The Lancetilla Botanical Garden is located only 2 km (1-½ miles) from the city of Tela, and is one of the largest tropical botanical gardens in the world. It was established in 1926 by the United Fruit Company as an experimental garden to identify different species of fruit and hardwood trees that could be of economical interest to the company. Under the direct supervision of Dr. William Popenoe, the area quickly grew to be one of the largest tropical botanical gardens in the world, and is currently is the second largest of its kind in the world, and the largest in the Americas. The gardens were turned over to the government of Honduras in 1974, when the state of Honduras actually took possession of the banana company railroads, the Lancetilla Gardens, the area that is now the Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge, and many other important assets.
Lancetilla was eventually turned over to the Escuela Nacional de Ciencias Forestales (ESNACIFOR) whose headquarters are in the city of Siguatepeque. (www.jblancetilla.org and E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ) Esnacifor is the most important forestry school in Central America and has worldwide recognition for the graduate students from this faculty.
The gardens have a total extension of 1,681 hectares, with include the arboretum, the experimental plantations and a biotic reserve that is meant to preserve the natural vegetation of this part of Honduras. The gardens form part of the Honduran biological corridor, a series of protected areas along the north coast of Honduras that seeks to preserve the natural environment and allow for the migration of large mammals throughout the area, including the endangered jaguar and other species of felines that are native to Honduras.
Many of the modern day crops that produce an important income to Honduras through exports were actually introduced to the country via the Lancetilla Botanical Gardens. A fine example of this is the African Palm, which has become a truly important crop for Honduras, generating millions of dollars in exports and thousands of jobs in the country. Another important crop that is of growing importance is the Asian fruit known as Rambutan, which is now being exported to the USA.
The Lancetilla Botanical Garden is located only 2 kilometers (1 ½ miles) from the city of Tela, and about 90km, (55 miles) from San Pedro Sula and 110 or 65 miles from La Ceiba. The entrance to the gardens is clearly marked on the main highway that connects Tela to San Pedro Sula, leading towards the south (towards the mountains, opposite of the Caribbean Sea.
Entrance fee for adults is $8.00 US dollars, with a discount for Honduran citizens. If you are driving your own car, access is very easy. Entrance fees are paid at the booth just off the main highway, and a short drive, only a few kilometres long will bring you to the parking area at the visitors center. If you don’t have a car, you can hire a cab in Tela and have them drive you to the gardens. The cost of a trip is around $3 US per trip one way. Another, even nicer alternative is to rent a bike at Garifuna Tours at the Hotel Mango. Here you can rent a bike for approximately $5.00 US for the day and then go off and explore the gardens. Do take extreme caution during the 1 ½ kilometre drive along the main road, as there is quite a bit of heavy traffic sometimes.
The gardens are open daily from 7:00 a.m. till 4:00 p.m. If you are interested in sleeping within the gardens, there are some facilities such as dorm rooms and cabins within the area administered by ESNACIFOR. If you do decide to stay overnight within the gardens, you can plan on eating at the restaurant that is at the visitors center, which is open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
There is a modern brand new visitor’s center at the arboretum, where you can get some information on the park, hire guides, see maps of the trails and enjoy some exhibits about the history and diversity of the gardens.