Utila: Diver’s Paradise

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Rough seas, big swells, and a little catamaran rocking uncontrollably through the passage between La Ceiba and the island of Utila. Undeniably the hardest boat ride we’ve taken to date. After an hour of controlled breathing– trying to focus on anything but the handful of sea sickened people around us–we set foot on the little island known best for the hoards of scuba certifications it hands out. Utila, the diving island, is better known as the smaller island of Honduras’ Bay Islands. Sunshine, clear waters, rickety little wood docks jetting out over the corals below: this is what all the buzz is about.

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After seeing more than our fair share of little islands like this, there is something familiar about being here. The sandy streets and little restaurants operating out of people’s homes, the one room grocery stores, the hand painted signs… There are no chain stores, no big hotels, and very few cars. People get around on golf carts and motorcycles. Locals and long term runaways from other countries know each other by name. The local movie cinema is a quaint but impressively constructed theater built in someone’s attic. Utila is walkable, easy to learn, and friendly.

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For such a popular place, the island is remarkably under-built: simple wooden buildings, none of which are more than two stories high. Bars, restaurants, and dive shops are centered around the bay, and for many this busy section of the island is the only part they see. But the sealed street turns into a sand roadway after about twenty minute’s walk- where you find quiet paths, unspoiled natural areas, and nearly-vacant coves for snorkeling in. This quieter part of the island is what has captured us the most. Away from town, the setting feels almost surreal- we have swam with eagle rays and kayaked over clear blue water and shallow reefs. What Utila lacks in beaches it makes up for underwater, and what amazes us the most is that the snorkeling right offshore is arguably better than the diving. Utila’s best is what you find outside of town, and two minute’s swim from shore.

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