Everything you need to know about Utila and The Bay Islands in Honduras
Honduras may not be the first destination most people think of when planning their next trip or vacation. This is not surprising considering the reputation of mainland Honduras. However, Unknown to many, the Bay Islands in Honduras are some of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean and are a lot safer than the mainland.
The fact that you’re reading this means you have heard of these hidden gems and must be curious to know more.
The Bay Islands lay along the second largest barrier reef in the world, making them an incredibly special place to go if you are an ocean lover like us. They are also home to some of the most pristine white sand beaches and clear ocean waters.
You can while away the days by the beach, explore the cays on boat trips, dive the barrier reef and eat some yummy local foods by the sea. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
In this post, we will give you all the information you could possibly need to plan your epic trip to Honduras’s Bay Islands.
So let’s get stuck in.
How many islands are in Honduras
Honduras surprisingly has over 99 Islands!
The popular Bay islands Consist of 3 main Islands Roatan, Utila and Guanaja. There are 8 Bay Islands in total and 53 small Cays you can also explore.
A Cay (Pronounced ‘Key’) is different to a typical island, in that it is formed on top of a coral reef.
Map of the Islands in Honduras
Are the Islands in Honduras safe?
Compared to mainland Honduras the Bay Islands are considerably safer for tourists. There is still an issue with petty crimes and theft, as in most touristy places. So it is important to be aware of this and use your common sense at all times.
It is uncommon for Tourists to experience violent crimes but it can sometimes happen that longer-term rentals are robbed.
It sounds a little scary but the chances are pretty slim. If you use common sense such as not flashing valuables, not being alone at night and not leaving belongings unattended on beaches you should be fine.
While we were in Utila we didn’t have any issues or feel unsafe at all.
It is always a good idea to check your government’s travel advice before going to a new destination.
How to get to Bay Islands in Honduras
It is possible to fly to the 3 main Bay islands; Roatan, Utila and Guanaja. Roatan is the most connected in terms of flights.
You can also take Ferrys which connect all the islands to each other and the mainland of Honduras. This is the cheaper and most efficient way to get around the Bay Islands.
How to get to Utila
From Mainland Honduras (La Ceiba)
To get to La Ceiba, you can fly into San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and then take a connecting flight to La Ceiba. A more eco-friendly way would be taking a bus, taxi, or shuttle from the airport to La Ceiba. From here you can take the ferry to Utila.
Another option is chicken buses. We did not use this option so I can’t really tell you how easy or hard this is. I recommend using the website Centrocoasting for info about this option.
We got to La Ceiba by tourist shuttle from Antigua, Guatemala. This was a very long journey, and because the ferry only leaves twice a day, we weren’t confident we would make it on time. Luckily for us, we did, and since we bought tickets online we didn’t really have to wait in any lines.
Taking the Ferry from La Ceiba
The ferry from La Ceiba to Utila is the most common means of transportation for people visiting the island. The ferry ride typically takes just under an hour. Keep in mind the ferry only leaves twice a day, so make sure to arrive in time to catch the last one!
The last ferry leaves at 4:30 PM, but this might change so be sure to check the schedules here.
This is the location of the Utila Dream Ferry terminal in La Ceiba.
The ferry has basic facilities and seating, and the ride is usually comfortable. However, it is recommended to bring sea sickness pills, because the sea can get incredibly rough on some days.
We were unlucky enough to experience this, which made Guido really, really sick. Even with the seasickness pills. The crew was clearly used to this though and rushed towards us with bags and paper towels.
Tickets are available online from this website. You have to pay a port tax beforehand at the port and is 35 HNL, or $1.50, each. There is an ATM available here, so don’t worry if you don’t have any cash on hand. The ferry tickets are 750HNL, or $31, for a single journey.
Overall, the ferry from La Ceiba to Utila is a convenient and straightforward way to reach the island.
Take the Ferry from Roatan
The ferry from Roatan costs 750HNL, or $31, for a single journey and leaves once a day at 2 PM. Check the schedule here, in case it has changed since writing this post.
Flying to Utila
It is possible to fly to Utila but the island is not as well connected as its neighbor Roatan. Flights are weekly and expensive. In most cases, it will be faster and more convenient to Fly to Mainland Honduras or Roatan and take the ferries from there.
You can use Skyscanner to check if there is a flight that works for you.
If you are coming from El Tunco in El Salvador then check out our guide to 4 different ways to make the journey.
How to get to Roatan
Taking the Ferry to Roatan
Getting to Roatan by Ferry is similar to getting to Utila. You will first need to get to the Port town of La Ceiba as described above and take the Ferry from there. The Roatan ferry terminal can be found on this map.
There are 2 ferries to Roatan leaving at 9.30 am and 4.30 pm every day. Luckily these times are aligned perfectly with most shuttles to and from La Ceiba so you can continue your journey smoothly.
The Ferry to Roatan from La Ceiba costs $36 per person, each way and it is advised to book your tickets at least a day in advance. You can book your tickets directly with the ferry company here.
Flying to Roatan
Roatan actually has an international airport – Juan Manuel Galvez International Airport. It has direct flights from several destinations including multiple airports in the US and also El Salvador. As well as domestic flights from mainland Honduras. Giving you plenty of options on how to arrive by air.
Check out Skyscanner to see the current prices for your flights.
How to get to Guanaja
The best way to get to Guanaja is via Roatan. This Island is far less visited than Roatan and Utila and as such is a bit trickier to get to. There are only 2 ferries a week that depart from Roatan to Guanaja. Or you can possibly find a private taxi boat to take you on the roughly 1 hour and 15-minute journey.
When to visit the Islands in Honduras
Luckily the Bay Islands are located just below the Hurricane belt so very rarely get struck. The last time was in 1998. That being said September – November would be the highest risk of Hurricanes across the islands.
Despite the small risk, most people consider Utila a year-round destination for diving. March to May are the best months for optimal diving conditions. The high season is from December to February, which is the end of the rainy season. We visited in January and only had a few minutes of rain in our week on the island.
Locals consider March and April the best months to Visit Roatan, and who better to trust than those living on the islands?
The Bay Islands in Honduras
Best Island off Honduras for scuba diving
This one is a no-brainer. Utila Island is a diver’s heaven!
Utila is a small Island closest to the coast of Honduras, that is known for its prime location right on the second-largest barrier reef in the world. With countless beautiful corals and diverse marine life, it is a popular destination for diving enthusiasts.
You can explore the shallow coral gardens, coral walls, shipwrecks, and caves. Divers will find a variety of colourful tropical fish, sea turtles, and other marine species. Utila is also famous for being one of the best places in the world to see whale sharks. The gentle giant species of shark are a highlight for many people.
Utila has become a well-known name in the diving world not only for its incredible dive sites and marine life but also for the relatively low prices the dive shops charge for courses. Making it one of the cheapest places in the world to become a certified diver.
This beautiful Caribbean island has MANY dive shops that offer scuba diving courses, certification, and diving trips. Making it easy for visitors to experience the underwater wonders of the second-largest barrier reef in the world.
Utila Dive Center
Our personal choice, Utila Dive Center (UDC) is a popular dive centre in Utila. It is known for its high-quality equipment and is a popular choice for both beginner and experienced divers.
They offer a large amount of PADI courses, like Open Water, Advanced Open Water, and Rescue Diver.
You can also go on fully-equipped fun dives to multiple different dive sites.
The dive centre has a team of experienced and knowledgeable employees, instructors, and divemasters, and uses the latest dive equipment to ensure the experience is safe and enjoyable. The centre also has a bar, restaurant, and lounge area, making it a convenient place for divers to relax and socialize between and after dives.
Overall, I HIGHLY recommend Utila Dive Centre. They are professional and respond quickly to any inquiries and questions.
Other dive centres in Utila
Utila is home to several other dive centres, each offering its own unique diving experiences and services. We’ve spoken to divers that used a few different dive centres and highly recommended those too. 3 other dive centres that were recommended to us are:
Regardless of the dive centre you choose, it is important to research and compare options to ensure that you find the best fit for your needs and interests. Utila has a massive dive community, and many divers return year after year to enjoy the island’s stunning coral reefs and diverse marine life.
Which of the Bay Islands in Honduras should you visit?
Considering the nature of each of the Islands in Honduras, we would say the clear winner is Utila. It is smaller than Roatan, giving it a more local and less developed feel. Yet bigger and easier to access than Guanaja and with more options for accommodation and food.
Not to mention It has the BEST diving and some beautiful beaches. It is easy to get to and doesn’t have the cruise ships you see on Roatan.
If you are looking for relaxation and some underwater adventures then Utila is definitely the Island for you.
The Bay Islands in Honduras
Utila Island – Honduras
As we have recommended Utila as the Island of choice, we will start this Island and some more information on where to stay, where to eat, and things to do.
Where to stay on Utila
If you’re diving, which you definitely should, most dive shops and schools include accommodation. With most diving courses you get free accommodation, and usually with every 10 fun dives too.
We did an Advanced Open Water course with Utila Dive Center, which included a stay in their beautiful Mango Resort Inn.
You can also book to stay at Mango in Resort if you don’t plan to dive. They have a great pool which was lovely to cool off in each day, an onsite restaurant and bar, and great rooms and huts.
If you’re not diving, or not diving enough and don’t get accommodation included, here are some great options to choose from;
For a lower budget option, close to the ferry dock – Blue Sky Rentals
We stayed here for a night and paid around $50. The rooms were comfy with great AC and they have a private pier where you can sit and watch the sunset.
If you’re looking to treat yourself – Coral View Beach Resort
This beachside resort has great reviews and private access to the sea, as well as an onsite restaurant.
We strongly advise you to book accommodation in advance. Especially during peak season, because it can get quite busy on the Island, relatively speaking.
Where to eat on Utila
It is not overly easy to find vegan food on Utila. However, there are some very good options available once you know where to look;
- Trudy’s Restaurant, at Underwater Vision Dive Center next to UDC, has some very good lunch options
- The Pelican, across the street from UDC, can make great vegan and vegetarian versions of their dishes
- La Casita, halfway between UDC and the ferry dock has some pretty average but cheap options, including the famous Honduran Baleadas.
Things to do on Utila
If you want to take a break from diving, there are plenty of other things to do.
- Go on a Whale shark spotting tour.
- Relax at a public beach, such as Chepes Beach.
- Go Jet skiing.
- Party like there’s no tomorrow in one of the many bars along the beachfront.
- Go snorkelling from any of the dive shops or resorts around the island.
- Hire a kayak or 2 and go for a sunset paddle. There is very little boat traffic around Utila making it totally safe to Kayak around the port.
All in all, we consider Utila one of the highlights of our trip to Central America. The diving is amazing, the vibe is great and the weather is fantastic. This small, scenic, laid-back island should be the #1 on anyone’s Honduras itinerary.
What is the main Language of Utila?
I had to include this because you might not expect it, but English is actually the main language spoken on Utila Island. Very handy if you haven’t had a chance to brush up on your Spanish.
The Bay Islands in Honduras
Roatan Island – Honduras
Roatan is the most visited of the islands in Honduras, mostly thanks to its international airport and the cruise ships that frequent the island.
Is Roatan Honduras safe?
It is not unreasonable to ask if the Island of Roatan is safe, considering its proximity to Honduras and large volumes of tourists coming and going. However, you can rest assured that Roatan is generally considered a safe destination for tourists to visit.
Unlike Mainland Honduras, the crime rates are far lower and they have high numbers of police on the island to maintain everybody’s safety. As with all tourist locations, there is still always a chance of petty theft so it is important to keep your wits about you when visiting.
Where to stay on Roatan
To help you find somewhere awesome to stay we did some research and found a few great options, depending on your budget;
- For a budget option – Roatan Backpackers’ Hostel ($17 p/n for a bed in a dorm)
- Mid-range option – Mame Trees ($61 p/n for a private double room)
- Higher-end option – Hotel Posado Arco Iris ($86 p/n for a double room)
Have a look and check out the options for yourself but make sure to book ASAP as places book up months in advance.
Where to eat on Roatan
There are countless great restaurants all over the Islands but don’t forget to check out these places with awesome reviews for vegan food;
- Seawiches Vegan and Vegetarian restaraunt
- Crisp cafe
Things to do on Roatan
Know for its incredible beaches here are some of the best beaches to Visit in Roatan;
- West Bay Beach – This is the longest beach on the island
- Marbella Beach – For white sand beaches all to yourself
- Half Moon Bay – An activity Hub for diving, snorkelling, kayaking, and more
- Camp Bay Beach – Every Monday this is the place to be
- Mahogany Bay Beach – A man-made beach
Other things to do on and around the Island include;
- Give Snorkelling a go at any of the great reef spots around the island
- Hire Kayaks and go sea Kayaking
- Visit Roatan Island Brewing Co to experience local Beer in the best way
- Visit the Roatan Chocolate Factory
No matter your interests you will have no trouble finding plenty of fun ways to spend your time on this Island.
The Bay Islands in Honduras
Guanaja Island – Honduras
Guanaja is the smallest of the 3 islands and the least visited, making it appealing for that very reason. Interestingly on Guanaja, ALL vehicles are banned…Including bicycles! This makes for a totally unique visit while getting in your daily steps and enjoying some incredible unspoiled beaches.
Where to after the Islands in Honduras?
So you’ve planned your epic getaway to Honduras’s beautiful Islands but you still have time left. Or maybe you are working your way through Central America as we did. So where to next?
Well, how about Nicaragua, El Salvador or Guatemala? They are all right next door and fairly easy to get to from Honduras by shuttle or flight. To help give you some Inspiration you can check out our travel guides on these destinations;
Islands in Honduras – Final Thoughts
We both absolutely loved our time on Utila Island. The diving was incredible and the chilled vibe of the island totally hit the spot. If you’re looking for a relaxing getaway with the odd adventure thrown in then Utila really won’t let you down.
If you love diving or want to get started then this Island really is the place to be.
Of all of the Islands in Honduras, Utila is number one in our eyes and we are confident you will agree too.