The Chocoyero Natural Reserve is a great place for hiking and nature watching. This reserve is located less than 30 kilometers away from Managua. The last seven kilometers are mostly unpaved and cross pineapple, coffee, and banana plantations. This will slow you down but the road never bores and the views are magnificent. Old, volcanic ridges surround the reserve, and there is nature all around.
The nature within El Chocoyero Reserve also has a lot to offer. There are several trails that take you to different types of forest and vegetation. With an abundance of water Chocoyero is always green and wildlife flourishes. Two types of monkeys inhabit the park: howler and white-face monkeys. The howler monkeys are bigger and black and (no surprise) howl a lot. They can be heard from far, but you will also have a good chance of spotting them from close by. Taking the Congo trail increases your chances of seeing those monkeys even more. The white-face monkeys are seen less frequently, but come down from the mountains in the afternoon and can then be seen from the regular trails.
Chocoyero also houses lots of birds. The reserve is famous for its chocoyos, green parakeets that all nest right next to a waterfall and can be seen in big numbers in the morning when they leave, and in the late afternoon when they return. The best time to see the birds is around 6:00 am or around 4:30 pm. Throughout the day they browse the area looking for food. There are numerous other birds and by hiring a guide you will be able to see more than only the easily recognizable ones like hummingbirds or motmots. The guides often spot animals you missed and they can tell a lot about the nature.
The trails in Chocoyero have different lengths and difficulties. The adventure trail leads up the mountain and takes six hours to complete. You will, however, have great views of the reserve and the surrounding area. There are even some cities you can see from atop (Managua included)! The other trails are shorter and lead to the waterfalls. There are two waterfalls: Chocoyero and El Brujo. The trail to El Brujo is steep but not that long. The Chocoyero waterfall is maybe 30 minutes away from the entrance, and you don't need to climb in order to get there. This is where the chocoyos nest.
The waterfalls are small but worth the hike. The water comes from rain further up in the mountains, and is collected to be used as drinking water in the communities nearby.
Chocoyero also offers the opportunity of staying in the park at night. The reserve has tents and a camping place in the middle of the forest. The price is less than US$5 for a tent (which can sleep two people).
There is staff present at the reserve 24 hours a day, and visitors can therefore arrive at any time. Special tours are also offered, including a night-hike, a bird hike with a specialist, and adventure hikes. One of these hikes starts outside the reserve, at the town of El Crucero, located along the Pan American highway. This is a spectacular forest hike with superb views of the Pacific basin, various volcanoes, hidden canyons and stunning flora and fauna, well worth the price of C$200. To discuss the options for one of these special hikes, be sure to contact the reserve beforehand.
To get to Chocoyero from Managua, take the highway to Masaya (carretera Masaya). At Km 14 take a right to Ticuantepe. After about 10 minutes take another right in the direction of San Marcos (this road is called La Concha). Then, at kilometer 21.5 there is a sign on the right that points to a dirt road and says "Chocoyero". Make a U-turn over here, and follow the signs to Chocoyero. A high-clearance vehicle is necessary for this road, and four wheel drive can be handy in the raining season when the road gets muddy.
The town of Ticuantepe can be easily reached from Managua and other nearby cities. From Ticuantepe, there are small buses (microbuses) that head to Los Rios, a community close to the reserve. These (purple) microbuses leave every full hour between 7:00 am and 5:00 pm during the week and until 4:00 pm in the weekend. The price is C$6. From Los Rios, it is a three kilometer walk to the reserve. Another possibility is to take a red motortaxi from Ticuantepe to the reserve, which costs around C$80.
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