Utila (Isla de Utila) is the smallest of the three major islands in Honduras´Bay Island group. It has just a few roads and you can reach most spots on the island within 20-30 minutes of walking.
Utila has growing tourism sector with a focus on scuba diving. Just like the neighbouring islands Roatan and Guanaja, Utila is located by the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. The waters around Utila are great for scuba diving, free diving and snorkelling. Despite being a small island, it is home to a lot of scuba diving schools and certifies a large number of scuba divers each year. One of the underwater attractions are the whale sharks who frequent this archipelago, and so are moray eels and spotted eagle rays.
The whole island and its cays was declared a Ramsar site in 2013.
If you don´t want to walk, there are plenty of tuk-tuks (moto taxis) on Utila´s main strip. You pay per person. It is a good idea to confirm the price before you start your trip, especially since prices are lower during the day and higher after dark.
Bicycle rental, motorbike rental and quad rental is available on Utila.
How big is Utila?
Utila is only 45 square kilometres, which makes it the smallest of the three main Bay Islands of Honduras.
Short facts about Utila
Location: In the western Caribbean Sea, off the northern coast of mainland Honduras
Archipelago: Bay Islands of Honduras
Coordinates: 16°06′N 86°56′W
Highest point: 74 metres
Population: 4,160 (year 2015)
Some of the little beaches have suitable snorkelling environments right by the island, but going out with dive boats is more popular. Most dive boats only charge a small fee to let you go with them.
At the time of writing, there are at least two free diving schools on Utila.
- Ecomarine at Gunter´s Dive Shop. They mostly do scuba training but offer some freediving courses as well.
- Freedive Utila. A school dedicated to freediving. Courses are available on all levels, from beginner to instructor.
Utila is home to a lot of dive schools (both PADI and SSI) and prices are competitive. Affordable courses where rustic accommodation is included are available. It is a good idea to shop around to make sure you find the best choice for hour preferences.
Below are a few examples of dive schools on Utila. The list is not exhaustive.
- Alton´s Dive Centre. (email@example.com)
- Bay Islands College of Diving. (firstname.lastname@example.org). Founded in 1995. Courses for all levels are available, including instructor training. English, Spanish, German, Dutch, and French. The Utila Hyperbaric Chamber is on the premises.
- Captain Morgan´s Dive Center. (email@example.com). PADI and SSI courses. Famous for their dives on the north side of the island.
- Coral View Beach Resort & Dive Center. (firstname.lastname@example.org). PADI. Courses for all levels are available.
- Ecomarine – Gunter´s Dive Shop. (email@example.com). Has been on Utila for 30 years. Scuba diving and free diving courses (AIDA and Apnea Total).
- Paradise Divers. (firstname.lastname@example.org). PADI and SSI.
- Underwater Vision Dive Resort. (email@example.com) PADI, all levels. Multi-lingual staff.
- Utila Dive Centre. (firstname.lastname@example.org). PADI, all levels. Famous for its instructor training. Daily north-side dive trips.
SUP & kayaking
Utila is great for stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) and kayaking.
There canal that splits the island east/west is suitable for kayaking all the way through.
Many of the dive shops rent out kayaks, and some accommodation places include kayaks and/or paddle boards for free when you stay with them.
For kayaking the north shore through the Mangrove Channel and down to the cays, going with a kayak guide is recommended unless you are already familiar with the conditions.
- The freshwater caves on the eastern shore. They are swimable, but obtain safety information before you go, as people have gotten lost and died inside in the past.
- Pumpkin Hill, the highest spot on the island. From here, you have a great view of the island and the surrounding sea.
- The crashed drug runner airplane in the jungle north of the airport.
Sun Jam is a 24 hour dance music festival held on the first weekend of August each year. It takes place on Water Cay, a small cay off Utila. If you want to visit during this weekend, it is best to reserve accommodation well in advance.
While there is no international airport on Utila, there is a smaller domestic one available with flights from Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba, and Roatan. The plains flying to Utila are normally small single or twin engine planes.
Examples of domestic airlines that traffic Utila are Aerolineas SOSA (flights on Saturdays) and CM Airlines (also only on Saturdays).
Bay Island Charters is local Bay Island company that offers local charter flights.
The closest international airport is on the island Roatán. It is called Juan Manuel Gálvez International Airport (Spanish: Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Manuel Gálvez). IATA: RTB. ICAO: MHRO.
The Utila Dream ferry has daily service to Utila from Roatan and La Ceiba.