Montecristo National Park in El Salvador. Great Park for Ecotourism

By Karla Ramos  |  Apr 21st, 2022
Montecristo National Park El Salvador
Montecristo National Park in El Salvador.

Montecristo National Park in El Salvador is a protected forested area ideal for those looking to get in touch with nature. The National Park, also known as El Trifinio National Park, is a tri-national natural region. This unique region borders the Trifinio biosphere reserve in Guatemala and El Trifinio National Park in Honduras.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador Tourism: A Journey Through Pristine Beaches, Colorful Towns, and Enchanting Parks

This cloud forest is located in the department of Santa Ana, near the city of Metapan, in the northwest region of the country; it is part of the Protected Natural Area known as ​​the Trifinio-Fraternidad cross-border biosphere.

Montecristo National Park
Montecristo National Park

SEE ALSO: El Salvador’s Ecotourism. 10 Incredible Salvadoran Natural Parks Worth Exploring!

Montecristo was the first protected area in the country; its principal purpose is to protect the astonishing flora and fauna found in the park.

Montecristo National Park has almost 2,000 hectares of misty forest. It is located at an altitude of above 700 meters above sea levels; also, it has one of the highest biological diversity in the country.

The location and conditions of the park make it suitable for a wide variety of plants, animals, and other living things to fully develop.

Visiting Montecristo National Park in El Salvador

All of the activities at Montecristo National Park revolve around tourism, and they can be done in a day. However, because of the distance from San Salvador or Santa Ana, along with the restricted entrance times, visitors are most likely to spend a night at the park camping.

Hiking to El Trifinio, exploring the fantastic flora and Fauna, and visiting the garden of 100 years are three of the most popular activities at Montecristo National Park.

Hiking to El Trifinio

The most popular activity for those visiting the park is the hike to the park’s summit; this is where the El Trifinio mark is located. El Trifinio marks the highest point in the park and the area where the three countries, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, converge.

The round trip to the summit will take you about four to five hours; it depends on your conditioning and the trail conditions.

If you are taking this path for the first time or with others who don’t know the trail, I highly recommend you do it with a guide as the trail is not correctly marked.

Exploring the Park and Enjoying the Flora and Fauna

Visitors don’t have to take the trail to El Trifinio to explore the area and see plenty of Flora and Fauna. Montecristo park has many short and more accessible trails than the demanding hike to the summit.

This trail will take you to a viewpoint with panoramic views of Honduras, or it will take you to the river that has a series of small waterfalls for you to explore and enjoy. Explore Montecristo and enjoy the astonishing Flora and Fauna that is available all over.

Montecristo National in Park El Salvador
El Trifinio Marker.

Visiting the Garden of 100 years

The garden of 100 years is a small botanical garden that features a wide range of plants, including a magnificent collection of orchids. At the botanical garden, tourists can view more than 70 species of orchids. Furthermore, about 70% of the orchids discovered in El Salvador can be seen here.

Tips for Visiting Montecristo National Park in El Salvador

This amazing park is located far from the capital city. Therefore, before venturing into Montecristo, you might want to follow these tips or recommendations; the first one is a must, or you will not be able to enter the park.

1. Get a Permit to Enter the Park

Montecristo is an open park; however, you can’t just go whenever you feel like it. To access the park, you are going to need a written permit from the Salvadoran Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN)

Keep in mind that the permit process needs to be done about 48 hours in advance. On the application, you will need to provide the names of all people in your group, the license plates of all vehicles, and the passport number for the group leader or leaders.

Getting a permit is a tedious process that needs to be done; I wish there was a better way to do it, but it is the only system available.

Once the authorization is processed, the authorities will email you a permit to print and present at the gate. If you don’t have a permit, you will not be able to enter the park.

2. Get to the Park on Time

This is something else that you need to pay attention to, even if you have a permit. You will not get into the park after 1 pm, even if you have the proper documents.

The park is an open space; nevertheless, you need to be there during the regular hours of operations to enter. It opens from 7.30 until 11am and 1pm for those camping on the grounds.

To ensure that you have the correct hours of operations during your visit, you can call MARN at (503)2132-6276.

3. Use Proper Transportation

If you are driving to Montecristo, make sure your automobile is equipped for all types of road conditions. It is better to go on a 4 × 4 car, parts of the road are very steep, and a sedan will not make it.

Furthermore, the roads to Montecristo are not well maintained, and this gets worse during the wet season. If you are going during the rainy season, make sure your car is up to the challenge.

If you want to visit and explore Montecristo; but don’t want to deal with everything, such as permits or driving, go with a tour company.

The tour companies in El Salvador will deal with everything for you, getting the paperwork ready and driving you to the park.

4. Make sure the Main Trail to El Trifinio is Open

One of the top attractions at Montecristo is the main trail that takes you to the El Trifinio. As previously mentioned, El Trifinio is at the highest point of the park and is where the borders of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala converge.

Even though the park is open the entire year, the main trail could be closed during the winter months or the wet season, from May to October. The trail closes to protect the fauna that lives in Montecristo; May to October is the breeding season for the species that live there.

To ensure that the trail to El Trifinio is open during your visit, you can call MARN at (503)2132-6276 and ask them about it.

The four tips or recommendations mentioned above are a collection of what others have said about the park. However, the number one on the list can’t be ignored. If you don’t have a permit, you will not be able to enter the park.

Montecristo Park Sunset
Sunset at Montecristo National Park.Photo by @vctor_lopez5

Accommodations at Montecristo National Park

If you are looking to spend the night at Montecristo National Park, the best and most popular way to do it is camping. The park has three camping areas with plenty of internal security.

If camping is not your thing, you can rent one of the two cabins in the park. Each cabin has a capacity for eight people each; they are equipped with beds, a gas cooker, and a bathroom. The cost of renting a cabin is around $70.00. Accommodations outside the park are basically non-existing; the only one I found was the Hostal of Metapan.

Montecristo National in Park El Salvador
National Park Monecristo

Montecristo National Park in El Salvador

If you like nature, clear air, crystal clear rivers, bird watching, hiking, nature photography, and other outdoor activities. A trip to Montecristo National Park in El Salvador is obligatory.

At Montecristo, you can be as active as you want to be. You can be active and hike to El Trifinio or unwind and appreciate the fantastic Flora and Fauna found all over the park.

Montecristo offers a spectacular setting for visitors to enjoy plenty of Flora and Fauna, in addition to fantastic hiking.