My time in Honduras included the mainland as well as two of the Bay Islands (Roatán and Utila). As I flew in on the local prop plane, my first impression was that this country was so much more lush than Belize. You can really see this from the air.
San Pedro Sula
Many flights to Roatán from Belize connect through San Pedro Sula (unless you take the bus to Honduras which is a really long journey by way of overnight stay in Guatemala). If you are coming into Honduras by Belizean flight, you might consider staying here overnight since this is a big city and a refreshing difference from coastal Belize. San Pedro Sula is said to be a dangerous area, but my biggest problem was simply staying under the cap for duty-free shopping! They have a good sized mall in the city with stores like Bershka and Zara so I was in heaven as everything was so much less expensive than in the US. I met some really fun people over the course of my time here and en route to Roatán. Daytime walking seemed safe enough, but the traffic congestion is intense.
I had heard that Roatán was a great area for diving so I was anxious to see for myself. Diving here is very inexpensive here, probably because the sites are so close. It could be a place of contentment for divers, but given all of the other areas available, I am not sure I would return. On the other hand, I had never observed squid underwater, so that was a treat.
Something to keep in mind with the Bay Islands, though, is that the mosquitoes, sand flies and sand fleas are everywhere and despite the amount of repellant you use, you will have bites all over your body to prove it, especially in the warmer months. April/May are really hot and humid. Someone contacted me through TripAdvisor once to ask me if it was a fun place to lie on the beach. Uh…no. You can, however, take a water taxi to West Bay to check it out. While West Bay has one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen (albeit small), it is not fun to sit there and get bitten up unless you have a high nuisance threshold. I spent one day at the beach for some quiet time and that was sufficient.
Night life is fun in Roatán, specifically West End. The party literally moves from one end of the road down to the other end since the bars close at staggered intervals. Something important to know is that after 10pm, taxis can charge any rate they choose, so be sure to negotiate a rate before you get in the car. This was just a good general rule at any time on the island, though. If you stay in West End, you can walk almost everywhere because it’s only about a one-mile strip.
Getting between Roatán and Utila is not difficult, but it is does require some time, money and coordination. Two ferries are required and they connect through La Ceiba. They are timed well, though, so you do not have significant wait in between. If you are already on one of these islands, it would be worth it to see the other since they are so close. However, since the ferries pretty much have a monopoly, the roundtrip price between islands is a bit steep. The only other option is a private charter and they seem to be either more expensive or less reliable according to the locals.
This island is basically all backpackers and divers. Several of the dive operators here offer continuing education with complimentary hostal accommodations so it is fiscally desirable for young divemasters in training. Utila boasts the whale sharks but since those are easily accessible in Isla Mujeres, it was not something I pursued. I did complete my Emergency First Responder and Rescue Diver certifications here though. Because I was in training dives most of the time, I only did a couple of pleasure dives (similar to Roatán, diving is inexpensive here). The wreck here is great and there is some unique marine life as well. We found an adorable baby batfish on the ocean floor just at the end of the dock and watched him “hop” for a while.
Like Roatán, this is a good macro destination (spotted a Flamingo Tongue on a large coral fan) but I had limited patience for macro at the time I visited. The bugs are thick here too, so expect more bites. The water is very warm, so it is tempting to wear just a rash guard and swimsuit. That is perfectly acceptable and comfortable…until you run into the jellyfish. Those stings are common and they got all of us as we were getting back into the boat. Aside from the initial sting which felt more like electrical shock, there was no pain, just the pattern of red welts for a few weeks but no worries – you will be covered in other bites anyway so you won’t even notice. Food on Utila is reasonably priced. The island is safe and walkable since there is only one major road and you can easily get from one side to the other. You just have to be careful because there are a ton of scooters, motorcycles, modified taxis, bicycles, animals and walkers sharing the same narrow road.
The food to try in Honduras is definitely the baleada. This is a large tortilla (thicker and more hearty than what most Americans are probably used to) folded and stuffed with beans and other toppings. My favorite had beans, scrambled eggs and avocado. Baleadas are generally served as inexpensive street food (day and night for about ~$2 USD each) by vendors with pop-up stands and also sometimes as a side offering from a local store owner. The best I had were on Roatán and made by the owner of a little grocery store at the far side of West End. I had stopped in to buy bananas and water one afternoon and he told me to come back the next morning to try his homemade food. Yum. By the time I left Roatán, though, I had certainly had my fill and did not want another baleada for quite a while. While I completely forgot to snap any photos of baleadas, I did manage to capture this of a coffee milkshake served “para llevar” (to go). Don’t confuse that bottle in the back as water, though – it is how they serve hot sauce (the Honduran equivalent of Sriracha or Tobasco).