While there are several signs for Parque Nacional Cerro Azul/Meámbar along the highway, the only one that leads to the park entrance and Los Pinos visitors center (tel. 504/9865-9082, panacam [at] paghonduras [dot] org) can be reached by following the signs at the town of La Guama. From there it is seven kilometers uphill on a mostly well-maintained road, although there are a few rough patches that require four-wheel drive during the rainy season.
If you’re worried your car can’t make it, the park can sometimes arrange for a pickup from La Naturaleza, five kilometers south of La Guama. Park entrance is US$2 for Hondurans and foreigners alike, and it is open 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Monday–Friday, an hour later on the weekend.
The visitors center contains a restaurant and a small selection of crackers, soft drinks, and some bottled water. Sunday lunch is regularly offered, but visitors other days may find the restaurant closed or with insufficient supplies if they just show up; call first and reserve if you are hoping for a meal, which run US$5–7. Wireless Internet is also available at the restaurant, and a computer for visitor use may be installed in the future.
While it’s an easy day trip from either San Pedro Sula or Tegucigalpa, there are also cabins and campgrounds for anyone who wants to stay overnight. Camping is US$5.25 per person—you must bring your own gear. The
PANACAM Lodge (tel. 504/9865-9082, panacam [at] paghonduras [dot] org) consists of dorm-style accommodations for large groups (US$8.50 pp, minimum 10 people, cold water only) or very nice cabins that can sleep up to 4, for US$30–50, depending on the number of people and beds (park entrance is included with the cabins). The wood cabins have thick towels, classy bathrooms, and hot water. Solo travelers and small groups may be able to negotiate a stay in the dorms if they are unoccupied, by speaking with the park caretaker. Perched high on the side of the mountain overlooking Lago de Yojoa, the cabins are a lovely place to go if you’d like to experience a Honduran mountain forest but don’t have the gear, time, or inclination for a full-on camping trip.
Rapiditos (minibuses) run between La Guama and Santa Elena every 15 minutes or so, charging US$0.40 for the ride, and then you can walk the remaining four kilometers to the cabins (it’s all uphill, and takes about an hour), or call ahead to the park caretaker for a pickup. Alternatively, the people who manage the minibuses will take up groups all the way to the cabins for about US$10 and can come pick you up whenever you arrange.
From the cabins, three trails lead into the forest for exploration. The shortest, Los Vencejos, takes visitors to a small waterfall in just 20 minutes, perfect for less-spry travelers. Sendero Venado, just over a kilometer long, takes about an hour round-trip. The longer Sendero El Sinai loop trail is seven kilometers, with some steep sections, fantastic views if the weather permits, and three waterfalls on the way.
It’s possible to camp out on the high point of the trail, enjoy a night in the forest, and catch the views at sunset and sunrise. Climbing farther up into the mountains on this side is quite difficult, though not impossible if you hire a guide at the visitors center (US$10–20/day). Summiting the 2,080-meter cerro is possible with a guide; expect to spend 2–3 days and to pay for your guide’s food and drink on top of the guiding fee.
The regular trails are well maintained (a Herculean task from the looks of it) and no guide is needed, but if your Spanish is up to it, local guides can be extremely informative and charge US$10 for a several-hour walk around the trails.
© Chris Humphrey and Amy E. Robertson from Moon Honduras, 5th Edition