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Rays of sunlight danced in the water as I followed a school of fish farther away from the boat. I kicked my flippers ever so gently, keeping my body as still as possible as I examined the coral reefs of the Bay Islands. As remarkable as the ocean’s wonders were, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Utila’s true hidden gems were actually located above the surface, where seafaring tourists seldom travel.
Exploring the small, pedestrian-dominated Utila involves fighting the temptation to spend every moment in the sparkling waters of the Caribbean. As one of Honduras’ Bay Islands that is commonly passed over in favor of the cruise-catering Roatan, Utila is a primarily known as a haven for whale shark sightings and affordable diving excursions. However, those who only spend their days at sea will lose the opportunity to savor Utila’s unique culture.
What to DoClients who desire the ultimate introduction to life on Utila will find exceptional hosts at Parrots Dive Center. This locally owned dive shop has a full menu of exciting on- and off-water adventures: kayaking through mangroves, exploring caves, hiking the volcanic cone of Pumpkin Hill to admire the sunset, to name a few. Parrots Dive Center's team will show travelers the best of the island’s natural beauty, welcoming community and proud culture. When clients sign up for diving excursions, they’ll also receive complimentary lodging at eitherthe Parrots Inn or the Harbour View Hotel.
On Utila, Caribbean bliss is never more than a few yards away. The Utila Municipal Dock — the gateway to the island for visitors arriving from Roatan or mainland town La Ceiba — is a central hub on Main Street. Here, travelers will find not only Parrots Dive Center but also the local bank, the supermarket and a variety of shops.
Sublime relaxation on the sand awaits those who journey down either end of Main Street, including a public beach to the west and a private beach with a modest entry fee to the east. Clients should also take a moment to stroll along nearby Mamy Lane and visit the Iguana Research & Breeding Station, where they can learn about swampers, an endangered iguana species found nowhere else in the world. The Whale Shark and Oceanic Research Center, located at the crossroads of Main Street and Mamy Lane, offers additional opportunities to learn about Utila’s wildlife. For an up-close-and-personal view of whale sharks and other gorgeous marine life that call Utila home, the Parrots dive team are happy to offer advice.
Although other companies may offer whale shark viewing tours, the reality is that there’s no guarantee that any group will catch a glimpse of these creatures on an excursion. Instead, the master dive instructors at Parrots recommend joining a snorkeling, fishing or diving tour. Because whale shark sightings are a top attraction for the island, any captain who sights a school of whale sharks will immediately relay this information to all other boat captains, regardless of tour affiliation. And when your clients’ captain receives the call, he or she will inform the group and sail them out to the viewing location.
Where to Eat and DrinkVisitors to Utila can spoil themselves with dining and drinking options that are as plentiful as the ocean views. ReThink is a fantastic cafe where folks enjoy a morning cup of coffee with the rising sun. For lunch, The Rock Cafe’s gigantic baleada (a large tortilla filled with mashed rice and beans, which is a Honduran staple) will fuel clients for a day of exploration.
Anyone hungry for pub grub should head down to Skid Row’s for po’boys, pizzas, burgers and beers. Meanwhile, if travelers are yearning for a sweet treat, Utila Chocolate Co. will let visitors sample each one of their 17 chocolates as they decide which of their delectable desserts to dive into.
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Ryan Schwede (@photos_in_the_rough) on Mar 14, 2020 at 2:02pm PDT
A post shared by Ryan Schwede (@photos_in_the_rough) on Mar 14, 2020 at 2:02pm PDT
Locals and expats alike welcome all travelers with open arms, eager to show them the island’s treasures. Utila offers an experience that’s not quite Honduran, not quite Caribbean — but, without a doubt, it’s one that will lure clients back year after year.
The DetailsIguana Research Centerwww.utila-iguana.de
Parrot’s Dive Centerwww.parrotsdivecenter.com
Utila Chocolate Co.www.facebook.com