Turquoise waters, clean sand, cheap diving and cheaper tequila.
When one thinks of tropical islands, it’s usually the expensive, luxurious locations that spring to mind.
Places that you have to save hard for the entire working year just to afford a week’s vacation. But there is literally hundreds of amazing islands dotted around the world where backpackers can afford to let loose and relax.
One such place is Utila. Located on the Caribbean side of Honduras, and part of the Bay Islands, Utila is a backpacker’s haven.
While Honduras usually receives a bad rap for its safety concerns, the Bay Islands tend to avoid much of the fear-mongering hype and remain a desirable destination.
Utila’s main attraction is scuba diving. In the warm waters of the Caribbean sea, Utila is surrounded by the second largest coral reef in the world. In most parts of the world, diving is an expensive hobby.
But here you can go for an exhilarating dive for the cost of a nice meal in most first world countries. One of the most exciting aspects of the island is the fascinating whale sharks that cruise through the waters, providing the chance to swim with the largest fish in the sea and create memories that will last a lifetime!
A huge amount of dive shops have opened on the island, and this provides not only a diverse range of establishments to choose from, but also helps keep the pricing down.
Utila has turned into somewhat of a “scuba factory”, and many people pick here to become certified divers. For around $250, you can receive your Open Water Certification, 2 free fun dives to use after you are qualified, and accommodation for the duration of your course. An absolute bargain!
For those who fall in love with the underwater world, Utila is also one of the best places in the world to continue your advancement right through to a professional level, such as dive master or scuba instructor.
Many places offer internships where you can work towards attaining your desired qualification, at little or no monetary cost to yourself.
But besides being a diving Mecca, there is a plethora of other things that attract backpackers from around the globe to this little piece of paradise.
The relaxed, island lifestyle by day is a huge drawcard, but at night, the place really comes to life. Tequila Tuesday at Tranquilla Bar is usually the most debaucherous night of the week.
Everybody rocks a “Skid Row” shirt, which you can only get by downing four shots of guiffiti – a local, alcoholic concoction made with roots from various plants.
Stepping into the Treetanic Bar will instantly have you thinking someone has spiked your drink with acid.
And the annual SunJam Festival is an infamous dance party held on one of the smaller cays close to Utila, that over the years has gained notoriety as one of the best parties ever to grace this Earth.
When you are too hungover to dive, you can go kayaking and snorkeling, check out some caves, enjoy some horse riding, do some volunteering for a turtle research centre or just relax on the beach.
Food can be as cheap or as expensive as you want, from the $1 empanadas to $20+ for fresh seafood.
Utila is one of those amazing backpacking destinations that has it all in a condensed package.
Come check it out for yourself and experience why thousands of backpackers have been flocking to this haven for years. Only then will you understand the “3 Lies of Utila”:
1) I love you.
2) I’m not drinking tonight.
3) I’m leaving tomorrow.