Cuero & Salado Wildlife Reserve

On the Caribbean coast, about 30 km to the west of the vibrant city La Ceiba is the Cuero y Salado Wildlife Reserve. Its name derives from the two rivers Cuero and Salado, which enclose the reserve. Cuero y Salado was declared a protected area in 1986 because of its endangered Manatee population and to protect Hondurasí coastal wetlands. Areas of Mangroves dominate the zones of the canals and rivers. The main endangered fauna species in the reserve are the manatees, and two species of caimans. The refuge is helping the local populations of these threatened species to stabilize. Cuero y Salado with its extension of 132 km≤ can be visited easy from La Ceiba on a day trip. The park offers 2 hours guided boat trips to the Mangroves.


27 km west of La Ceiba on the Caribbean Coast is the Cuero y Salado Wildlife Reserve. Formed by the estuaries of the rivers Cuero, Salado, and San Juan, which flow off the flanks of the Cordillera Nombre de Dios to the south, the Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge is a species-rich area of wetlands and coastline filled with plant and animal life endangered elsewhere in Honduras.


Size and Foundation

The reserve comprises of 132 km≤ of wetlands and coastline and was designated a protected area in 1986 because of its endangered Manatee population. There was also a need to protect some of Honduras' coastal wetlands. Much of the north coast of Honduras was once covered by similar wetlands, but a lot has been converted to pasture or plantations. The remaining areas of mangroves and wetlands in Honduras face lots of pressure from uncontrolled deforestation, increased coastal development, population pressures and unsustainable development.


Natural environment and Importance

The Cuero y Salado Wildlife Reserve comprises tropical rainforest and mangrove forests. Mangroves are plants of different families but with the same typical characteristics, as aerial roots and salt glands. The roots provide the plant with nutrients. The aerial roots or pores serve as respirators; the salt glands are secreting salt. The bark of the mangrove trees is secreting a substance called Tannin, which is responsible for the dark coloration of the lagoon water. The mangroves on the Caribbean coast are often not directly situated on the open sea, but protected by sandy beaches or coral reefs from wind and waves. The mangroves and wetlands serve as an extremely important buffer-protection zone for the surrounding area during storms and floods.

Cuero y Salado includes areas of wetlands where the dominating species are The Zapoton (Pachira Aquatica), Santa Maria (Calophyllum Brasiliense), Sangre (Virola Koschnyi) and Palm (Roystonea Dunlapiana). These species are threatened in the region, due to them being used locally for construction purposes. The zones of the canals and rivers are dominated by areas of mangroves. Mainly the Red Mangrove (Rhizophora Mangle), which is rapidly disappearing in Honduras. For many years the bark has been used in leather tannery. The wood is of high value for construction and as firewood. The reserve and surrounding area has many coconut and tropical fruit trees which where planted by Standard Fruit Company (the original owners of the reserve). Some of these trees are still used for local fruit production. These trees are very important for the wildlife of the park, especially the birds as they supply a good source of food.

The fallen leafs and other organic materials of the wetlands provide the thousands of different animals with food. An important function of the mangroves is that the fauna uses the mangrovesí root system, above and under water for protection. Mangroves play a very important role in the biodiversity of the sea. A lot of fish, crustaceans and other marine species breed there. Juveniles use the area for protection until they reach a size that is big enough to reduce their natural enemies. Shrimp farming could become an important economic factor in Cuero y Salado, as they are in the pacific coast of Honduras. But, it needs to be done ecologically - not as it is done in the pacific - by destroying the mangroves to improve company benefits.



The marine fauna is a perfect source of food for birds. Around 197 species have been counted so far in Cuero y Salado. A few species that reside here are the Great Blue Heron, Blue Winged Teal, Snowy Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Stork, Common Black Hawk, Osprey, Great Curassow, Northern Jacana, White Fronted Parrot, Red Lored Parrot, Green Kingfisher, Pigmy Kingfisher, Black Bellied Whistling Duck, Boat-Billed Heron and the Anhinga. The refuge is also a way station-stop over for many migratory birds.

The refuge is also home to many other species of animals. Manatees, Howler Monkeys, White-faced Monkeys, Jaguars, Ocelots, Anteaters, Agoutis, Iguanas, River and Sea Turtles, Crocodiles, Caimans and a huge diversity of fish species are but a few of the species found in the reserve. The main endangered fauna species in the reserve are the Manatees, and two species of Caiman, Crocodylus Acutus and Caiman Sclerops Fuscus. These species are threatened because they are continually hunted for meat and their skin. The refuge is helping greatly the local populations of these threatened species to stabilize.



Cuero y Salado can be visited easy from La Ceiba on a day trip. There are a few walking tracks that are good for exploring the refuge. Local guides can be hired which is a good idea, because they are very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna in the refuge. The mangroves can only be reached by boat. The park offers 2-hour guided boat trips to the mangroves. Here you will experience the Mangroves at their best. The advantage of a boat is that you can drift silently (motor off). This is perfect for experiencing the sounds of the mangroves, and it offers a great chance to silently sneak up on water birds and animals.


Accommodation / Visiting times

There is a visitorís centre, which is equipped with basic services and two bungalows that can sleep four people each. You need to bring all your own food and water. Located a short walk from the visitorís centre is a nice stretch of beach, perfect for a relaxing swim. Access to the refuge is quite easy and fun. From the park entrance it is 9 km to the visitorís centre. This distance can be walked easily by just following the railroad line. A more fun way to enter is on a Burra, a human propelled rail cart. The Wildlife Reserve can be visited year-round. The early morning and late afternoon are the best times for wildlife viewing. During March and April you can observe many birds in courtship, copulation and nest building.


Private tours

Private tour to the Cuero & Salado Wildlife Reserve:

Natural North Coast