BEST BEACHESThough Utila’s not known for its sandy stretches, Chepes Beach (pictured) might change your mind. There’s also Bandu Beach, a semiprivate strand that you can access for $3. If you’re on Roatan, you’ll no doubt make your way to West Bay Beach, a slice of quintessential Caribbean coastline, where the sand squeaks beneath your toes.
Individually, Utila and Roatan are world-class destinations worthy of weeks of exploration. Together, Honduras’ Bay Islands offer just about every conceivable experience, enough to last a lifetime. Whale sharks, luscious reefs, quirky bars and breathtaking topside adventures — these western Caribbean gems have it all.
See 15 reasons we love the Bay Islands in the photo gallery above. Below, five more bonus reasons that we love them, to round out our top 20.
16. Happy Hour. The nightly ritual is practically an institution on Roatan and Utila. If you’re in West End on Roatan, you must stop in at Sundowner’s Beach Bar for a signature Monkey La La — think Mudslide with a tropical twist. If you’re on Utila, you can’t beat the scene at the treetop Treetanic bar, hovering above the Jade Seahorse, part resort and part fairytale art installation.
17. Family Friendly. With all its topside activities like zip lining and kayaking, an excellent tourism infrastructure, including restaurants and shopping, and resorts with pools, beaches and water toys, Roatan is a great place to take the entire family.
18. House Reefs and Shore Diving. When you’re staying at a dive resort, there is nothing better than gearing up and making a shore dive from the same beach where you soak up the sun. Both Roatan and Utila ofer 24/7 stroll-in diving, often on spectacular house reefs. There are too many to list, but of Roatan’s CoCo View Resort, it’s an easy paddle out to a lovely drop-of or the Prince Albert wreck. On Utila, PADI Five Star Instructor Dive Center Deep Blue Resort’s palm- lined beach is the launching point for reef diving that practically begins as soon as you step in the water.
19. Out Islands. Operators on both Roatan and Utila will take groups to various cays for deep-wall diving, picnic-lunch surface intervals and — as you motor past small villages — a taste of the locals’ lifestyle. Popular spots include Pigeon Cay of Roatan’s east coast and Raggedy Cay, of Utila’s northwest end.
20. Mary’s Place. Depending on the time of day, this crevice in Roatan’s south-side reef is bathed in sunlight or is eerily dark. Either way, it’s one of the island’s most popular sites — you’ll drop down between two walls decorated with black coral and sponges. Similar sites include Spooky Channel, a gap in the reef on the north side, and Calvin’s Crack of the south coast.