La Ceiba and around

La Ceiba, the capital of Atlántida Department and the third largest city in Honduras, stands on the narrow coastal plain between the Caribbean and the rugged Nombre de Dios mountain range crowned by the spectacular Pico Bonito (2435 m) . The climate is hot, but tempered by sea winds. Once the country's busiest port, trade has now passed to Puerto Cortés and Puerto Castilla, but there is still some activity. The close proximity to Pico Bonito National park, Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge and the Cayos Cochinos Marine Reserve gives the city the ambitious target of becoming an important ecotourism centre. While the opportunities aren't immediately obvious, there is definitely a buzz about town - watch out for developments. The main plaza is worth walking around to see statues of various famous Hondurans including Lempira and a couple of ponds.

A
butterfly and insect museum
, http:// butterflywebsite.com, has a collection of over 10,000 butterflies, roughly 2000 other insects and snakes. Good for all ages, you get a 25-minute video in both Spanish and English and Robert and Myriam Lehman guide visitors expertly through the life of the butterfly. There is also a Butterfly Farm, on the grounds of The Lodge at Pico Bonito.

Around La Ceiba

Fig Tree Medical Centre
, on the highway to Jutiapa, is a famous centre for alternative medicine. Operated by Dr Sebi, this facility is treating cancer and diabetes utilizing vegetarian diet, medications and the local hot springs.
 Jutiapa
is a small dusty town with a pretty little colonial church. Contact Standard Fruit Company, Dole office in La Ceiba (off main plaza) to visit a local pineapple plantation.
Corozal
is an interesting Garífuna village near La Ceiba, at Km 209.5, with a beach, Playas de Sambrano and a hotel.
Sambo Creek
, another Garífuna village, has nice beaches and a couple of hotels. Near the towns of
Esparta
and
El Porvenir
, thousands of crabs come out of the sea in July and August and travel long distances inland. The
Catarata El Bejuco
is a waterfall 7 km along the old dirt road to
Olanchito
(11 km from La Ceiba). Follow a path signposted to Balneario Los Lobos to the waterfall about 1 km upriver through the jungle. There is good swimming from a pebbly beach where the river broadens.

Yaruca
, 20 km down the old road to Olanchito, is easily reached by bus and offers good views of Pico Bonito.
Eco-Zona Río María
, 5 km along the Trujillo highway (signposted path up to the foothills of the Cordillera Nombre de Dios), is a beautiful walk through the lush countryside of a protected area. Just beyond Río María is
Balneario Los Chorros
(signposted), a series of small waterfalls through giant boulders into a deep rock pool that is great for swimming (refreshments nearby). Upstream there is some beautiful scenery and you can continue walking through the forest and in the river, where there are more pools. Another bathing place, Agua Azul, with restaurant is a short distance away. The active can get on the
Río Cangrejal
for the exhilarating rush of Grade II, III and IV
whitewater rapids
, which can be combined with treks in to the wilderness of
Parque Nacional Pico Bonito
.

Beaches around La Ceiba

Beaches in and near La Ceiba include
Playa Miramar
(dirty, not recommended),
La Barra
(better),
Perú
(across the Río Cangrejal at Km 205.5, better still, quiet except at weekends, deserted tourist complex, restaurant, access by road to Tocoa, 10 km, then signposted side road 1.5 km, or along the beach 6 km from La Ceiba) and
La Encenada
(close to Corozal).

The beaches near the fishing villages of Río Esteban and Balfate are very special and are near Cayos Cochinos (Hog Islands) where the snorkelling and diving is spectacular. The Hog Islands can be reached by
cayuco
from Roatán, La Ceiba and
Nuevo Armenia
, a nondescript Garífuna village connected by road to Jutiapa. Take whatever you need with you as there is almost nothing on the smaller cayes. However, the Garífuna are going to and fro all the time.

Parque Nacional Pico Bonito

Parque Nacional Pico Bonito (674 sq km) is the largest national park in Honduras and is home to Pico Bonito (2435 m). The Río Cangrejal, a mecca for whitewater rafting, marks the eastern border of the park. It has deep tropical hardwood forests that shelter, among other animals, jaguars and three species of monkey, deep canyons and tumbling streams and waterfalls (including Las Gemelas, which fall vertically for some 200 m).

Parque Nacional Pico Bonito has two areas open for tourism. The first is the Río Zacate area, located past the community of El Pino, 10 km west of La Ceiba; the second is on the Río Cangrejal, near the community of El Naranjo, about 7.5 km from the paved highway.

A hanging bridge over the Río Cangrejal provides access to the visitor centre and the El Mapache Trail up to the top of El Bejuco waterfall. Further up the road in Las Mangas, Guaruma (T442-2693) there is a very nice trail with beautiful swimming holes in a pristine creek. The trail is well maintained and local guides are available.

For the Río Zacate area, access is just past the dry stream (
quebrada seca
) bridge on the main La Ceiba to Tela highway from where the road leads to the entrance through pineapple plantations to a steep trail leading up to the Río Zacate waterfall, about one hour 20 minutes' hiking. A good price range of accommodation is available in both areas.

Development of the park by
Curla
(Centro Universitario Regional del Litoral Atlántico) continues under the supervision of
Cohdefor
, the forestry office, and the
Fundación Parque Nacional Pico Bonito
(
FUPNAPIB
)
.

Cuero y Salado Wildlife Reserve

Near the coast, between the Cuero and Salado rivers, 37 km west of La Ceiba, is the Cuero y Salado Wildlife Reserve, which has a great variety of flora and fauna, including manatee, jaguar, monkeys and a large population of local and migratory birds. It extends for 13,225 ha of swamp and forest.

Nilmo, a knowledgeable biologist who acts as a guide, takes morning and evening boat trips for those staying overnight, either through the canal dug by Standard Fruit, parallel to the beach between the palms and the mangroves, or down to the Salado lagoon. Five kayaks are available for visitors' use. In the reserve are spider and capuchin monkeys, iguanas, jaguar, tapirs, crocodiles, manatee, hummingbirds, toucans, ospreys, eagles and vultures. A five-hour trip will take you to Barra de Colorado to see the manatees. Fucsa's administration centre, on the banks of the Río Salado, has photos, charts, maps, radio and a two-room visitors' house. There is also a visitor centre, with a full-service cafeteria and bilingual guides.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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