Parque Nacional La Tigra
This 238-sq.-km (92-sq.-mile) cloud forest park, the first protected area in the country, is located, amazingly, only 22km (14 miles) away from Tegucigalpa. Named a national park in 1982, La Tigra had been nearly destroyed by loggers and the El Rosario Mining Company until the government stepped in, although much of what is left is secondary growth. Remnants of mine shafts and buildings can still be found in the park, although they should be avoided in most instances.
Most who visit the park are after one thing: birds. More than 350 species have been identified in the park, second in the country only to Lago de Yojoa, which has around 400. Rare species, such as the resplendent quetzal, the wine-throated hummingbird, and the rufous-browed wren, are seen by a lucky few, as are mammals such as pumas, agoutis, and armadillos. Plant life includes pine forests, bromeliads, orchids, ferns, lichens, and mushrooms.
There are eight good hiking trails through the park, as well as two entrances. At the first entrance, at Jutiapa, there's a small visitor's center (tel. 504/2238-6269; www.amitigra.org) with a few cabins and a small new eco-lodge (L475 per person) with rooms for rent. Most hiking trails begin from here on the western edge, which are used by the majority of tourists and in good condition. The Sendero Principal, the main route through the park that extends 6km (3.7 miles) from one end to the other, follows what was once the main road for the miners, and has been allowed to deteriorate into a more natural state. Almost all other trails branch off from this one, including the Sendero la Cascada, a trail that reaches a small waterfall (it's best visited Oct-Feb) after 2km (1.2 miles). It connects to the Sendero la Mina, or the mine trail, several kilometers from the other end of the park. Sendero las Plancitos, an 8km (5-mile) loop from the Sendero Principal, is the longest, toughest, and least-used trail in the park and your best chance at spotting wildlife.
The second entrance, at the western end of the park, is located at the El Rosario Mining Company headquarters, 3km (1 3/4 miles) above the town of San Juancito. There's a small eco-lodge run by a German couple, Cabaña Mirador El Rosario (tel. 504/2987-5835; L475 double), not far from the entrance. Camping is not allowed in the park; however, there is a small campground (L100 per person) near the Jutiapa entrance with fire pits and toilets.
Getting There -- Unless you are going with a tour company or have your own car, access to the park is not exactly easy. To get to Jutiapa by bus, you need to catch an El Hatillo-bound bus (the trip takes 1 1/2 hr.; buses run daily every 45 min. beginning at 6am), from the Dippsa station at Avenidas Jerez and Avenidas Plazuela. Let the driver know you are going to the park, and he'll drop you about 2km (1 1/4 miles) from the entrance at Los Planes, the closest you can get. For the western entrance, take a San Juancito-bound bus (the trip takes 1 1/2 hr.; buses leave daily at 3pm) from Mercado San Pablo. From San Juancito, you must walk the 3km (1 3/4 miles) uphill to El Rosario. Amitigra (tel. 504/2232-6771; www.amitigra.org), a nonprofit ecological foundation in Tegucigalpa, controls access to the park and can make arrangements in the visitor's center for staying overnight.
The park is open daily from 8am to 5pm. Admission is L190 adults, L95 children.