Bay Islands of Honduras
The Bay Islands are nestled in the southwest corner of the Caribbean, about 48 kilometers/30 miles north of Honduras. The outstanding reef systems draw divers from all over the world and the islands have become a veritable hive of dive activity. Part of the second largest barrier reef in the world, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the islands of Roatan and Utila in particular feature vibrant coral, multicolored tropical fish, sponges as big as refrigerators and pelagic species such as manta rays, sea turtles and, especially from mid-February to April, whale sharks.
Each island offers different experiences both above and below the water. Roatan has a wide variety of accommodations, from all-inclusive resorts to budget hotels, great beaches and there’s plenty to do topside for nondiving partners. Utila is more laid back and is a well-known destination for backpackers looking to become dive professionals. Many complete their training from start to finish while living on the island. The Bay Islands are a great place to take that next course while enjoying dive sites second to none.
- West End Wall, Roatan – This wall starts great and gets even better as you drift along. Fish cover the top and a variety of sponges and corals cling to the side. Keep a sharp look out into the blue for schools of pelagics including eagle rays.
- Dolphin Den, Roatan – This site has a network of tunnels and canyons that takes you from one side of the reef to the other. You wind through an underwater maze, illuminated with natural light filtering through crevices, which starts at 5 metres/15 feet and exits at 12 meters/40 feet. Look for eels and silversides. The dive site gets its name from a tragic incident when many dolphins became disoriented in a cave and perished.
- El Aguila, Roatan – Wreck divers will enjoy visiting El Aquila, a 64-metre/210-foot cargo vessel purpose-sunk as an artificial reef. It rests at 30 metres/100 feet on a sandy bottom, which is full of garden eels. Prepared for divers before sinking, it’s easy and fun to explore the ship’s open compartments while looking for fish and moral eels.
- Black Hills, Utila – Located on the southeast end of the island, the Black Hills is a seamount that starts at about 10 metres/35 feet and drops to 50 meters/165 feet on one side into a trench. You’ll see thousands of brightly covered tropical fish, but also barracuda, horse-eye jacks, and yellowtail snapper.
- Halliburton, Utila – The Halliburton is a 30-metre/100-foot long supply vessel that was purpose-sunk as an artificial reef in 1998. The wreck lies in 30 metres/100 feet of water and sits upright, with the deck at 20 metres/70 feet and the bridge at 18 metres/60 feet. Marine life varies from shrimp hiding in the cracks to large schools of fish circling the bridge.
- Blackish Point, Utila – The reef is made up of black volcanic rock and soft corals. Starting at 9 metres/30 feet and dropping gradually down to 24 metres/80 feet, you’ll encounter stunning overhangs and crevices that host lionfish, moray eels and huge spiny lobsters. You may even spy a big midnight parrotfish.
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Visibility – Visibility is generally good in the Bay Islands from 24-45 metres/80-150 feet. Although it can drop lower during the rainy season.
Water Temperature – Water averages 25° C/78° F in winter and 29° C/84° F in summer.
Weather – Diving is great all year and warm tropical weather is the norm, with little change in temperature from winter to summer – the average being 29° C/85° F. Humidity is usually high, especially from May to September. June through October is hurricane season in the Caribbean.
Featured Creatures – If you’re looking to spot a whale shark, it can be done all year, but the best chance is off the north shore of Utila from March to May and again from August to October. There are more than 300 identified fish species in Bay Island waters. Divers frequently see dolphin, grouper, rays, barracuda, angelfish, butterfly fish, grunts, parrotfish, yellowtail snapper, horse-eye jack, octopus, lobsters, crabs, moray eels and hammerhead sharks.
Recommended Training – Take the PADI Deep Diver and PADI Wreck Diver courses for diving on the deeper walls and wrecks of the Bay Islands. The PADI Enriched Air Diver course is also a good choice as enriched air nitrox is available in the islands. Technical diving is also available, so look into PADI TecRec courses, including the PADI Rebreather Diver course, if interested.
Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.
Language – Spanish is the official language of Honduras, although most resorts and dive businesses have staff members that speak multiple languages.
Currency – Honduran Lempira. Credit cards are widely accepted.
Major Airports – A few international flights arrive at Juan Manuel Galvez International Airport on Roatan, but most flights pass through mainland Honduras or other countries in Central America before connecting to Roatan or Utila. You can also get to the islands from the mainland by ferry.
Electricity and Internet – Electricity is 110 volts, 60 Hz. Internet service is available in most of the hotels and cafes.
Topside Attractions – On Roatan, there are several zipline tours said to be some of the best in the world. You can also explore the island by horseback or visit Arch’s Iguana Farm or the Butterfly Garden. On Utila, you can enjoy a variety of other water activities besides scuba diving – kayaking, wake boarding, kite surfing, wind surfing, boogie boarding, etc.