Honduras Bay Islands
Important information to know about the Bay
The Honduras Bay Islands were discovered by Christopher Columbus when
he landed in the island of Guanaja on his fourth voyage to America in
1502. The islands were later claimed by England, Spain, and Holland.
England in 1643 took control and held onto the Islands as a Crown
colony for more than 200 years. In 1860 the British crown recognized
Honduran sovereignty and ceded possession of the islands. The Bay
Islands or Las Islas de la Bahia became a department of Honduras in
March of 1872.
The Honduras Bay Islands (Las Islas de la Bahia) are comprised of eight
islands and more than 60 cays resting about 40 miles/64 km northeast of
the north coast of Honduras. The three larger islands are: Roatan,
Guanaja and Utila.
The islands are surrounded by a reef system called the Mesoamerican
Barrier Reef, which is part of the second largest reef system in the
world and it is shared with Belize. At times the reef is only a short
swim away from the shoreline. The reef is one of the most species rich
waters in the Caribbean in terms of both coral and fish.
In November 2006 The National Congress of Honduras signed a law that
declared the Bay Islands a Tax Free Zone. The Municipalities benefit
through the collection of entry fees. Each visitor to The Islands now
pays a fee to enter. The island also collects a dive fee that aids in
conservation programs and medical help for divers.
Where to dive in Honduras Bay Islands
Roatan is the largest of Bay Islands of Honduras. It is known for being
one of the top dive places in the world by scuba divers and also an
important cruise ship destination. Roatan is home to many
well-established dive shops, restaurants and resorts. It is the only
island of Honduras bay islands with an international airport with
direct flights from the US and Europe.
Shallow reefs on both the North and South sides of the island provide
plenty of opportunity for snorkelers and divers. The best-known dive
sites are: Mary’s Place, the 40 Foot Point and the Coco View Wall.
Mary’s Place is known for its corals and deep beautiful ocean floor.
If wrecks are your thing, El Aguila is one of Roatan’s best wrecks –
210-foot cargo boat sitting upright in 100 feet of water on a sandy
bottom full of hard coral and garden eels. Also Prince Albert and
Odyssey a 300 foot / 92 meters wreck with plenty of options for
Utila has many dive sites to choose from. You can find dives that
include caves and carved cuts. The CJ’s Drop-off has a 1000
feet/305 meters wall drop with sea turtles that pass over. The famous Halliburton wreck is found
near Utila town. Utila is famous for divers encountering the Whale
Shark migrating through the island’s waters from March to April an
August to September.
Guanaja is the least touristic of the Honduras Bay Islands trio. The
primary source of income for the islanders is fishing. Tourism is
confined to a handful of small resorts that cater to divers, snorkelers
and adventure travelers. The island's warm, clear waters support an
extensive coral reef. Currently, there is still access to fresh water
on Guanaja, and several waterfalls can be seen.
Non-divers can hike between Mangrove Bight
and Savannah Bight, Guanaja’s second-largest settlements. Or trek
inland to behold sparkling waterfalls among the trees, 90 percent of
Guanaja is a forested National Reserve. Travelers can also rent bikes
or kayaks and explore the coast.
Other excursions besides diving in the Bay
Visit the west end in Roatan during the day or at night. You will find
dive shops, souvenir shops, bars, restaurants and hotels. Take a tour
to The Mangrove Canal in Jonesville. In Sandy Bay you will find the
Carambola Botanical Gardens with exotics butterflies and birds, and The
Marine Institute and Dolphins. Iguana Farms can be found in Roatan and
Rent a Car a bike or go on hiking tours and explore all the hidden
places and see the islands as they really are. Since there is not many
paved highway on the islands, it isn't easy to get lost. You can also
take a tour to explore the public desert island or cays.
Diving information for the Bay Islands
It is possible to dive all
year round, but rainy season usually begins around October
and lasts until December or January. August and March are the hottest
months. Whale Shark can
be seen from March to April an August to September. Water temperatures: 26-29ºC/78-85ºF.
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