Utila, Honduras Travel Guide: Top Things to Do and See in Utila
Utila has all the hallmarks of a lush tropical island, and over the past few years has become world renowned for its impressive dive sites and affordability. Yet, despite certifying more divers than anywhere else in the Caribbean, Utila still retains its small town charm. The ever-welcoming locals, make it an easy transition into the laid-back island life, and if prompted might even share a pirate story or two.
Utila, Honduras landscape & Scenery
Known for its white sandy beaches, palm trees, and clear blue water.
The island itself is only 11 kilometres long, and 4 kilometres at its widest.
The Bay of Islands is comprised of 3 main islands, and a few smaller cays off the coast of mainland Honduras. The larger islands include: Rotatan, Guanaja, and Utila. With Utila being the smallest of the three.
The Bay of Islands run the length of the Meso-American Reef, which is the largest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef.
What to do in utila, honduras
Diving: Without a doubt the main reason people come to Utila is for the diving. Not only is it extremely affordable but the numerous dive sites boast clear visibility and host an impressive array of marine life including the elusive Whale Sharks.
Whale Sharks make a yearly migration through the warm waters off of Utila. They are the world’s largest fish, and despite their daunting name only eat zoo plankton.
Other marine life includes: seahorses, moray eels, spotted eagle rays, hawksbill turtles, and an astonishing variety of fish.
Most dive shops start a course every day or two depending on the season. Typically, they include free accommodation in a dorm room, and a couple of free dives after the completion of a course. Don’t be afraid to haggle, and take a look around. Get a feel for the dive shop, and talk to guests before you book.
Reputable dive shops include but not limited to: Underwater Vision, Utila Dive Centre, and Captain Morgan Dive Shop.
Other water activities include:
Snorkeling: If you are choosing not to dive, many of the dive shops offer snorkeling off of their dive boat. This is a popular option for folks that have friends or partners diving. Otherwise, there are some easily accessible snorkelling spots off of Chepes Beach.
Kayak/Paddle boards: A number of shops rent kayaks, and/ or paddle boards.
Pumpkin Hill is the highest point of the island at about 80m above sea level, and the first visible point of Utila Island from the sea. No one knows how Pumpkin Hill got its name but since the early 2000’s a pumpkin patch has resided on the south-west side of hill. It is about an hour and a half walk from the town centre to the base of the trail and a moderate level hike to the top of Pumpkin Hill. The path is ill maintained but the viewpoint offers a specular 360-degree view of the island.
A number of freshwater caves, are accessible around the island. These are a popular day-trip for locals as well.
The nearby Cays (small, low, tropical islands) are ideal for a day of sun-soaking, and snorkelling. Transportation can be arranged with locals, or dive shops but it is best to ask your hostel for the most suitable transportation host at the time of your stay. A few of the Cays are even available for nightly rentals at a surprisingly affordable rate. Some go for as little as 100USD a night. Check out utilacayrentals.com for more information.
Chepes Beach is the nicest beach on the island, and lined with bars and restaurants. A great place to relax after a morning dive!
A number of “tiendas” dot the main street for basic groceries
Mermaids offers a decent buffet-style dining experience. Good value, and perfect for gorging after a morning dive.
Charolette’s Cafe is THE place to go for breakfast, baked goods, and a proper cup of filter coffee.
Mango Inn Bar & Grill specialises in oven baked pizzas and is consistently rated among the best restaurants on the island.
Over the years Utila has become known for its backpacker bar scene. With a number of bars sprouting up and disappearing almost daily. Some that have stood the test of time include:
Skid Row: a drinking establishment popular with backpackers. They offer the Guifiti challenge (4 shots of potent local liquor) for the chance at a free Skid Row tank top.
Rehab: another drinking establishment popular with backpackers, it is located at the entrance of Chepes Beach. Rehab has a great patio with hammocks and is perfect for sunsets.
Treetanic is Utila’s resident tree-house bar and was named the 4th best bar in the world by Lonely Planet. It is a multi-leveled, sensory experience with no surface going untouched by seashells, beads, bottle caps, mirrors, etc. It is meant to resemble a sinking ship among mango trees, and is most definitely a must see!
Most cities in Honduras have connecting buses to the Port of La Ceiba. From there, travellers coming overland must take the ferry from La Ceiba to Utila town. The ferry runs twice daily.
Getting off the ferry you will be bombarded with tuk-tuk drivers who will offer to take you to their respective dive shops. It is ok to take a ride with them- they get their commission from taking you to said dive shop. Once there hear the dive shop out, but keep in mind that it is not required for you book with them just because the tuk-tuk drove you there.
Additionally, Utila hosts a small airport of its own. The Utila Airport.
Bicycles, golf carts, 4-wheelers and scooters are available for rent on the island.
Tuk-tuks are also available for hire.
Language: The official language is Spanish however, the majority of inhabitants speak English as well.
Lempira or US Dollars
US Dollars are widely the currency quoted for dive courses
There are 2 ATMs on the island but sometimes they run out of money, so it’s best to bring more cash than you think you need. However, some of the Dive Resorts have begun to accept PayPal, and Credit Cards at an additional charge.
Sand flies are a real menace here. They typically strike around dusk and dawn. So, ensure you bring Deet-based bug spray with you since like most things on the island, stores charge a premium. Apply often, or opt for long pants.
Honduras is often avoided for cited safety reasons. However, Utila is a world of its own. It does not host the same problems that the mainland does. Nevertheless, petty thief still does happen. So, ensure you lock up your valuables and use caution against pick pockets.