“Don’t put your hands there; that’s where the snakes nest,” isn’t what I want to hear while scaling a narrow foot pass in the middle of the Honduran rain forest. Granted, I’d come seeking adventure, and at The Lodge at Pico Bonito, I’d found just that. But right at this moment, I’m trying not to slide down the face of a steep hill and topple into the river or be bitten by a snake.
Luckily I prevail, and, after a short hop over some rocks, my fellow hikers and I are at our destination: Unbelievable Falls, a 100-foot, double-drop waterfall that descends into a swimming hole. I quickly hop in and let the coolness of the waterfall rush over me. It’s an all-too-short respite before we have to head back to The Lodge, a five-hour total hike that affords us a glimpse of spider monkeys swinging from the treetops, narrated by our guide Joel Mejia, who showered us with facts about Honduran history and local wildlife.
After returning to The Lodge, I head back to my room down the footpath that connects the series of 22 private, plantation-style cabins that constitute The Lodge. Each WiFi-connected cabin houses a bed (or two), a shower, and sweet relief from the humid climate—A/C. But, if your trip is anything like mine, you won’t be spending much time there.
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Later that night, after gorging ourselves on freshly caught grilled lobster and coffee-crusted tenderloin medallions while sitting on the breezy outdoor porch of Itzama, The Lodge’s restaurant, we head out on a night hike. I follow Mejia, who’s again guiding our group into the forest, as he mimics the call of an owl, successfully luring a mottled owl up close a few times over the course of the half-hour hike, during which we also spot red-eyed tree frogs, come across a scorpion, and one member of the group has an unexpected encounter with a tarantula. Unfortunately (or, maybe fortunately?) we don’t spot any of the jaguars that roam these parts. (Word to the wise: If you want to avoid the jaguars, leave behind the Calvin Klein Obsession cologne, the scent used to attract the big cats to cameras set up throughout the trail system.)
We start the next day a few stories up in one of The Lodge’s three observation decks used for birding. Through my Lodge-provided binoculars, I’m the first to spot a keel-billed toucan, just one of the 400-plus bird species that inhabit the Pico Bonito forest. The rest of the day is spent sipping drinks and basking by the pool.
After a night spent playing billiards in The Lodge’s game room, we head out early the next morning for a snorkeling trip to Cayos Cochinos. A 10-minute van ride brings us to the shores of the Caribbean, where we catch a boat serviced by Tourist Options. As the 20-foot boat races off toward the world’s second largest coral reef, I look back at the mountaintops of the mainland as they disappear into a haze. We hit the crystal clear water for an hour of snorkeling during which we swim with green parrotfish, yellowtail dancer fish, barracuda, grouper, and a large hawk-billed turtle. Pruney and exhausted, we head to tiny Chachawata Island. It’s a tourist spot of small huts where many of the 250 villagers cook lunch for passersby. We feast on a local specialty of whole-fried yellowtail snapper, fried plantains, and rice and beans as many of the villagers, machetes in hand, work on their fishing boats.
The morning of my departure, I lay on the hammock outside of my cabin, sipping Honduran coffee I brewed fresh in my room. It’s a meditative moment, soaking in the last tranquil sounds of the rain forest before I leave for the airport, where my ride back to reality awaits.
Details: Holiday-season rates (December 21-January 3): standard cabin, $326 per night; superior cabin, $370 per night. Peak season rates (January 4-April 30): standard cabin, $315; superior cabin, $358. Contact: www.picobonito.com