Utila Honduras

Utila Island, the smallest of Honduras' Bay Islands, has long been a big draw on the international backpacking circuit. The last decade or so has seen construction of several up-scale hotels and resorts, making Utila Honduras a good spot for a weekend or weeklong beach getaway. But the host of new Utila accommodations has not changed the island's laid-back, youthful atmosphere.

Though not as inexpensive as La Ceiba, Trujilla, or other cities on the Honduran mainland, Utila Island is the cheapest of the Bay Islands. Prices for Utila accommodations are generally more affordable than on Roatan or Guanaja islands. For many years, Utila diving prices were astoundingly low. Costs were raised somewhat when the dive shops decided to fix prices for dives within a predetermined range, ending the price wars that had rocked the Utila diving community. Nevertheless, diving around Utila Honduras is still less expensive than almost anywhere else in the world. The most expensive part of a vacation to the island is likely to be the airfare to Utila.

There are no direct flights to Utila from Europe or the United States, so visitors will want to book a flight to Tegucigalpa or San Pedro. Several airlines offer airfare to Utila from La Ceiba, on the north coast of the mainland. Airfare to Utila is fairly inexpensive and though it is always best to book in advance, last minute deals from La Ceiba are not unusual.

The ferry is another option for transportation to Utila Honduras. The ferry departs from La Ceiba twice daily, in the morning and afternoon. Unfortunately, there is no regular ferry service between Utila and Roatan island, but private water taxis (a uniquely Honduran transportation) will make the trip.

There is only one main town on Utila Island. Known as East Harbor, or simply Utila Town, this is where most of the island's hotels are clustered. Utila accommodations can range from basic dorm beds available for $10 a night or less to upscale beachside resorts.

Excepts during the week before Easter and carnaval (late July), it is generally easy to find Utila accommodations on the spot. Reservations are necessary if you want to stay during the festivals or if for most of the best resorts. If you plan on arriving in Utila Island on the afternoon ferry from La Ceiba, you would be well-advised to book your first night in advance so you are not wandering around Utila Town after dark with your bags. You can always find more suitable Utila accommodations the next day.

Diving in Honduras is world-renowned. The coral reefs around Utila Island form part of the Meso-American Barrier Reef, the second largest reef in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef. As well as reef dives, Utila Honduras also famously presents one of the best places in the world to spot whale sharks. From March to May and August to October, Utila diving companies take groups to view these enormous (they can grow to more than 50-feet in length) but harmless creatures off the island's north coast. Utila diving also offers trips to underwater caves, cliffs, and shipwrecks.

Another reason to visit the Bay Islands is for the white sand Caribbean beaches. Utila's beaches are not as good as those on Roatan, but Chepes Beach to the west of Utila Town and the manmade Bando Beach in the harbor itself are simple and charming.

With its beaches, diving, and laid-back attitude, Utila Honduras is rightfully known as a tropical island paradise.

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