The tropical island of Utila is located in the Caribbean Sea, about 30 km off the mainland. This island is part of The Honduras Bay Islands and is just 11 km long and 4 km at its widest, with a population of approximately 4000. Utila is well known for being one of the least expensive and most beautiful places in the world for a scuba diving vacation.
Getting to Utila from Belize
One of the affordable ways to get to Utila is by driving through Guatemala. I took a bus from Belize City back to Flores, and then another across the country, crossing the border into Honduras. You can imagine how tired we were after a full day of travelling! We spent one night in San Pedro Sula, which until recently used to be the “murder capital of the world”. I wasn’t aware of this before I came into the country. Luckily, we didn’t encounter any crime or anything unpleasant. We had a peaceful night, then continued our journey the next morning.
The same day, we took the Utila dream ferry in La Ceiba for 600 HNL / R 343 / 24.5 USD pp, and arrived just in time to celebrate Christmas and the beginning of the New Year – 2019.
The former British colony, provides a rich and diverse cultural experience with its unique blend of Honduran, British, and Caribbean cultures and traditions along with an influx of international travellers. We stayed in Utila from the 23rd of December 2018 until the 9th of February 2019, which was longer than we had planned.
The funny thing is immediately when we arrived, I heard that travellers often come to the island for a week or two but end up staying for month, even years. I suppose Utila has a certain charm that makes it hard to want leave.
Prior to arriving in Utila, we had heard from friends and read several travel blogs about Utila being swamped with sand flies. I had already had a bad experience in Caye Caulker so I was hoping that the situation on Utila was better. Well, there are A LOT of sand flies on the island. The problem with sand flies is that they are so small and you just feel them bite. To avoid scratching, you can buy natural calming oils from Luzia at Sunrise Utila.
The locals are very friendly and helpful and I soon became friends with a few people. While walking on the street, many offered a friendly wave.
Utila is unspoiled with no chain stores or fast food businesses, and apparently there are less than 20 cars in total on the island! Golf carts, bicycles, scooters and tuk tuks are the preferred modes of transport.
Utila has a range of accommodation, from hostels with dorm and private rooms, to mid-range hotels, all inclusive resorts and luxury vacation rentals. Many hotels and vacation rentals offer discounts on long term rentals.
After spending a full day viewing 10 apartments, we chose to stay at Hennessey Apartments because we felt Fern offered the best value for money. Our one bedroom unit was 6715 HNL / R 3930 / 275 USD per month which is fully furnished, includes WiFi and a shared washing machine. I was surprised by how affordable it is for accommodation on the island. Having our own kitchen helped to reduce our costs because most of the time, we prepared our own meals.
You can contact Fern on: +(504) 9916 8294.
Best Beaches in Utila
For some reason, some of the guidebooks say that Utila has no beaches but I was able to find some great beaches to relax on. These are some of my favourite:
1. Chepes beach – Toward the left of the island is a small beach which is popular with locals. You can enjoy a swim and have a beer under the umbrellas while in the sea.
2. Bando Beach – Visiting Bando beach is definitely a must do for those who travel to Utila. There are A LOT of coconut trees, adding on to that island feeling. It’s absolutely beautiful, I think I took about 100 photos here, haha!
3. Coral Beach – Located on the south shore of Utila. You can take a scenic (and free) 10-minute boat ride through the canal from the western end of town which will get you to Coral Beach Village. Just a few steps from the beach is the popular Neptune’s Bar and Grill (see below). Because it’s further away from town than the two beaches listen above, Coral beach is secluded, so there aren’t many people there.
4. Pumpkin Hill Beach – Pumpkin hill is popular for being the highest point on Utila. Its elevation reaches about 75 meters above sea level. After hiking up the hill and with a 360 degree view of the island, you can cool off at the beach right there.
Where to eat
Utila has quite a few dining options to satisfy your taste buds, these are a few options to suite all types of budgets:
1. El Castillo – This fine dining restaurant has to be Utila’s best kept secret and is only located 10 minutes from the port. They offer a variety of dishes – fresh fish, sea food, beef, pork, and chicken as well vegetarian dishes.
You can call +(504) 33 61 34 91 to make a reservation.
2. Local food – Baleada’s are a great snack. You can buy them either on the side of the street or at a local (budget friendly) restaurant. Each tortilla is filled with beans, cheese and onion and you have the option of having them with or without chicken.
3. Neptune’s restaurant – Neptune’s is located in Coral beach and offers indoor and outdoor/beach dining. You can either play volleyball, snorkel or relax on colourful hammocks which are stretched between palm trees.
What to do besides scuba diving
Although well known for the scuba diving, these are additional activities Utila has to offer. Head out to the Cays for a day trip, explore the mangrove lagoons, or if you enjoy water activities, there is also kayaking and snorkelling.
Guess what? I met two awesome South African travellers. They were the first I have met on this trip, so I was very excited. We spent many evenings watching the sunset at one of the many docks and admired the fiery sky, which is highly recommended.
Another place to watch the sunset is at an abandoned house which overlooks the island. Ask any local and they will tell you where its located. Because the house consists of several floors, you can take in the amazing view of Utila.
Thank you for reading,