6 Reasons To Visit Pico Bonito National Park Honduras

by Vanessa Wanders Miles

Pico Bonito National Park was an unexpected twist to my Central America trip. A last-minute detour to the largest and most biodiverse park in Honduras was a divine decision. Known locally as Parque Nacional Pico Bonito, this lush tropical park was established on 1st January 1987 and is home to incredible hiking trails, river rafting, and jungle canopies.

Whether you are an adrenaline junkie or just want to soak up nature, visit Pico Bonito National Park and stay at Hotel Rio for a must-do experience in Honduras.


WHERE IS PICO BONITO NATIONAL PARK

Pico Bonito National Park covers 217.88 sq miles and is a hidden paradise located about 25 minutes from La Ceiba, a Caribbean coastal town in the northern region of Honduras. La Ceiba connects to Utila and Roatan by ferry if you fancy a wonderful jungle getaway from island life.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you click a link and purchase something that I’ve recommended. It comes at no cost to you. I received a complimentary stay at Hotel Rio, but all words and opinions are my own.


WHY VISIT PICO BONITO NATIONAL PARK 


Go white water rafting on River Cangrejal

The mighty Cangrejal River was declared 8th out of the 30 Wonders of Honduras back in 2011 and there is a good reason why! The river offers energetic grade II, III, and IV rapids down the steep slope between the two national parks. The large boulders give you the white water effect you need for your adrenaline fix.

We had lots of fun rafting and canyoning down the river with this incredible backdrop of Pico Bonito. Atlántida. Due to the heavy rainfall the previous night, we started further down. to avoid the grade IV rapids. The best spot is the ‘washing machine’ as you apparently come out with no clothes on if you come out of the raft there so it’s best to hold on tight. The experienced guides are very professional so you are definitely in safe hands.


Hike to Cascada El Bejuco in Pico Bonito Reserve

A big old 15km hike in the Honduran jungle to reach the 80m high Cascada el Bejuco started at the visitors centre leading you to an impressive suspension bridge over the gushing Cangrejal River. It can be a challenging hike depending on fitness levels but the lush rainforest provides a natural canopy most of the way.

A poisonous snake stopped us in our tracks early on so we trod carefully with our beady eyes on the path! We saw lots of beautiful butterflies (including blue morphos), leaping frogs, scampering lizards, camouflaged caterpillars (don’t touch the hairy ones), spiders waiting on their webs, and listened to the distinctive calls of oropendola birds! Another magical day in Pico Bonito Nature Reserve.


Enjoy forest bathing in Pico Bonito

Shinrin-yoku literally translates to “forest bath” and is the Japanese practice of “bathing” oneself in nature with the intention of receiving therapeutic benefits. Taking in the forest atmosphere is a mindful experience, and there is no better place to immerse yourself than Pico Bonito National Park.

Hotel Rio is nestled into the flank of the jungle in Nombre De Dios National Park with ringside seats of Pico Bonita National Park. I claimed the front row in the restaurant to the matinee showing, what felt like, a real-life nature programme. I was captivated from that moment. We feasted our eyes on Pico Bonito as the sun shone, the clouds shifted and rain came in.

Forest Bathing is not about hiking through the jungle with a planned route but being more contemplative about what you are seeing, paying attention to what’s moving, feeling the breeze, and seeing the rainfall onto the leaves. And we had it all. The air of tropical forests is loaded with powerful phytoncides creating the perfect dose of ecotherapy.


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Visit Honduras Chocolate Factory

Visit the local chocolate factory named Oro Maya to see firsthand the lengthy production process. It is not a huge cacoa plantation but it works well as the farmers bring their crops to be made into delicious bars or cocoa butter. A lovely lady showed us around and unravelled the intricacies and skilled expertise needed.

The cacao pods are opened, and seeds are extracted (separating the pulp from the seed) and put into wooden vats in a hot shed to encourage the fermenting process. The seeds are regularly moved and stirred then dried, toasted and sieved, and moulded into chocolate bars and packaging all applied by hand.

The designs. on the packaging for the Honduran market feature landmarks from around the country. It’s a shame it took me 2 minutes to inhale this high-quality chocolate after that painstaking process.


Swimming and boulder jumping in River Cangrejal

The Cangrejal River Valley is littered with mahoosive boulders making this a wondrous way to spend the afternoon. Right in front of the River House of Hotel Rio is the perfect place. Exercise extreme caution though. No jumping alone, no headfirst, check the depth of the river, and take heed of local knowledge. Our guides had shown us the safe spot to leap from when we did our rafting.

If you prefer to take more of a spectator role, just find a rock to chill and watch the crazies splash around in the clear Cangrejal River. I’m sure it won’t be too long before you succumb to this invigorating activity.


Stay at Hotel Rio where conservation comes first! 

Not only can Hotel Rio organise your big adventure in Pico Bonito National Park, but you can also be sure that combining ecotourism and conservation is front of mind. Hotel Rio is the biggest single contributor to the conservation of Rio Cangrejal watershed.

The owner, Pepe Herrera, built and furnished Hotel Rio with its own planted and grown tropical hardwoods.

The mountainside lodge is nestled on the tropical hillside, only 400m from River Cangrejal, with a restaurant, hiking trail, and breathtaking scenery. The riverside lodge comes with a private kitchen and balcony so you can kick back in a hammock to the hypnotic sound of the gushing water. 

They practice recycling and have donated over 40 aluminum can crushers to local communities to assist them in making money. They have promoted and financed the biggest trash control campaigns on Rio Cangrejal for decades. 

Pepe is the founding member of Fundacion Cuero y Salado, the oldest environmental NGO in Honduras, which protects the mangroves and manatees. He has also been the leader of a successful battle against Stone Container, one of the biggest pulp paper manufacturers in the world.

Pepe is a legend in Honduras for his efforts in protecting the environment. He was an important figure in the battle against the planned dam on the Rio Cangrejal with an associated hydroelectric plant.

Last but not least, any visiting NGOs and medical and scientific associations get huge discounts or free lodging in Hotel Rio.

USEFUL LINKS FOR LA CEIBA, HONDURAS

Ready to get planning your trip to visit Pico Bonito National Park? Here are some useful links to get you started!

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