A little over 2 weeks ago, I embarked on my latest adventure: Professional Scuba training in Utila. These first two weeks have been exhilarating and overwhelming, but now I have more time to post about the experience of living in Utila.
Getting to Utila
I flew Toronto to Belize City to Roatan (that leg in a small 12 seater plane), spent one night in Roatan, and ferried to Utila the next day. It was a pretty uneventful trip, despite a slight delay due to torrential rains at the Belize City airport. I even met a kind Canadian who spends his winters in Roatan whose friends were picking him up at the airport and offered to drop me at my hotel since it was on their way. Gotta like friendly travelers.
You can also travel to Utila from the mainland. Many people fly into San Pedro Sula and then take the bus to La Ceiba, a coastal city which has ferries to the Bay Islands. Sometimes you can catch a plane direct to La Ceiba and then the ferry, which would be preferable. Transport within the country is cheap, but the buses are not always fast or comfortable, as is common in Central America.
The largest of Honduras’ Bay Islands, Roatan is approximately 77km (48mi) long and with a population in the 40,000s. It is also a popular tourist destination, especially for divers, because of its location on Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the Caribbean’s largest reef, the same one shared by Mexico and Belize. Roatan is also a stop on the cruise route, and I saw a couple of massive cruise ships in the port.
I spent one night in the West End at a cute hotel with friendly and helpful staffers, enjoyed a few short walks and some rainfalls, and soaked in the island vibe as much as I could before jumping on the ferry to the much smaller island of Utila. The ferry was quick and pleasant – it took less than an hour to get between islands – and the differences between the two islands are noticeable.
Want to know more about Roatan? Here’s a fun day trip!
Living in Utila
Utila is tiny (population approximately 4000!) and gritty, but also relaxed and comfortable. Because the island is so small – it’s almost an “everyone knows each other” vibe – it’s safe and friendly. On my daily walks to the dive shop, smiling and saying hello or hola is the norm.
Utila is full of tourists; most of them are divers doing the same thing as me. Divers are not looking for fancy resorts or restaurants, which is why they don’t exist on Utila!
There are very few cars on this island. It’s mostly golf carts, mopeds, bicycles and tuk-tuks, which are the cute taxis. The tuk-tuks are a reasonable way of getting around: it costs a dollar or two to get to most places on the island.
Where to Live in Utila
At first, I rented an apartment 15 minutes away from UDC so I would walk a lot, but that was the only benefit for me. The neighborhood was noisier than I expected, which made sleep difficult at times.
I spent one month at that apartment on Mamy Lane. While it’s convenient for nightlife and restaurants, it was too loud. If you’re studying at BICD it’s super close. For two months I was much happier and more comfortable on the main road closer to UDC.
It’s been fun and good to be busy, since I am once again on my own. Being at the dive shop for so much of my time, I am not alone very often. The staff and fellow students are from all over the world and outgoing and fun. The dive shop organizes weekly barbecue parties and other fun activities so I know if I keep engaging I won’t get bored or lonely!
I will be here through early April to complete Divemaster and Instructor training. I will keep posting about all aspects of diving and living in Utila!