The original plan was to do both islands, but with our limited travellers budget in mind, we settled on Útila.
Why? It’s the cheaper of the two, and coupled with the fact we weren’t going to be diving, it would be even more wallet friendly. A bit of a pity as this is one of the cheapest places in the world to go diving, and learn how to, but we could live with that.
So aside from tripping over dive shops, listening to someone talking about diving and constantly seeing people peel off wetsuits fresh from a dive, what is there to do on Útila?
Take a walk down the main drag of Útila Town, called Calle Principal, and it’s evident there isn’t a plethora of activities the settlement offers its visitors, other than diving. It’s a small place that’s car free and pedestrian friendly, although with all of the scooters, golf carts and quads, the traffic is still somewhat horrendous in areas.
Restaurants, bars, grocers, pharmacies, a bank and accommodation can be found along the main strip and you needn’t walk too far to get anywhere.
Unlike Roatán, Útila doesn’t have a great deal of beaches for swimming as much of its coastline is rocky. Unless you boat it to a neighbouring cay and pay for the privilege. It does, however, have Chepes Beach, a 10-15 minute walk west of the town centre. Not the best beach in the Caribbean, but still worth cooling off in. Alternatively head around to Bando Beach south of town, but there is a charge $3.
With our non-diving budget in mind, we found most of the tour operators were still charging a lot for snorkel trips. Boat trips take you to neighbouring cays and coral reefs and have selling points of swimming with dolphins and whale sharks. Not that spotting either of them can be guaranteed.
The cheapest we could find was with Útila Water Sports, where we could join a dive boat for $15 per person and snorkel as the divers did their thing. Departures are 8am daily, the outing lasts 4½ hrs and you get to visit two sites.
If the boat driver “spots” a pod of dolphins, thanks to good eyes or the help of chatting with another tour boat close by, there is a $10 per person “spotting tip” for the driver for doing so and allowing you to jump off and swim to get a closer look. A bit of a cheek, if you ask me.
Restaurant Seven Seas
Hot Spot Café
Aside from cooling down at Chepes Beach or in our air-con room at The Mango Inn or its swimming pool, or snorkelling with a pod of 25 dolphins, our time in Útila was spent wafting about town hopping between cafes, restaurants and bars.
Days began with an espresso at Trudy’s, a restaurant located at Underwater Vision. Plenty of food on offer, but we never got that far. Or there’s Seven Seas Restaurant where they promise a Vietnamese iced coffee and deliver something vastly different – with chocolate syrup. Still, you could always stay there and tuck into Caribbean food, burgers, seafood and baleadas.
The very beachy Hot Spot Café puts on breakfast, burgers, baleadas, fruit smoothies and shakes and has a lovely waterside seating area if you walk down to it.
Camilla’s Bakery is one to go if you’re hankering for a bagel, something that’s baked fresh every day. Made into a sandwich those bagels make for a perfectly light lunch. Check out the rest of Camilla’s baked wares, too.
Boozing in Útila Town is made very easy thanks to a fab range of venues. If you’re out at Chepes Beach and feel a little thirsty, walk a few metres to Relapse (first photo), order a drink and forget about the rest of the world.
Another drinking hole that juts out over the water is Tranquila Bar. It may not be much to look at, but it does have an excellent sitting and drinking spot, including an upstairs deck, which is ideal for those magical Caribbean sunsets.
On the other side of the ferry wharf is Rehab, a bar with a better outfit, some swing chairs and hammocks and a lot more shelter. Or step on up to Mango Tango for afternoon and evening bevies on the breezy veranda, maybe even check out the great sounding menu which we never got to try.
Skid Row Bar
Unnamed restaurant on Monkey Tail Road
Útila Grocery Store Restaurant
Food-wise, Útila doesn’t offer a great deal of variety, but it does have plenty of comida típica (local food), pizza, grilled meats, seafood and fast food. Don’t expect international chain fast food, though, I’m talking about pastelitos (meaty empanadas), baleadas (tortillas filled with beans etc) and local-style burgers.
Head to Skid Row for your little piece of the US that’s very popular with the expats. Come at night and it’s a smoker’s den filled with pissed locals swilling on beer and rum and playing pool. The pizza here is actually quite good, but that po’ boy (110) could do with some tweaking.
I’m not entirely sure what the next place is called as the only words I saw anywhere were “Specialty of local food”. Find this unnamed comida típica on Monkey Tail Road a couple of minutes up from the main drag. They have three tables in a caged-off seating area by the road, a tv blaring some kind of nonsense and a very home-style menu. It definitely won’t rock your world, but something like their fried chicken & chips will fill your stomach.
The Útila Grocery Store may serve a purpose for foodstuffs, but in the evenings you can come to enjoy dinner straight off a bbq just in front of it. Delicious tacos, baleadas, whole grilled fish and a mixed grill. Try the alambres, a sautéed extravaganza of chicken, beef, ham and vegetables, served with warm tortillas.
Get the Hedman Alas bus from Cópan Ruinas bus station. The bus goes to La Ceiba via San Pedro Sula, departs at 11 am and costs HNL$909 per person. A snack and drink is provided, but nothing too exciting. Travel time to San Pedro Sula is 4 hrs.
There was a bus change at San Pedro terminal before departing for La Ceiba. This leg takes 3½ hrs.
Due to our late arrival, we overnighted in La Ceiba at Hotel Portal de Honduras. The ferry to Útila departs at 9 am, costs US$25 per person and takes 1 hr to get there. There’s just one ferry per day. Check the website for more info – utilaferry.com
There is a café next to the ticket office at the Útila Dream ferry terminal, just in case you don’t get breakfast where you’re staying in La Ceiba or if nothing is open that early in the morning. The menu is a basic selection of baleadas, tajitas, pastelitos and sandwiches.