Utila is the smallest of the three principal islands that forms the Bay Islands of Honduras. However, don’t judge this book by its small cover. Declared by the UN as the best place to dive in the world, this island is not only a sanctuary of marine life with sightings of one of the largest sea creatures in the world, the Whale Sharks commonly referred to as “gentle giants,” but also offers a diverse cultural experience. Sitting on the Mesoamerica Reef (the second largest barrier reef in the world), provides for tranquil turquoise shallow waters, colorful diving and snorkeling, and great beaching. This tropical island of friendly-neighborly people makes the transition to living a Caribbean lifestyle as effortless as possible. A true Caribbean jewel that offers a perfect blind of tranquility and good/wild times, catering to every mood and walks of life.
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Utila is located 18 miles (30 km) off the coastal city of La Ceiba (mainland Honduras), which converted into time, it’s roughly one hour in ferry-boat and 15 minutes by plane.
The island is 7 miles long (11 km) and 2.5 miles (4 km) at its widest point. It’s mostly flat, with the highest point being Pumpkin Hill at 74 meters (aprox. 16 stories high). It also has a large amount of Cays to the West, some of which are inhabited.
East Harbor is the largest settlement where most hotels, restaurants, bars and shops are located around the main street. Despite the fact that you won’t find any fast-food restaurants or high-rises, you will find quaint stores and hotels of colorful personality, and a tempting variety of local and international dishes where fresh seafood is the specialty.
Commute within the island is done mostly by walking made easy due to short distances, but also by scooters, bicycles, bikes and golf-carts. Vehicles are few and far between. Now that’s what I call healthy living!
How to get to Utila?
Utila does not have an international airport. However, getting to and from the island is easy enough. Most arrive via the international airports of San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba or the neighboring island of Roatan, and then take local flights such as CM Airlines, Aerolinea SOSA, Aerolinea LANHSA, etc.
You can also travel by ferry boat from the mainland port of La Ceiba with twice a day schedules, and by ferry from Roatan. Private charter boats are also available from Roatan.
Since the island was originally part of a British colony, the predominant language is English. However, as of late there is a large influence of Spanish and other European cultures.
Per the 2015 census, the population was just above 4,000. Even though it’s a small group, they are much known for being friendly and hospitable, making you feel right at home.
While the Honduran currency is the Lempira, the US Dollar is equally used and accepted.
Things to do in Utila
There are many activities to partake of on this island. Some of which include diving, snorkeling, diving with whale-sharks, visiting the water caves, exploring the mangrove forest and its wild-life, horseback riding, calming walks, yoga or simply relaxing on the beach in a hammock with a cold drink.
Beaching, Diving and Snorkeling
Situated on the second largest barrier reef in the world (second only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef), the island is known as one of the most affordable and easy access to breathtaking scuba-diving and snorkeling in the world. There are over 60 dive-sites and more than 17 scuba-diving shops. Feast your eyes on the plethora of sea-life this reef system offers: coral, mollusk and fish of all shapes, sizes and colors. It also provides a tranquil beaching experience in shallow turquoise waters for those looking to relax and bask in the sun.
Whale Sharks Encounter
Utila is known as the “Whale Shark Capital of the Caribbean” with whale shark encounters year-round. These mysterious and solitary creatures can be seen close to the north shore of the island, and are absolutely no threat to humans due to their diet of strictly plankton. As many as three a day can be seen during the “Whale Shark Season.”
Exploring Water Caves
Taking a swim in the freshwater caves is a very popular activity. While they can be found all over the island, the most visited are in the vicinity of the power plant. These are cavities formed in the volcanic rock within the scrubland and others close to the sea. Discover the remarkable rocks formations and stalactites while taking a refreshing dip. Underground caves can also be explored with a qualified guide and the proper/necessary equipment.
Taking a Mangrove tour is a great chance to explore a great variety of wild life. It is also the natural habitat for the Black Iguana or most commonly referred by the locals as the “Swamper”, which is a rare species of the iguana family indigenous only to Utila, per Animal Planet’s documentary.
Utila’s SunJam takes partying to a whole new level. Hosted by Water Cay, this festival takes place every year on the first Saturday of August. People from literally all around the world travels exclusively for this event. Admissions are limited to 1,500 people. The entry of cameras, cell phones, or any other type of electronic devices are not allowed.
Utila – Big things DO come in small packages!!!