Our first stop is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Copán Ruínas, a grand combination of Mayan history and a beautiful natural setting. After our time in Copán, we investigate the areas around Lake Yojoa, the largest natural lake in Honduras located in the valley with Santa Barbara National Park rising to the north, and Cerro Azul Meambar National Park towering above the south. Here we include visits to Luna del Puente, a productive coffee and cacao plantation and private reserve as well as Santa Barbara National Park and the Honduran Emerald Reserve.
On the North Coast, we stay at Pico Bonito Lodge in Pico Bonito National Park where a continuous forest encompasses over 250,000 acres that rises from sea level to nearly 8,000 feet. The range of vegetation and habitat types include broad-leaf rainforest, deciduous forest, pine forest, mangrove, sandy beaches, cloud forests, and so many other ecological zones. That diversity in ecosystems also explains the huge variety of birds – over 500 species in this area to date. The ideal birding months are February to May and again in November.
Departure Dates & Costs
2020 Departure: March 18 - 28 (11 days)
Tour cost 11 days: $3,875 USD p/p from San Pedro Sula
Tour cost 8 days (without Copán) : $2,525 USD p/p from San Pedro Sula
Katinka Domen was born and raised in Belgium, and now lives in Honduras. During her extensive travels in Europe, Africa, Australia and the Americas, Katinka has always traveled with an open mind, supported local communities, and protected the environment. She is co-owner of Beaks and Peaks who offer a portfolio of adventure and birding tours. She has rapidly become one of Honduras' top birders and guides. She is looking forward to introducing this magnificent country she now calls home to other visitors, and her enthusiasm and sense of adventure will no doubt kindle or re-kindle a passion for neo-tropical birding. Katinka will be joined at times by William Orellano, key member of the Honduran Ornithology Association of Honduras (ASHO) and one of the best bird photographers throughout the country as well as local site guides.
Day 1: San Pedro Sula airport transfer to Copán (L,D)
If you wish an 8-day instead of this 11-day trip, you can remove these first three days and just begin your journey in Lake Yojoa
We will be waiting for you at the international airport of San Pedro Sula and then begin our drive (approx 4.5 hours) to Copán, a small town in west Honduras, close to the Guatemalan border. If there is still some daylight left when we arrive, we can make a short visit to the Copán River and look for kingfishers, seedeaters.
The stunning Maya sites of Copán are a must-see for every visitor to Honduras who is interested in history, archaeology, or culture in general. In addition to the historical sites, Copán offers good birding, with some toppers such as Red-throated Parakeets, Elegant Trogons, Scarlet Macaws, etc.3 nights Hotel Clarion or similar.
Day 2: Visit the Mayan archaeological sites of Copán (B,L,D)
The UNESCO World Heritage site of Copán Ruínas offers a grand combination of Mayan history and a beautiful natural setting including easily viewed Scarlet Macaws. Although not the largest Mayan city, Copán was the principal Mayan cultural center during the 400 years when the city was at the peak of its development. It was far ahead of other larger Mayan cities in its development of sculpture, astronomy, and hieroglyphic writing. We will have a guided tour through the ruins by a knowledgeable local specialist. The Mayan city of Copán as it exists today is composed of a main complex of ruins with several secondary complexes encircling it. The main complex consists of the Acropolis and important plazas. Among the five plazas are the Ceremonial Plaza, with an impressive stadium opening onto a mound with numerous richly sculptured monoliths and altars; the Hieroglyphic Stairway Plaza, with a monumental stairway at its eastern end that is one of the outstanding structures of Mayanculture. On the risers of this 100m wide stairway are more than 1,800 individual glyphs which constitute the longest known Mayan inscription. The Eastern Plaza rises a considerable height above the valley floor. On its western side is a stairway sculptured with figures of jaguars originally inlaid with black obsidian.
The world’s largest archaeological cut runs through the Acropolis. In the walls of the cut, it is possible to distinguish floor levels of previous plazas and covered water outlets. The construction of the Great Plaza and the Acropolis reflects a prodigious amount of effort because of the size of its levelled and originally paved expanse of three hectares and the latter because of the enormous volume of its elevated mass, which rises some 30 meters from the ground (http://whc.unesco.org/).
Day 3: Magdalena Valley, La Ruta Laguna (B,L,D)
Copán lies in a fertile valley traversed by the Copán river, boarded by hills covered in dry pine and mixed forests. After a delicious lunch in Hacienda San Lucas, we are ready for our afternoon nature walk. We may see White-fronted Parrots, Green Kingfishers, Rufousnaped Wrens, Lesser Ground-Cuckoos, the lovely White-throated MagpieJays, Elegant Trogons and more. After a full day of archaeology and nature, we will enjoy excellent Honduran cuisine at one of Copán Ruinas' many cozy restaurants!
This morning we will depart up to the hills surrounding the Copán Valley along the route to La Laguna to visit one of the nicest mid-elevation forests in the area. A bird and nature walk will reveal a bounty of local birds, butterflies and orchids. Several stops along the way looking for such species as: Barred Parakeet, Violet Sabrewing, Stripe-tailed Hummingbird, Collared Trogon, Mountain Elaenia, Tawnythroated and Scaly-throated leaf tossers, Spectacled Foliage-gleaner, Northern Nightingale and Rufous-browed wrens, Slate-colored Solitaire, Elegant euphonias, Rufous-browed peppershrike, Olive warbler and many other warblers and vireos as well as various orioles. The area around Copán is sometimes referred to as "land of the orioles". Shortly before lunch we will head to Hacienda san Lucas, a pleasure for the palate and eye, for the food is excellent - Honduras with a twist - and the Hacienda is set in the hills overlooking the Copan Valley. We will take a short bird-walk around the gardens, or you can opt to relax in the garden, enjoying the view and birds passing by. In the afternoon we return to our lodge.
Day 4: Transfer to Lake Yojoa (B,L,D)
An early morning option to visit the tunnels under the acropolis of Copán. Today there will be a long drive to Lake Yojoa (7 hours). (Those opting for the 8-day trip will arrive today and be met at the San Pedro Sula airport and transfered to Lake Yojoa.) 2 nights accommodation at Panacam Mountain Lodge. Enroute to Panacam we will bird in Santa Elena Forest.
Day 5: Luna del Puente / Cerro Azul Meambar National Park, Lake Yojoa (B,L,D)
This morning, we wake up early to bird in the private nature reserve of EcoFinca Luna del Puente. Enjoy a breakfast and lunch here of local organic fruit, coffee and cacao. This productive area will reveal many bird species in the early morning. After breakfast, further exploring on forested trails. Afternoon return to Panacam and bird in the high altitude forests of our cozy mountain hotel at the edge of Cerro Azul Meambar National Park. Optional late afternoon hike to a nearby waterfall.
Day 6: Birding in Santa Bárbara NP (B,L,D)
Early this morning, we drive up into the mountains of Santa Bárbara National Park. Upon arrival we enjoy breakfast with one of the local families and learn a bit about their efforts to protect the land and natural environment amid coffee producing land-use demands. After breakfast, we will discover why this area is one of the most rewarding birding hotspot in Honduras. A strenuous hike leads tothe heights of Cerro Santa Bárbara looking for birds such as the Prevost’s Ground-Sparrow, Resplendent Quetzal, Emerald-chinned Hummingbird, Emerald toucant, White-breasted Hawk, Green-throated Mountaingem, Slatecolored Solitaire, Rusty Sparrow, Collared Trogon, Spotted Woodcreeper, Foliage-Gleaners, Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush, Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch, White-naped Brush-Finch, Spot-breasted Wren etc. A less strenuous hike is also offered. After a delicious local lunch, we head to the shores of Lake Yojoa and stay 2 nights at Honduyate Marine Resort. Our luggage will be shifted to the hotel for our arrival.
Day 7: Birding in Honduran Emerald Reserve (B,L,D)
Few know that there is very dry forest and shrub close to Lake Yojoa that harbours a steady population of Honduras’ one endemic — the Honduran Emerald. We leave early this morning to avoid the heat of the day, and look not only for this beautifully colored hummer, but also for other interesting species such as Elegant Trogon, GreenJay, Lesser Ground-Cuckoo, and Scrub Euphonia. Lunch at El Rancho followed by afternoon birding around Lake Yojoa.
Day 8: El Canal / Pico Bonito National Park (B,L,D)
Early morning we go to the opposite side of the lake, where local fishermen take us out on el canal in their rowing boats — by far the best way to explore the wetlands in search for crakes, rails, herons, ducks etc. A delicious breakfast at D & D brewery. Then transfer to Pico Bonito National Park, near the town of La Ceiba. 3 nights accommodation at the famous boutique ecolodge. Enjoy the wonderful cuisine here! Optional swimming (pool), and spa services.
Day 9: Pico Bonito (B,L,D)
A full day to explore the lower and upper slope trails including several birding towers that overlook forest and river habitats. There is a reptile house and a butterfly nursery on the property.
Day 10: Pico Bonito / Cuero y Salado mangroves (B,L,D)
A morning guided visit the Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge, and getting there is half the fun. We have a unique experience of boarding the only still-functioning train in Honduras – the oldest railroad in Honduras dating to 1910. It dates to the times of the ‘Banana republic’ and was indeed used to transport bananas. What remains now are two rickety little wagons racing over crooked rails with excellent birding opportunities along the way. Explore this extraordinary wetland reserve by motorboat. Mangrove-lined lagoons, tropical hardwoods, and small canals wind through the refuge providing incredible sightings of caiman, white-faced capuchin, howler monkeys, and with any luck manatee as well as numerous species of birds. Return to Pico Bonito for lunch. Afternoon on own. Note: if you wish to explore the trails surround the property, you should be in reasonable physical condition since there are some steep inclines and uneven surfaces.
Day 11: Transfer to San Pedro airport (B)
After breakfast, transfer to the airport at San Pedro for those returning to international destinations, or continue on to the Bay Islands for an extension trip.
Post-trip: Bay Islands of Roatan, Utila or Guanaja
3, 4, 5 or 6 night extensions are recommended!
We will work with you to plan and book a post tour to the Bay Island of your choice. There are options for quiet and tranquil relaxing (East end of Roatan or the island of Guanaja), or options for busy resort style holidays with a full assortment of marine activities. Snorkeling and diving are excellent on areas of all three Bay Islands. Flights or ferry travel is available from La Ceiba. On your last day,enjoy one last breakfast and then be transferred to the island airport for your return flight to San Pedro Sula or directly from Roatan airport.
What our clients say...
"Catherine, just as you said, we were impressed with Katinka as a birding guide. She really worked hard to get us all the birds we wanted. We came home with over 320 species of birds. All of the lodges were great and we never felt threatened at any time... We would recommend her as a guide in an instant, one of the best we have ever had. We even got one bird that was way out of range having never been seen in that part of the country. I would recommend this itinerary to anyone who wants to go to Central America to bird but they would need to be reminded that a lot of the hikes are strenuous because of how mountain out the terrain is. We had 47 lifers with great second looks and pictures of other birds we have only seen once before. D. was thrilled since we saw 5 owl species, 4 new and 25 species of hummingbirds, 12 new and got some great pictures. The train trip was a hoot especially seeing the kids go to and from school using this little piece of history. All in all it was a very good trip and we are glad we took it. Thanks for your excellent advice." - O & D Peter, March 2019 (12 day trip)
"The birding was fantastic everywhere! The setting at Pico is beautiful. You couldn't ask for better, friendlier service, or better food. The paths seem suited for people of varying degrees of fitness. The number of birds seen at the lodge was impressive. Panancam Lodge was more basic, but the setting was nice and the birds seen were amazing. We loved seeing the ruins in Copan, and the town. Our itinerary was great, wouldn't change any of ther areas, and wouldn't have minded a day or so longer in the Copan area. Honduras has a reputation for being dangerous, but if you avoid the big cities it seems very safe. It is a beautiful country and everyone we met was friendly and helpful. We definitely would (and already have) recommended Tours of Exploration. You work with great land operators, tour prices are reasonable, and things always seem to run smoothly on your tours. Also love that you're willing and able to customize tours." K. Shizuru & R. Moulenbelt, Ventura CA, 2018
"The food was above any expectation I might have had. It was delicious. There was variety of choice, presentation was appetizing, and more than enough to eat."Small group traveller, 2018
"Keep putting together quality tours and we will keep recommending and taking them! Many thanks."A&N Perschke, April 2018