If you have ever visited a zoo in Central America, you may be hesitant to try again. Joya Grande is different. This is apparent as soon as you pull into the entrance of the park. The vast open space is the first thing that captures the eye. It is on over 200 acres of rolling hills and green grassy areas with mountains in the distance. Beautiful.
A quick glance tells there is more to the park than a zoo. A Go-Kart track is to the right, large cabins to the left up a grassy hill, a large swimming pool in the distance, and signs for spelunking, ziplining, and fishing. Passing through the gate, there is a tree filled with spider monkeys out in the open with a large pond for them to play in.
After paying L200 for the entrance (half off if you stay at the Hotel Posada in Santa Cruz) we were greeted by one of the zoologists on site. Although our Spanish is not that great, Juan spoke simply and slowly so our gringo minds could comprehend. He showed us ostriches, tigers, lions, hippos, a giraffe, exotic birds, monkeys and even camels.
Animals were kept in clean, large cages and open range pens. The staff was friendly and wore identifying polo shirts. Of course this is still Central America so we were able to touch most of the creatures we wanted to and get up close and personal with the free range birds and monkey. I am sure we could have talked our way into feeding a lion by hand but we let that one go.
At the end of our tour he thanked us and declined to accept a tip for showing us around saying no thanks, it was his job! What!? So we bought him a soda instead. We ordered at the restaurant and waited outside while the little one played on the swings, slide, and trampoline. There is an enormous pool with a ramp overhead, another large pool below, and a small, shallow pool for little kids.
I took a moment to wander toward the caves. A long, boardwalk (a mile at least) led from the main park through the jungle and over streams to a large opening. At the time there were workers fixing the entrance and clearing the inside, putting lights up and in making general preparations. One worker took a few minutes to show me around. We even climbed up a small hole and exited the cave on top surrounded by the jungle. Having spent more time than anticipated, I hurried back to the restaurant passing by several groups of workers and children planting, building, and resting.
Overall a great experience. Perfect for families, we will stay onsite next time in one of the family cabins with a kitchen and a most incredible view. What better place for a kid to spend a weekend? With a zoo and a pool in the backyard. Access to the other amenities are not included and have separate fees but the option to expand and explore with adults and children of all ages!
From San Pedro Sula: At the main bus station, take the bus to Santa Cruz de Yojoa near Lake Yojoa, Honduras. Choose to stay at the Hotel Posada (same owners as the zoo) which is very nice, clean, and has a pool, or at one of the other smaller hotels in town. A taxi will take you to the zoo by dirt road. Be warned the taxi is expensive. Not sure if we were gringoed but it was L600 each way. Which was more than the entrance + food combined. Make a deal with the driver for a discount for round trip fare.
Or take a taxi from San Pedro Sula all the way to the zoo and stay at the zoo (recommended). You should be able to get a taxi for $50 and the cabins include the entrance fee. They offer several specials throughout the year so keep an eye on their facebook page.
For more information see the zoo’s website at http://www.zoojoyagrande.com/