The city of Tela is right on a lovely bay on the western end of Atlantida. Half of the protected areas in Atlantida are to be found within or around Tela. As such, it is a perfect hub to plan visits to the different National Parks in Tela. Without doubt, the most visited national parks in Tela are the Jeannette Kawas National Park, AKA Punta Sal and the Lancetilla Botanical Gardens. In addition, you can visit Punta Izopo National Park and the Texiguat Wildlife Refuge. This last site is within the municipalities of Arizona and Esparta, not far from Tela.
Jeannette Kawas National Park
Most people refer to Jeannette Kawas National Park as Punta Sal. This is because there is a small peninsula on the western end of the park that is called Punta Sal. This is the most diverse national park in Tela. Here you will find lagoons and estuaries, beaches and even Garifuna communities! Access by car is possible as far as the Garifuna community known as Miami. This is one of the more traditional Garifuna communities and offers a great opportunity to get up close with unique Garifuna traditions. Getting to Miami is easy. If you are arriving to Tela on the CA13 highway from San Pedro Sula, take the clearly marked detour towards Tornabe and Indura Beach and Golf Resort. It is literally across the Street from the police station at Venecia, entering Tela. Just before Indura you will find a dirt road on the left leading towards Miami.
The Garifuna community of Miami sits on a narrow sand bar between the Caribbean Sea and Los Micos Lagoon. Los Micos lagoon is the largest lagoon in Atlantida and offers some magnificent islands with huge mangrove forests that are home to howler and capuchin monkeys. At Miami you can hire a boat to take you on a tour of the lagoon. There are several docks on the lagoon side of the sand bar. You can also hire a boat to take you to Punta Sal. Finally, you can even walk along the beach to the Punta Sal Peninsula. Bear in mind that you will need to wade through the lagoon’s outlet to the ocean. It will be a long hike in the sun, so make sure that you bring plenty of water and a good hat to protect you from the sun!
Miami is the departure point if you are headed to Los Olingos Lodge. This is a lovely, very peaceful lodge on the shores of Los Micos Lagoon. Rooms are within renovated homes that were once part of the Tela Railroad Company housing complex that is now Telamar Resort. Back to Miami, though. If you are interested is enjoying a picnic lunch on the beach, this is a great place for one. However, if this is your plan, please make sure that you bring garbage bags to take your trash with you after you are finished.
Most people that visit Jeannette Kawas National Park do so from Tela. You will find many boats at the Lancetilla River sand bar in Tela. Most of these belong to fishermen that have evolved into tour operators. There is no doubt that their prices are more affordable, however, keep in mind that many to not have life vests and that the maintenance and radio communication can be iffy. You do not want to be adrift in the ocean because the motor on your boat conked out! We thoroughly recommend that you use the services of a tour operator that has the Atlantida Turistica Quality badge. There are two such operators in Tela: Garifuna Tours and Eco di Mare Tours. They both have their own boats and offer professional, high quality tours.
A tour to Punta Sal National Park usually includes a stop at Cocalito Beach. This is a beautiful white sand beach. It is probably the most beautiful beach on the Caribbean Coast of Central America. From here, a short trail will take you across the peninsula to a lovely cove. The hike will take you through an area that is inhabited by howler monkeys. It is common to hear and even see these creatures as you hike through the trail to Puerto Caribe, as the cove is known. There you will find your boat waiting to take you around the peninsula back to Cocalito Beach. This is a great place to enjoy a good lunch, which usually consists of fresh fried fish under a nice thatched roof hut on the beach.
Another great activity from this beach is snorkeling. A nearby reef means that you can snorkel from the beach and discover a wide variety of corals and fishes. Incidentally, if you are interested in corals, you should make sure you stop by the Coral Aquarium in Tela. It is not far from the Garifuna town of Tornabe. It is a great opportunity to learn about these unique living creatures! When planning your tour to Jeannette Kawas National Park, make sure you depart as early as possible. As a rule, the surf gets rough in the afternoon. Thus, it can be uncomfortable and even unsafe to be out on the bay after 3 p.m. An early departure guarantees a fun, easy boat ride!
Lancetilla Botanical Garden
The Lancetilla Botanical garden is the largest of the different botanical gardens in Atlantida. As a matter of fact, it is the largest botanical garden in America! This garden is part of the banana republic heritage you find throughout Atlantida. It is the result of a serious investment on behalf of the United Fruit Company, to determine which exotic fruits they could grow in Central America. The garden is managed by the National Forestry School in Honduras (ESNACIFOR). The gardens have many trails and features exotic tropical fruits from around the World. Because of the variety of fruits, it has become one of the best hot spots for birding in Honduras. Lancetilla botanical gardens is just outside of Tela, and access is very straightforward from the detour on CA13. The detour is between the community of Venecia and the main entrance to Tela.
I recommend that you hire a guide to show you the most important trails in Lancetilla Botanical Gardens. There is so much to see within this National Park in Tela. The garden closes at 4 p.m. daily, so make sure you arrive early to make the best of your trip into this magnificent botanical garden.
Punta Izopo National Park
Punta Izopo National Park is one of the least known national parks in Tela. It is a coastal marine park and offers lagoons, estuaries, mangroves and tropical rain forest. It lies on the eastern end of the Bay of Tela. As such, you can say that the Bay of Tela offers two different national parks in Tela! Access to Punta Izopo National Park is via the main entrance to the Garifuna community at Triunfo de la Cruz. If you are planning a visit to this park, you should consider spending the night at one of several hotels in Triunfo de La Cruz. This will allow you to mix two different experiences in one trip. You will get up close with the Garifuna culture and you can also explore the mangrove canals within the estuaries at Punta Izopo.
The best way to visit Punta Izopo National Park is by renting a sit on top kayak and paddling yourself through the canals. This allows you to quietly sneak up on the local wildlife, which includes howler and capuchin monkeys, who are usually seen up in the top of the mangrove forests within the canals. You will also be up close with the crocodiles and alligators that live within the park. There is an extensive variety of marine bird species to be seen here as well, so if you are a birdwatcher, bring your binoculars!
I recommend that you hire the services of one of the local tour operators that offer the appropriate equipment for this tour. They also offer experienced guides who will lead you to areas that will offer the best possibility of seeing wildlife. Your best bet is to choose a tour operator with the Atlantida Calidad Turistica badge. There are two operators in Tela that comply with it. They are Garifuna Tours and Eco di Mare Tours. The first one even offers a unique tour that departs at dusk so that you can spot the crocodiles with your flashlight. When you shine the light on the shores of the swamp their eyes light up, creating an eerie sight! It is amazing to see how many of these creatures live in the swamps in this national park.
Texiguat Wildlife Refuge
Without doubt, Texiguat is the least known and visited of all National Parks in Tela. This refuge is part of a biological corridor that interconnects the east and west ends of Atlantida. Until recently, there was no tourism facilities to encourage visitors to this national park in Tela. However, a few years ago Termas Jilamito opened its doors to the public. The facility includes natural hot springs, as well as a canopy tour and some cabins where you can spend the night. This is a working farm, and as such, you can even take a horseback riding tour of the farm.
Termas Jilamito is within the buffer zone of the Texiguat Wildlife Refuge. From there, you can follow one of the trails into the refuge and discover this largely unexplored area. Getting there is relatively easy if you are in your own car. Take the CA13 highway from Tela eastbound towards La Ceiba. Shortly after the town of Arizona, you will cross a large river, the Lean River. As soon as you cross the bridge take the dirt road to the right, towards the mountains. There are signs indicating that you are on the right track. The road follows the river for a few kilometers before going up towards the mountains. You can always ask the locals when in doubt!
So now that you know all about the different national parks in Tela, you can prepare yourself to visit every one of them. Choose between beaches and hot springs, kayaking or boating or exploring the largest tropical botanical garden in the Americas. As you now know, Tela offers very diverse experiences that you will love! See you in Tela for the time of our lives!