When I was thinking about where I wanted to go for the last two weeks of December, I knew two things: I wanted to go diving and the only thing I wanted to wear was a bikini. My girlfriend Brooke casually mentioned that she was heading to Utila, Honduras to get her diving certification. Without knowing anything about Utila, I told her I wanted to join the trip. My best friend Janelle wanted to get certified as well so she was in for the trip. Utila is one of the bay islands off the Caribbean coast of Honduras. It’s a diver’s destination because it’s affordable, has warm waters and is the 2nd largest barrier reef behind Australia’s. The other thing that enticed me about this trip was that it was going to be a backpacker’s trip where we sleep in hostels, take chicken buses and meet the locals. I haven’t done a trip like this since I went to Southeast Asia ten years ago. I knew I would be in for an adventure.
What can I say about Utila that the photos don’t already reveal? It’s paradise. The waters are turquoise blue, warm, and the marine life will blow your mind. What was so shocking to me was how inexpensive everything was. We stayed at Rubi’s Inn which was $16 a night (normally $20 but we received a discount since we were diving with Parrots). I bought a package of 6 dives for $150 which normally, everywhere else in the Caribbean, is $150 per dive. There’s a reason why people come here for vacation and never leave.
While the girls were getting certified, I spent the week in Utila doing everything I love: woke up early, went for a morning dive, ate a Honduran breakfast of eggs, beans and plantains, went to the beach, drinks at sunset, sleep, and repeat. To me, what makes a place special and worth going back to is always the people you meet. Everyone we met had such interesting stories of how they got to the island and why they decided to stay. Utila has this amazing vibe where everyone is genuinely happy to be there. There’s this close knit community feeling you get when you’re there. It might have something to do with the diving culture. Diving is a way of life there. Everyone always asks did you go diving today? What dive site did you go to? It was a wonderful feeling to be a part of for a week. I’m already planning my trip back to Utila to dive with whale sharks which has been on my bucket list!
HOW TO GET THERE
-There are direct flights to Roatan on American Airlines from Miami. You just have to get yourself to Miami. There are chartered flights from Roatan to Utila but we took the ferry from Roatan – La Ceiba – Utila. I’m a sucker for boats.
TO EAT & DRINK
-Rehab: Don’t let the name fool you, this was our go-to spot for lunch, drinks and dinner. It’s waterfront and has a ton of choices for food.
-Mango Tango: Has a great terrace that overlooks the bay. This is the only spot I found on the island that serves wine and delicious cocktails.
–Mango Inn: As a New Yorker who takes her pizza seriously, I was skeptical about the brick oven pizza but it was delicious!
-Tranquila Bar: Every night we would end our nights here with a beer. It’s like the neighborhood bar that everyone goes to.
-RJ’s: This is one of the few places that only serves grilled fish.
-Gordo’s Place: We loved the fried chicken and plantains here that are smothered in a spicy sauce. One order is big enough for two.
-The Hotspot Cafe: I came here every morning for iced coffee (a rarity on the island), wifi, and breakfast. My favorite was the breakfast burrito.
-Diving: Obviously, if you are certified you must do diving. We dove with Parrots and loved them.
-Neptune’s: We spent Christmas day here and it couldn’t have been more perfect. It’s a restaurant in the Coral Beach Village with its own beach and pier. It’s a little more secluded than the main drag of Utila.
-Utila Cays (pronounced keys): After our dive in the North side of the island, we stopped at one of the cays (I honestly don’t remember which one) and had fish burgers for lunch. It was a special experience because you can only get there by boat.
-Bando Beach: It’s the private beach on the island which just means there’s a $3 entrance fee. It’s less crowded than the public beach. We watched the sunset here one night and it was just magical.