The Bay Islands of Honduras - Unlike the rest of Honduras, the language of the Bay Islands is English - with a twist. Peppered with words like “steam’n” (to go boating) and “looking glass” (mirror), the local language harks back to the era of English pirates. And now, as it was then, the Islands welcome anyone longing to break from a nefarious past...
In Exile on a Caribbean Island - Guanaja
The tallest of the three main Islands, Guanaja is the Island that draws visitors who are seeking isolation and privacy. The resorts around Guanaja are often small, family run eco-resorts that specialize in diving, kayaking or hiking.The major settlement is the ramshackle town of Bonacca. With tightly packed, old-Victorian houses, narrow wooden walkways and crisscrossing canals – Bonacca exuberantly spills over its tiny cay. There are no cars on the Island and most families own a small boat for transportation.
Visitors to Guanaja are often surprised by this unspoiled Caribbean paradise. The Caribbean pine jungles and white sand beaches probably have not changed much since Columbus first arrived and sighted the Paya Indians manning their giant canoes. Solo travelers are welcome and embraced.
Express yourself on Utila:
Utila has just one main street. It is heavily trafficked by a couple of old pick-up trucks that serve as taxi’s; a few ATV’s; miscellaneous scooters whose owners transport trays of donuts or sacks of coconuts from one end of town to the other; bicycles in various states of disrepair; children in tidy school uniforms; dogs chasing cats, and (while we were there) an escaped pig. Music blares from a variety of sources competing with bicycle horns and shouted greetings. Taco stands, frying fish and over ripe mangos make the humid air thick with a jungle odour.
One of the charms of Utila is that tourists and locals mix freely. Most of the shops and restaurants are little family run places that are just as likely to cater to their neighbors as to international visitors. This is the Island to come to if you are seeking a neighbourhood that becomes ‘home’ in a few days. If you are looking for a restaurant where they will learn your name and your favourite dish (and maybe even remember when you return a few years later) and a hotel where the guests and owners mingle over the Caribbean sunset, Utila may be the place. Popular with budget travelers looking for inexpensive diving, Utila also boasts higher end resorts.
Relax and regroup on Roatan
Roatan looks like a South Pacific gem. Lush and green, it soars out of the perfect tropical blue. The largest of the Islands, Roatan is also the most diverse. From 5-star resorts, complete with heavenly spas, to cosy B&B’s – this is the Island for relaxing and pampering yourself.
Unlike the other Islands, Roatan offers more in the way of tourist diversions; shopping, fine dining, horseback riding and sightseeing are just a few options. Take time to visit the market, Sherman’s iguana reserve, and to learn about the Garifuna people who were marooned on the Island by the British in 1786. Their Black-Carib culture is still strong and is celebrated through dance and art.
When you are done being a tourist, spend some time relaxing in one of the hammocks you’ll find stretched between two coconut trees along the white sand beaches of the West end.
Hidden treasure, jungle waterfalls and wild orchids. Hiking through the jungle on any of the Islands offers plenty of adventure but very little danger. Trails tend to be well marked and hiking tours are often available.The dense jungle vegetation, the mist of a waterfall, or the view of an entire Island from the top peak are just a few of the rewards
For all its aura of macho danger, the truth about diving is it is really just about looking at pretty fish. In the Bay Islands it is about looking at a lot of pretty fish decorating spectacular coral walls, labyrinths and seamounts. The Bay Islands is considered one of the best places in the world to get PADI certification. Utila offers the most affordable training, but all three Islands have world-renowned reefs to explore.