Diving in Honduras
Honduras means choosing between the main Bay Islands — Roatan, Utila, Guanaja and the Cayos Cochinos— just offshore. Each island comes with its own vibe and unique underwater show, but the one element they all share is the reefs are hosts to the most diverse (per the experts that publish the REEF FISH ID books) gathering of marinelife in the Caribbean. Just about everything that swims, crawls, slithers, or grows in this warm, tropical sea plies out its life as predator or prey in the waters that surround these edge-of-the-world islands.
Off Roatan, which is the largest of the Bay Islands and has the most diving infrastructure, you’ll find everything from the famed Mary’s Place, to world-class wrecks such as the Odyssey to close encounters with large Caribbean reef sharks at the aptly named Cara a Cara (Face to Face). There are more than 130 named dive sites off both the north and south coasts. Most of the diving consists of walls and sloping reefs packed with healthy corals and sponges. Also on Roatan is the Roatan Institute for Marine Science, which offers an exciting open water encounter for divers with a trainer and one or two bottlenose dolphins. Other dives not to miss are Calvin’s Crack, Valley of the Kings, CoCo View Wall and the wreck of the Prince Valiant. These reefs are worth many return visits.
About a 10 minute plane ride away from Roatan brings you several world’s away to Utila. This backpackers haven offers a great bang for your dive dollar. And, not all the dive resorts cater to just backpackers. Diver come to Utila for the lush walls that drop off to more than 3,000 feet and the year-round possibility, especially in May and August, of seeing the largest fish in the sea, the whale shark. These giants gather off this waters consistently and every surface interval offers the real chance of encountering them.
The least visited of the main islands is Guanaja. If you want bragging right, this is the place to come. With only a couple of shops, you’re sure to have these pristine reefs almost to your self. Although way off the radar, savvy divers know all about the famed Jado Trader, a 170-foot ex-freighter turned marinelife magnet, and such sites as The Pinnacle and Vertigo, which are swathed in rare black coral. Read about black coral here.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: All U.S. citizens are required to present a passport, but do not need to obtain a visa. EXIT REQUIREMENTS: All persons leaving the Bay Islands, pay a Government Departure Tax of approximately USD $33.
Vaccinations are not required for entry into the Honduras. Check with your doctor and the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at cdc.gov.
Culture and Customs
A true melting pot throughout its human history, the Bay Islands has always been a place to escape from the world, including the nearby mainland of Honduras. The islands have a rich history that include the Garifuna Indians that still have a presence on the islands and have retained both their culture and language. Their culture, which is a fusion of Arawak Indians, Caribs and African slaves intermingled in the 17th century, is seen throughout the islands via their music and dance performances, which have been infused with an African influence. The main customs in the island consist of fishing, privacy and enjoying the tropical sun. On mainland Honduras, the Maya culture dominated for years, and the ruins at Copan are some of the best in the world. Ethnic groups are divided by regions — Miskito people inhabit the rainforests, the Jicaque and Pech in the central highlands, the Lenca and Chorti in the remote western highlands, with the Hispanic, and dominant culture group, inhabiting the main centers of commerce.
Electricity, Telephone and Internet Access
Electricity in Honduras is 110 volts, 60 cycle, so no adapter will be needed for US visitors. The country code for Honduras is 504 and direct dial service is fast and clear. Check with your service provider for long distance/roaming information and costs. Internet service is sporadically available and some hotels offer it to their guests. Most main towns have internet cafes.
The water is safe to drink at the larger chain hotels, but it is recommended to drink bottled water while in Honduras.
Language & Currency
Spanish is the official language, but English is widely spoken. The local currency is the Lempira (HNL) but U.S. dollars are accepted in most places. Check the currency rate here.
History, Art, and Culture
The first major ethnic influx and human presence in Honduras was the Maya. Their civilization flourished from 150 AD until about the 9th Century. Most of the population was centered around the sprawling city of Copan, which has been excavated from the rainforest and is one of the most impressive Maya cities in the world. Columbus reached the Bay Islands in 1502, upon which time Honduras came under Spanish rule until 1821. During that period, the Bay Islands of Honduras became a favorite haunt of pirates and loggers, one group intent on escape from prosecution, the other intent upon profit. The two parts of Honduras — mainland and the Bay Islands — represent two distinct worlds. Art has always played a major role in the various cultures that make up Honduras and the Bay Islands. Famed Lenca pottery, with its unique black and white patterns, comes from this region. Wood carvings ranging from bowls to depictions of Maya gods can be found throughout the region, and many painters have started to make their mark on the world market. Read more about the history of Honduras here.