Utila Honduras Snorkeling Guide

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Utila is a Honduran island nearby the more popular Roatan island. Utila is a unique unspoiled paradise with no major resorts or cruise ship port. It’s a little off the beaten path but the island has modern accommodations and WIFI is prevalent. The island attracts a younger, backpacker type crowd but we met travelers of all ages. Even during the busy season, it will not get too crowded out here. A lot of places we snorkeled, we were the only people out there. It’s a coral island surrounded by a beautiful reef and a distinct drop off. Much of the time you will be snorkeling the edge of this drop off, but there are some great coal areas in shallow water for beginners. The unique underwater topology of Utila has lots of canyon and cave like features I haven’t seen to many other places. You also have the opportunity to snorkel with whale sharks out here. Although whale sharks are more commonly seen during a particular season, Utila is one of the few palaces in the world they can be seen year around.

To get around, the island is small enough to walk but there are plentiful tuk-tuk taxis to take. The prices are listed and regulated and it’s a couple dollars per ride. You wouldn’t need to rent anything to get around.

To get to Utila, the most predictable route is to fly into the nearby Roatan island, then take the ferry over. The ferry only runs between Utila and Roatan on the weekends, so if you arrive on a weekday you will have to ride the ferry from Roatan to the mainland city of La Ceiba. Then wait for a ferry to Utila. That adds a little travel time to your trip, but it follows a predictable schedule. The other method to get here is to fly into the mainland city of San Pedro Sula then travel to La Ceiba somehow, to take the ferry. You could take busses or an expensive taxi to La Ceiba.

English is commonly spoken at hotels and restaurants. You might need a little patience with the tuk-tuk drivers, thankfully there are not too many destinations to describe. Any Spanish knowledge is a plus.

Utila Snorkeling Locations Map

(Click the box on the map header to open in Google Maps app)

Click to jump to each location: 

Airport Caves

Simply amazing snorkel location. This may be the best location I have ever snorkeled. Deep canyons, caves and diverse underwater structures plus very healthy corals make this location truly astounding. This is a common dive location and you can reach it from shore, but since you are in open water you should have at least proficient intermediate to advanced snorkeling skills to attempt. Start by going to a parking lot area on the corner of the road. Marked on Google maps as “Old Airport Beach”. You will need to wade out a while before its deep enough to swim. Then continue swimming strait out from shore which will be a south-eastern direction about 500 feet before reaching the edge of the drop off. Snorkel along this drop off line, the best coral formations seem to be to the south along the drop off line. Follow this as far as you feel comfortable. Dive boats do come out here, but they are usually slowing down to stop and don’t come right up to the drop off line. Make yourself visible by flipping on your back and sticking one fin high up in the air. Please check this snorkel location out, it’s absolutely amazing.

Beverly Hills Beach

I asked a local how to describe this area of the island to a tuk-tuk driver and they call it Beverly Hills because of the large homes on this side of the island. There is narrow alleyway from the road out to this small beach area and the public is allowed. There is a small rock island across from the beach, walk through the shallow water over to it and leave you stuff there. Then snorkel out and around the rock island and enjoy. Compared to the rest of Utila this snorkel location is not spectacular but is a fun extra place to go if you are on the island for a while and need a new snorkel location.

Coral View

Great first snorkel location and an easy place that beginners can enjoy as well. As with much of Utila there is a distinctive drop off that advanced snorkelers will enjoy. Coral View Beach Resort has a two-story wooden structure over the water with a bar in it. There is a nice easy path through the coral out to the drop off line. Snorkel along this line in either direction and enjoy. They don’t charge to use their place, but please patron their business if the bar is open.

There is an option to one-way snorkel east to the public beach area. Just snorkel along the drop off line and start heading to shore when you can towards the public beach area. There is not much coral here so its an easy exit location. Walk back along the road. The road is dirt, so you don’t really need to bring footwear with you.

Eagle Ray Viewing

This is not a snorkel location but its an easy spot to see eagle rays at night. Wait till dark and go to Utila Lodge. Walk out on the dock to their bar and purchase a beverage then head out to the end of the dock. They have a big light and chairs set up out here. Just sit and wait and curious eagle rays will come around eventually.

Moon Hole

Common dive location, this is a large sandy area surrounded by dark coral. Lots of sea life hangs out in this location. You can easily see the distinctive round sandy spot from aerial imagery. The depths of the actual moon hole part are fairly deep at around 20 to 30 feet, so advanced snorkelers with free diving skills can reach the bottom. The north side of the hole offers shallow coral that less advanced snorkelers can enjoy up close.

To get out here start at Bando Beach Bar and walk out a long way through shallow water until it gets deep enough to swim. You will need to find a break in the coral to swim through to get in and out of here. There should be a dive buoy out in the actual moon hole. Either that or observe where the dive boats are to get a bearing while walking out here. Bando Beach is also a fun place to hang out for a while. They do charge a small fee to use the beach, something around $5 USD or less.

Neptune’s

Isolated beach resort that you need to take a free boat ride to get to. The snorkeling here is fantastic like much of Utila. There is a large sandy break through the coral off the dock that leads out to the drop off area. You should plan to spend much of the day out here. Swim out one direction along the coral drop off and back for a break or perhaps lunch. Then snorkel out the other direction after your break. It’s a large area to explore and you can swim along the drop off line as far as you like.

More about the boat ride out here. There is a point on the snorkel map where the boat departs from. Its down a long driveway next to Coral View resort (not to be confused with Neptune’s Coral Beach). They have a sign at the road listing the departure times. It should depart every hour or two, but you really need to check in person because its subject to change.

Water Cay

Small uninhabited island to the south west. Shallower snorkeling off the south side of the island. The point on the snorkel map is placed approximately on the only entrance through the coral out to deeper water. We walked along the whole island and determined that is the best if not the only suitable spot through the coral to the reef. Walk along the shore on this side and you should be able to spot a path through the coral. Pretty good snorkel location, there is no distinct drop off out here like most of Utila.

The entire island is a park of sorts and there is a caretaker out here. Nothing much on the island except for a few pit toilets. You will need to bring all your own supplies for the day. Serenity out here, you will most likely have the island to yourselves. To get here you will need to hire a private boat. The boat driver will wait on the island with you and be ready to leave whenever you want. If you have a group of people you can split the cost but it’s around $100 USD for a private boat for the day. We went through Bush’s Bay Island Charters, they also run the main grocery store in town. If you are on the island for several days, stop in and inquire about Water Cay. Try to put your name on a list in case some other folks would want to go. That way you can split the boat cost with them.

Whale Shark Trips with Alton’s Dive Center

Don’t come all the way to Utila without trying to see some whale sharks. They are most commonly spotted between March to April and October to December. There are several operators around the island that offer Whale Shark trips, but Alton’s seems to be the best at it. Certainly, remember they are wild animals and there is no guarantee you will see one. You may have to try more than once, but it is absolutely worth it.

Alton’s is a dive center and they allow snorkelers on their boats. Most of Utila has shallow coral with a sharp distinct drop off around it. The divers usually swim along this drop off wall. So even if you are at a dive location, the shallower coral is not too far away. As a snorkeler with some free diving skills you can have fun at most dive locations. Go with them for the day they will stop at least 3 locations plus a stop in the area between Utila and Roatan to look for whale sharks. The captain will tell you what to do and if all goes well, they will drop you in the water right next to a surfacing whale shark. Alton’s has a policy where there is one price for the snorkel trip, but if you get to see a whale shark you pay the captain as a tip. So the captain has an incentive to find a whale shark for you. If you are successful at seeing a whale shark, they will blast an air horn when they arrive back in the harbor for the whole town to hear. They also have a large marker board at their dive shop where they mark each day they see a whale shark. Being in the water next to a whale shark will change your life, I highly recommend the attempt.

 

Hey, check this out:

For even more detailed information on these snorkeling sites, download our Utila Snorkeling Map. Full color maps in .pdf version. Extra notes, tips and tricks to maximize your experience. Download for offline use and take with you to the snorkel spot.





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