Honduran rain forest resort: Pico Bonito

August 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

Let it Rain
Honduran rain forest holds Central America’s hidden treasures
Immerse yourself in Honduran culture at the Lodge at Pico Bonito. Located on Honduras’s North Coast, near the town of La Ceiba, this eco hotel blends upscale amenities with wilderness and adventure in the heart of the rain forest.

I visited Pico Bonito with fellow journalists several months ago and found this national forest to be a true hidden treasure. Our driver took back roads through coffee and cacao plantations to the main lodge where we were served refreshing rum drinks in coconuts. As we registered, we noticed Catherine Zeta-Jones signed the guest book a few weeks before we did.

Twenty-two rooms are hidden amidst the lush greenery. Hardwood floors, tile showers, white down sheets, a robe and slippers await you as you tune out the rest of the world. Every cottage has a hammock—a perfect perch to enjoy soothing afternoon rains. Raised wooden walkways join the main lodge to the restaurant and conference buildings.

You can experience the lodge’s portion of this National Forest in many ways. From the Tropical Butterfly Farm to nature hikes, you can spend hours wandering the jungle and never leave the property.

Hikes are one of the main focuses, providing hours of exercise and exploration. The view from the observation tower shows how dense this rain forest is. Trained guides identify many of the more than 400 species of birds in the area. Hikers are rewarded with many sights, sounds and one-of-a-kind experiences. My favorite was a dip in crystal clear pools called Las Pilas, just downstream from a giant waterfall.

We were drenched upon return from one of our hikes and headed straight to the outdoor terrace where we met for dinner each evening. As we dried off, one of the chefs emerged with a hummingbird that had mistakenly flown into the kitchen. We each petted it and agreed we never thought we’d get this close with nature. We tried to capture the moment on film, but he was still only for a moment and then he was gone.

The food was a special treat. According to manager Jose Graugnard, most of the chefs are trained at the culinary institute in New York and each chef in residence has left his mark on the menu. They serve imported meats and fresh seafood and collect salad fixings from the small garden on property. A super special treat is the homemade pineapple jelly. Another is the cacao-encrusted filet, a nod to the nearby cacao plantation.

Since we were special guests of the hotel, we were invited to judge an art contest involving three local schools. The children had toured the grounds, seen the birds and hiked to the falls. Their final task: draw a picture of Pico Bonito. James, the event’s organizer, told us many of these children didn’t even have crayons before this competition. “We might be born into different circumstances, but we were born to the same earth, and it’s our job to learn about it, learn from it and preserve it,” he said.

We entered the conference area to find 48 drawings hung on the wall. Not only did these children have crayons, they knew how to use them. It was our job to cast the final votes. I tried to be as stealthy as possible since I knew most of the children in the room were personally attached to the displays. I could feel their eyes watching my every move.

Although we were scheduled for departure, we had to wait and find out which piece of artwork won. Believe it or not, there was a tie for third. Paintings were whisked around and re-arranged so that the finalists were easy to view. When all was said and done, the first, second and third place winners received 3,000 Limpura. That’s a month’s wages and quite a lot for a school-aged child. Watching the winners open their prize envelopes was priceless. One recipient opened the envelope and peered in with disbelief. A huge smile graced his face as he counted the money. It was really there.

And thus the rain forest keeps giving back. From the donations made to forest conservation to the children’s programs in local villages, Pico Bonito is part of a unique Honduran landscape. Now is the time to experience this mostly uncharted territory.

Essentials:
The Lodge at Pico Bonito, AP 710, La Ceiba, Atlantida, CP 31101, Honduras, Central America

Reservations: 1-888-428-0221 (Toll Free U.S./Canada) or Int’l Access # -1-312-345-3288 (Worldwide)

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