, with nothing around you then green nature, blue sky and the sounds of ara's flying around.
When we were in the village of Copan Ruinas we heard about the orphanange 'Angelitos Felices'. There are no local funds for food, clothing and other basic needs. We bought food, purified water and other things they told us they needed most at that moment.
In the evening we visited the orphanage. The kids were sitting at small stools and started to sing for us when we arrived. They showed us the house and we could see with our own eyes that the house is very very small for the about 40 children and very basic. There are only three rooms for the children to sleep. They have to share the few beds. There is only one shower. During our visit their was no light because of lack of lamps. So we gave extra money for buying the lamps.
The voluntary women told us that Casa Hogar 'Angelitos Felices' is not only an orphanage, but also a safehouse for children who have been abandoned or mentally, physically or sexually abused. The children can find here a safe place, a bed and a meal. The kids have all their own history of abuse, extreme poverty, illness. Our meeting with the kids was a very emotional and impressive experience.
Banco CREDOMATIC 204201162 (dollars)
or Banco de Occidente 211020112970 (lempiras)
Tel: 651-40-27 or 995-43-99
If you are in Guatemala and all you plan to do is visit Copan you can leave Guatemala and return without having to renew your original Guatemalan entry stamp. This means when you return to Guatemala you will not be charged one single cent.
You must, however tell the Guatemalan and the Honduran officials you are only planning a visit to Copan and NO FURTHER.
You will receive a little slip of white paper which you should keep in your passport. The paper will be stamped to allow you six or seven days in Honduras. When you go back to Guatemala, hand them the piece of paper with your passport.
You won't pay a cent.
Besides the ruins I would take friends, family, acquaintances, and CO-WORKERS to Hacienda San Lucas. I was served a five course meal that was absolutely the best. At Hacienda San Lucas there is no electricity everything is done the old fashion way. Also prior to dinner we had nothing to do but lounge around with a cool drink and watch the sunset.
Fondest memory: What I miss about Copan are the friendly people. How Friendly? When we were stranded on the last day in Copan a gentleman stopped his truck, threw our bags in the back of his truck, loaded us up, and took us to the bus station. He also refused our tip.
The museum is at the entrance to the Copan Ruins. You will need to pay your entry fee here.
Visiting the ruins is not cheap. Admission to the site is L.140 (10 USD), payable in US Dollars or in Lempiras. Hiring a tour guide will cost another 10 USD and admission to the tunnels is another 12 USD. Admission to the museums is also extra.
Take a look at http://www.honduras.net/copan/ for more information.
Favorite thing: Copán its wonderful, and the Sculpture Museum inside the park its great. Inside you´ll find most of the real mask´s and stelae, and also a magnificent replica of a temple, painted with the original color´s
Favorite thing: On February 27, in the dark of night, looters snaked through a maze of excavation tunnels toward their destination—the jade-rich tomb of Copán’s Red Lady. After breaking through two locked doors, the thieves crawled into the burial chamber and swept up the treasures from the stone slab the great Maya lady had rested on in death. Although most of her skeleton and much of her jade had already been removed by archaeologists studying the site, some 2,000 of the 10,000 beads that once adorned her body were stolen. Also missing—more than half of the carved jade figures from her necklace (similar to the one pictured below), as well as one of her elaborate ear spools.
Favorite thing: Copan is propably the best known place in Honduras. Copan, just at the Guatemalean border, hosts one of the most beautifull Maya-sites in the region. While you go to Tikal for the impressive piramides and temples, Copan is the place to admire the wonderfull sculptures of old Mayan culture. It is certainly a must when you're in the neighboorhood!
Favorite thing: See the Mayan ball court (at Copán). It is especially impressive when you imagine the ceremony that took place in this ball court. Opposing teams (often captives from enemy tribes) would play a ball game using a very heavy ball. The losing team (or sometimes the winning team) had the honor of being sacrificed to the gods.
Favorite thing: See the hieroglyphic staircase (at Copán). Also impressive, despite being covered with an ugly cover to protect it from the weather.