Five Facts: Utila, Honduras (where I think it will be okay that I’m a little late)

Years ago my mom spent a fair amount of time on Utila, an island off the coast of Honduras that’s home to some 2,500 people. I don’t remember too much of what she did there; I know she learned to scuba dive and I vaguely remember some story about a kid and a dentist. A few years later, when Andy and I were headed there to learn to scuba dive too, she offered up a few recommendations: a restaurant where they lower fish carcasses into the water and you can watch other fish scavenge the flesh from the poor sucker’s bones, a really weird bar full of all kinds of strange and beautiful oddities, and she advised against one particular hotel because she believed the owner to be less than scrupulous.

So what does my mom have to do with my post? Well, here’s the thing, I’m writing this a full three years after our visit and lest you think any information I convey is irrelevant, I want to argue otherwise. This being based on the fact that despite the gap between my mom’s visit and ours, her insights were relevant and therefore, mine probably will be as well. So just because I’m a little late with this post, I’m not going to sweat it.

Here are my five facts:

  1. There is indeed a restaurant that showcases the aforementioned fish flesh scavenging.
    It’s the Babalu Bar & Grill, and it came highly recommended from others in town so we saved that meal for our last on the island.

    Here we are. (Honduras circa 2013)

    Then, someone brought out the fish carcass and there was a touch of dark, but somewhat whimsical, irony that the fish was then attached to a small wooden ship before being lowered to its final fate.

    Here’s the ship san the fish guts. (Honduras circa 2013)

  2. There’s also that place with all sorts of strange and beautiful oddities.
    Now that I’ve grossed you out, I’ll tell you about the other place my mom mentioned, the Treetanic Bar. I’m bummed that I never saw the sprawling grounds during the day because other travelers’ pictures online make it look even more spectacular in the sunlight, but I did see it at night and it was still really cool. A better blogger would probably sleuth out the story behind this crazy place but I’m just going to leave you with some pictures and let you come up with your own theory on why someone would create this wacky work of art.

    Ornate walls lined the meandering paths that went from tree to cave to treehouse and back again. (Honduras circa 2012)

    Can you spot my friends’ heads poking out between this bridge’s railings? (Honduras circa 2012)

    There were lots of places to stop and get cute pictures, like under seahorse umbrellas on little bridges over decorative ravines. (Honduras circa 2012)

    The fun of the whole place inspired all sorts of fun in ourselves, like whatever antics these two are getting up to. (Honduras circa 2012)

  3. It’s one of the cheapest places in the world to learn to scuba dive.
    I’ll gloss over the fact that I ran out of air underwater during a lesson and our instructor full on lost Andy and I on a traveling dive and instead point to the fact that Utila is one of the most popular and cheapest places in the world to get PADI certified. According to some sources, Utila churns out more certified divers than anywhere else in the Caribbean. The water was warm, the sea was beautiful and despite the scary stuff, it sure was cheap.

    It looks pretty idyllic right? (Honduras circa 2012)

    For the most part, it really was. (Honduras circa 2012)

  4. They’re not really into official New Year countdowns.
    Okay, this one might have been a fluke because the next day I overheard several other people mention their disappointment in the lack of a proper, collective countdown as well. Still, despite the fact that it might have been a one time omission, it did make for an anticlimactic celebration. On New Years Eve, everyone who was anyone had trekked out past the causeway to the private beach party.

    Making the trek. (Honduras circa 2012/2013)

    Locals, ex-pats and tourists alike donned their party entrance bracelets, sipped their boozy beverages and danced the night away on the sand. When midnight started getting close, we kept expecting the DJ to initiate the countdown but before we knew it, twelve o’clock came and went. Here and there other groups let out celebratory shouts, but overall, everyone seemed to be waiting for the music to stop and the countdown to commence – which it never did.

    Countdown or not, the night was still pretty fun. (Honduras circa 2012/2013)

  5. There are lots of other things to do besides diving.
    Out of the three couples on our trip, only Andy and I did any scuba diving but that doesn’t our friends sat around on the sand all day. Each evening when we would all meet up for dinner they would share their tales of renting boats to explore uninhabited cays, snorkeling and hiking.

    Here's a little island where my friends marooned themselves for an afternoon of sun, swimming and snorkeling. (Honduras circa 2012)

    Here’s a little island where my friends marooned themselves for an afternoon of sun, swimming and snorkeling. (Honduras circa 2012)

So there you have it, five facts about Utila. If my category was called Six Facts, I might have included that there is a special drink challenge where you have the opportunity to win a free T-shirt – which at the time seemed like the thing I absolutely needed the most in my life.

Here’s the drink being made. (Honduras circa 2013)

Here are the free shirts that we earned.

Aren’t we the sartorially colorful couple. (Honduras circa 2013)

Or, if I needed a seventh fact, I might have included some ferry times (you can find those here) and that the ferry, The Utila Princess, is aptly nicknamed the Vomit Comet.

This is not an exaggeration; about a third of the people on this boat were throwing up. Luckily my friend here was not included in that group. (Honduras circa 2012)

Even though it’s coming at you three years late, I maintain that this is all still pretty good info. Places don’t change all that fast and a few quick Google searches told me that the above information is still more or less accurate – other than the stuff about the New Year’s countdown, I couldn’t find a way to verify that one.

I’ll leave you with a few more photos of the island.

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