Diving in Honduras
The three primary members of the Bay Islands group—Guanaja, Roatan and Utila, run in an roughly east-west line with deep waters of the Continental Shelf to the north, and the coast of Honduras some 20 to 30 miles to the south and west. With more than 300 named dive sites to choose from, divers have a seemingly overwhelming number of options. By looking at the big picture, its possible to gain a basic understanding of what to expect. All three islands share similar underwater topographies, with minor variations in diversity. In general, their northern coasts are flanked by walls that begin at depths of 30 to 40 feet, and drop to depths of more than a half mile. This area marks the southern end of the Great Mesoamerican reef system. On Guanaja and Roatan this drop begins a quarter to half mile from shore, with shallow lagoons in between. On Utila the walls come closer to shore. These walls are often riddled with swim-throughs, pinnacles and caverns, perhaps carved when sea levels were lower during the last ice age. These formations become more pronounced as you move east, with Guanaja having some of the most dramatic underwater terrain. The Bay Islands sustain some of the highest marine bio-diversity in the Caribbean. Healthy hard and soft coral growths support a range of marine life along the walls, while their proximity to open water means an increased chance of sighting passing pelagics such as sharks, dolphin and rays. Utila is also known for the seasonal sightings of whales sharks, and dive operators will sometimes use surface intervals to head into deeper water in hopes of a bonus encounter. The island's southern shores are typified by gentle to moderate slopes that begin close to shore, then become steeper and sometimes vertical as they drop to depths of 100 to 150 feet to meet the coastal plane that extends to the mainland. Southern sites can be calmer, as they are not exposed to seasonal north winds, but don't always display the same stellar clarity. This is most noticed in summer and fall when rains swell mainland rivers and push nutrient-dense waters out from the coast. One benefit of this seasonal flow is the prolific soft coral and sponge growth that is characteristic of south-shore sites. On deeper sections of the slope, giant barrel sponges can grow to person size, and sea fans stretch broader than arms width. These reefs support a wide range of Caribbean reef fish, from grunts to groupers, damselfish, spotted drums, pufferfish, trunkfish, creole wrasse and parrotfish, plus smaller finds such as seahorses, cleaner shrimp and a range of invertebrates. The coastal plateau beyond the islands contains a number of pinnacles and seamounts that rise to support colonies of coral and sponges. Day trips from Roatan also bring divers to the small islands of the Cayos Cochinos, which sit within a marine park, and offer some of the most pristine dive sites in the region.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: All U.S. citizens are required to present a valid passport. The passport must be valid for 6 months beyond your date of entry into Honduras. Proof of onward or return ticket is required. No visa is required. EXIT REQUIREMENTS: Effective Feb 15, 2015, all persons leaving Honduras pay an International Departure tax of approx $32 U.S. and $13 U.S. which should be included in your international airline ticket taxes.
Vaccinations are not required for entry into Honduras. Check with your doctor and the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at cdc.gov.
Culture and Customs
While the Bay Islands are similar below the waterline, they offer distinctly different personalities above. Guanaja is a land removed, where small dive lodges perch on wooded slopes and boats are a primary means of transportation—the island has only one road. Some ten miles to the west, Roatan offers a far more developed take on island life, with first-class resorts and a well developed dive and tourism infrastructure. The island's west end is the center of night life, with waterfront eateries and lively bars. A few miles to tne west, the island of Utila is the hippie stepchild, where divers and backpackers mingle in open-air beach bars. The islands have a colorful history. They were a haven for French, English and Dutch pirates, who ventured forth to launch raids of Spanish treasure galleons. Spanish and British colonists made several unsuccessful attempts at colonization and fought one another for possession. The islands became a refuge for black Caribes—mixed descendants of African slaves and Arawak Indians—who were forcefully displaced from the eastern Caribbean by the British. This exodus became the foundation of the Garfuna culture, which still features prominently in island traditions of song, dance and language. Equally influential are the English-speaking settlers who arrived from the Cayman Islands. Today, the population is a convivial mix of Aboriginal, Spanish and English cultures, with international accents from travelers who come from around the globe to swim in bright Caribbean waters or explore the treasures below.
Electricity, Telephone and Internet Access
Electricity in Honduras is 110 volts, 60 cycle, the same as in the United States. Some outlets are 2 prong, so you may need an adapter for any items that require a 3 prong plug. The country code for Honduras is 504. Check with your cell phone provider for international data and cell service plans and costs. WiFi is available at many resorts.
Many hotels offer purifed water, but bottled water is recommended for drinking and brushing teeth.
Language & Currency
Spanish is the official language, known as Honduran Spanish which is similar to that of Nicaragua and El Salvador, however English is widely spoken. The local currency is the Lempira (HNL or locally referred to as Lps) but U.S. dollars and major credit cards are accepted in most places. Check the currency rate here.
Honduras is on Central Standard Time which is 6 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-6 GMT). Honduras does not observe Daylight Savings Time.
Location, Size and Population
Honduras is situated in the north-central part of Central America. It has a Caribbean and a Pacific Coastline. To the west is Guatemala, to the South is El Salvador and to the East is Nicaragua. Honduras is the second largest country in Central America, over 43,000 square miles. The main capital is Tegucigalpa. Some of our featured destinations include islands located off mainland Honduras known as the Bay Islands, including Roatan (approx. 32 square miles), Guanaja (19.31 square miles) and Utila (17.37 square miles).
The population of Honduras is just over 8 Million, with close to 65,000 living in Roatan, 4,160 living in Utila (2015), and 5,538 living in Guanaja (2015).