UTILA: My little piece of heaven on earth! Juan Miguel Diban
Where was your vacation? Utila, my little piece of heaven on earth, also the smallest of the three major Bay Islands, located off Honduras’ north coast in the Caribbean Sea. I´ve been visiting the island almost every year since the first time I went in 2005, it was love at first sight. Last time I stayed for 6 days, and trust me, it’s never enough!
I love Utila; its beaches, its good vibes, the beautiful keys, and its laid-back atmosphere definitely make it my favorite spot in Honduras. The main activity and biggest attraction on the island is scuba diving; it’s considered one the best and cheapest destinations on earth to get your PADI license.
During the day, you can rent a bike and stroll down through its narrow streets, which are full of dive centers, coffee shops, resto-bars and funky places. Nightlife is also one of its highlights, offering fun nights of “anything goes” spirit, full of people from all around the world, cheap drinks and good music.
Your favorite thing to do and eat there. My absolute favorite thing to do once in Utila is visit the stunning keys around the island. Their white sandy beaches invite you to enjoy the landscape, swim in its turquoise water and snorkel. I also enjoy riding a bike to discover new places and to work out a little. To move around the island you can rent bikes, scooters, golf karts or four wheelers.
Another favorite spot on the island is Neptunes at Coral Beach Village, a beautiful beach club and resort located a 15 minutes boat ride away from the main town; the ride is totally worth it. Its location is amazing and the food is really good.
My favorite season to visit the island is for New Year´s Eve, not that empty, not that full, with great parties and the weather during this time is perfect.
There are also two nice beaches on the island: Bando Beachand Chepe’s Beach.Bando Beach and Chepe´s Beach. Bando is kind of a private beach club, with a volleyball court, water sports and a bar. The place is clean and has huts and beach chairs for you to enjoy the view. The salty water is cool, but not cold. Cover is around $4. Chepe´s the public beach, at the other end of the main road in town. In high season, it gets crowded and it’s the place to be and party early at noon.
RESTAURANTS & BARS
Munchies: One of the oldest in the island, recently renovated, serving delicious breakfast, healthy bowls, american snacks, paninis, great coffee and pastries.
Mario’s Place: Mario is a really nice guy, who likes to surprise you with the best seafood dishes on the island, Honduran style.
Che Pancho: A small place runned by an Argentinian family, offering you many Argentinian casual dishes, like the famous choripanes, milanesas, sandwiches, salads and smoothies.
Mango Tango Café: Salads and pasta are their specialty, with a beautiful view of the bay. Don´t forget to ask for their Lion fish carpaccio, it´s delicious!
Neptunes: I’ve tried many dishes and they are all really good, specially the tuna tartare, quesadillas, fish fingers, and of course their cocktails and signature drinks.
La Piccola: Delicious Italian food, prepared with fresh and local products. Best of all, they bake their own bread!
Tranquila Bar: You’ll pass it several times a day you’ll be lured for a drink, or four. It’s the main place to party on the island with drink specials every day, like its famous ¨Tequila Tuesday¨.
Bar Skid Row: Ask for the Guiffity Challenge and come back home with a funny tank top.
Where did you stay? I usually stay in a cozy apartment up the hill near the airport. But the island has really good places to stay like: Mango Inn, Utila Lodge, Trudy´s, Coral Beach Village, Utopia Village, Laguna Beach, among others. It all depends on the location, the distance and your favorite activities. Don´t forget to check out Air BnB.
I’ve also have stayed a couple of nights in Little Key, one of the beautiful keys of Utila. It has a spacious house with room for 18 people, two docks, and an amazing crystal-clear beach. You can also request for a private chef for your stay (Chef Mario, from Mario´s Place!). It´s located 20 minutes boat ride away from the main town, so make sure to take everything you need. Once there, the view is incredible and makes it the perfect place to relax away from home. For more info go to www.utilacaysrentals.com
Would you go back? Of course, I could live there, it´s my happy place!
Tips for someone planning to visit that place for the first time.
- Expectations: if you are really laid back and easy going, but also like to party, this is the place for you. Don´t expect luxurious places.
- High seasons: Easter week, July (Utila´s Carnaval), first week in October, and New Year´s Eve.
- Hotel recommendations: Utila Lodge, Trudy´s, Coral Beach Village, Utopía Village. You can also find great places and good deals on Air BnB.
- Excursions, tours and activities: day trips to the keys, scuba diving and snorkel, swimming with whale sharks (yes, big whale sharks!), and biking.
- Dive centers: Underwater Vision, Utila Dive Center, Parrots Dive Center, and Alton´s Dive Center.
- Overall heads up: Don’t forget to take plenty of insect repellent; mosquitos and sand flies are insane. Also, enough cash (US$ dollars or Lempiras (Honduran currency), because not all places take credit or debit cards.
Were can we keep up with your adventures? You can follow my trips and adventures on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, as @juanmigueldiban. Don´t hesitate to ask for tips and travel advice. Thanks for reading!