Honduras is home to fantastic biodiversity with more than 700 species of birds including the harpy eagle, and populations of rare jaguars, pumas, ocelots, giant anteaters, tapir, and mantled howler monkeys. Honduras has the region's most extensive tracts of cloud forest and the largest remaining area of primary forest. The Moskitia region is one of the world's few remaining undisturbed true wildernesses, and visiting it is an unforgettable experience for ecotourists.
Parks and reserves already protect all eight major life zones in the country, yet comprise only about half of the total 25,000 square kilometers earmarked for eventual protection. Although the ecotourism business in Honduras has yet to adopt the sophisticated marketing techniques of other countries in the region, many tour operators offer packages to attract the "green" traveler.
Here are some of the more accessible national parks, reserves, anf refuges in Honduras.
Barbareta Marine National Park (Bay Islands)
Barbareta Island has a 1,250 acre private Parrot Preserve. This 5 km long island is protected as the Barbareta Marine National Park.
Barbareta is a privately owned island preserve, teeming with wildlife and exotic plants.
Sandy beaches and coconut gardens line the coast. It has eight miles of jungle trails, featuring Mayan archaeological sites. This lush tropical island is surrounded by pristine coral reefs, and consists of isolated beaches and virgin rainforest.
Capiro-Calentura National Park and Guaimoreto Lagoon Wildlife Refuge
Capiro-Calentura is a large area of tropical forest near Trujillo on the north coast. It features an old semi-paved trail first used by the Spanish that leads to a cave.
Access is from a path that leads up from the Villa Brinkley Hotel.
The park is administered by the FUCAGUA group which has its office above the cafe in the round building in the center of the town's main plaza.
Celaque National Park
The highest cloud forest in the country, four mountain peaks, pine forest and a big complex of hot springs. There are dormitories, campsites and guides. This park has the highest peak in Honduras and requires a three-day trip to the top.
Easiest access is by dirt road (8kms) from Gracias.
is a not easily accessible cloud forest, but the park also protects an area of thermal springs and exciting caves which can be visited without any difficulty. It's located along the north border with Guatemala, 10km north of Florida, Copan.
Cusuco National Park
Noted for a sizeable population of quetzals, best viewed during nesting season in April and May. It is located just two hours from San Pedro Sula and is easily accessible all year round with a four wheel drive. Cusuco is managed by the Fundacion Hector Rodrigo Pastor Fasquelle which has an office in San Pedro Sula.
A cloud forest famous for its population of quetzals. It has a visitors' center, clearly marked paths and is easily accessible. It is located at la Union, in the heart of the country, 200km north of Tegucigalpa, and boasts one of the best developed park infrastructures in Honduras.
The first area declared as a national park (in 1980) but has been protected since the early 1950s. It lies just outside Tegucigalpa, is easily accessible, and provides dormitories, a visitors' center, guides, and good trails.
Montana de Yoro
A cloud forest 5 miles southeast of Yoro.
10 miles west of Nueva Ocotepeque. Access is best from El Salvador, but there are paths in Honduras.
A dense mountain forest, partly impenetrable because of its steep mountain slopes and home to a large number of endangered species. Pico Bonito is easy to see looming above La Ceiba, but somewhat hard to access. Most difficult climb in Honduras.
20 miles from Morazan. Moderate climb.
Tropical forest and mangroves, famous for its population of waterbirds and continental coral reefs. It is located just outside Tela.
Sierra de Agalta
400 square kms and one of the largest cloud forests in Honduras with spectacular caves and waterfalls. New species have been identified here, and it is an important center for ongoing research.
There are dormitories and camping facilities, trails and guides. It can be reached by paved road and lies just 2.5 hours' drive from Tegucigalpa. There are points of access in Juticalpa, San Estaban, Catacamas, and Gualaco.
Bay Islands Marine Reserves
Roatan's growing popularity is putting pressure on its natural forested areas and splendid coral reef. BICA, the Bay Islands Conservation Association established the Sandy Bay-West End Marine Reserve in 1989 to protect the reef and its teeming fish populations, and the Turtle Harbour Wildlife Refuge and Marine Reserve on Utila in 1992, to protect the island's wetlands.
Both islands are easily accessible by air from San Pedro or La Ceiba.
Biosphere Reserve/Reserva de la Biosfera
One of the Honduras' earliest protected areas; declared a biosphere reserve in 1980, and declared a UNESCO World Patrimony site in 1982. Currently the largest park in Honduras with an area of 525,100 hectares.
The Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve is located in the region of the Mosquitia, distributed between the departments of Olancho, Columbus and Gracias Adios. Its geographic extension borders the coordinates 15m 15' and 15m 57' North latitude, and between the coordinates 84m 35' and 85m 30' latitude West. The total area of the reserve covers an approximated extension with 525,100 hectares, of which 318,200 that corresponds to the zone nucleus (or area of multiple use).
Despite the isolated area of the reserve, the damage caused to its main components has been severe. We can observe an alarming human penetration in its zone nucleus, which already has caused considerable deterioration of its resources, until approximately 35 km within this zone.
Two areas are characteristic within the reserve, the planar area and the mountainous area. The first is characterized by gentle slopes, marshy zones and susceptible plains or savannahs to the inudaciones, which would cover from Barra de Ibans to the Patuca, along the Platano River, to the town of the Marias, and along the Paulaya River. Within the mountainous area, on the other hand, the topography of hills and mountains with strong slopes predominates.
Mountains in the Plantano area consisit of: Baltimore top (1.083 msnm), Hill Viewpoint (1.200 msnm), Hill Antelope (1.075 msnm) and Mountain End Stone (1.326 msnm).
The average of annual rain could exceed 2.500 mm in the months of February and March. April, May and September are less rainy, and the rainiest time would be July and December, with more than 400 mm of precipitation. The registered annual average temperature during the same period was of 26.6m centigrade.
The diversity of ecosystems is another one of the characteristics of this biosphere, excelling in, amongst others, coastal beaches and lagoons, marshes, forests of manglar, rivers and brooks, coastal savannahs of pine, ademas of the forests of pine (located in the South part of the reserve), and the humid tropical forests.
Wildlife consists of the green iguana, marine and sea turtles, white tail deer, and red deer. Invertebre consist mostly of cuyamel, snail of the sea, and lobsters.
In the last decade, the process of immigration towards the reserve has been increased by farmers and latino landowners, accelerating the degradation process, mostly in the South part. In the North region of the reserve has the greater presence of ethnic groups (with majority of Misquito communities and garífunas), of which the group of the Misquitos turns out to be most predominant with than 5.000 inhabitants. That is followed by more than 600 latinos, 550 garífunas, and 110 Pech.
Reserva de Vida Silvestre Laguna Guaimoreto
This wildlife refuge is home to many species of waterbirds, as well as crocidiles, turtles, white faced monkeys, iguanas, and hundreds of species of fish.
Bahia de Chismuyo
Consists of mangroves on the Pacific coast.
Lagunas de Invierno
Located in the south of the country. From the departments of Choluteca and Valle, to about 125 kilometers of the city of Tegucigalpa. It forms part of the Protected Areas that are distributed in the 165 kms of the Pacific coast of Honduras in the Gulf of Fonseca.
This winter lagoon forms a series of protected areas. The vegetation predominantly covers the forests with mangles of thorny scrubs mixed with trees of jícaros and noses, guanacastes and ceibos. Very recently it has been identified to contain great extensions of small plants of mangle. A type of mangle "natural Bonsai" was formed by stress caused by the extreme environmental conditions of the zone.
This wildlife refuge is made up of following sub units: Bahía de Chismuyo, Jicarito, Guamerú, Guapinol, La Alemania, las Iguanas, Isla del Tigre, Quebrachal, Punta Condega, Punta Ratón, Teonostal e Isla de Exposición.
Dark sandy beaches, winding channels, estuaries and open sea are some of rather the well represented ecosystems in this protected area, that, due to the importance of its resources, and to the dense population of the zone, becomes an area of multiple interests and complex handling.
The wild life goes from abundant marine birds to marine invertebrates. Garrobos and iguanas are typical of this warm zone.
Groups identified with the administration and conservation of these areas include the Committee for the Defense and Conservation of the Gulf of Fonseca and the Association of Camaricultores.
One of the most outstanding aspects of this region, located in a volcanic strip, are the conical silhouettes of their innumerable small barren islands.
Laguna de Caratasca
A system of protected lagoons that includes Laguna de Micos (Tela area), Laguna de Guaymoreto (Trujillo), Ibans and Brus Lagunas (part of the Rio Platano Biosphere), and Caratasca, which is the largest. Connected to Caratasca is the Tansing Lagoon.
A large mangrove estuary and one of the most important protection zones for the manatee along the Caribbean coast of Central America. There are several miles of navigable canals and healthy populations of crocodiles and monkeys.
Basic accommodation, guided boat tours, and a beach for swimming. Located just 20km west of La Ceiba, and three hours from San Pedro Sula. An old United Fruit tram takes you from the road to the reserve.
The park is administered by FUCSA who have an office in La Ceiba.
The northern coast of Honduras contains one of the last great tracts of intact primary forest in Central America. This wilderness is one of the few large remnants of forest that once covered most of the isthmus, forming a biological bridge between the continents to the north and south.
If you've heard of this mysterious region, you may know it as the "Mosquito Coast", a land where rivers are the roads.
Endangered species such as Baird tapir, Harpy eagle and species of jungle cats thrive in the area's three principal zones: tropical rainforest, mangrove swamps, and pine savannahs. The area is also dotted with little known archaeological sites, and the fabled lost White City (Cuidad Blanca) of the Maya is said to be hidden somewhere in its dense jungle.
Several Honduran companies do tours to the region, focusing on the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve and including contacts with the three main ethnic groups, the Pech, Miskito, and Garifuna.