The Bay Islands consist of quite a few islands, but the main attractions are going to be Utila and Roatan. Roatan is the much larger neighbor of Utila and so has a lot more to offer for all types of travelers/vacationers, and all types of budgets. If there were only one thing the Bay Islands were to be known for: Scuba Diving.
Both islands are a diver’s paradise, with Roatan being a major destination for American travelers often on long weekend trips. Flights to Roatan are direct from Houston and Atlanta, and with the airport being as small as it is, you’re off the plane and into the hotel shuttle in no-time. There are hotel resorts scattered all around the island, but “West End” is the more common destination. Here the water is calm and just perfect to float, soak and relax with a beer or cocktail. This is also where to find the nightlife if you’re so inclined.
From the West End docks you’ll also be able to find a boat ride to Utila. Once you get to Utila, you’ll soon see why the Captain is able to drop you off at any dock you like. While small, Utila is a diving mecca, and thus a huge traveler/partier destination. The annual SunJam kicks off in August, which is an all night long electronic festival located on a nearby key, although this definitely isn’t the only party to be had on Utila. Nearly every night one can easily encounter a round of tourists trying out the Gifiti Challenge at Skid Row, for which success in the challenge will earn you a place in the world-renowned club of Skid Rowers. These members have identified each other in such faraway places as Thailand and even Nepal simply by the coveted T-shirt they earned.
Gifiti, if you’re not familiar, can cause a surge in vomiting rather quickly. Of course everyone has their own tastes and preferences when it comes to concoctions, but generally, gifiti is not pleasant. It is a local drink, first made by the local Garifuna, and consists of a mix of rum, herbs and roots. Now, what is a Garifuna? The Garifuna are the descendants and offspring of the native Central American Arawak tribes and the African slaves, who were deposited among the various islands near the Central American coast. While gifiti is widely spoken of amongst travelers, its definitely not the only thing that Garifuna culture has to offer, such as their own festivals and dances as well as seafood dishes.
Speaking of food, if you even remotely like seafood, you’re going to love the Bay Islands. While you can find seafood in an extremely large percentage of the world, the prices here make it all that much better. In fact the price of things is what entices so many people to Utila. Living on a small island like Utila generally makes prices higher, but this is able to be offset by the relatively large and consistent arrival and departure of travelers. Some people may arrive in Utila not expecting to dive at all, but quickly find themselves learning how to fill out a dive card simply because the combined cost of Room and Dive lessons is so cheap. Beyond places in Philippines – so it’s been said – Utila is the cheapest place to dive in the world. Many people show up in Utila with the intention of staying for at least a couple months, in order to go through all of the dive qualifications and even become a dive instructor themselves.
Getting off Utila and to the mainland can go one of two ways: an hour and a half long ferry trip, or an airplane charter. The ferry takes you to La Ceiba, from which at the bus station you can organize a trip to pretty much anywhere in Central America, but certainly Honduras has a lot more excitement to offer. Another interesting read can be found here: a short adventure story of motorcycle riding in Honduras.