It was 5.30 when the sun began to sink low in the sky. We boarded our fully loaded boat. Dive tanks lined the sides while our regulators, fins and masks were already loaded nicely inside our BCD’s in small bundles under the seats. Excitement written all over the faces of everyone onboard, adventure twinkling with the setting sun in our eyes. As part of the advanced open watercourse we were doing our first night dive. By the time we were in the water the sun had only minutes of light left to share. A half moon hung in the sky as darkness slowly surrounded us. Torches were passed out to everyone involved and after a few checks we descended into the dark deep. With vision depleted all other sensors are elevated, the sounds of cracking coral was louder than ever, the feeling of my jaw clamping down around my mouthpiece. I relaxed as my eyes began to adjust to the darkness, and I followed the circle of light offered by the torch. Night dives offer a completely different experience in that all sorts of nocturnal creatures come alive undercover of the darkness. Crabs and lobsters come out of their holes to feed; Stingrays scour the sand patches in hunt, and the corals colours not seen during the daylight become as vibrant as the glowing shrimps. We all stopped in a circle together and forced our torches against our bodies blocking all light. In this moment of total black darkness we saw a wash of blue glows like a swarm of fireflies. Our guide swished his arms around bringing to life the bioluminescence in the water. We swam along in the darkness and looked at each other’s outlines glittering blue. It was a magical, beautiful and an absolutely incredible experience for all of us.
Honduras is known as one of the most dangerous countries on our planet. Typically Bianca and I head into these countries regardless and keep a heightened sense of awareness around the bad areas or during the night. But with Honduras the stories of police corruption, express kidnappings and worse became too loud to ignore. Busses don’t travel at night for fear of the frequent car/buss-jackings. For this reason, we skipped out the Honduras mainland and made a beeline straight for the Bay Islands. Situated in the Caribbean the island of Utila has a reputation for being one of the cheapest places on earth to go diving. Fierce competition amongst dive centres keeps all the prices in-check. For this reason along with the island’s beautiful barrier reef’s Bianca and I could not miss out this destination in our travels and neither should any other traveller in the area.
Antigua, Guatemala to La Ceiba/Utila Honduras – Q575
We organised our bus shuttle with Quetzali travel agency (found in the centre of Antigua), we wanted the most direct route to La Ceiba, Honduras. This specific shuttle bus runs only twice a week at 2am on Monday and Friday. The journey takes around 12-13hours and will arrive at the port before the last ferry leaves for Utila (4.30pm). The ferry costs $24US
Alternatively you can take a Hedman Alas bus with reclining seats, Wifi and A/C from Antigua at 3.30am for Q650. The problem for us was this option arrives at around 5pm after the last ferries departure. This means you will need to stay the night in La Cieba and catch the 9.30 morning ferry.
Utila/La Cieba, Honduras to Leon Nicaragua – $72 – $80USD
When we were finally ready to leave this beautiful island, we took the first ferry from Utila to La Ceiba at 6.45am ($24US). Once we collected our belongings we saw the man with a sign for Leon, this should be with Tornabe Shuttle Bus Company. The cost of the shuttle is $80USD, which we thought was very expensive. We were lucky to bargain the price down to $72USD each – definitely worth a try. The company advertises Free WIFI on- board, fresh fruit, movies and A/C. Note the WIFI does not really work, only in big cities so don’t expect much.
On the website it states the shuttle bus could take up to 15 hours but lucky us we got stuck at the border and the ride took us 17hours! Our driver said they have recently had trouble at the border so it took longer than expected.
Underwater Vision Dive Centre – Free during courses
You can’t go all the way to Utila and not go diving! It’s one of the best and cheapest places in the world to dive. So we did a little research and tried found the best place to complete our advanced dive course. We wanted a decent price and what felt like a safety conscious dive school, which has a friendly atmosphere. Underwater Vision fit the bill perfectly. The layout of the dive centre is the best on the island with its own artificial beach with volleyball court, hammocks and deck chairs looking out over the water, this makes for an awesome place to chill and meet some new people. The bar and restaurant are well renowned around the island and serve some very delicious food at a decent prices. We stayed in both the private and dorm rooms, which were clean and comfortable. Underwater vision has a really nice family atmosphere, everyone is so friendly and open that makes you feel part of the team straight away. We made a lot of good friends there that will keep in touch with for a very long time.
Please if you go to Utila check this place out! It 100% has our backing.
- Balleada – Our favourite Honduran street food. It is a wheat flour tortilla filled with mashed fried beans and any type of meat folded in half. You can fill it with a variety of ingredients and sauces. An easy an on-the-go food.
- Tajadas – Delicious hearty meal! This consists of fried plantain (my favourite) topped with cabbage and beef.
- Desayuno Tipico (Typical Breakfast) – This can be found all around Central America. Scrambled eggs with fried beans, plantain and homemade tortillas.
- Pupusas – Originated in El Salvador but popular among neighbouring countries such as Honduras. Thicker Corn tortilla stuffed with cheese, meat and beans.
- Fruits in Central America are absolutely delicious! Make sure you try Dragon fruit, Passion fruit, Avocado, Mango, Papaya and Pineapple depending on which season you visit in.
- Beer – you can commonly find blonde lagers everywhere; try the Port Royal, Imperial and Barena. Cerveza is the best way to cap off a long day of scuba diving so enjoy!
- Seven seas – This is a cheap restaurant on the main road and they do really delicious Baleadas, our favourite on the island and only a 2-minute walk from Underwater vision.
- Pucker up power up Juice bar for hangover cure health shots!
- Skid row – Great place to listen to some rock music and enjoy some good old sloppy American food. Try a guifiti shot, this is a herbal alcoholic remedy from rum, herbs and roots to promote well-being. Definitely worth a try!
- Jade Seahorse / Treetanic – Jade Seahorse is a great restaurant with one of the top ten bars in the world – Treetanic. The bar is very unique and reminded us of if Disney mets Goudi and they had a freaky weird imagination baby. Go see for yourself and take in all the amazing art.
Must see & do
- When in Utila, Learn how to dive! It is one of the best, most beautiful and cheapest places to learn how to dive in the world. We completed our advanced dive course, which consisted of a deep dive to 30m, a wreck dive, peak performance dive, navigation dive and a night dive. Night dive was our favourite as you can swim around with your torch off and see all the bioluminescence wow! What an experience. Dive centres not only offer many courses but also you can do your fun dives with them if you are already qualified or you can stay for a few months and complete your dive masters! There are so many dive centres to choose from so pick wisely! aka choose Underwater Vision!
- Go to the Cayes (Pigeon and Water Cayes) – Relax in paradise with the beautiful tropical beaches. There is no one else that lives there so you may be the only ones out there. The coconut and pine trees makes relaxing in your hammock perfect!
- Once you are all dived out, go play a friendly game of mini golf on the island.
- Hike up Pumpkin hill, it is locally famous and the highest point in Utila. You can capture some amazing views and sunsets from the top!
- Hike around hardwood forest and find the beautiful freshwater caves and enjoy a refreshing dip!
- Jade Seahorse / Treetanic – Just visit and be amazed!
Tips & Advice
- The Honduran currency is the Lempira
- There is a $3US entry fee at the border when arriving to Honduras by land
- If you are prone to seasickness then take some medication before going on the ferry, it can be a very bumpy ride!
- Travelling through San Pedro Sula at night is not recommended, as it is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Try travel there during the day or by pass it altogether
- Utila is a walkable island; it takes 20mins to walk from one end of the strip to the other. Do not need to use the motor-taxis
- Best time to visit Honduras is during the dry season, February to June
- Choose you dive centre carefully as they will be teaching you how to breathe underwater!
- Enjoy this beautiful and quirky island and its crazy locals.
Helpful words and phrases
The main language is Spanish in Honduras
Please Por Favor
Thank you Gracias
You’re welcome De Nada
Pardon me Perdone
English? Habla Ingles?