Honduras doesn’t have the best reputation, its true. This country in Central America is often portrayed in the media as one of the most dangerous countries in the world, and perhaps with good reason.
The capital city Tegucigalpa isn’t the safest place to be, but before you discount Honduras completely, you will be pleased to know that there are beautiful, safe places to visit and dive in Honduras, the most popular of these being Utila.
Diving in Utila is renowned among backpackers and budget travellers as one of the cheapest places in the world to get PADI certified. But that’s not the only reason why diving in Utila is so popular.
Why Go Diving in Utila
Utila is a small island off the coast of Honduras, and is part of the Bay Islands, which also includes neighboring Roatan and Guanaja.
Utila is a laid-back island, and the residents are a mix of Garifuna (African) British and Dutch descent, mixed with a young diving crowd who flock to the waters here.
Despite its size, there are plenty of bars and restaurants to keep you well-fed and entertained, although there is a distinct backpacker vibe there are some more upmarket places to stay as well.
Nearby Roatan is more popular with cruise ship passengers, whereas Utila keeps it basic, budget and fun.
Dive Schools in Utila
Generally, the quality of dive schools in Utila is very high, with dive schools getting excellent reviews on Tripadvisor for safety, quality of equipment and diving staff.
The most popular dive schools in Utila include Alton’s, Utila Dive Center, Captain Morgan’s and Underwater Vision. I did my PADI openwater certification with Utila Dive Center and was very impressed.
Their accommodation is included with the dives and training courses, and there is a swimming pool that they use for training as well, which was great when a storm hit and the water was to rough for us beginners.
Sea Life in Around Utila
The second-largest reef in the world, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, stretches along the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, Belize and Honduras, and is home to a dizzying array of sea creatures.
Green turtles and hawksbill turtles are common here, as are spotted eagle rays, stingrays, and moray eels. The reef system is home to more than 500 species of fish, 350 species of molluscs, and 65 species of stony coral.
Diving in Utila is a great way to get up close with animals you may not see elsewhere, as many of the species here are endangered or under some degree of protection.
Pods of dolphins are often spotted in between dives, and if you are lucky you might also see a whale shark in the waters around Utila. Whale sharks are present here all year round, but are more commonly sighted from March to May, and August to September.
Boat captains are always on the look-out for whale sharks so keep your fingers crossed!
Dive Sites in Utila
There are over 100 dive sites around this little island, varying from calm sites with sandy bottoms perfect for beginners, to deeper dives like the Halliburton wreck, caves, caverns and the Black Coral Wall.
The most popular dive sites in Utila are on the south side of the island, as they are closer to the docks and have calmer waters than on the opposite coast.
The Best Dive Sites in Utila
Jack Neil Beach
For beginners, Jack Neil Beach is a perfect dive site. This protected cove has a sandy floor where you can practise your buoyancy in the water without damaging the fragile coral. There is still plenty to see here though, Long Snout Seahorses, Giant Hermit Crabs, and Brown Garden Eels are often spotted here, and you could also catch site of a Flying Gurnard, Short-nosed Batfish or a school of Caribbean Reef Squid as they change colours around you.
The Halliburton is the best wreck dive on Utila. The ship was deliberately sunk in 1998 to create an artificial reef and a great place for more advanced divers to explore. Here you might encounter big Dog Snappers, Barracudas, Atlantic Thorny Oysters and a number of Bearded Fireworms, as well as various ‘gifts’ left by other divers such as bicycles or even a toilet, for some unique photo opportunities.
Black Coral Wall
This impressive wall is covered with coral, including the endangered black coral, which you can see at just 8m depth instead of at its usual depth of 50 to 500m.
The airport caves dive is fairly shallow, with a maximum depth of 16 metres. There are several archways to explore, as well as an open cave to swim through. You can also see spotted eagle rays here at the base of the reef.
On the north side of the island, this dive site has incredible overhangs, deep caves and stunning topography. The largest species of parrot fish, the midnight parrot fish measuring up to a metre long, is often found here, as well as plenty of other species, but the real draw is the seascape.
This dive site on the west of the island is in one of Utila’s Marine Protected Areas and has lots of soft corals and friendly nurse sharks. These curious creatures will often come to investigate divers here, which makes it a popular choice. These are just a small sample of the dive sites in Utila, there are plenty more to choose from. No matter what you are looking for in a dive, Utila is sure to deliver!
About the Author:
Claire Sturzaker, Tales of a Backpacker
Claire is a solo traveler, originally from the UK but frequently found abroad. She specializes in Latin America and European destinations, and her blog Tales of a Backpacker is designed for travelers on a budget who are willing to splurge on amazing experiences. Aiming to seek out the best food, drink & experiences in a destination without breaking the bank, she loves to share her stories & inspire others to travel. You can follow her adventures on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.