Honduras North

THE BAY ISLANDS

check the survey at Utila & Roatan



Description : The number one attraction of Honduras, particularly famous among eager-to-become-divers.

What island ? Considering the high cost to reach them and the lack of connection between them, a choice must be made. There are regular discussions over the internet about which of Utila or Roatan is the best island. Utila is still getting the bigger share of backpackers as still slightly cheaper but Roatan is catching up... now offering diving deals in the US$170-199 bracket for PADI Certificate. Choice of cheap accomodation & food is more limited on Roatan but there are places as well. Roatan, much bigger, is usually considered to be nicer, with more & better beaches and snorkeling spots. The backpacking atmosphere however remains on Utila. Conclusion : If a tourist, snorkeler, beach seeker or hiker, choose Roatan without hesitation. If a backpacker, start with Utila and come back for Roatan ! Guanaja, the third island, is out of the polemic as clearly up market and less diving oriented. 

How long ? At least 4 or 5 days, to justify the travel expenses and get your diver certificate !

When to go ? Water visibility is best from March to September. October & November are the wet months but whale sharks are in the area. Summer & holidays are of course more busy and expensive.

Going by boat ? The pier is a few km out of town and there are no public transport toward it nor 'collectivo taxi'. From town or the bus station, you will have to pay L25-30 per person or L40 if on your own. If alone, there are little room for negotiation but if with some friends, stick together and try to bargain ! The drive should take around 10-15mn. 
Once at the pier, you are required to leave your bag : those travel separately. The ticket office opens one hour before the scheduled departure. Showing up at least 15mn before is recommended. 
The boat to Utila leaves at 9:30am and to Roatan at 3pm. They are often a bit late as coming from the islands (one boat only). The cost is L185 (US$12) to Utila (1 hour) and L195 to Roatan (1.5 hours). This is certainly expensive !
There are no transports between the islands. You have no choice but to go via La Ceiba. The schedules have been arranged so that you can go from one to the other the same day : it leaves Roatan at 7am and Utila at 10:30am.
The boat is nice enough with AC, video, toilets and a small restaurant. As the sea can be bit rough, most people avoid the latest and stay outside on the upper deck. A few have to rush to the toilets...

Going by plane ? In theory, the plane cost is about the same as the boat. The demonstration is as follows : boat (US$12) + taxi ($2.5) + basic hotel in La Ceiba ($6.5) = $21, that is the cost of the plane ! 
In practice, you really do not need to spend a night in La Ceiba (you could stay in cheaper Tela and take an early bus) and you will have to pay for a night on the island anyway !
Anyway, the plane remains a good and original alternative. There are a lot of flights daily to Roatan, a bit less to Utila and even less on Sunday. Outside of the peak season (Dec to April), you can usually show up at the airport and get your ticket without reservation. Better still to check with a travel agency. 
Considering that the North coast does not appeal to everyone, you could also consider flying from San Pedro Sula or Tegucigalpa and save lot's of stressful time...