Would you like to experience a real Caribbean paradise, but you think you don’t have enough money for that? Island Utila – one of the Honduran Bay Islands, looks like a cover of a catalogue advertising a five-star Caribbean vacation. However, regarding prices, you are still in Honduras. In addition to its beautifully white beaches and azure clear sea, the island offers some of the most beautiful coral reefs in Central America. Utila is also one of the cheapest places in the world to get your diving certificate. The island is packed with young people and the parties are never ending. The locals seem not to ever hurry anywhere and the overall super chilled feel of the place will make you slow down as well. This place will suck you in and won’t let go.
Spectacular diving and snorkelling conditions draw thousands of tourists from all over the world to the three Bay Islands (Guanaja, Roatán and Utila). While Roatan is still quite expensive and prices on Guanaja Island are basically prohibitive for budget travelers, Utila, on the other hand, is very cheap and so has become the main meeting point for Backpackers traveling to Honduras.
Utila can be reached either by a small plane or a boat. The boat the cheaper option. For the return ticket you’ll pay around 45$ (1150L). The ferry Utila Dream leaves the port of La Ceiba every day. The timetables and more information to be found here. Although Utila is really affordable compared to the other Caribbean islands, everything is still a little more expensive than in the mainland. Food and drinks especially, so I recommend buying most of your cooking ingredients and some beers before in La Ceiba and bringing them to the island with you.
Unfortunately I didn’t find any Couchsurfing on the island this time. After arrival I was first walking around for few hours and finally discovered the cheapest accommodation on the island. You’ll pay around 4$ per night (120L) for a private room with shared bathroom, kitchen and spacious terrace over there. From the harbor, head straight up searching for the hotel Bavaria. The guest house is located just behind it.
Diving is certainly the thing to do over here! It’s basically all everybody talks about and the classic ice breaker phrase is: “So, which diving school did you enrol in?” So I felt a bit out of place as I didn’t dive at all. Deep water scares me so I decided that snorkelling will be about enough for start.
The price for the basic diving certificate is around $300. Most diving schools offer free accommodation when you sign up. The basic course will take you five days. The best option is the Underwater Vision School. Their accommodation is the best and they have their own private beach.
The best spots for snorkelling on the island:
- Bando Beach – The Best Of The Best! From the beach you have to swim about 10 minutes towards the lighthouse you will see it ahead of you in the distance. Paddling through the water it was very shallow and you’ll have to swim through sea weed and other disgusting stuff before you’ll reach the corals. But if you don’t give up you’ll discover incredibly beautiful underwater world rich in life. Colourful corals fluttering with flocks of various fish, lobsters and crabs. I was even so lucky to swim right next to a huge stingray, and I saw a little shark swimming in the distance. Not many people actually know about this place so the corals are in amazing condition and you may even have the whole reef just to yourself if you you go there. But please beware of the ships that are passing through every so often. The best time to go here is just a few hours before sunset. That time there is almost no traffic anymore.
- The Coral View Resort
- The Neptunes – From the Coral View Resort there is a free boat that takes you all the way there, leaving every hour.
- Amazing coral reefs can be also found around the cost of multiple cays that surround Utila. There are boat trips to some of them organised every day.
Besides diving and snorkelling, there are many other things to do on the island.
Rent a motorbike ($18/per 6 hours, $25 / a day) and drive Utila all around. You’ll find plenty of deserted beaches and beautiful views. Or sail on the Rock Harbor River that cuts right through the island. The perfectly calm surface of the Caribbean Sea offers great conditions for paddle boarding and one thing not to be missed is definitely a boat trip to one of the deserted cays lying around the West Coast of Utila. A relaxing afternoon spent in a hammock drinking Corrona. I made friends with the crew of a fishing boat that always took me all the way there and picked me up on the way back.
Make yourself a spear and go hunting the land crabs. There are thousands of them on the island.
Recipe for traditional Honduran crab soup with coconut milk:
Ingredients: Crab, chicken broth cube, prawn broth cube, 1 onion, parsley, margarine, salt, 2 plantains, can of coconut milk, a mixture of spices for the crab soup – all available on the island in every corner shop.
Clean the crab shell and put it in a pot with margarine, chicken broth, sliced onion and the spice mix. Fry on a moderate fire while stirring. Fill the pot water and add the shrimp broth. Wash the plantains and cut into 4 pieces. Cook until they soft. Finally, add coconut milk and a pinch of sugar. Serve with rice or just on its own.
Many locals are originally just tourists who came to the island for a few weeks and after all stayed forever. I usually get bored of the same place after two days, but it was different with Utila, after five days I still quite didn’t wanna leave. It wasn’t just the beauty of that place but also the incredibly relaxed and friendly atmosphere all around.
Perhaps the best place to have a few drinks and meet new people is the bar Tranquila. “For how long are you staying?” The bartender asked me while handing me another glass of Mojito. “I’m leaving tomorrow morning,” I said. The bartender just smiled. “Yeah, that’s what everyone says and then they never leave.” “That won’t be my case, I have already planned everything!” I protested. The next day I overslept, missed the ferry and I had to stay on the island for another day. And to be honest, I can’t actually say whether I did it on purpose or not. As I said, this place will suck you in and won’t let go!
Expenses – 6 days
Ferry (return): 45$
The Internet recharge: 8$
Motorbike rent: 18$