Honduras was not at the top of my list of countries to visit in Central America until I heard about Utila: A diver’s paradise with affordable prices, great beaches and unstoppable parties. How to resist?! Thus, along with some nuevos amigos, I decided to make it my next destination. I said goodbye to the Guatemalan coast and headed to the beautiful Honduran Bay Islands. 🏖
It wasn’t planned, but (fortunately?) we were in Utila during the Semana Santa (Holy Week). In Latin America, Easter is one of the most important festival of the year. The celebrations normally begin on Palm Sunday and will go on until Easter Monday. Therefore, many latinos make it their biggest holiday of the year. Semana Santa is normally celebrated with colourful processions, enactment of the Passion of the Christ, religious music concerts, the types of activities you would normally except during a religious festival. Well the local crowd that traveled to Utila were more about day drinking on the beach, indulging in street BBQ and dancing the night away to non-stop (very) loud reggaeton. Slightly different from our traditional chocolate Easter eggs hunt and bunch with the family…
So yes, there was a decent amount of alcohol consumed and some early morning walk home but I also made sure to find time to dive (that was the main purpose of this trip!). Utila IS the cheapest place to get scuba diving certified in Central America… 250-300$US for a three day PADI course, including accomodation, is quite hard to beat! I compare Utila to the Koh Tao of Thailand: sublime diving, fun people, backpackers’ prices.
Being already certified, my plan was to dive twice during the week (for a total of 4 fun dives). My first trip was with Paradise Divers, probably the most budget places of all the sixteen dive shops on the island (50$US for 2 fun dives). Cheap, but busy. That morning, we were 2 groups of about 10 divers on the boat. A little overcrowded for me, but once we were off to the peaceful bottom of the ocean, I was in peace. We did our two dives on the north side, where, if you’re lucky, you can spot sharks or even dolphins. Unfortunately, nothing big appeared in front of us, but the coral reefs and walls were indeed magnificent. We also got to see a few blue-spotted rays and impressive baracudas. Paradise Divers is a good place if you are on a tight-budget. It is a busy dive centre and hostel (where the cleanliness sometimes leaves to be desired), but it has a cool vibe with a bunch of laid-back hippy divers.
For my second dive, I opted for EcoMarine Dive Centre, the longest-established dive shop on the island. EcoMarine is a small, but very professional centre with knowledgable staff and an awesome deck where you can enjoy an après dive. Two of my friends were freshly certified so I taught it would be cool to dive all together. I still remember the first time I dove with my whole family in Antigua, five years ago, it was a special moment. I felt very grateful to be able to share this with my whole family. Exploring the underwater world with friends or family just enhance the whole experience! Thus, that day EcoMarine brought us to the south side and we dove at two sites named Black Coral Wall and Laguna Beach. The bright colours and formations of the reefs all took our breath away. We spotted a few calamaris, a lobster and a green moray eel. Nothing I haven’t seen before (I think I have about 60 dives under my belt now), but it was a perfect way to conclude my stay in Utila with my two new dive buddies!
Utila is definitely the perfect spot to chill for a few days, explore the stunning aquatic life and have a good time. However, don’t make the Bay Islands your unique Honduran stop! This beautiful country has so much more to offer, including lush rainforest mountains, beautiful lakes and rivers, friendly people and of course cheap baleadas (local stuffed tortilla). Don’t get fooled by its “dangerous” reputation you might have heard. Honduras is a friendly, hospitable and safe country to visit (by taking reasonable precautions obviously!), and it’s one of the most inexpensive country in Central America! Bring it on! ✌🏻