In the north of Honduras, in the Caribbean Sea, you will find a number of tropical islands. The largest of the 3 is Roatán and this is also where most of the activities can be done. Utila are known for their diving and snorkeling opportunities. Guanaja is the most unknown of the three. The islands were formerly colonies of England but are now part of Honduras, so there is an equal distribution of Spanish and English spoken. The islands are touristy and disproportionate to the rest of the country. But despite the lack of authenticity, the islands immediately make up for it with their splendor and insane underwater world.
With the second largest reef in the world, it is easy to imagine that diving, snorkeling and other water activities are the order of the day. Boats depart daily for the sea to not only showcase the reef and associated wildlife, on Utila it is also the cheapest place in the world to get your PADI diving certification. Several schools offer diving courses at competitive prices. Read up well when looking for a diving school. Safety around diving is important and check carefully whether the diving school has it in mind.
If you prefer to stay more on the surface, you can also see a lot of the underwater world with snorkeling. It is advisable to go on the water with a guide. There are several places on Roatán and Utila where you can walk into the water from the shoreline and go snorkeling, but to protect the reef, it is recommended that you go with a guide who knows exactly where the best snorkeling is. Also, you are more likely to go out into the open water which allows you to see even more. A cool tour in Roatán is the 3 stop tour where you go to a shipwreck, a place with starfish and an underwater canyon. Prices range from approximately €70 – €95 per person for about 3 to 4 hours, including transportation, snorkel gear, a guide and a snack.
On Roatán you will find most activities to do. Consider visiting the Monkey and Sloth Hang Out, ziplining, renting scooters, or taking boat trips. This island is also right where cruise ships dock and most resorts can be found, so you can expect crowds in certain places. If you want to avoid this, you can stay in the West End, the east of the island, or divert to Utila.
Utila is centered around (learning to) dive. The reef surrounding the island is one of the most beautiful places on earth and a great way to discover the underwater world. As stated earlier, if you want to learn to dive, do research on a good diving school. Quality and safety for learning to dive are very important. In addition to diving, there are other activities to do on Utila. For a walk, you may choose to walk to the beaches in the north (near Pumpkin hill) of the island via the airport. Close to the airport you will find fresh water caves (found on Google Maps and Maps.me) and at Pumpkin hill you will find a nice bar ‘Rockies’ to take a break.
Nice beaches to visit and relax are Chepes beach and Bando beach. Playa Bando is a private beach and for this you pay a small entrance fee of 40 limpira/€1.75. On both beaches you will find a bar/restaurant.
You can also go to Neptunes beach, a beach to relax and snorkel around the pier. Note the boats that go there. They don’t always see you when you snorkel so make sure you stay out of their cruising area. This beach can only be reached by boat that you take from Coral View Beach Resort (behind the hotel is a jetty). The boat is free and sails up and down. There is no sailing schedule so you may have to wait a while. The last boat leaves with the beach restaurant staff between 5:00 and 6:00 pm. Close to Coral View Beach Resort you will find the Blue Bayou Beach Bar. A small bar on the beach, and from which you can snorkel from the pier. Do take your own snorkeling. with. Generally open every day, but making some inquiries can help.
How do you get there and back?
From La Ceiba on the mainland, a ferry goes to both Utila and Roatán. There are two organizations that sail back and forth: Utila Dream which sails from La Ceiba to Utila and between Roatán and Utila. And the Galaxy Wave sailing between Roatán and La Ceiba. Both ferries are good and operate on a regular sailing schedule. Tickets can be booked in advance on both their websites, although not necessarily. The ferry from La Ceiba to Roatán and back goes 4 times a day takes about 1.5 hours and the trip from Roatán to Utila (or visa versa) takes about 1 hour and goes once a day. The costs between the companies are almost the same. Single trip La Ceiba to Roatán costs about €32, Roatán to Utila and La Ceiba to Utila (1 hour) about €28. If you normally suffer from some seasickness, on the journey between La Ceiba and Roatán people regularly get nauseous.
With Galaxy Wave you can also sail to Guajana. But beware, this ferry only goes 4 times a week.