Destinations » Honduras » Utila

Utila

The smallest of the three Bay Islands, Utila's warm Caribbean waters offer stunning coral reefs filled with a rich diversity of marine life and a superb opportunity to experience close encounters with the magnificent whale sharks.

The second largest barrier reef in the world, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, lies within the Caribbean Sea and stretches south from the tip of the Yucatan Peninsular, extending through Belize, Guatemala and down into the Bay Islands situated off the north coast of Honduras. About 18 miles/29km north from the Honduras mainland port of La Ceiba and surrounded by fringing reef lies Utila, the smallest of these Islands and the most eastern island within the group. Utila sits on the crest of the southern ridge of the Bartlett Trough which is the deepest part of the Caribbean Sea (with a depth of 7,686m/25,217ft in parts), forming a section of the tectonic boundary between the North American and Caribbean Plates.
Utila's climate is classified as tropical monsoon (Am) experiencing year-round rainfall although the wettest months are between September and January. Yearly average temperatures are constant and stay between 27-31C/81-87F. The warmest months, May to August, are the best time to visit, however there is also seasonal marine life to be considered when planning a trip to Utila, specifically and perhaps most famously the congregation and twice yearly migration of the whale sharks.
Although it is not entirely understood why there is such a large population of Whale Sharks around Utila one possible explanation is that Utila itself is located on the extreme northern margin of the Honduran Shelf, with shallow banks to the south and a very large bank to the north (between Utila and Glovers Reef off the coast of Belize). The Whale Shark and Oceanic Research Centre based in East Harbour is ideally located to carry out its extensive studies and research programmes in order to discover more about these gentle giants of the ocean. In addition, kingfish, dolphins and several species of swordfish are also commonly found in the northern offshore waters in pursuit of large concentrations of bonito and albacore.
Utila is situated within the Bay Islands National Marine Park and plays host to spectacular coral reefs, deep walls, wrecks and sea-mounds. Constant, clear, blue water makes it an ideal and popular dive destination for both experienced and novice divers. Depths varying from between 5-30m/16-98ft, gentle currents, temperate waters averaging 28C/82F and a rich array of marine-life all add to the appeal for visiting divers.