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Utila

Utila is the closest to shore, smallest and flattest of the three main Bay Islands. It is accessible by small aircraft or by a one-hour ferryboat from La Ceiba. Utila maintains the most authentic Bay Island culture. It is here most obvious that people of English descent originally settled the Bay Islands. English surnames dominate the store and hotel signs, and the sing-songy English spoken by its inhabitants may be hard to understand at first.

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 low-budget travelers. A healthy competition between over a dozen small dive shops has brought prices down to between $160 - $190 for an open water certification course or an advanced open water course. True to its reputation, most of the hotels on the island also cater to the budget traveler, although high-end alternatives are available. Recently it has been discovered that Utila is one of the best places in the world to see whale sharks, the world's largest (yet harmless) fish. But there is much more to this island than diving.


Beaches - Jack Neil Beach, southwest of Utila town, is probably the island's longest stretch of sand. More secluded beaches can be found on the north shore by walking an hour across the island to Pumpkin Hill beach. Probably the most popular beach is Water Key, just off of Pigeon Key. This is a splendid, coconut-lined beach surrounded by azure waters, a perfect place to string a hammock and forget about the world for a while.

Pumpkin Hill - The highest of only two low hills (270 ft. high) on an otherwise completely flat Utila, Pumpkin Hill makes a nice getaway from town. An hour's walk out Monkey Tail road or a fun 15-minute bike ride will bring you to this rounded hill perforated by caves. One of the caves is sizeable, the Brandon Hill Cave, where pirate treasure is said to have been buried.

Cross Island Canal - A man-made canal crosses the island at its narrowest point, providing a convenient way to get to the north side of Utila. You can hire a small boat to take you through the mangrove-lined canal, emerging on the north shore, then west along the beach to Turtle Harbor, which protects another secluded beach. Continue west along the coast to the West End, where you will pass Ragged Key, a protected bird-nesting site. Then you can come back along the south side of the island past the Utila Keys, a collection of 10 small keys off Utila's southwest corner.