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  • Writer's pictureBecca Jackson

The perfect week on Utila | The best 8 things to do on Utila

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

Unless you have been researching places to visit in Honduras, you probably won’t have come across Utila Island. Located 18 miles off the mainland of Honduras, Utila bathes in the crystal clear, tropical waters of the Caribbean. Utila is famed amongst the backpacker community for being the cheapest place in the Americas to learn how to dive and this is what primarily brings most people to the island. However, diving is not all Utila has to offer. If chilling in hammocks, drinking good, cheap rum and swimming or snorkelling in the warm, sparklingly clear sea is more your thing, I think you will also be very happy on Utila Island.

We visited in May 2023 and stayed for 6 nights. We both already have our PADI Advanced Open Water dive licenses so whilst we were keen to do a couple of fun dives, we were also happy just to chill out and explore what else the island had to offer.

This guide will give you a bit more information about Utila island, what to do on Utila and some ideas on where to stay, helping you plan the perfect week (or maybe more!) on the island.

Water Cay -Utila
Water Cay -Utila

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Is Utila budget-friendly?

Whilst diving on the island is far cheaper than you will find on other Caribbean islands, it is still a reasonably expensive hobby. So, in terms of dive prices, yes, I suppose it can be classed as budget-friendly, although if you are travelling around Honduras on a budget of $50 a day or less, it probably won’t cover it.

The cost of food on the island is, of course, inflated. I guess partly because they have a more captive audience but also because very little is grown on the island and so everything has to be shipped across from the mainland. However, there is quite a spectrum when it comes to restaurant prices and it is possible to eat cheaply, especially if you are happy to fill up on local dishes such as baleadas. We’ve shared a few cheap to medium-priced restaurants below.

There are also plenty of mini market food shops on the island and so although the prices are higher than on the mainland, you can pick up staples like eggs, pasta and a surprising selection of vegetables easily, if your accommodation has the facilities for you to cook for yourself.

That brings me nicely to the cost of accommodation. We were surprised at the price to be honest, struggling to find anything that looked nice for around our budget of £20-£30 ($25-$37.50) a night for a private room. So instead, although we weren’t doing a dive course, just a couple of fun dives, we turned to the dive accommodation instead and found this to be a much more affordable option. I’ve covered this in more detail in the ‘where to stay’ section but if you are planning on diving on the island, this could well be your best bet for budget-friendly accommodation.

Final point on costs; depending on how you choose to reach the island will affect your budget massively. If you are travelling by road and then boat, the ferry from La Ceiba on the mainland is $35 per person, one way (it is slightly cheaper if you book online, see how to get to Utila section below for more details) so that isn’t a cheap journey, considering it is less than an hour crossing and of course, can’t really be avoided. Getting to La Ceiba is obviously far cheaper via public buses than by tourist shuttle. We travelled from Copan Ruinas by public bus which cost roughly $15 per person in total, whereas another couple, who were actually staying in the same hostel as us in Copan Ruinas and travelled on the same day to the island, opted for a tourist shuttle and were charged $50 per person. They still had the ferry crossing (they were on the same ferry as us so no quicker) on top of that of course, a pretty expensive travel day. Again, I’ve covered this in more detail in the ‘how to get to the island section’.

Do you have to dive on Utila island to enjoy it?

The short answer to this question is, no, you don’t need to be a diver to enjoy spending time on Utila Island. As I have mentioned, the island’s main draw is the fact it is one of the cheapest places in the world to get your dive qualifications, so it will come as no surprise that most people venturing here are on a dive-themed mission. However, if diving isn’t your thing or your budget doesn’t stretch to diving, you can still keep yourself entertained on the island.

Things to do on Utila Island

1. Snorkel in the beautiful Caribbean waters

The reason diving is so popular here is because the island is surrounded by the Mesoamerican Reef System which is the second largest reef system in the world (after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia) which runs along the east coast of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. The snorkelling quest website has a guide to the snorkel sights on the island. We took a boat over to the little, uninhabited island, Water Cay which is one of the locations you can do some great snorkelling directly from the beach.

Dave set for snorkelling on Water Cay
Dave set for snorkelling on Water Cay

2. Spend the day on the Chepes Beach

We were surprised to find that the island doesn’t really have any natural beaches. The main cove had been built straight out of the water and so whilst there are lots of places you can jump in the water for a cooling swim, there aren’t lots of sand beaches. Chepes Beach on the northwest side of the bay is a public beach and very well kept. The floor is quite hard, it feels like there is only a very thin covering of sand but there are benches and some wonderful grass canopy-covered tables waist-deep out in the sea.

3. Visit the tiny, uninhabited island of Water Cay

We arranged a trip over to Water Cay, with Bushes (a supermarket/petrol station/tour agency!) on the main bay of the island. We paid $25 per person which includes your 20-minute boat ride there and back, entrance to the island for 4 hours and an empty cool box for you to stock up with refreshments and ice. We also paid an extra $5 each to hire snorkel, mask and fins. They require a minimum of 6 people to go across to the island and are flexible on times. 4 others had already booked on the provision of them finding 2 more people and had requested an 8.30 am start so we hopped on their trip.

The island is stunning, with gorgeous turquoise shallows and a picture-perfect white sand beach. It is basically that desert island you have always dreamed of! It is only tiny, a stone’s throw wide and a few hundred metres in length. There is nothing on the island except a couple of ground keepers huts, some picnic benches, a few hammocks for good measure and a couple of BBQs. There are bins but we took our rubbish away with us as the bins were quite full after the weekend and we didn’t want to risk our rubbish blowing out into the sea. The native pine trees, along with palms (baby palms sprouted from the coconut appear to be being nurtured and planted) provide shade.

When we were on the island there was literally just our boat of 7 tourists. It was so peaceful and relaxing. We had heard the weekends can be pretty busy, with lots of domestic tourists visiting so if your stay allows, it might be best to avoid weekends for a more peaceful visit.

Beautiful beach at Water Cay
Beautiful beach at Water Cay

4. Watch the sunset at Bando Beach

If you are desperate for a sunset, the best place to watch the sun go down is Bando Beach. This is a private beach, and you have to pay L50 (£1.60/$2) entry fee. Annoyingly, the fee still stands even if you opt to buy food or drinks from the restaurant. The beach here is nice, similar to the public beach in that the ground is hard, with only a thin covering of sand, however, there are wooden chairs and loungers and some very comfy hammocks. Swimming here is possible, but it stays quite shallow for quite a way out. We were happy to pay L50 to spend a couple of hours here and watch the sunset, however, we were annoyed that they charge 10% service on drinks you go to the bar yourself to order and collect.

Pelican searching for supper on the jetty at Bando Beach, sunset over the seam with Pelican flying past in the background
Pelican searching for supper on the jetty at Bando Beach

5. Eat fish BBQ at RJ’s

RJ’s is only open on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays so plan your visit here accordingly (at least that was the case in May 23). For roughly L250 you can get a big plate of either BBQed fish or meat accompanied by a slice of garlic bread, a dressed salad, rice, some veggies, mashed potato and gravy. I know it sounds random, but go with it and I promise you won’t regret it!

6. Hike Pumpkin Hill

We didn’t actually do this as quite frankly didn’t feel like a hot hike up a hill and opted to chill in the sea instead, but if you do fancy stretching your legs and getting a bit sweaty, it won't be the highest hike you do if you are travelling around Central America but it is supposed to give a nice view of the island as long as they are up to date with the pruning. Otherwise, you may find yourself hot and sweaty with no view!

7. Dive, of course!

As we have talked about, Utila is famous for diving. It’s one of the cheapest places to do your PADI, you’ll be able to complete your open water or advanced for less than $300 and lots of the dive shops will throw in free accommodation for that price too. I think we paid a similar amount in Thailand but that was 12 years ago so this certainly is a good deal. We are already certified so we just did some fun dives but there was lots to see. The shallower reefs are full of colourful fish, eagle rays are common here (although sadly we didn’t see one) and in between dives, we saw the biggest pod of dolphins we’ve ever seen! 30-40 jumping on the surface but when we also jumped in the sea and looked below the surface there were literally 100s of them!! It was amazing.

8. Drink rum!

You are in the Caribbean, need I say more? You can buy, good, cheap rum from the shops on the island, paying about $10 a litre. Flor de Cana is our favourite, it is a Nicaraguan rum but still dirt cheap in Honduras.

Where to eat on Utila Island

There is quite a spectrum of restaurants on the island to suit different budgets. Here are a few we tried:

Gaga’s Grab & Go - Set back from the bay on a back street. No frills and is reasonably priced. We only had the baleadas here a couple of lunchtimes, but they were nice.

RJ’s - I’ve already mentioned RJ’s as one of the things to do on the island. It isn’t open every day so check the opening times but the BBQs here are great. L250-L300 a plate, but it’s a big plate.

Edo’s - This place doesn’t appear to have been open that long and so doesn’t have many reviews. Sitting right at the end of the bay next to the public beach it is in a nice spot and sitting right looking out at the sea at night was lovely. We had fish here and it was good. A little pricier than RJ’s, more like L300-L500, depending on the size of fish, but very nice all the same.

Fried fish at Edo's
Fried fish at Edo's, Utila

Mango Tango - The prices here were a little out of our budget, L350+ for a main meal but it has rave reviews and certainly looks like a nice place. We had hoped to splash out here and eat Lionfish. Lionfish are invasive and so they are purposely fished here to protect the reef. Protecting the reef by eating a tasty meal sounded like a great idea to me but unfortunately, the Lionfish is seasonal and they didn’t have any when we were on the island.

Baleadas Mama Rosa - A cheap eat on the main drag. We actually didn’t particularly enjoy the fish burritos we had here but think we just made a poor choice. It’s cheap and rated amazingly so go and try something else!

Pizza Nut - Pretty decent pizza and totally affordable if you share. They are quite large and range from L260-L350. She tends to have one of the pizzas on as a special for slightly cheaper than normal. It’s not Italian-style pizza but it’s a nice thin, oven-cooked base.

Where to stay on Utila island

If you are not diving, unfortunately, accommodation is a little pricy on the island. However, if you are going to be completing a dive course you will be able to find a package that includes accommodation for a very reasonable rate.

We found that lots of dive shops also offer packages for accommodation and fun dives; you get your bed for free on the days you dive and pay a low rate on the days you don’t. Generally, you are expected to dive more days during your stay than not, but don’t let that put you off enquiring as out of high season they tend to be more flexible about this.

We stayed just after high season, in May 23, at Paradise Divers and they allowed us to stay for 6 nights but only dive two days. We paid $216 in total for 4 dives each, so 8 dives in total. We got a private room for free on the days we dived and paid $8 per person for the nights we didn’t dive. The deal is normally a dorm bed but when they are not full, they include the private rooms in the same offer. The room was very basic and definitely budget, but fine for our needs. We had a decent fan, but I noticed some of the private rooms had aircon. The bathrooms were okay but not the cleanest and the shared kitchen was dire!! We managed to make scrambled eggs a couple of mornings, but we ended up buying our own plates from the supermarket as there was no equipment! The whole place could do with some love and attention, it’s tired and grubby but everyone who stays has a great time as the vibe is good and the dive masters are fantastic. Having enquired to quite a few of the dive shops, it was the cheapest.

Friends of ours did their PADI with Alton Divers and said whilst the accommodation was very basic it was a good option too. From the outside the accommodation looked much more modern than Paradise Divers, but the prices are higher here, so it depends on what your budget will allow. When we enquired about staying and fun diving, their policy is that you need to be diving more than half the days you stay with them. The price quoted for us to stay for 5 nights and dive 3 days (2 dives each day – 12 dives between us) was $528.

One other price we acquired was Underwater Vision, they quoted; 2 dives - $74, 6 dives - $210 and $330 for 10 dives (only per person and can’t be shared. No free accommodation unless you are doing a course, dorms $10pp and basic private double $30 but $20 whilst diving.

How to get to Utila island

There are two ways to get to Utila island; by ferry from La Ceiba on the mainland, or to fly from San Pedro Sula.


There is no direct international flight route to Utila as the island only has a small airport. If you are flying in from overseas the best airport to get to is San Pedro Sula. There are direct flights to San Pedro Sula from North and Central America.

From San Pedro Sula you can take a domestic flight, the flight path is operated by SOSA Airlines and CM Airlines. Realistically those on a budget would not go for this option as it is much more expensive than the bus & ferry. Also, it is only a few hours bus & taxi from San Pedro Sula (see how to get to Utila) then a one-hour ferry, so save the carbon footprint from the flight and take the bus & ferry!

Bus & Ferry


The main transit hub in Eastern Honduras, if you are travelling by public transport, is San Pedro Sula. There are many private transfer shuttles which can get you to La Ceiba from elsewhere in Honduras or neighbouring countries, but this will cost much more. A shuttle from San Pedro Sula will cost in the region of $30 (£24), Roneey Shuttle currently quotes it to be a 5-hour journey. A chicken bus is 180L (£5.80/$7.25) and took us 4 hours and 15 minutes, so I’m guessing the shuttle must have a hell of a stop or maybe the 5 hours is the worst-case scenario.


If you are coming from Roatan there is a ferry once a day which leaves at 2 pm & the return ferry to Roatan is at 10:20 am. It is slightly cheaper to order your tickets online and you can book it the same day on Utila Dream’s website {}. The cost to book it online currently is L1,350 for a return. The journey takes roughly one hour.

If you are coming from the mainland, La Ceiba is the port you need to get to. Unfortunately, the bus station is not near the port so it will require a taxi (see here for the location where the bus drops you off). The ferry departs twice daily, at 9 am & 4:30 pm and has 2 ferries going the other way, at 7 am and 3:20 pm. Again, the tickets are cheaper online at L1,350 for a return. The journey takes roughly 45 minutes.

See our How to get from Utila from Copan Ruinas which gives more detail on San Pedro Sula to Utila.



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