The Bay Islands feel like they are part of the Caribbean Islands. A vacation and diving paradise, the Bay Islands Honduras are famous for the diving, snorkeling, and beaches. English (spoken with a Caribbean accent) remains the principle language, so the Bay Islands are a great introduction to Honduras for English-speaking travelers. Three main islands comprise the Bay Islands Honduras: Roatan, Utila, and Guanaja. Each Bay Island Honduras has its own unique characteristics. You can fly (to Roatan) or take the ferry from La Ceiba.
The history of the Bay Islands Honduras is ripe with adventure. Christopher Columbus was the first Europeans to discovered the islands on one of his voyages to the New World in 1502. Subsequent Spanish colonists decimated the indigenous population, enslaving many islanders and bringing disease that killed others. In the eighteenth century, the Bay Islands became a haven for British pirates who raided Spanish ships laden with gold. After Spanish troops destroyed the pirate bases and killed or enslaved Roatan pirates in 1782 the islands were largely uninhabited. In 1797 the British changed the history of Honduras, when they exiled thousands of Garifuna rebels from St. Vincent in the Caribbean on Roatan Island. The Garifuna people, a mixture of Caribbean natives and African slaves, settled the Bay Island Honduras and parts of Honduras’ north coast. The Bay Islands were part of the British Empire until 1859.
Roatan is the largest of the three islands and the most popular with tourists, with the some of the best places for diving in Honduras and the best beaches. Travelers looking for a top Bay Islands beach resort will want to consider Roatan. Independent travelers will find some affordable hotels in Roatan’s West End and on Utila Island. There are numerous beach and dive resorts here, as scuba diving and snorkeling are two of the premier activities enjoyed by visitors.
Utila is generally the least expensive of the Bay Islands, with less expensive diving rates, accommodation, and food. Nevertheless, prices here or on any of the Bay Islands Honduras are significantly more expensive than on the mainland. The beaches on Utila are not as good as on Roatan, but the laid-back youthful energy makes it a great place for backpackers.
Guanaja is the least developed of the three main Bay Islands, but has some of the best diving and snorkeling sites (it is a marine reserve) and is a good choice if you want to stay in a less crowded and more seculed environment. Most of Guanaja is undeveloped and there are few cars on the island
Closer to the mainland, the Cayos Cochinos are two small islands off the north coast of Honduras. Declared a marine reserve, the Cayos Cochinos have some great diving sites and are an easy day trip from La Ceiba on the mainland. There are a few lodging options here, primarily focused on diving. The largest is the Plantation Beach.
There are flights from the United States to Roatan. If you are connecting from the mainland of Honduras, there are flights from San Pedro Sula. La Cwiba, or Tegucigalpa. Regularly scheduled ferries and water taxis provide transportation between the islands. These are quite affordable, although you will pay a bit more if you make arrangements for a private boat outside of normal hours or to a remote place.
Whether you stay in a top Bay Islands beach resort in Roatan’s West Bay or a budget place on Utila Island, the Bay Islands Honduras are sure to delight visitors. Sun, sand, and the second-largest coral reef in the world (after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia), make the Bay Islands a great place for a relaxing and fun-filled getaway.