Parque Nacional Cusuco
Situated on the highest reaches of the Sierra Merendón, a north–south-trending mountain range in northwestern Honduras, Parque Nacional Cusuco covers 23,440 hectares, of which 7,690 hectares fall in the core zone above 1,800 meters. The park forms part of the watershed for the Río Motagua, on the north and west sides, and for the Río Chamelecón, on the south and east.
Parque Nacional Cusuco encompasses the forests blanketing the highest peaks in the Merendón range, capped by Cerro Jilinco at 2,242 meters. Other peaks include Cusuco (2,000 meters), Cerro La Mina (1,782 meters), and La Torre (1,927 meters). In the 1950s, the forest around Cusuco was heavily logged by the Río Cusuco Company. Logging ended in 1959 when the region was declared a reserve on the recommendation of Venezuelan ecologist Geraldo Bukowski. The national park was established in 1987.
Parque Nacional Cusuco is a popular park for both Hondurans and foreigners because of its proximity to San Pedro Sula and also for the great wealth of bird life in the cloud, pine, and subtropical forests. More than 200 species have been identified in the park, and it’s estimated that up to 300 species may actually live there. The best months for bird-watching are October–March, to see many of the migratory species as well as the permanent residents. The reserve is also inhabited by some endangered mammals, including the park’s namesake, the cusuco (armadillo), as well as white-faced and howler monkeys.
The park entrance is a hefty US$15 for foreigners.
Getting to Parque Nacional Cusuco
The main access to the Cusuco visitors center is by bus or car to Cofradía, a small town on the Santa Rosa highway 16 kilometers from the turnoff outside of San Pedro Sula. From Cofradía, continue 26 kilometers up a dirt road through pine forests with lovely views to the village of Buenos Aires, perched on a high ridge, and then on to the visitors center.
The five kilometers between Buenos Aires and the visitors center can be treacherous if it has been raining, and one stretch is almost too steep to drive even when it’s dry, so you may want to leave your wheels in Buenos Aires and walk the remainder. About halfway up to the park from Buenos Aires, at the 1,800-meter mark and the edge of the core zone, is a tranca (gate) that closes daily at 4 p.m. and on a few major holidays each year.
If you don’t have a car, take one of the frequent buses from San Pedro to Cofradía. You can either get off at the town square and ask in the shops there for trucks heading up to Buenos Aires (they often leave in late morning or around noon), or stay on the bus to the end of the line, west of town, then walk a short distance to the start of the Buenos Aires road and hitch a ride with the first pickup to come by. From Buenos Aires, if no ride is available, it’s a two-hour walk to the visitors center. There is a simple dorm-style guesthouse available in Buenos Aires.
Note: There have been reports of assaults on the road between Cofradía and Cusuco (especially closer to Cofradía), so walking the road is not without risk. It’s better to drive or get a jalón to Buenos Aires.
It’s possible to drive to the visitors center straight up into the hills behind San Pedro Sula, although finding the dirt road leaving the city from the Primavera neighborhood southwest of downtown is no easy task. Ask for the road leading to Las Peñitas or El Gallito, which ends up in Buenos Aires, and from there on to Cusuco. This road is not in the best of shape but offers great views over the city and across the Sierra Merendón. By car it is 60–90 minutes away.
© Chris Humphrey and Amy E. Robertson from Moon Honduras, 5th Edition