Hey guys! My name is Simone, known on Instagram as @simojuulborring. I am 28 years old and I was born and raised in Copenhagen, Denmark. In this detailed travel guide, I will be sharing my experiences at Islas de la Bahia – beautiful islands located 15-30 miles off the north coast of Honduras.
But first, a little bit about me! I grew up in a Copenhagen suburb about 20 minutes by train from the city centre. I lived with my mom, her boyfriend and my three siblings. In January 2019, I graduated university with a social worker degree. Before I started traveling, I worked with young adults with autism – it was a residential institution where I worked from the early morning until the afternoon, or from the afternoon until the late evening.
As most people do, I have always loved traveling. My boyfriend and I took a couple of trips to Sri Lanka, Rome and Barcelona during our studies, and I loved the adventures we went on. At the end of 2018, as I came closer to graduating, a fear began to grow in me. The fear was that “everyday life” would be the rest of my life. I might have been a little bit extreme in my thoughts on this, but I felt like I could see and point out every future step.
I would get a job, family, house and would only travel that one week each year when my job allowed me. I was freaking out and felt claustrophobic, more than feeling excited about those steps in my life. Just after I graduated, my boyfriend and I went to the Philippines together for three weeks. I knew that everyday life was waiting to truly begin once we came back home and to be honest I just wasn’t interested in that at all.
At the same time, I was having the best time in the Philippines. With the excitement and eagerness I felt for adventure, I knew I had to act and try and create a life with more adventure! So I started off by going to Guatemala for three months by myself. When I came back home, I got the job in the residential institution. My boyfriend and I set a departure date for a year later and we both started saving up as much money as we could!
What Inspired us to Visit Honduras
When my boyfriend and I decided to travel the world we had a lot of countries on our list. Honduras wasn’t initially on the list and I had actually never really considered Honduras as a travel destination. But when we had to start planning the trip, figuring out where to start was quite hard.
And even though we saved up for our travels, we didn’t know for how long exactly we wanted to travel. So we realized that we might have to work different jobs along the way to fund our travels. We also knew that we wanted to go diving in many of the locations that were on our bucket list.
So we made the decision to become divemasters and work professionally while earning some money. That way we could work while having fun and doing something that we wanted to do anyway. This is when Honduras came into the picture, since Islas de la Bahia is known for fantastic diving at reasonable prices. In the end, I’m so glad that we chose to visit Honduras!
Four Amazing Months in Islas de la Bahia
We ended up spending four months in total in Honduras. All four of them were spent living on the West End of Roatan, except for one week spent on Utila – one of the other two main islands making up Islas de la Bahia. We also visited a tiny cay called Water Cay, situated off the western tip of Utila.
In Roatan, diving is the number one thing to do. We had the ability to see a lot of beautiful reef during our divemaster program and I recommend anyone visiting Roatan to go diving. Besides that we went on a sunset cruise with JC. You will find him near Coconut Tree Divers and he is such a friendly guy! You can make plans with him to go out during sunset and bring food, drinks and music to enjoy an evening out on the ocean.
Apart from those things, some of the best experiences we had in Roatan were just the simple things. For example: walking on the beach from the West End to West Bay. This walk takes an hour if you take it at a slow pace and it’s really nice to do during sunset. When you get to West bay, you can have dinner and then either walk back or take a taxi (since it will be dark).
Another activity we loved was playing volleyball on the beach at this place called End of the World. You pass it when you do the walk from the West End to West Bay. We would either play with people we already knew or meet people at the court to play with. If you aren’t into playing it’s still a nice place to hangout – since there are a few beach bars where you can get a beer and watch the sunset, go for a swim or watch other people play.
In Utila, we went kayaking from one side of the island to the other through a mangrove forest. When we made it to the other side we arrived at a beach and went for a swim, before we made our way back through the mangroves at sunset. On the way back we made a stop on a half-sunken boat in this lake and enjoyed the rest of the sunset from there.
We also hiked up Pumpkin Hill – twice at sunset and once at sunrise. Before going up there for sunset, we sat and had something to drink at this nice little place called Rockies. When we made our way up, we found a rock that overlooked the ocean and sat there for a while to take in the views.
Afterwards we climbed up this tower that overlooked the hill with all the trees, and it gave us a 360 view of the ocean and that side of the island. One night we stayed on a tiny island called Water Cay, sleeping in hammocks in between palm trees. This was a very special and magical experience!
Favorite Island in Islas de la Bahia: Roatan
My favorite destination in Islas de la Bahia would have to be Roatan. Roatan was our home for four months and we therefore got to know the area we lived in pretty well. Roatan is a big enough island to go exploring and see different places. But at the same time it’s small enough to have a local feel.
In the area where we lived, there is more or less only one street where most things are located. So you quickly get to know everyone in the community: a community that contains all the types of people you can think of. There were divers, freedivers, expats, tourists, small business owners who would know your name after a few shopping visits, drunks and outcasts.
Well, at least outcasts who would have been outcasts in other places because somehow it just seemed like all of these different people found a way to live together in this one small community. Don’t get me wrong, they had their conflicts but they were all quickly resolved and forgotten. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Roatan, and specifically West End where we lived, has a good mix of it all: adventure, paradise and home.
It was a place where the most normal answer to the question: “So how long are you staying for” is “I don’t know yet, we will see what happens”. Another thing I really liked about Roatan is that it’s developed enough that you can access the things you need – like a grocery store, doctors, good restaurants and so on. At the same time, you will find more local and underdeveloped villages and areas that seem more authentic to the Honduras way of life.
7 Best Things To Do in Islas de la Bahia
1. Go on a Diving Adventure in Roatan or Utila
Diving in Roatan or Utila is a must-do when visiting Islas de la Bahia. We went diving in both islands and even though the diving is similar, our favorite island to dive in was Roatan. The reef is full of beautiful rock formations, swim-throughs, small caves and marine life to be amazed by. By the end of our time there, seeing a turtle had almost become “normal”.
Well, not normal because getting to swim around with turtles is never normal or boring. But it’s my way of saying that you are almost guaranteed to encounter at least one turtle. And then there is all of the other sea life too like stingrays, spotted eagle rays and so many different types of fish. If you are lucky you might even encounter a shark of some sort!
Another reason that diving is a must-do is that the reef is sick. If you want to see the reef while it’s still there, it’s time you go! If you want to help the reef (and you are a certified diver), you can combine your passion for diving and helping the reef by volunteering at the marine park and help them treat the coral. Or you can get certified as a Coral Restoration Ambassador with a dive shop – Coconut Tree Divers offer these courses.
2. Spend the Night in Hammocks on Water Cay
Water Cay is a tiny island located near Utila. You can visit the island on a day tour and spend the whole day on the beautiful beach and swim in the crystal clear water, or you can take it a step further and spend the night and sleep in hammocks between two palm trees. We chose to spend the night there and were lucky that no one else did on that specific night!
When everyone else left for the day we had the entire island to ourselves – only shared with the family who lives in a little hut on one end of the island, called “the keepers”. Even though you can see other islands around on the horizon, it feels like you are alone on a deserted island full of palm trees.
Nothing is there and you only have what you bring yourself. We set up camp at one end of the island – the opposite one from where the family lived in their hut – and spent the rest of the day and evening enjoying ourselves. We relaxed in our hammocks, listened to music, watched the sunset and made a bonfire while eating dinner (chips and frijoles).
Then we went to bed in our hammocks with the sound of the water lapping beside us. The next morning we went for a swim and had breakfast (chips and frijoles) in the most beautiful spot any of us had ever eaten breakfast at. Later that day we headed back to Utila on the boat that brought us there. It was one of my favorite experiences in Islas de la Bahia!
3. Kayak through the Mangrove Forests of Utila
Doing a self-guided kayak trip through the mangroves of Utila is epic! Rent a kayak at Chepes Beach and head out towards the mangroves. First you head out on a lake and make your way over to the mangroves. Once you get onto the path in the mangrove forest you will be surrounded by the mangrove trees on this path that leads to the other side of the island.
Inside the forest there is this almost loud silence, if that makes sense. This gives the place a very special and fairytale-like feel. On the other side of the island you arrive at a beach. When we went, there was no one else around on this long stretch of sand – so we went for a swim, climbed some palm trees and hung out for a while before heading back through the forest.
For sunset we stopped on the lake that you kayak across at the beginning of the tour and jumped on this half sunken boat in the middle of the lake and watched the sunset from there. It’s definitely one of the best things you can do on Islas de la Bahia. Just remember to bring water and snacks!
4. Take a Sunset Boat Cruise on Roatan
One nice way to spend your evening in Islas de la Bahia is to watch the sunset. Even better to watch the sunset from a boat at sea! We did this for my birthday with a bunch of friends from the island and it was such a good time. We did it with a guy named JC whose boat – and therefore his business – is located on the dock right out in front of Coconut Tree Divers.
That is where you will find him to organize a cruise. Bring food, drinks, music and put on swimwear if you want to jump off the boat and take a dip at sunset. This adventure is a lot of fun and JC will show you a good time!
5. Hike up Pumpkin Hill in Utila, Islas de la Bahia
The hike up Pumpkin Hill is a nice activity either during the day or for sunrise or sunset. It’s an easy hike which takes about 15-20 minutes from the little bar called Rockies at the foot of the hill. You walk up through the forest and then it turns into a jungle along the way, which is cool in itself.
At the end of the hike you make your way to a rock that has a lookout. When we went, it was sunset and we just sat on the rock and enjoyed it. Afterwards we climbed up a tower that is located before the rock. From up there we got a 360 view of the hill, the sunset and that side of the island.
It’s free to go and you don’t need a guide – making it a good activity especially for budget travelers. You can also choose to watch the sunset from the other side of the hill, since the sun actually sets on that side. Just ask for directions at Rockies and they will point you in the right direction.
6. Visit Roatan Island Brewing for a Tour
Roatan Island Brewing Co (The Brewery) is a fairly big piece of land in the forest with a surprisingly fancy vibe to it. When you arrive you walk through the indoor part of the brewery, where you can buy something to drink and eat, and then you make your way out into the beautiful garden.
The garden is the best part of The Brewery as it feels like arriving in a hidden gem. Many of the activities on Roatan include the ocean but because of that it’s an interesting change to be in a brewery in the forest. There is a market with people selling homemade things like soap, creme, art made from finds from the beach, pictures and so on. There is also music, garden games and good vibes. It’s definitely a place worth visiting!
7. Explore Islas de la Bahia on a Scooter or 4×4
Places are more fun when you get to explore them on your own instead of being guided in a group where everything is planned. Exploring on your own somehow creates this independent feeling that it’s just you and the adventure ahead. One good way to explore on your own is to rent a scooter, a motorcycle or a 4×4 quad bike and experience the islands on wheels!
Towns & Villages of Islas de la Bahia
In Roatan the towns/villages are different depending on where you go. You have got the more developed towns with shops to buy groceries, fruit and vegetable stands, cafes, restaurants and so on. Then there are the more primitive and simple looking villages with small houses on dirt roads with small tiendas to buy the more basic things like eggs and milk.
We spent most of our time hanging out in the West End of Roatan which is one of the more developed towns/areas on the island. Here you have got a good amount of different restaurants with different price ranges, some with more local food options and some with a more Western vibe.
Best Places to Eat in Islas de la Bahia
Expats have put their touch on Islas de la Bahia with many cute cafes and restaurants. One thing we struggled with was finding vegetarian food but we found some good places in the end. We often had breakfast/lunch at Hot Spot Cafe in Utila which had good food at a reasonable price.
We also went to Josie’s in Utila a couple of times, which is a breakfast and lunch spot with fresh juices, smoothies, avocado toast and other delicious foods. Then there is Pizza Nut who serve pizza at a fair price.
One night we were struggling to find a place to eat dinner in Utila and we were on our way down from one end of the road to look for places, when we stumbled upon this place called Ultra Light Cafe serving Israeli food. It’s this small place that is an extension of the owner’s house. You sit on the floor on pillows and feel like you are having dinner in their living room!
For the pricier but also delicious options in Utila you have Mister Buddha, on a balcony on the ocean serving Asian food with live music. Lastly, El Castillo Garden is located back from the main street. You sit outside in their garden lit up by lights, eating dinner made from ingredients grown in that same garden. It’s one of the best hidden restaurants in Islas de la Bahia!
In Roatan, the first place I suggest is Sandy Buns. It’s situated in the middle of the main street with a good view of the bay. If you are after greasy and tasty food, this is your place. We usually went with the breakfast biscuit, which combined with cinnamon rolls, was more than enough for one!
Then there is a hidden place called Cafe de Palo. It’s located at one end of the main street and takes 15 minutes to walk to from Coconut Tree Divers. Cafe de Palo is the type of place you have to know is there to go that far down. It’s a beautiful place with both indoor and outdoor seating right on the water and is a good option for breakfast, brunch or lunch.
The third place I want to mention as an option for Roatan was my all time favorite for an everyday quick, easy and cheap lunch. Honduras is known for eating baleadas: a tortilla stuffed with whatever filling you want like eggs, avocado, cheese, chicken and so on. Yahongreh is the place to go for this.
Yahongreh is a cute place with the sweetest woman behind the counter cooking your baleada and the best fresh juices in the world. A baleada and a fresh juice only costs about 2 dollars. I don’t even have a count of how many baleadas we have eaten from that place – that is how good they are!
Depending on what you like for dinner you have options like The Drunken Sailor serving great pasta and pizza, and C-level which is a popular spot to go have pizza by the slice. Then there is Junior’s Patio which is also a good place for great pizza, but it’s pretty expensive for budget travelers. It’s located in a cute little yard with lights and live music from time to time.
There is also the Italian restaurant Paso, located next to Junior’s Patio. They have good pasta but it’s also expensive for budget travelers. And the last place I want to mention is Oasis. This restaurant I think you will hear a lot of people mentioning if you ask for the best place to go eat dinner on the island. Oasis has great food but again it’s expensive for budget travelers.
My boyfriend and I are vegetarians and budget travelers, so we mostly went to Yahongreh, Sandy Buns, The Drunken Sailor and C-level – since you can pick your own ingredients at these places and still have a good meal!
Accommodation Options on the Islands
In Roatan, we didn’t get to try out the different accommodations ourselves since we lived in one place for the whole time. That place was connected to the dive shop we did our divemaster with. But I know there are cheaper and more simple options, as well as the more luxurious options with pools.
You have also got the even more luxurious hotels placed right on the beach with a restaurant, a pool and everything you would expect from a more expensive hotel. Some of these places you can visit even though you are not staying. You can visit to use the pool and get drinks at sunset.
Utila is different from Roatan, while still being similar. It’s a smaller island and only half the island is livable due to nature covering the other half. The town where the restaurants, stores and so on are located is smaller than in Roatan. But it’s the same concept with only one main street.
We stayed at an Airbnb 10 minutes away by scooter, up the hill from the main street. It was called Tara’s Airbnb and was this cute hut in the backyard of the owner’s house. The owner, Tara, was so helpful when it came to finding your way around the island, where to rent scooters, where to eat and where to find hidden gems. I recommend staying with Tara!
Favorite Memory from Islas de la Bahia
If I had to choose one favorite memory from my time in Islas de la Bahia it would be the night we spent on Water Cay. It was just magical and was one of those experiences that reminded me (even though I hadn’t exactly forgotten) of the main reason why we decided to travel in the first place!
Water Cay is this tiny island located near Utila. You can walk from one end of the island to the other in seven minutes and it takes 30 minutes to go there by boat. You can choose to visit on a day tour to relax on the beautiful beach covered in palm trees and with the most crystal-clear water.
Or you can choose to stay there overnight, sleeping in hammocks that you put up between two palm trees anywhere on the island. To our luck, on the night that we went, no one else stayed during the night. This meant that we had this tiny little island all to ourselves. That is except for the little family called “the keepers” that live in a small hut on one end of the island.
We put our hammocks up on the other end of the island, with the water almost washing in under our hammocks. The feeling when the tourists went back to Utila and it was just the two of us with our hammocks on a tiny island was magical. We watched the sunset from our little corner – listening to music, swinging in our hammocks, making a bonfire and having the dinner we brought from Utila. It was a beautiful experience!
Tips for your Visit to Islas de la Bahia
You need at least two weeks to experience Islas de la Bahia. Seven days would be doable but it would also be pushing it, unless you only want to visit one island in which case seven days is enough time. You also can’t make your way all around the island due to the nature, but the places that are accessible you can move around by yourself if you rent a scooter or 4×4.
Use public transport too. It’s easy and less expensive than taking a taxi. If you do take a taxi, be ready to either negotiate on the price or even just tell the driver the price you are thinking of before getting in the car. For example: the price for a taxi from the West End to Coxen Hole on Roatan should be around 50 Lempira per person. We learned this along the way, since we paid 300 Lempira for two people the first time we took this drive.
One of the biggest disappointments is that the coral reef around Islas de la Bahia is sick. If you are into diving then you should try and visit the islands as soon as possible to be able to experience the reef before it’s too late. You can volunteer at the reef – which will help preserve the reef for future generations. Lastly, enjoy yourself! Islas de la Bahia is paradise!