Honduras is a country known for its natural, historical and cultural delights. It is well-renowned as a country rich in Mayan ruins, scenic nature reserves and natural beauty. It is also world famous for fantastic scuba diving, specifically in the Islas de la Bahia or Bay Islands.
The Meso American Barrier Reef surrounds the Bay Islands and runs all the way from Mexico to Honduras, making it one of the world’s largest barrier reefs after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Two of the most popular islands to visit for both scuba divers and non-divers are those of Roatan and Utila. Both islands boast an abundance of colourful tropical fish and the must-see pelagic fish such as whale sharks, mantas and turtles. Roatan also offers wreck dives, coral walls and gardens and fringing reefs, adding great variety to an already fantastic diving location.
Best Diving Destinations in Honduras
Honduras boasts world-class diving coupled with affordable prices, friendly locals and a magical above-shore atmosphere that is difficult to beat. With so many options from wall dives to wreck dives to coral gardens along this massive barrier reef, it’s no wonder so many divers choose to progress their qualifications in this area of the world. There are three islands that offer brilliant diving in the Islas de la Bahia or Bay Islands and each one offers its own unique sites within easy reach via boat.
The first, and certainly the least explored island, is the island of Guanaja. Situated to the east of the Bay Islands, it is a small island that has plenty to offer. Although Guanaja is not as developed as its neighbours, Roatan and Utila, it still offers an impressive 35 dive sites and a handful of helpful dive companies to help you explore these sites. Magnificent coral reef surrounds the island which is covered in forests of pine trees and offers a truly wonderful reward for those willing to go off the beaten track.
Guanaja is home to the Jado Trader wreck which is a fantastic dive for slightly more advanced divers. Yellowtails and grouper tend to congregate at this site to feed, whilst moray eels and sharks are some of the other exciting marine life you may see underwater here. Black Rock Canyon is s series of trenches and caves originally formed by volcanic activity with plenty of cracks and recesses to explore. This maze-like dive is best experienced with a dive light to stand the best chance at seeing everything on offer, especially the abundance of tiny schooling fish that tend to hide in the niches. Black Rock Canyon is also home to large groupers and menacing-looking barracuda.
Utila boasts over 80 dive spots and offers many types of experiences including wall dives, wreck dives and coral gardens. Some of the wall dives such as Little Bight and Black Coral Wall are ideal for beginner wall divers thanks to their shallow depth, however the main attractions around Utila are the deep, dramatic walls found to the north of the island. The smaller walls still boast plenty to see, however, with green moray eels and resting nurse sharks often making an appearance at Little Bight or Black Coral Wall. For the more experienced wall divers, the national marine park known as Turtle Harbor on the north side of the island is a major reason for visiting Utila. Here steep walls will intimidate and exhilarate even the most experienced of wall divers, with sites such as the Great Wall extending far beyond the depths that most recreational divers can go. Large fish such as barracuda, snapper, grouper and even reef sharks all enjoy the sheer walls in Turtle Harbor.
As the largest of the Bay Islands, Roatan boasts wonderful variety in dive spots including wrecks, walls, caves, coral gardens and fringing reefs. The El Aguila wreck lies at around 28 meters and allows divers to swim through the broken pieces of the wreck to find all sorts of interesting underwater life. There is also a reef alongside the wreck, giving divers the opportunity to spot moray eels, macro life such as seahorses and plenty of tropical fish. The drop offs surrounding Roatan are known for sightings of majestic eagle rays, laid-back sea turtles, barracuda and tarpon.
Although similar in underwater offerings, Roatan and Utila are slightly different above shore and tend to draw slightly different crowds: Roatan as the largest of the Bay Islands is highly popular with both divers and non-divers and offers facilities to entertain all preferences. Accommodation is also varied on Roatan, where visitors can opt for upmarket, all-inclusive resorts or cheaper hotels that will allow for greater stretch on a strict budget. Utila on the other hand, with its laidback atmosphere and friendly locals, is frequented by backpackers who come to enjoy the great nightlife and inexpensive prices of this small island close to the mainland. With over 80 dive sites and a multitude of training centers to choose from, many backpackers choose to begin or progress their diving certifications here and some may even be looking to become diving professionals whilst in Utila.
When to Visit Honduras
Luckily for divers, Honduras is a year-round diving destination. The water temperatures seldom drop below 24°C and can be as warm as 29°C during the warmer months. Although storms are rare, they are more likely to occur in the months of October through to January, accompanied by strong winds and rain showers that may have an impact on diving visibility.
Getting to Honduras
To reach this Caribbean paradise, most visitors will need to visit La Ceiba which is considered the gateway to the Islas de la Bahia. Direct flights from La Ceiba will get you to all three of the popular Bay Islands, Guanaja, Roatan and Utila. From the USA, visitors can opt to travel to Roatan directly using Delta, United and American Airlines. San Pedro Sula International Airport is also an option, with good air and road connections to Utila. Travelling by ferry is also an option, with ferries from La Ceiba to Utila and Roatan and ferries from Trujillo to Guanaja.
Where to Stay in Honduras
Various accommodation options are available on all three of the Bay Islands of Utila, Roatan and Guanaja. For a less crowded destination, head to Guanaja which only offers a handful of dive resorts but still plenty to see on the surrounding 35 sites that are easily accessible.
For an abundance of dive sites and more dive schools than you know what to do with, choose to stay on the islands of Utila or Roatan, where you’ll be spoilt for choice. Many of these dive schools are long-established businesses and all offer affordable training with the dive sites only minutes away by boat. Dive resorts, eco lodges, waterfront hotels and dive packages are all available on these islands, and there are plenty of snorkelling opportunities for non-divers too.
Regardless of where you choose to stay, the Bay Islands are unlikely to disappoint, especially if you are looking to extend your certifications at a dive school as these are plentiful on all of the islands.