Honduras South-East

SAN JUANCITO

Global Mark : 16.00    Top Five : No1

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Culture Tradition Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
 5 5 1 4 1 5 1 5 13.50

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
6 100% 100% 100% 17 to 20 18.50


Description : A small village in the beautiful Rio Chiquito valley, by the cloud forest of Parque Nacional la Tigra

Comments : Having the only cheap accomodation of the area, this is the logical place to be based. Beside, the food is excellent, the people friendly, the air fresh and the scenery beautiful. 

What to do ? Dream at the mountain scenery / Walk up & down : the village is hilly / Spot lots of glowing worms / Talk with the kids / Relax before the cloud forest adventure / Then wander around the many trails, taking the time to admire & listen / With some luck, spot small mammals, toucans or even a quetzal / Eat superb family food while relaxing by the view / Do it again !

What you may not like ? The noises : stereo, drunk people, kids or dogs, a loudly cacophony for such a small village. No place is perfect after all ! / The drunk people : apparently not much to do in the evening / The limited buses / The 'normal' entrance fee to the park, the reason why so few travelers are showing up...

How long ? A few hours for the village, one day for the national park, another day just for the pleasure

Where to stay ? Only one reliable place in San Juancito : Hotelito San Juan, near the bus stop. Sponsored by Pepsi, it offers basic but acceptably clean rooms for L50. Unfortunately, it is in a noisy surrounding. There may be another alternative down the village, by the river section : an orange house with a black roof owned by an American, unfortunately not always in town...

There are also two places to stay in El Rosario, near the park entrance : dorm behind the visitor center for a whopping US$10 or, much nicer, Mirador El Rosario, 10mn walk on the flat right path : lovely rooms for L200(1) or 300(2) and an amazing view ! The couple of Germans are also a great source of information. Food is available there as well as in the village. As they have two room only, reservation is recommended during WE : 9875835 or at la Caseta 'Pepsi' in San Juancito. Transport from there also available (L120 per vehicle)

Backpacker's Tips : Judy McMillin, USA (Oct 02)
 I particularly enjoyed the below note about Regina Aguilar's guest house (the orange house). Having been a guest there, I heartily concur with 
the writer's high opinion.
It is possible that this traveler was in San Juancito some time ago, but he didn't mention Regina's Art School, in the former Pepsi plant, right on the river. This is an ambitious project of Regina's for teaching decorative art skills to locals in this extremely economically depressed area; on the day I visited, a group of women were being taught to make paper out of banana leaves. They make furniture, lamps, and many other items at the school which are sold at Regina's shop in Tegucigalpa (En Vitro) and elsewhere. 
Also, I have a web site called Roatan OnLine which is mostly about the island of Roatan. However, I was so impressed with Regina's work at the art school that I a little added a subweb describing it. It is located at www.roatanonline.com/moreroatan/sanjuancito/index.html  By the way, Regina 
is a famous artist and has won many international awards.

Backpacker's Tips : Mika (Dec 01)
 


Where to eat ?
No restaurant but an excellent family comedor, offering a great view over the village, lovely welcome and excellent dinner for L20 & breakfast for L10-15 : Mesa del Minero. Go up the road to the park for 5mn, small path after rocks on the right, at the curve level. There are no signs and the place does not look at all like a comedor. 


A day at La Tigra ?
Walking the mountains is basically the reason to show up here. The Parque Nacional la Tigra would be the obvious choice : its numerous trails are well signed (arrows every 100m or so), it is not too strenuous and the cloud forest is lovely. Do not expect to see too many animals but there are over 200 species of birds there, including the Quetzal ! 
To reach the Park entrance is the most difficult walk : 45-60mn uphill with little shade (fortunately, it is often cloudy in the morning). On the way, you may wish to stop at Mesa del Minero for a good filling (and cheap) breakfast. El Rosario, where the visitor center is located, is a tiny village of one hundred people. The water there is supposed to be drinkable straight from the tap. 
There was nobody in sight when I showed up at the visitor center and I did not insist. Especially after looking at the prices : US$10 for foreigners ! In practice however, it may be quite possible to pay the "foreigners resident" price : a more reasonable L15. You should be given a map and a badge to carry.
10mn up, you will find the start of the Trail "La Cascada". This is a very nice trail, half flat and half hilly. It should take you around one hour to reach the waterfall, which would be lovely if there was more water. A sign invites you not to bath there as this is where the water for the village is coming from. 
You then need to go back about 15mn to find the next trail toward Jutiapa, the other entrance. It goes up for about 30mn and emerges at the logging road. Follow it down for 2mn and you will find the beginning of Sandero "Bosque Nublado", on the left. 
This trail is mostly downhill and should take 30mn. You will then find yourself at the logging road again, a bit above the visitor Center of Jutiapa (fortunately out of sight). This center is where most local people go through as it is only 12km from Tegucigalpa. It is therefore more structured and the staff there less open to prices negotiation. If you do not have a pass and do not wish to pay $10 (or $5 for 'Special Foreigners'), avoid it !
I followed the logging road up and arrived soon at the beginning of Sendero "Las Jucuaras", which in theory requires 50mn to walk. About 10mn later, there was another trail ("La Granadilla") on the left, which looked much nicer and was only 500m long. I followed it and, 10mn later, reached the visitor center.
I wanted to have a look at the map and thought that, at worst, I would have to pay the fair L15 resident price. I was soon approached by a smiling member of the staff. After inquiring where I was coming from, he asked to see my badge. - "I don't have any. There was nobody at the El Rosario entrance" I was therefore invited to proceed to the ticket office. As usual, I explained that I was working in Honduras, collecting information for a travel guide. Upon seeing my business card, this usually grant me the 'resident' price. Not this time ! They required me to pay $5 minimum. Problem was : I did not have those $5 in my pockets ! I was therefore offered to go back to Tegucigalpa. What a great alternative this would be ! After another 10mn discussion, an acceptable solution was found : I would sign a discharge paper and they would let me walk freely and for free ! I thanked, apologized for the trouble (they did the same to me) and I left those friendly guys. 
I followed Sendero "Las Jucuras" to its end (look for the mine entrance just after the water crossing, good flashlight required) and then found the longest trail : Sendero "Los Plancitos", 6.5km. It was 2pm and the theoretical time was 4 hours. I thought I could do better. I did : it took me 1h15 but, truly, it was a bit fast. Taking the time to listen to the birds would be recommended. 
This trail emerged on the road offering the two entrances alternatives. 20mn later, I was back at the beginning of Sendero "La Cascada".
Altogether, it took me 2.5 hours from El Rosario to Jutiapa, incl 30mn rest at the waterfall. Then, it took me 2 speedy hours to go back. Double this time to enjoy the scenery a bit more. Triple it if not in shape (you do not need to walk so long as well). Again, the trails are very well marked so getting lost is very unlikely. The air is quite fresh and the vegetation protects from the sun. Still, you will need 2 good liters of water. Enjoy !

To pay or not to pay ? That is a good question considering the crazy foreigners 'normal' cost : US$10, more than ten times what the locals (and foreigners residents) will pay ! This unfairness would be a good enough reason to complain and look for ways around. In practice however, most people entering via El Rosario will pay the L15 fee, provided that they speak some Spanish and do not look too much like a tourist. This is a fair price considering that the park is well managed. If they insist that you pay in dollars, you may wish to consider the shortcut that will bring you above the visitor center : the tiny path is located after the sharp curve by the little tienda (the first house in the village), on the left at the end of the third house. 10mn later, you will be on the road leading to the trails. Turn left. During WE, there should be a ranger stationed at the trails entrance as well but not during the week. 

Other walks ? After you are 'done' with the park's trails, you could keep walking :
- the path by the first house in the village (little tienda) leads to Aguacatal, a water reservoir. It is an easy enough walk of about one hour, with shade and superb panoramas.
- the 6km road to the small village of Guacamayas. Most locals will go there during WE to degust a few puposas, an El Salvador delicacy (filled tortillas). But the view toward the village is also worth the trip. 

 << Discover a few natural sights


Arriving & leaving ?
There aren't too many buses : from Tegucigalpa, one direct a day (at 3pm) plus one or two (at 10am (?) & 2pm) to Cantarana, another 10km away, that will drop you up the village. On Wed & Sat, there should be another direct bus at 8am. To go back, the direct bus leaves at 6am from the hospedaje. If you miss it, go to the upper road at 7-8am. On Wed & Sat, there should also be one add bus at 12:30. Hitching your way would require lots of luck as traffic is light.

The trip back to Tegucigalpa : SSSSS / Left / L9 / 1.5 hrs
The 6am bus left the hospedaje at 5:50 : it went down to the other part of the village, then up again, really leaving, as scheduled, at 6am. Valle de Angeles was reached within 30mn and, from there, we had 22km of great panorama, passing Santa Lucia turn off 20mn later. Reaching Tegucigalpa, the bus did not go up toward the mercado San Pablo but straight ahead, passing the hospedaje. I got off like most people at the gas station. 

See also the trip from Valle de Angeles