So the Bay Islands became the destination of choice for the 2007
trip. Things were a little different this year as compared to past
years. For starters, I traveled with my father on this trip. He
wasn't yet SCUBA certified, but I planned to change that on this
trip. Secondly, I wasn't only visiting Utila to explore their reefs,
I was visiting to explore and digest their culture. I am, after
all, looking very closely at making Utila my home for a couple years.
Getting to Utila is half the fun it seemed early on. If you know
me well you have a good idea at how much I fear flying. The photo
above shows the plane that would carry us from Roatan to Utila.
I think it held about 12 people max. I really feared the day I would
have to climb upon a propeller driven plane to reach an island.
The day arrived, and obviously I feared it for good reason. Our
plane had a fuel leak dripping, or more like streaming, from the
engine. After the 4 hour wait at the airport for this flight, and
the numerous Port Royals consumed, our spirits were in good shape.
When my father spotted the fuel-leaking engine he asked me if that
was a bad thing. My response set the tone for the up coming week.
"Only when it stops leaking," I responded, assuming we
would then be out of fuel if the engine was no longer leaking.
As much as the flight scared me shitless, and believe me did it
ever, it was also very fun (now that I'm safely back in the states
with both feet firmly on ground). The photo above is of Roatan shortly
after we left for Utila. I'm disappointed the plane didn't have
better windows to get some killer shots of the islands.
The mangrove swamps of Utila can be easily seen in the above photo.
So I had read and read some more about Utila and what I should
be expecting upon arrival. No amount of reading could truly prepare
a Chicagoan for this, although I was expecting it. The photo above
shows the Utila airport at rush hour. Seriously. The ATV's and golf
carts are the taxi's to transport us to hotels. Seriously. The little
league dugout is the waiting area for out-going flights. Seriously.
No employees work here. The runway is not pavement - it is gravel.
For a 360 degree view of the airport download
One of the island's six pick-up trucks showed at the airport to
help get us to the hotel. My father and I, being of larger stature,
were awarded with the truck. Only problem was we had to help load
the taxi with all of our gear and the gear of others. Oh, and we
had to sit on that gear for the duration of the ride to the hotel.
Right about now I'm laughing my ass off. I was expecting all of
this. My father, on the other hand, was not, and he was in pure
panic mode. This wasn't how he envisioned a tropical island getaway.
Sitting in the back of the taxi on our way to the hotel. This was
what the countryside looked like near the airport.
Our hotel was actually quite adorable. I'd highly recommend it
and won't hesitate to return or send friends to this location. The
AC worked very well (not always the case for those familiar with
Caribbean travel), rooms were clean and insect free, etc. Another
view of the hotel -
Check out the log-burning stove used at the hotel... it made some
great pizzas I'll say (this coming from a Chicagoan no less).
Once checked in we decided to track down our dive shop to check-in
for classes tomorrow. At the very center of town (not hard to find
BTW) I spotted a recognizable sign to help me find my way around
the island. Although I would later find out you can't possibly get
lost on Utila, I still felt comfort in knowing this landmark.
Yes, its true the real Captain Morgan was killed by Utilians (I
won't hold that against them tho), but the real sadness developed
once I discovered Captain Morgan Rum cannot be located on the island.
Geez, holding a grudge against the dude a few centuries later I
suppose. Strike One for not living on Utila. How can one possibly
live on a Caribbean Island and not have spiced rum? Oh the humanity.
OK, a few more blocks down the way we came across the dive shop
I traveled so far to experience.
If I live on Utila I plan to attend this school, so it was only
natural to want to attend the school for a bit to get a feeling
for how the instruction is taught, classes run, instructors confidence
in teaching, etc. I choose to do my Rescue Certification course
with them. Both the school and myself received high marks upon completion
of the course.
Up until this point my father was still undecided about going through
with his SCUBA certification. He was making up excuses faster than
I could swat them away. That was, until, he met who his instructor
Meet Kaitlyn, a 22yo Canadian with blonde hair, blue eyes, and
an endearing smile. Upon learning that Kaitlyn would be teaching
the Open Water Certification course for the following week, my father
was dead set on completing the class. My work here was done. Nothing
like some cute T -n- A to help convince the old man. And yes, dad
is now SCUBA certified.
Unfortunately, I was not able to do any fun diving on Utila, mostly
because I was there to receive my Rescue Cert, but also partially
because I became ill during my visit. Too bad, too, as the one dive
I did the reef looked amazing. I didn't have my underwater camera
along for the ride because it was my check-out dive for my class
(read: the instructors were too busy ripping my mask off my face,
taking my fins off, and turning off my air at 40 feet of depth to
really care if I got any photos). No doubt I will return, next time
without anyone turning off my air supply. However, I can say the
instructors were awesome, the dive boats top notch, and the shop
One of three dive boats above, the pier below...
As far as Utila is concerned,... what an adorable little island.
The best way I can describe it was like taking a time machine 50
years into the past. Like I mentioned above, the island has all
of 6 cars/trucks. They are all older than 20 years. I honestly do
not understand how they still run. Other than those vehicles, everyone
either has an ATV, golf cart, moped, or bicycle. The road, as shown
below in the next two photos, is very narrow. In most location if
2 cars were to come at each other head-on they would not be able
to pass one another. I guess that is a safe way to ensure cars don't
Other than the SCUBA diving or attempting to escape reality there
isn't much of a reason to come to Utila. It isn't known for its
beaches, although it has two very nice beaches.
I'm not sure why but I found this somewhat comical... the parking
lot for the beach was designed for golf carts and ATV's.
Unfortunately five days on Utila does not give you a chance to
actually see the island. Besides SCUBA, Europeans love this island
for the vast area of unspoiled mangrove swamps they can use for
hiking and mountain biking. Maybe the next time I'm there I'll have
time to explore these other options. But for now, SCUBA and bar-hopping
fit perfectly into my schedule. Naturally the most popular bars
were water front, as the next series of photos show.
Front view above, rear view below...
One evening walking into this bar I passed a drunk local who made
me bust out in laughter. Here he was, propped up along a wall seated
on his bicycle. He turns to me to speak and me, half expecting something
worthwhile, I anxiously await his drunken words of wisdom. He says
to me, "Jesus Christmas, that Sambuca hits you hard!"
"Yes sir, the flammable black licorice liquor does pack a
punch," I concurred.
Besides the waterfront bars, one particular bar stood out. It starts
in the tree tops of Mango trees and extends in a LSD-like trip from
there. I think it was called the Tree-Top Bar, or something like
that, but it was located inside the Jade Seahorse.
I was told this hotel/restaurant/bar is the creation of a retired
San Francisco University art professor. Don't quote me on it, but
it kind of makes since if you think long and hard about it. The
next series of photos show the bar in varies stages. It just wanders
from room to room...
Before moving on to the remainder of the vacation there are a few
more images I'd like to bring to attention. First, I don't think
the only bank on Utila will ever be a concern for a robbery -
The one place divers hope to not have to deal with -
The only gas station on the island (notice the lack of a name).
And finally some artwork on the seawall (they do love their whale
sharks down there).
Eventually our 5 days on Utila expired and we had to move along.
Dad wasn't so hip on the idea of taking the prop plane back to Roatan.
The Navy vet in him felt safer on a ship I suppose. So the ferry
In order to get to Roatan, the ferry had to take us to La Cieba,
Honduras (mainland), before catching a connecting ferry back to
Roatan. The view coming into Honduran Port was wonderful.
For what its worth, despite being in panic mode upon arrival, dad
was truly saddened to leave. Utila found its way into dad's heart.
Roatan had some big shoes to fill.
To view all the images from Utila please
follow this link.
To follow the vacation to Roatan, please
follow this link.
Top of Page