Backpacking, Honduras

Utila Diving Experience

Taking my PADI diving certificate has been a dream ever since I was a kid. I used to go with my mom while she went diving in the weekends. Waiting up on the boat, always so excited to hear what they had seen down in the deep. Diving in Utila Honduras and taking my diving certification, became a reality as I traveled Central America back in 2017.

While traveling around in Central America I met people who told tales about Utila, and how everyone found it hard to leave this paradise of an island. After my one week on the island turned in to two, and several attempts on leaving failed. I can definitely say that this island is something special.

Utila in Hondruas

Utila is the smallest out of the Bay Islands of Honduras after
Roatán and Guanaja. It is popular for the great reefs and diving sights nearby, and also, the possibility to snorkel with the biggest fish in the ocean the Whale Shark. If you’re lucky, you’ll come across a pod of dolphins on one of your dives too, or a turtle or two!

whaleshark in honduras, scuba diving Utila travel guide
Not the best pictuere, but this is the whaleshark we snorkeled with in-between our dives on my first day out in the open water!

From Utila you have access to the second largest reef system in the world, after the Great Barrier reef, The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. It really is an amazing sight. You can swim along steep walls covered in corals on one side and open ocean on the other. The reef is protected and the only fish allowed to hunt is the Lionfish, as it’s an invasive species. This in return secure a beautiful flourising life on the coral reef and plenty of stuff to admire.

You can argue that the neighbor island, Roatan, is famous for more resort kind of diving lessons and tourism. On the other hand, the diving centers in Utila focus more on backpackers.

Sunset at Altons diveshop

How to get to Utila

So, hopefully, I have convinced you that Utila is a place worth visiting. But, how can you get there?

To travel to Utila you have to go by Ferry from La Ceiba. La Ceiba is a small town on the coast of Honduras. And if you want to spend some time there, there are great opportunities to do white water rafting. To get to La Ceiba most people come from San Pedro Sula inland, that’s what I did, coming from El Salvador. If you come from Guatemala though, you will most likely come directly from visiting beautiful Semuc Champey and the Coban ruin.

Ferry to Utila

The company that will take you to Utila is called Utila Dream Ferry. The Ferry leaves from La Ceiba twice a day. 9 am and 6.40.pm. And from Utila to La Ceiba 7:00 am and 3:20 pm and takes about 45 minutes.

Ferry to Utila Honduras Central America diving in Utila
Arriving Utila with the Ferry

Ferry prices to Utila

Getting to and from Utila is kind of an expensive business compared to a lot of other transportation distances in Central America. When I went in 2017 the prices were; 575 Lempira ($25) one-way or 1,150 Lempira for a round trip ticket. Trust me though, it’s worth it.

Also, keep an eye out when you’re on the ferry! I sav a pod of dophines on the ferry leaving Utila. The perfect goodbye hehe

Why choose a diving school in Utila?

So, why would you choose to spend time on Utila? The people, the vibe, the diving, it all just makes you feel like you’ve found your little Utila island family. A home away from home.

Alton’s Dive Center

I certainly found mine, at Alton’s Dive Center. Sometimes when you’re on the road, especially as a solo traveler, you just need to feel like you belong, and that’s how I felt at Alton’s. What I liked about Alton’s is that they have on-site accommodation at the dive center, so you don’t have to stay somewhere else. They also have a kitchen and lots of hangout areas, also with hammocks. The offer free kayaks and snorkeling gear for everyone staying there. Every day they have a bar/restaurant/kiosk open where they sell one or two delicious lunch meals, as well as snacks and drinks.

Other than that, I’ve heard great things about Captain Morgan dive center too.

Utila Scuba Diving

Utila is said to have some of the most affordable scuba diving courses in the Americas. The only place I’ve heard they kind of matches the prices are in Santa Marta in Colombia. Though I’ve heard the underwater life is better around Utila.

The Utila scuba diving packages usually include 2 free dives or 1 night dive. In addition, you get a diving family if you’re lucky. The normal deal at the dive centers in Utila is that you get free accommodation during your course period too.

I paied 350$ for the Open water course and the same for the advanced course, all expences, gear and accommodation included.

It was really easily done, I simply arrived, told them what I wanted to do. I started the theory of my course the same afternoon:)

My diving experience

Like said, I started with my open-water diver course the same day I arrived. On my first day in the open ocean, I got to snorkel with a whale shark in-between dives. No words can describe how it feels like, to swimming next to the biggest fish in the sea. They are way faster then i thought they would be!

The open-water course comes with free accommodation during the whole course and 2 free dives. That turned out to not be enough, and I was soon doing my advanced PADI diving course too.

My night-dive

My one and only night-dive is my favorite dive so far. The thought of swimming in the deep with no lights made me a bit nervous, but when I got in, the nerves were all forgotten. To see the same reef in the dark was a completely different experience.

What really took my breath away was bioluminescent plankton that light’s up when anything moves, covering the reef in sparkles. The “strings of pearls” blinking away in the dark was also absolutely incredible. The sience behind the strings of pearls, also, more correctly called ostracods. Is pretty complex, but the joy of watching the lightshow underneath the sea is simple joy, hehe.

We spent half of the dive without light, just swimming around and looking at the reef glittering. And I may, or may not, have been waving my arms around like a crazy person. So fascinated by the “glittering” bioluminescence lighting up with every move.

After finishing my two courses, free dives and all, I didn’t feel ready to leave. But after 5 days out of the water, I decided that I would probably never be ready to leave. Sitting in a shuttle headed for Nicaragua, a certified PADI diver, I honestly was still not sure if leaving was the right decision. But, I can always go back.

Other things to do on Utila

So you don’t actually have to dive to visit Utila. I have friends that went and spent several days on the island without diving.

First, getting around on Utila is easy done by food as most of the hostels, dive centers, free diving centers, grocery stores and so on, are located on the south side of the island. Most things are centered along the one main street going all along the shore. From one end to the other, it can be a bit far to walk, but there is always a tuktuk around to take you to your next destination. Especially arriving at the ferry terminal with your backpacks, the tuktucks are a nice option.

scuba diving in Utila Honduras
The “main street” of Utila

Spend time on the beach

After all, Utila is an island and there are lots of beaches there, and beautiful sunset spots. There are both public and private beaches around the island. If you have to pay an entrance fee, its usually not more than a couple of dollars.

Take out a kayak, Kano or paddleboard

We took out one of the Kanos at Alton’s, which was free for everyone taking a diving course. We went paddling to Neptunes at Coral Beach Village, through a lagoon, and through the Coral Marina canal. This trip made for some really beautiful views, and a decent workout.

When we got there we tied up the Kano and headed for the beach. The beaches there also has some great snorkeling and a decent nacho platter. I don’t have any photos from this day as we didn’t bring our phones. So you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Visit Water Cay

There are taxi boats that go around to the different cays every day. Water Cay is probably the most famous one. We spent an afternoon there, eating snacks, snorkeling and chilling. There are some great snorkeling sights there, and the cay is completely untouched. No trash cans, no houses, or constructions. Just a couple of tables, palms, threes, a “toilet” and the beach. You can actually walk or snorkel around the whole cay. I think we paid about 6 $ per person to get transportation to and from Water Cay.

Water Cay Utila Island in Honduras Diving scuba diving school

Party

It’s never long between the parties on the island. In fact, I’m sure you can find a party every night if you want to. From beer pong tournaments, to tequila-tuseday and ladies night. Utila really has it all.

Hike Pumpkin Hill

Pumpkin Hill is the highest point of Utila at 74 meters. To get there you have to drive or walk along a dirt road before you begin the hike. From the top, you have a 360-degree view of the island. In the are there are also some freshwater caves that can be explored, but be careful and go with someone who knows the caves.

Visit the beautiful Treetanic

Tritanic is a hostel, party place and art garden located on the island and it’s quite a sight. The whole place is made out of broken tiles, mirrors, cups, plates, jars and so on. It was so cool to just walk around and admire the art. In the back of the garden are several accomodations and tree houses, and we even got to walk up in one of them. On top of the tree house they had made a terrace, litteraly over the threetops, with an amazing view.

Treetanic Utila Honduras diving diving school

I hope this post was informative and inspirered you to visit Utilia!

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