Just off Honduras’s north coast on the Caribbean Sea and clearly visible from the mountainous mainland there are a group of the three large islands, Utila, Roatan, and Guanaja, and the smaller islands, or island groups, St. Helena, Barbareta, Morat, and, closest to the mainland, the two Hog Islands (Cayos Cochinos). Divers flock to backpacker mecca Utila and slightly more upmarket Roatán for fantastic diving, with a year-round chance of spotting whale sharks. Lesser visited but arguably more beautiful is the easternmost Bay Island Guanaja, and the stunning Cochinos Cays, situated between the main Bay Islands and the mainland. The Bay Islands consist of eight islands and 53 small cays lying some 10 miles (16 km) to 40 miles (64 km) not far east of the entrance to the Gulf of Honduras . These islands have been administered as a departamento of the Republic of Honduras since 1872.
These small chain of islands were anciently known as Las Guanajas, from Guanaja, which was discovered by Christopher Columbus, in his 4th and last voyage to the New World, on July 30, 1502. The Admiral named it ‘Isle of Pines’, and claimed it…for Spain. It was from this island that he first discovered the coast of the American continent, on which he landed on the 14th of August the folloing year, at the point now called Punta Castilla de Trujillo.
At the time of their discovery, these islands were occupied by a large population of Pech Indians, considerably advanced in civilization, who kept up a commerce, through the means of large and well equipped boats, not only with the mainland of Honduras, but also with the Yucatan Penninsula, and, it is alleged, with Jamaica.
The living here is easy and people take their effort with delight in helping you.
Whether you’re looking for the perfect quite vacation, searching for idyllic island real estate or simply looking to find out more about the islands and its resorts, hotels and activities, pronto is not a word in their vocabulary as the island pace its amazingly contagious.
What makes Guanaja island special is its seclusion. There is only one small road on the island linking the towns of Mangrove Bight and Savannah Bight, so nearly all transportation is done over water. The majority of Guanaja’s population (10,000) live on Bonacca Cay, about 300 meters off the main island.
Utila’s English-speaking inhabitants first moved to the island in the early 19th century, emigrating from British islands in the Caribbean. Almost the entire population of Utila lives in East Harbour, the main town on a protected harbor on the southeast corner of the island. Word has gotten out that Utila has the least expensive dive certification courses on the planet, and it has become something of a Mecca for young international travelers, seeking high quality dive training at a really good price. A healthy competition between over a dozen small dive shops has been responsible for this, but it has never compromised the quality of the courses and services offered by the islands.
Roatan is the largest, most developed and most frequented of the Bay Islands. Essentially a long, forested ridge raising from the Caribbean sea, it retains much of the original landscape that was known in the 16th century.