THE BAY ISLANDS
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.
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 !