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Río Plátano Biosphere

In 1980 the Honduran government declared the “Reserva de la Humanidad y Biosfera del Rio Platano”. In the same year the reserve was designated a UNESCO world heritage site. The reserve is situated in the northeast of Honduras and covers 5,251 km². It’s characterized by a great biodiversity of eco-systems: Vast mangrove swamps, pine forests, savannas, tropical rain forests, and elfin forest make up the reserve. It has been proven that the biosphere contains more tree species per square hectare than the Amazon jungle. There are also more than 80 archaeological sites located in the biosphere which are hardly explored. It is possible to visit the Rio Platano Biosphere independently, but due its remoteness and limited facilities it is recommended to travel with a tour operator.


The “Reserva de la Humanidad y Biosfera del Río Plátano” is situated in the Moskitia region of northeast Honduras, on the watershed of the Río Plátano. It is one of the few remains of a tropical rainforest in Central America and has an abundant and varied plant and wildlife. In its mountainous landscape sloping down to the Caribbean coast, over 2,000 indigenous people have preserved their traditional way of life.


Size and Foundation

The “Reserva de la Humanidad y Biosfera del Rio Platano” was declared in 1980 by the Honduran government. With an area of 5,251 km², it is one of the largest areas of forest remaining in Honduras. It extends inland from Laguna de Ibans and Laguna de Brus on the Caribbean coast in a southwesterly direction. The coastal towns of Palacios and Brus Laguna lie approximately 5 km from the park boundaries on either side of the reserve. In 1980 UNESCO designated Río Plátano a world heritage site.


Natural environment and Importance

The reserve has a great bio-diversity of ecosystems. Vast mangrove swamps, pine forests, savannas, tropical rain forests, and elfin forest make up the reserve. These areas are dissected by numerous rivers, which ultimately flow into the Caribbean Sea.

25% of the biosphere is a flat coastal plain made up of large areas of mangroves, the largest two areas being found around the large coastal lagoons of Brus (120 km²) and Ibans (63 km²). Coastal savannas and wetlands that are found behind numerous long stretches of beach make up the rest of this region. About 75% of the Biosphere is mountainous with many steep ridges. Pico Morrañanga reaches 1,500 m and Punta de Piedra 1,326 m. Amazing geological formations are found in the inland region, such as the exposed El Viejo or Pico de Dama. Cascading waterfalls are found regularly, the highest (100-150 m) being the Cascada del Mirador in the headwaters of the Cuyamel River. This large area mainly consists of tropical rainforest, a highly endangered habitat all over the world, due to deforestation and uncontrolled development. Tropical rainforests have the highest biodiversity of all habitats on earth, being home to millions of different and many still undiscovered species. Some of the tree species found growing in the reserve include, Balsa, Ceiba, Guayacan, Mahogany, Rosewood, Sapodilla, Santa Maria, Cedar and Pine. It has been proven that the biosphere contains more tree species per square hectare than the Amazon jungle; a quite amazing fact.

Four indigenous groups inhabit the Río Plátano: Garifuna, Miskito, Pech, and Sumo (Tawahka). Garifunas are a mix of African and Carribean Indian. The Miskito are a mix of Garifuna and Mosquita Indians ( Pech and Tawanka ) while Pech and Tawahka communities remain living there traditional lifestyles in remote regions with in the Biosphere. This region has been occupied by humans for a long time. More than 80 archaeological sites are located in the biosphere. This includes mysterious petroglyphs carved into large boulders, which are found along many rivers edges. The village Las Crucitas del Río Aner in the reserve's southeast is established over what is believed to be one of the largest and most impressive archaeological sites in the biosphere. Little is known about these archaeological sites and the unknown culture that made them. Local legends tell of the existence of a great ancient city in the area called "Ciudad Blanca". This city may still be waiting to be discovered. Many archaeologists believe that this unknown culture played an important role between the ancient cultures of North and South America.

The natural resources of the Rio Platano Biosphere are under pressure, from logging of the areas valuable timber, from settlers using slash and burn agriculture and the expansion of cattle farming in the areas surrounding the biospheres core zone. Also as the local populations grow, more and more alternative, sustainable sources of income are needed. Eco Tourism is such an alternative.



The variety of ecosystems in the biosphere provides habitats for many endangered and rare species. The coastal and river areas are home to Manatees, Southern River Otters, Leatherback and Green Sea Turtles and Caiman. The forested areas are home to Baird's tapir, Jaguar, Ocelot, Margay Cat, Jaguarundi, Cougar, Collared and White- lipped Peccaries, White-faced, Howler and Spider Monkeys, White Tailed Deer, Two and Three Toed Sloth and Giant Anteaters just to name a few. The biosphere contains the largest populations in Honduras of most of these endangered species. The protection of the reserve is of great importance to the survival of each of these species.

Over 375 bird species are found in the biosphere. The biosphere is also visited by many migratory species. And is of great importance for them. Many rare species of birds that are found in the region cannot be seen in other parts of the country, species such as the Harpy Eagle, Aplomado Falcon, Great Green and Scarlet Macaws, Green and Rufous Kingfisher, Chestnut-Mandible Toucan, Yellow Eared Toucanet, Jabiru and the Black and White Hawk Eagle. Again the protection of the biosphere is of great importance to the survival of each of these species.



Visiting the Río Plátano Biosphere is an unforgettable experience. It is possible to visit this wonderful area independently, but it is very difficult due to the areas remoteness and limited facilities. In a few of the communities Palacios, Las Marias, Playitas and Kuri local guides can be organized as can accommodation. The best option for visiting the area is with a Tour Operator. The better companies know this area extremely well and put together a once in a lifetime experience. By visiting the biosphere you are contributing to the local economy, this is very important as the main source of income for these local communities are logging or slash and burn agriculture.


Accommodation / Visiting times

Journeys to this region should only be started with highest respect for people and nature. Tolerance, flexibility, curiosity and physical fitness are an advantage. Visitors with little tropical experience shouldn’t underestimate the hot and humid climate. Please notice that you will lodge in very basic guesthouses.


Private tours

Private tours to the Rio Platano Biosphere:

Authentic Moskitia
Rio Platano Biosphere & Moskitia Adventure
Two Worlds