If you are visiting La Ceiba in Honduras, I highly recommend traveling that little bit more to Pico Bonito National Park. In this guide, I will let you know why it’s worth visiting, how to get there, what you can do there, and how affordable it is for backpackers on a budget!
If you are a nature lover, someone who loves adventure, or simply looking for somewhere to relax watch the world roll by I can not recommend visiting Pico Bonito National Park in Honduras. It is a stunning destination in Honduras, where you can experience the beauty and diversity of nature in a variety of ways.
The park itself covers an area of 564.30 km2 and has a variety of ecosystems, from lowland dry forest to cloud forest to rainforest. It is part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, a network of protected areas that aims to conserve the biodiversity and cultural heritage of Central America.
If I am being honest, I actually stumbled upon Pico Bonito National Park by chance. Looking for a hostel in La Ceiba, Jungle River Lodge actually popped up, even though it is a decent 10 kilometers away on an unpaved road.
There were only a handful of reviews online at this stage, so I reached out to find out some more logistics, such as how to get there and booked a 3-night stay. Luckily this was certainly one of my highlights in Honduras as it is a truly magical place, and well worth visiting.
Though there are definitely some things you will want to know prior to visiting to make the most out of your experience, and this is where I come in.
In this post, I will tell you everything you need to know about visiting Pico Bonito National Park. This includes how to get there, entry fees, what to do, where to stay, and more. Ultimately allowing you to make the most out of your trip and have an unforgettable experience!
Visiting Pico Bonito National Park From La Ceiba: What You NEED To Know
- Why Visit Pico Bonito National Park
- Entry Fee To Pico Bonito National Park
- How To Get To Pico Bonito National Park From La Ceiba
- How To Get Around Pico Bonito National Park
- How Long To Spend At Pico Bonito National Park
- When To Visit Pico Bonito National Park
- What To Do At Pico Bonito National Park
- Wildlife At Pico Bonito National Park
Why Visit Pico Bonito National Park
Pico Bonito National Park is one of the most beautiful and diverse natural attractions in Honduras. Located on the northern coast, near the city of La Ceiba, this park covers an area of 564.30 km2 and has an altitude ranging from 60 to 2,480 meters.
It is part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, which connects wildlife habitats from Mexico to Panama.
Here at Pico Bonito National Park, you will find a variety of wildlife, such as jaguars, ocelots, monkeys, toucans, quetzals, parrots, tapirs, iguanas, and wild pigs. Some of these animals are endangered and can only be found in this park.
The park also has more than 400 species of birds, making it a paradise for birdwatchers.
Pico Bonito National Park offers stunning scenery and landscapes, from mountains and valleys to rivers and waterfalls. The park is named after its highest peak, which has a rugged and uneven shape that gives it its name.
You can enjoy the beauty of the Cangrejal River, which runs through the park and forms rapids and pools. It also has several waterfalls, such as El Bejuco, which is 80 meters high and surrounded by vegetation.
The Pico Bonito National Park is a great place for adventure lovers, who can enjoy activities such as hiking, rafting, kayaking, zip-lining, or birdwatching. The park has several trails that vary in length and difficulty, from easy to challenging.
You can hike to the waterfalls, the lookout points, or the cloud forest. There is also white water rafting on the Cangrejal River, which has rapids of different levels and offers a thrilling experience.
Last, but not least the park is not only a natural attraction but also a cultural one. It is inhabited by several indigenous and ethnic groups, such as the Garifuna, who live along the coast and have their own history, music, dance, and cuisine.
You can learn more about their culture and traditions in places like Sambo Creek and Corozal.
Entry Fee To Pico Bonito National Park
To enter the park, you will need to pay an entry fee, which varies depending on the entrance and the trail you choose.
The Cangrejal River Entrance: This entrance is located near the town of Las Mangas, and leads to the trails of El Mapache and El Bejuco. The entry fee is $8.00 per person and includes access to the visitor center and the suspension bridge over the river. This is the main entry point when visiting the national park from La Ceiba.
The Lodge at Pico Bonito Entrance: This entrance is located near the town of El Pino, and leads to the trails of The Unbelievable Trail and The Loop Trail. The entry fee is $10.00 per person for non-guests of the lodge and includes access to the butterfly farm and the serpentarium.
These are the entry fees to Pico Bonito National Park, which are used to support the conservation and management of this protected area. If you are visiting to do the hikes you will need to pay the fee. Though if you are staying overnight and not hiking you won’t pass through any checkpoints so you don’t need to worry about the fee.
How To Get To Pico Bonito National Park From La Ceiba
Pico Bonito National Park is located about 20 km from the city center and has two main entrances: the Cangrejal River entrance and the Lodge at Pico Bonito. Here are some ways to get to the park from La Ceiba to the Cangrejal River Entrance, which is the main entry point.
By Bus: You can take public buses to the park from La Ceiba. These buses depart from Terminal de Buses Principal San Jose. On Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday they depart at 10:00 am, 12:15 pm, 2:00 pm, and 4:00 pm. Tuesdays and Thursdays they depart at 10:00 am, 12:15, 2:00 and 4:00 pm.
Lastly, on Sundays, they leave at 12:00 pm from La Ceiba to Pico Bonito National Park. To get from the park to town, you have to hail the bus, which is easy as there is only one road. The bus will drop you off at the same bus station. Just be aware that these buses only stop when there are seats available.
The approximate timings are Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday around 7:00 am, 8:00 am, 9:00 am, and 1:00 pm. On Tuesday and Thursday, they leave around 7:00 am, 8:00 am, and 9:00 am. Sundays they leave around 8:00 am only.
Taxi: You will find many taxis in La Ceiba that will be happy to take you to Pico Bonito National Park. Just be aware that the road to reach the national park is pretty bad and unpaved. In my experience, a reasonable taxi rate is L450 / $18.00 one way.
Though in order to get this price you may need to haggle. If you decide to book a stay at Jungle River Lodge, where I also stayed, they have their own recommend taxi driver so no haggling is required.
Hitch Hiking: Another possible way is hitchhiking, especially since there is only one road into and out of Pico Bonito National Park you know all cars will be going to the same place as you. However, keep in mind that you are still in Honduras. Pay attention to your surroundings and use common sense.
How To Get Around Pico Bonito National Park
The best way to explore Pico Bonito National Park is by foot. There are several trails that lead to different attractions and viewpoints. The hiking trails vary in length and difficulty, from easy to challenging. You can walk to the waterfalls, the lookout points, or the cloud forest. You can also join guided tours that are offered by some lodges or tour operators.
You should always wear comfortable shoes, carry enough water and snacks, and follow the marked paths. You should also respect the wildlife and the environment, and avoid littering or feeding the animals.
I will get more into the exact hiking trails a little further down in this guide. Though if you are staying in the park you should be within walking distance of the trailheads, or book a guided tour where transport will be included.
How Long To Spend At Pico Bonito National Park
Pico Bonito National Park is a hidden gem that awaits you on the northern coast of Honduras. This park is a paradise for nature lovers, adventure seekers, and culture enthusiasts. You can discover its amazing biodiversity, stunning scenery, and rich heritage.
But how long should you stay in this park?
Well, Pico Bonito National Park offers a variety of activities that will keep you entertained and amazed. You can explore its trails that lead you to breathtaking waterfalls, panoramic lookout points, and mystical cloud forests.
For those looking for more adrenaline, you can also enjoy its rivers that offer thrilling rafting, kayaking, and zip-lining experiences.
Honestly, it is a budget-friendly destination that won’t break the bank. You can save money by taking public buses or taxis to the park entrances, staying at cozy hotels or hostels near the park, and joining group tours that are offered by some lodges or tour operators, which are super affordable.
If this sounds like you I recommend Jungle River Lodge where I paid $20.00 for a white water rafting and canyoning tour, and they also offer $10.00 hiking tours.
A general recommendation is to spend at least one full day in the park and its surroundings, and then add more days if you want to do more activities or visit more places. You can also it as a stopover between La Ceiba and other destinations such as Roatan or Utila.
If you have spare time I recommend spending a minimum of 2 hikes in Pico Bonito National Park to take in the beautiful scenery. If you are someone who enjoys hiking, then maybe plan 3 nights. This was seriously a special destination in my Central American travels and is perfect for nature lovers.
When To Visit Pico Bonito National Park
Pico Bonito National Park is open all year round. Though the weather definitely is different during certain seasons of the year, which may make you want to visit or decide it may be worth skipping.
The Dry Season
The dry season is generally considered the best time of year to visit Pico Bonito National Park. This is generally from November through to April. During this time the weather is more stable and predictable, and the trails are less muddy and slippery.
The temperatures are also pleasant, ranging from 20°C to 30°C during the day and dropping to 15°C to 20°C at night. The humidity is lower than in the wet season, making it more comfortable to explore the park.
The dry season is also ideal for white water rafting on the Cangrejal River. The river level is lower than in the wet season, but still high enough to provide a fun and challenging ride. You can also enjoy boulder jumping and swimming in the river, or relax on the rocky beaches.
Another advantage of visiting Pico Bonito National Park in the dry season is that you can see more wildlife, as the animals are more active and visible. You can spot monkeys, toucans, hummingbirds, butterflies, and more in the forest, or join a guided night tour to see nocturnal creatures like frogs, snakes, and owls.
The Wet Season
The wet season is not necessarily a bad time to visit Pico Bonito National Park, as long as you are prepared for some rain and mud. The wet season is from May to October and brings more greenery and flowers to the park, creating a stunning contrast with the blue sky and water.
The rain also fills up the waterfalls, making them more spectacular and refreshing.
The wet season is a good time to visit Pico Bonito National Park if you want to avoid the crowds and enjoy a more tranquil and authentic experience. You can also find lower prices for accommodation and tours during this time of year.
However, there are some drawbacks of visiting Pico Bonito National Park in the wet season. The rain can be unpredictable and heavy, sometimes lasting for days. This can make some trails inaccessible or dangerous, especially after a storm.
The river level can also rise too high for rafting or swimming, or cause flash floods. The humidity can also be very high, making it more uncomfortable and sweaty to hike.
The wet season is also less favorable for wildlife viewing, as the animals tend to hide from the rain or migrate to higher altitudes. You may still see some birds and insects, but not as many as in the dry season.
I actually visited in June which is considered the wet season, and yes we did have a couple of rainy days. Though the sun also made a few appearances it was a bit cooler which made our fan-cooled room a lot more bearable.
One thing I will say is we were there during a termite swarm, which only happens once a year and it was freakin crazy! Luckily it only lasted a few hours as there is no way I could have dealt with it any longer. I am not sure whether this usually happens during the wet season, but it was an experience for sure.
What To Do At Pico Bonito National Park
Pico Bonito National Park is a stunning destination in Honduras, where you can experience the beauty and diversity of nature in a variety of ways. Whether you are looking for adventure, relaxation, or culture, Pico Bonito has something for you.
Here are some of the best things to do at Pico Bonito National Park:
White Water Rafting
If you are looking for an adrenaline rush, you can’t miss the opportunity to go white water rafting on the Cangrejal River This river runs between Pico Bonito and Nombre de Dios National Parks.
Get ready for energetic grade II, III, and IV rapids that will challenge and thrill you. You can also enjoy the stunning scenery of the jungle and the mountains as you paddle along. The river is suitable for beginners and experts alike, as long as you follow the instructions of the professional guides.
You will also stop along the way to jump off some crazy rocks and do a bit of canyoning. If you have a fear of heights it’s maybe best to let your guide know and they will let you know in advance which ones will be suitable and which ones not.
If you are staying in the national park I recommend booking your white water rafting adventure directly with your accommodation. This way you can get picked up, and dropped off right where you are staying.
We stayed at Jungle River Lodge which actually offers super affordable tours and we finished on the river right outside the lodge dining area. Cathy who runs it is absolutely lovely and you can book this tour even if you aren’t staying there, you will just need to get in touch with them.
Alternatively, for more of a luxe experience, which is also a bit more pricey you can book a rafting tour with Omega Tours, which includes transportation, equipment, and lunch.
Hike to Cascada El Bejuco
One of the most rewarding hikes in Pico Bonito National Park is the one that leads to Cascada El Bejuco. This is an impressive 80-meter high waterfall that plunges into a natural pool.
The hike starts at the visitor center of the park, where you can pay a small entrance fee and get a map. The trail is well-marked and takes you through the lush rainforest, crossing a suspension bridge over the Cangrejal River and passing by several smaller waterfalls along the way.
The hike is about 15 kilometers round-trip and can take up to 6 hours, depending on your pace and fitness level. It can be challenging and steep at some points, so make sure you wear proper shoes and bring enough water and snacks. You can also hire a local guide if you prefer.
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Swimming And Bouldering In The River
Another fun way to enjoy the Cangrejal River is to swim and boulder jump in its clear waters. There are several spots along the river where you can find natural pools and rocks to jump from.
One of them is near Hotel Rio, where you can access the river from their property or from a nearby bridge. Outside my hostel, Jungle River Lodge was another spot where the white water rafters would climb up and jump off. You can even find a couple of natural waterslides.
Apart from these, you can also find other spots by walking along the river bank or asking locals for directions. Just make sure you check the water level and depth before jumping and wear shoes or sandals to protect your feet from sharp rocks
. Also, ask your accommodation for a life jacket just to be extra safe as the currents can be super strong.
Visit Honduras Chocolate Factory
If you are a chocolate lover, you will enjoy visiting Honduras Chocolate Factory called Oro Maya. This is a small family-owned business that produces organic chocolate from local cacao beans.
You can take a tour of the factory and learn about the history and process of making chocolate. From harvesting the cacao pods to roasting and grinding the beans to molding and wrapping the bars. You can also taste different varieties of chocolate and buy some souvenirs to take home.
We definitely purchased a few bars during our stay as a sweet after-dinner treat.
Hiking In Pico Bonito National Park
There are several trails in Pico Bonito National Park that you can hike, depending on your level of difficulty and interest. Some of the most popular trails are:
La Cascada Trail: This is no doubt the most popular which takes you to the base of El Bejuco waterfall. As we mentioned this prior and went into detail I will skip repeating myself.
Rio Zacate Trail: This trail starts near Hotel Rio and takes you through the rainforest along the Zacate River. The trail is about 8 kilometers round-trip and can take up to 4 hours. It is an easy-to-moderate hike that is suitable for beginners and families. You can see many birds and plants along the way, as well as some small waterfalls and pools.
Los Lobos Trail: This trail starts near Los Lobos Bridge and takes you through the rainforest to the Cangrejal River. The trail is about 5 kilometers round-trip and can take up to 3 hours. It is an easy hike that is suitable for all ages. You can see many monkeys and other animals along the way, as well as some views of the mountains.
You can go hiking in Pico Bonito National Park on your own or with a tour operator. If you do it on your own, you will need to pay a small entrance fee at the visitor center or at Hotel Rio, depending on which trail you choose.
You will also need to bring enough water and snacks, as well as proper shoes and clothing. You can also rent or buy a map at the visitor center or at Hotel Rio.
If you prefer to do a hiking tour with a tour operator, you can book it through Hotel Rio or Omega Tours, which are both located near the park. They offer different options for different trails and durations, ranging from half-day to full-day tours. They include transportation, equipment, guides, entrance fees, and lunch.
Swimming In Rock Pools
Last but not least are the incredible natural rock pools you can swim in along the river’s edge. The landscapes here are absolutely incredible with hundreds of huge, truck-sized boulders stacked up along and in the river.
Over time these have created natural swimming pools which are the perfect place to relax on a hot day, or if you aren’t comfortable swimming in the strong currents of the river.
If you decide to stay at Jungle River Lodge then you will find a large natural rock infinity pool overlooking the river. They also have a constant water flow and aerate the water to prevent mosquitoes from laying in there.
Even though it wasn’t warm enough to swim during my stay it was an absolutely beautiful place to hang out during the day.
Wildlife At Pico Bonito National Park
Wildlife at Pico Bonito National Park is abundant and diverse. You can see many birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and plants in the park, depending on the altitude and habitat. Some of the most iconic and charismatic wildlife at Pico Bonito National Park are:
Jaguars: These are the largest cats in the Americas and the top predators in the park. They are elusive and nocturnal, but sometimes leave tracks or scats along the trails. They prefer dense forests and prey on deer, peccaries, monkeys, and other animals.
Monkeys: There are two species of monkeys in the park: white-faced capuchins and mantled howlers. The capuchins are agile and intelligent, often seen jumping from branch to branch and using tools to crack nuts or fruits. The howlers are more sedentary and vocal, often heard roaring in the morning and evening.
Toucans: These are colorful and conspicuous birds that feed on fruits and insects. There are six species of toucans in the park, including the keel-billed toucan, the chestnut-mandible toucan, and the emerald toucanet. They can be seen in pairs or flocks in the canopy or near fruiting trees.
Poison dart frogs: These are small and brightly colored frogs that secrete toxins from their skin as a defense mechanism. There are several species of poison dart frogs in the park, including the red-eyed tree frog, the strawberry poison dart frog, and the blue jeans poison dart frog. They can be found in moist and shady areas near streams or ponds.
The best way to experience the wildlife at Pico Bonito National Park is simply by doing the hikes or partaking in a tour. Though in all honesty I just sat on the deck of our hostel and watched the jungle and the incredible birds flying overtop.
Where To Stay In La Ceiba?
La Ceiba is definitely on the backpacking Honduras itinerary, though most people decide to simply stay here one night on the way to the islands. This means a lot of accommodation in the city center does leave a lot to be desired, even the hostels are quite on the basic side.
If you are also simply planning on staying in La Ceiba one night then this is perfect. Though if you want to discover more of mainland Honduras I highly recommend spending a few nights in the Pico Bonito National Park.
I decided to stay at Jungle River Lodge here which is an excellent hostel located right in the middle of the jungle alongside the river. It was surprisingly budget-friendly with some of the cheapest white water rafting I have ever seen.
There are also some hikes you can do around the area to nearby waterfalls. They have dorm rooms available, as well as privates.
A hostel stay right on the river in Pico Bonito National Park. Dorms start at $19.00 per night.BOOK NOW
More of a luxury stay in Pico Bonito National Park. Rooms here start at $80.00 per night for a private room.BOOK NOW
A basic hostel in the city center of La Ceiba. Dorms here start for around $13.00 per night.BOOK NOW
A basic and affordable hotel in the town of La Ceiba. Private rooms here start at $26.00 per night.BOOK NOW
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