The Bay Islands, Honduras [Roatan and Utila]
For the last couple of weeks I’ve been living in the Bay Islands of Honduras, splitting my time between the two most visited of the three islands: Roatan and Utila. Unless you’re a scuba diver these islands may not sound familiar but in the diving world they’re each well known in their own rights.
Roatan, Honduras – Great Fun Diving
Roatan is the largest of the islands and is frequented by mainstream tourists who come for the amazing diving, beautiful water, and white sandy beaches. It is also becoming a retirement destination for many Americans as well as Europeans.
While in Roatan I had two different experiences. The first half of my stay I spent with Anthony’s Key Resort on an all inclusive dive package that spoiled me rotten. The second half of my stay I moved into the main section of the island known as the West End, where the nightlife, restaurants, and private dive operations are.
Utila, Honduras – Cheap Scuba Courses
Utila, a smaller island closer to the Honduras mainland, is more of a backpacking island with inexpensive accommodations and cheap diving. If you’re looking to save some money or get your scuba diving certification, this is the place to come.
On Utila I spent my stay in a hostel dorm where I got a cheap price on completing my Advanced Open Water Scuba Diver Certification.
I’m going to try a new format for sharing my travels and the interesting details about each destination. I’m calling it Travelights. Each week (or destination) I plan to spend some time sharing where I’ve been but also some of the highlights (Flips) and lowlights (Flops) of the visit. I’d love to hear your feedback on how you like the approach!
Flips – Roatan and Utila, Honduras
- In Roatan it was all about the diving! First at Anthony’s Key Resort and then with Coconut Tree Divers. I went on my first wreck dive, saw a couple of huge green moray eels, and explored my first swim through holes. The visibility was great and the reefs are pristine. I’m officially hooked on diving!
- Honduran Independence Day and a Fishing Tournament brought tons of people to the island of Roatan. For three days the West End was a mad house with people celebrating the holiday and talking about their catches of the day. I celebrated the holiday with the crew from Coconut Tree Divers as they threw a going away party for my dive master (moving from Roatan to Hawaii must be tough!)
- Great fireworks show. Also for the Independence Day holiday I watched fireworks with a group of children. We all really enjoyed the show! I’m not sure I’ve been that close to fireworks overhead since I was a kid and my family would shoot them out over the lake in Tennessee. It was a really good show.
- Reading to kids. After the holiday fireworks in Roatan a couple of my new little friends were impressed that I had a whole book inside my phone. At first they didn’t believe me and asked me to prove it by reading some to them. As soon as the first words came out of my mouth a little boy around the age of 5 immediately wrapped his clammy hand around my arm and shoved his chubby little thumb in his mouth. I’m not sure that they followed the story, but they certainly seemed to enjoy it. Definitely not something that happens in the US.
- Traveling via Sailboat. I traveled to Utila from Roatan via a shortcut, taking a Catamaran instead of a ferry. I spent a good portion of the ride laying on the trampoline enjoying the splash of the water.
- The most interesting bar. On the first night in Utila a few of us ventured out and found ourselves at the Tree Tannic bar. It has the strangest décor I’ve ever seen using beer bottles, glass beads, tiles, and a unique collection of other materials to create a truly trippy experience.
- Advanced Open Water Certification. In Utila I completed my Advanced Open Water Scuba Diving Certification. I also reached the minimum number of dives to begin the Dive Master training course which I’m planning to do somewhere along the way. It’s a great excuse to dive everyday and relax in one place for a month or so, plus I’d be able to work in a dive shop if I ever wanted to.
- Taking a swim in the ocean first thing in the morning. I stayed at the Pirates Inn in Utila and it has its own slice of private beach so I could walk out of the dorm and straight into the water for a morning swim. I have a pool back home and never did that.
- I fell in love with a hammock. Another traveler let me squat in his hammock in Utila throughout the week until I decided I couldn’t live without one. I found a small shop with a woman who hand makes everything on its shelves and purchased the most comfortable hammock. My suitcase is more than bulging but so far its worth the extra bulk.
- Huge Eagle Rays! On one of the dives we caught a good glimpse of 2 three foot wide Spotted Eagle Rays lifting off the sandy bottom of the sea floor and gracefully swimming through the water. One even turned and began swimming directly toward our group coming within feet of us before realizing a shooting off in another direction.
- The Skidrow Challenge. A bar and good pizza joint on Utila does a great job of advertising across the island by handing out t shirts to any patrons crazy enough to drink 4 shots of the worst tasting, spiciest rum the world has ever seen. Needless to say, half the island was wearing their shirts and on the last night I got brave enough to give it a go. I have to say, the t shirt seemed cooler that night than it did in the morning. Shew, that was awful rum!
- My very own deserted island. Near Utila there a handful of islands dotting the water off the coast. One of these is uninhabited and for a few hundred lempiras we spent the afternoon in the crystal clear waters and lounging under the shade of the palm trees.
- I finished two books. At home I don’t read much but here I’m enjoying hammock and book time. I finished The River of Doubt which is the story of President Theodore Roosevelt’s trip down an unexplored tributary of the Amazon after he left office. I also moved through a Digital Photography book and am busily learning how to use my fancy camera.
Flops – Roatan and Utila, Honduras
- I lost a bet. While in Roatan my Tennessee Volunteers were playing the Florida Gators and I entered into a bet with my Dive Master and unfortunately it didn’t go in my team’s favor. To pay up, I ended up diving in his Florida Gators jersey.
- I ran out of E-Cigarettes. I did okay for a few days but by the time I got settled in Utila I was smoking again. Before everyone starts giving me hell, you should know I’ve already ordered refills for my E-Cigarette and will be picking them up in a couple of weeks.
- My search for Whale Sharks did not end successfully. Apparently I just missed the whale sharks in Utila, which I originally only decided to go to in order to swim with Whale Sharks. We did see evidence of them for a few days in Roatan but never got close enough to catch a glimpse of the whales themselves (you can see where they are in the water as schools of fish follow them at the surface and birds swoop down to grab them).
- Baby turtle run around. I learned of a charity on Utila that among other things works to ensure successful release of sea turtles. After a few visits and reschedules I finally gave up getting to see the babies. They were there but the manager of BICA kept giving me the run around each time I showed up at the scheduled time for the release.
- Leaking air 50 feet under the sea. The equipment at the Captain Morgan’s Dive Center wasn’t exactly great. Most days some piece of my gear malfunctioned with the worst two dives including a regulator (thing you breathe through) leaking from the pressure gauge, spare regulator, and the tank and the other dive having a BCD (the jacket that inflates) filling with air constantly throughout the dive. In the future I will know better than to get in the water with gear like that.
- Stuck in San Pedro Sula again. I don’t have good luck passing through one of the major Honduran cities as both times I have gotten stuck. This time the bus that I have to take to Nicaragua was full causing me to spend an extra day in the city. I did check out a modern mall with all the fixings of home (Wendy’s, Subway, Burger King, Churches Chicken, Nine West, Tommy Hilfiger, Victoria Secret, etc)
- Startled awake by a falling fan. In the hostel in San Pedro Sula a few of us were startled awake as the fan on the wall (no A/C) crashed to the ground from near the ceiling. It had apparently stopped working but the engine was still trying to run and it eventually heated up so much it melted off of the wall. I spent the night in the lobby to get away from the heat and the smell of burnt plastic.