Cusuco National Park
Cusuco National Park is in Cortes of Honduras. It was established on 1 January 1959 and covers an area of 234.4 square kilometres (90.5 sq mi). Popular destination for backpackers, travelers, hikers and expeditionaries following the Cusuco Mountain Backpacking Route.
Cusuco is not the average American national park with neat footpaths, hand rails and a reception center. This park is barely known by locals and mostly visited by people looking for non tourist destinations. The difficult access roads have preserved this area. Excellent location next to San Pedro Sula, Honduras travel hub.
The road that goes to Cusuco Park was originally build by a lodging company that was expelled by the Honduran government in 1987. The National Park counts with 2 areas, the buffer zone and the nucleus. Agriculture (mainly coffee) is the main source of income for the traditional mountain villages. Quickly becoming a top rated destination in Honduras for backpackers, hikers, expeditionaries and travelers looking for an authentic destination, amazing views and pristine hikes.
Cusuco National Park is a 23,400 hectares (58,000 acres) protected area in the Merendon mountains of northwest Honduras. The park ranges from just above sea level in the west to 2,425 metres (7,956 ft) in the middle. The park comprises a 7,690 hectares (19,000 acres) core zone surrounded by a 15,750 hectares (38,900 acres) buffer zone. Cusuco encompasses several major habitats, including semi-arid pine forest, moist pine forest, moist broadleaf forest and dwarf forest (bosque enaño) at elevations above 2,000 metres (6,600 ft).
Flora and fauna
The park is part of the Meso-American biodiversity hotspot (Conservation International 2006), a region characterised by exceptional species richness. Cusuco also has great diversity of habitats and high beta diversity in many groups due to the large elevational gradients in the park. Cusuco supports exceptional biodiversity. Some of the key features of the park include the globally threatened taxa which the park protects - especially amphibians, Baird’s tapir, the assemblage of montane forest specialist birds, jewel scarab beetles, and the globally rare bosque enaño (dwarf forest) habitat, which is characterised by Orthea brachysiphon. Cusuco is recognised as a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) due to the overlapping ranges of several globally threatened amphibian species. The Park contains 6 species of amphibian found only within the Park boundaries and a new genus of tree has recently been described from Cusuco.
The integrity of the ecosystem is threatened by land cover change and unsustainable land management practices – particularly conversion of forest to coffee plantations - by human population growth and infrastructure intensification, overexploitation of large mammals, the amphibian disease chytridiomycosis, and climate change.
This protected area consists of areas that consist of lower elevations closer to the atlantic slope and border with Guatemala and these parts of Cusuco are hot most of the year with the occasional precipitation in the rainy season. In spots where there is elevation gain mild days and cool nights for the majority of the year however temperatures can be much lower from November to February. Rain and occasional storms likely throughout the year.
Join a group from San Pedro with the Cusuco Mountain Backpacking route or join an organized all inclusive trip with a local tour operator.
$25 fee to enter the nucleus zone.
To visit any destinationoutisde the villages in this area will require hiking in sometimes difficult terrain. Cusuco National park is difficult to access without a private guide as there is no regular transport from the nearest city of San Pedro Sula. If you are travelling by 4x4 there are local guides available in villages closest to the core zone.
Do & See
The park is constantly being explored by a honduran exploration team working in tourism development project to create a better infrastructure for foreigners.
Volunteer Join the new sustainable development projects in the park exploring in a 5 day programs. Work in the mornings and explore the various routes in the afternoon.
Toucan waterfall 1 hour and half hike from Buenos Aires village. Hike through the traditional high mountain coffee farms. Intermediate level of difficulty. Inside buffer zone.
Quetzall waterfall 1 hour and half from Buenos Aires village. Easy difficulty level. Inside the nucleus zone.
Orion waterfall 1 hour and half from Buenos Aires village. Intermediate to high level of dificulty. Border betwen nucleus and buffer zone. Requires a more techinical level of hiking.
Dwarf forest 2 hours and half from base camp (6kms from Buenos Aires). High difficulty level. Highest points of the cloud forest.
Coffee experience Hike throughout the traditional coffee farms to learn how life in the mountains revolves around it. Learn the process from recollection, care and production of this amazing crop.
Birdwatching Cusuco holds a rich avifauna, species list grows every year thanks to visitors, bird enthusiasts and yearly surveys carried out in different locations of the Park. Up to 286 bird species have been recorded, including migratory and residents. The iconic Resplendent Quetzal, a cloud forest favorite, can be seen with ease during its reproductive time of March- October. The cloud forest of Cusuco holds a community of birds that depend on its unique forest structure.
Photography Unique fauna, incredible flora and breathtaking landscapes make for walks around the park a photographic opportunity experience.
Eat & Drink
Villagers dont drink in the villages (only the occasional village drunk, harmless). It is imperative the tourist dont incorporate a drinking culture in the mountain villages.
Stay in the house of a local villager.
The only proper formal lodging is available in Naranjito village in Caritas, an organization between the Spanish government and the catholic church. You can also choose to stay in a local villager house for approximately $3 the night.
Cusuco Park has no infrastructure, this is one of the main reasons foreigners visit this destination. You can camp where ever you like too. There are selected camping spots in the core zone close to the old visitors center. Depending on their previous use they should need some vegetation (grass, small bushes) clearing. Camping is also an option at the open space by the old visitor's center, no vegetation clearing required. The best rated camping spots are inside the core zone in the satellite camps formed by Operation Wallacea scientist. These two are Cantiles and Guanales.
The mountains of Honduras are the safest destination in the country. However as in any other place of the world, when visiting and staying at one of the local communities it is advised not to leave your valuables unattended. Following the guidelines of how to get there that are described in this page are a good way to ensure your safe and unforgettable experience in Cusuco.
It is recommended to practice safe hiking precautions: carrying enough water, basic first aid kit, never venture into the forest without a guide, don't leave the established trails, observe your surroundings for snakes.
As a recommendation this is a protected area destined to preserve nature and its resources so, collecting of animals, plants and other resources is not allowed.
With a good physical condition you could hike back to San Pedro (8hours)
Hitch hike with the local pickups
Pay an express trip from Buenos Aires village to San Pedro. A car with capacity of 8 in a pick up has a cost of $75 per vehicle. Half this cost goes in gas. Good counting that it is 2 hours of rough 4x4 road.
Cusuco Park location (Google maps)
JungleXpedition Tours (Cusuco Park promoters)