Cusuco National Park

Entering Cusuco National Park near San Pedro SulaThis lovely park acts as the lungs and water source for San Pedro Sula. Located just behind the city. The municipality of San Pedro Sula issued a city ordinance many years ago forbidding the building and development of properties above the 200 meter above sea level line, (approximately 656 feet above sea level). Because of this, the state of conservation of the park is actually quite good. El Cusuco has a maximum altitude of 2,200 meters above sea level, with the highest peak in the park being San Ildefonso, which faces the Caribbean Coast.

Geographically, Cusuco National Park is within the municipalities of San Pedro Sula and Omoa in Cortes, and Quimistan in Santa Barbara. Despite the fact that the park is adjacent to San Pedro Sula, and almost borders the city to the west, its access is somewhat complicated and difficult. However, the park does have some of the best infrastructure of the National Parks, thanks in good part, to an NGO who in the past co managed the Park. Fundacion Hector Rodrigo Pastor Fasquelle. The park has the benefit of having been subjected to serious biological studies that have taken place regularly, thanks to overseas cooperation, such as that of operation Wallacea, a British, scientific organization that has yearly expeditions to Cayos Cochinos and Cusuco National Park.  Cusuco National Park has an extension of 233.68 square kilometres and was declared a National Park by Congress in 1987.

Hiking in Cusuco National ParkThere are two ways to reach El Cusuco: the traditional route is through the City of Cofradia, that is accessed via the Western Highway that leads from San Pedro Sula to Copan and other destinations. Cofradia is only 22 km west of San Pedro Sula. If you are driving, take the western highway towards Copan, turning off at the entrance to the town of Cofradia, and continue up a dirt road to the village of Buenos Aires. If you are taking a public bus, go to the Metropolitan Bus Terminal in San Pedro Sula and take a bus to Cofradia. The bus will leave you at the central park of Cofradia. Get off the bus at the Central Park and find the Bodega Mabel, located right in Central Park. Folks here will help you arrange for transportation to the community of Buenos Aires. Take note that regularly, it is easier to find transportation on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, because it is on these days that producers bring their crops to the local markets. Usually, you can find transportation somewhere between 11:00 a.m and 3:00 p.m. on these days. The cost is not fixed, but you should not pay over $2.00 USA dollars per person. Please note, however, that the area around Cofradia has gotten quite dangerous in the past couple of years, and you should seriously consider not using this route unless you have a guide who is familiar with the area.

Beautiful Scenery at Cusuco National ParkThe other, much safer option to enter the park, is directly from San Pedro Sula. The entrance is roughly behind the Apart Hotel La Cordillera at the Colonia Trejo. (Please note that there are two hotels La Cordillera in San Pedro Sula, the other one is known as Boutique Hotel La Cordillera, and is exactly in front of the Hotel Copantl in San Pedro Sula.)  There is a small village called La Primavera that is located on the mountains, just behind the Colonia Trejo, within walking distance of the Hotel La Cordillera. As you get to the village you will see a soccer field with a small construction next to it. This is the best spot to catch a ride up to the village of  Naranjito. The best time to catch a ride in the back of pick up trucks is between noon and 2:00 p.m., as this is when the finca owners are driving back up to their farms after having done their shopping in town. The cost of the ride is approximately $2.00 US or its equivalent in Lempiras. Once you get to El Naranjito, you will have to take a soft hike of about 1 ½ hours to the village of Buenos Aires. En route, you will see several small villages and have a chance to see how the people in these communities live. From this village you are in the proximity of the park and its visitor’s center. I must warn you that the dirt road from Buenos Aires onward is not easy, and that during the rainy season, it is imperative to have a four-wheel drive vehicle to make it to the visitor’s center. The center has basic installations, including a camp ground, running water, and toilet facilities. In addition, information on the different trails in the park is provided, as well as the different species living in the park. Perhaps the most famous of these is the enigmatic Quetzal, famed to be the loveliest of all tropical birds, which has been sent to the brink of extinction because of loss of habitat, as well as over hunting because of its beautiful long emerald green tail feather.

For up to date information on the park, I recommend that you contact Jungle Expeditions (www.junglexpediton.org) Juan Paz, owner and manager, who also has a small hostel in San Pedro Sula.  His email is info@lahamacahostel.com. They offer private tours to El Cusuco National Park as well as to other National Parks, and are very friendly and knowledgeable. Another option for information is the Hector Rodrigo Pastor Fasquelle ecological foundation, (www.coneanfo.org),  located on the corner of 1a Calle and 13th Avenida N.O., just behind the Museo de la Naturaleza and the San Pedro Sula Tourist Police office. They are open Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to noon, and from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Saturdays, only in the morning. This foundation has taken upon itself to work closely with the local park authorities, and has several conservation and community education projects within the park.

Cusuco National Park It is a good idea to visit the park very early in the morning, as this is the time when the most wildlife can be seen. For those with the spirit to camp, the early morning sightings will certainly be more than your prize for enjoying this lovely natural park in Honduras. The best spot to spend the night in the park is at the Caritas Center at the Village of El Naranjito.

Local guides can be hired at the community of Buenos Aires, and I wholeheartedly recommend you do so! They will help you spot the local wildlife and tropical birds and provide you with a wealth of information. To contact a local guide, call Doña Martina at (504) 9993 4486. They can take you to see the Tucan and Quetzal waterfalls, as well as the famous midget cloud forest. The best options for food in the vicinity of El Cusuco are the Comedor Tucan, which belongs to Mr. Santiago Alvarenga, and the Comedor Quetzal, that belongs to Mr. Antonio Alvarenga (504) 9786 8751. Both are located within the village of Buenos Aires.

Cusuco National Park boasts several endemic species, most of them being reptiles and insects. There are at least four endemic frog species, and two salamander species that have been identified within its territory. In addition, there is an abundance of gem beetles; truly unique, colourful creatures that have given the park a name worldwide by appearing on the cover of National Geographic magazine in February 2001!  Over 260 species of birds have been identified in the park.

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