7 Ecotourism Stars of Honduras


Though Costa Rica is Central America´s (and perhaps all of Latin America´s) premier star when it comes to ecotourism, there´s also an undersung but incredibly rich trove of eco treasures to be explored next door in Honduras, with lush rainforests and stunning coastlines, among other things. On the marine side – exploring the richness of the world´s second largest coral reef, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef – the islands of Roatán and Utila are better known. But here are a few more that nature lovers should definitely keep in mind:


Cayos Cochinos

The “Hog Cays” are a group of two small islands plus 23 even smaller islets –reachable by charter boat or catamaran group tour from Roatán – which form part of Cayos Cochinos Marine Reserve. They have barely more than a hundred people living here – a handful of fancy mansions of wealthy Hondurans plus a small village of Garífunas (Hondurans of Afro-Caribbean descent) – and they´re absolutely fantastic for snorkeling and scuba diving.


Celaque National Park

Way out west some three hours from San Pedro Sula (which I´ll henceforth call SPS), the city with the country´s largest airport, into which many visitors fly, this 141-square mile (366-sq.-kilometer) park of “cloud forest” (above and top, a type of cool, moist, and misty rainforest) is home to Honduras´ highest peak, Cerro Las Minas (9,416 feet/2,870 meters). Hiking to the summit is a challenging but rewarding experience (and one that taking two to three days), but you can also just go hiking, camping, and wildlife spotting amid its nine rivers, steep cliffs, and majestic waterfall. Species you´ll spot include monkeys, reptiles, exotic butterflies, and a huge diversity of birds (except you probably won´t catch a glimpse of the prized but elusive resplendent quetzal, nor of the park´s ocelots and pumas).

12263186089?profile=RESIZE_930xJuan Paz

Cusuco National Park

Up 3,730 ft. (1,137m) in the northwestern Mentón Mountains just over an hour and a half northwest of San Pedro Sula, this very lightly visited, 90-sq.-mi. (234km²) spread is also mostly cloud forest, along with some deciduous, semi-arid pine, and rare “dwarf”  forests. A number of guides and tour operators offer excursions out of SPS. Cosuco is famous for its incredible biodiversity, home to numerous armadillos as well as unique species like the Honduran emerald hummingbird, the endangered Cusuco salamander, and Baird´s tapir; there´s also a wealth of other opportunities for spotting more than 260 species of birds, including a higher-than-average chance of spotting the legendary resplendent quetzal.  Hiking offers a chance to experience unspoiled natural beauty such as the Orion, Quetzal, and Toucan waterfalls. And check out those giant – and sometimes pretty colorful – mushrooms!

Lake Yojoa

Located just over an hour south of SPS,  the country´s largest lake (31 sq. mi./79 km²) is surrounded by picturesque villages and coffee farms (some open to visitors), and is especially known for its birdwatching. You can also take boat tours; go kayaking; and explore the lush surroundings including the nearby eco reserves Cerro Azul Meambar (aka Panacam), Montaña de Santa Barbara, and Los Naranjos, as well as and Pulhapanzak Waterfall and the Caves of Taulabé. Tourism infrastructure includes a visitor’s center with eco-lodge and a restaurant as well as a network of trails, along which you´ll find a platform that´s great for birdwatching.


Lancetilla Botanical Garden

Right near the resort are of Tela on the Caribbean coast (which lies an hour and a half from SPS), this spread established as an experimental plant station in 1925 is more akin to a small nature reserve; Honduras´ only botanical garden is one of the world´s largest at 6½ sq. mi. (17km²) and boasts an impressive 1,500 species of tropical plants and trees along with some 200 bird species. There are guided tours; a visitor center; a cafeteria, and cabins for overnighting.  


The Mosquito Coast (La Mosquitia)

This huge, remote region in the northeast – a three-hour flight from SPS if you don´t care to put yourself through a 20-hour drive – is named not after buzzing insects (though for sure there are plenty of those) but the local Miskito people. And it´s a biodiversity hotspot and home to the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, a 2,030-sq.-mi (5,250km²) UNESCO World Heritage Site which is one of Central America´s last untouched rainforests, serving up exciting jungle treks; river expeditions; kayaking on lagoons such as Brus and Iban; exploration of local cultures including Miskitos, Garífunas and several others; and of course another bonanza of birdwatching as well as spotting larger wildlife (for example, peccaries, giant anteaters, several species of monkey, and even the elusive puma).

12263195082?profile=RESIZE_930xDenis Fournier

Pico Bonito National Park

Located in the Nombre de Dios Mountains a half hour from the town of La Ceiba (an eco-adventure-travel hub three hours from SPS), this 218-sq.-mi. (564km²) spread is the country´s best known national parks, a mix of cloud forest, pine forest, and dry tropical forest ranging from sea level up to 8,000 feet. It´s home to breathtaking waterfalls like El Bejuco and El Zacate as well as a diversity of wildlife including jaguars, ocelots, and a wide range of bird species. Visitors can hit the many hiking trails; go whitewater rafting on the Cangrejal River; take a cool zipline canopy tour; stay at the eco-conscious Hotel Río; and even visit a small chocolate factory.


For more information on the above as well as quite a few more ecotourism treasures, check out Honduras.trave/nature.


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