What a cool island Utila is! There is only one road that follows the waterfront. Everything is off of that road, which is mostly dive shops, followed by bars, followed by restaurants! The average age on Utila must be 25 and most are either backpacker/divers-to-be or dive professionals.
It was very easy to clear in here. The Port Captain and Immigration are right next to each other and it is very inexpensive to clear in (read a few US dollars, at most).
Our guidebook, dated 2006, warns of security issues in Utila, namely that restaurants will let boat thieves know when you are ashore so they can come out to your boat and take what they want. We were there for about a week, went to shore almost every night and didn’t have a problem. Most of the time, we were the only boat in the harbor. But, we also have a dog that barks at every passing boat, which helps a lot. I asked around and have heard differing opinions, some say it is totally safe, some say the boat thieves and restaurants still have a partnership. I’m not sure which to believe, but I do know I wouldn’t want to miss this great island.
Walking down main street, you are greeted to a flurry of activity. Many young Americans and Europeans, barefoot, guys without shirts, girls in just their bikini tops, many with dreads, stroll down the street in between dives. Utila is one of the cheapest places in the Caribbean to get one’s dive certification. We scoped out Bush’s grocery store which was reasonable well stocked considering it is on an island. We later learned Mermaid’s mini mart and Marvin’s store toward the end of town had more reasonable prices. We ate lunch at a cute restaurant, Munchies, which had an outdoor patio that overlooked an iguana hill. But best of all, they offered milkshakes! We wandered around town a little bit more and then headed out to our boat to cook some dinner on board.
The next morning was a lazy one on the JoJo as we enjoyed hot coffee and tea among our beautiful surroundings. We finally got motivated around noon and took a walk up to the Jade Seahorse. It is by far one of the coolest bars/restaurants I’ve seen. It is owned by an artist who took 25 years to complete this masterpiece. It has seating areas on the ground as well as in a tree-house and all the sitting areas and platforms are connected by bridges, walkways and tunnels. When you walk in, you think you are in something out of Alice in Wonderland! Everywhere you look are colorful glass, beads, broken plates and whimsical items such as little castles, plastic bananas, different figurines, and anything you can imagine into plaster along the “walls”. You really have to see it to believe how incredible it is.
Maria and I went to Paradise Dive Shop on the waterfront to inquire about filling our tanks to go out for a dive or two. We met Michel who was more than happy to fill our tanks for us for $5 each and to give us unlimited information about the island and the dive sites. Diving Utila is great because all the dive sites have numbered buoys that you just tie your dingy up to and away you go to an incredible dive. Our first dive was at Moon Hole. The visibility was pretty good, even though the wind had started to kick up. It was a pretty shallow dive, about 35 feet, but boy was it beautiful. The reef is in great condition with tons of soft coral and lots of colorful fish. A turtle came over to us and was pretty fearless and let us get pretty close to him and even followed us around for a little while. We also saw a big school of squid, which are so cool because they always swim backwards when you come at them and change color! It was a great dive, and only for $5 – who could beat it?
The next day we did another dive, this time at Black Coral Wall. It was another great dive. As soon as you descend to the top of the reef, there are numerous cleaning stations where lots of fish gather around. Then we dropped down to the wall and dove along it, admiring all the coral, neon sponges and fish life.
The rest of the time in Utila was spent just hanging out, relaxing and enjoying the island. We took a dingy ride into the mangrove lagoon, which was cool. There were quite a few houses that were along the edge of the lagoon as well as a few dive shops.
We rigged our hammocks on the foredeck under an awning and spent quite a bit of time relaxing in paradise.
|Maria and Harold at Munchies|
|The town dock|
|Mural made out of all bottle caps|
|At the Jade Seahorse|
|More Jade Seahorse|
|Harold was so impressed he bought a tank top|
|Food-colored chicks for sale!|
|Maria swimming with her friend|
|Why do they call them happy cookies? hmmmm....|