Oh so much more than a cheap place to rack up diving certs, Utila is the best value Island we found in the Caribbean. Beaches, snorkelling, caves, farmland and lookouts, there’s certainly enough to keep you entertained on the days you just can’t bear to sit and read in the sunshine again.
Go Snorkelling at Neptunes: This was actually my favourite day out! The boats leave from the dock past Chepes Beach and will take you to Neptune’s every hour for no charge. Once you’re there you’re expected to buy something but their beers are cold, the smoothies are delicious and the nachos are very tasty. Just sitting here in a hammock with a view to the perfect blue water, reading a book would make this place amazing enough. But they also have some of the best snorkelling we saw on the island, good enough that dive boats pull up here on the regular as part of paid dive experiences! Beautiful corals and millions of interesting fish await!
Visit Pumpkin Hill Beach: Pumpkin Hill beach can be found on the other side of the island and is made up of black volcanic rock. It’s pretty cool to explore and on the way back you can visit the hill and hike to the top for sumptuous views over the island. We hired a quad bike for $60usd for 24hrs which will handle the mud and the hills or you could speak to a tuk-tuk driver to negotiate a price. Be warned, this beach does have a fair bit of plastic washed up on it and speaking to our local friend he told us it’s been getting worse for the last 15-20 years.
Explore the caves: While exploring with our quad bike we managed to find three different caves just by asking locals. My favourite was the small freshwater cave right near Pumpkin Hill beach where we cooled off in the clear pure water while listening to its musical lapping against intricate walls of stalactite formations. Because the island is volcanic there are a lot of alien looking rocky landscapes.
Make an appointment to explore Shelley Mac’s Botanic Garden: Oh this place is something else! With so many different plants and ways to heal our bodies, Shelby has cultivated a botanist’s dream. From cancer curing alien eggs that smell like blue cheese to magical berries that turn even the most sour fruit sweet for hours. Willy Wonker himself would’ve turned to plants if he’d only known what Shelby knows.
Sip a cocktail with the well-to-do at Bando Beach: If you follow the main road to the east over the bridge and keep going, you’ll reach a sign for Bando Beach. It costs 50 limps to hang out there but they have a nice bar and if you go after 5pm for the sunset it’s actually free. It closes at 6pm.
Go on a bar crawl: I feel like the term dive bar may have been coined on Utila because there are some pretty dero looking joints – all packed with divers. Skid Row is a sports bar where you can earn yourself a free singlet for doing the highly embarrassing shot challenge. Trudy’s at underwater vision always has activities including another humiliating event for divers earning their dive masters called “The Snorkel Test” where they dress up and drink a beer poured into their mask, through their nose. Vinyl has lady’s night on Thursdays with a deck that offers uninterrupted views of the stars and is very tranquil… the list actually goes on and on. You won’t go thirsty that’s for sure.
Watch a movie: With Movies showing in this quaint little attic cinema every second day of the week we couldn’t resist taking in a new release thriller. We picked up dinner from “Pizza Nut” to munch while we watched the flick, then got there five minutes early to get the good seats and enjoy the vintage cartoon preview. Only, 45 limps it’s a bargain!
Go to the library: Having spent two weeks on Utila and not having committed to a dive cert I had plenty of time to read. I was so happy when I walked into this bookshop / exchange / library to find a room laden with categorised books for every taste. Finally a break from the trashy crime novels of hostel book exchanges.
Hang out with the locals on Chepes beach: This is the largest and most beautiful beach on Utila and it’s free!! There are little restaurants and bars around for a snack if you so wish, one of which is Rehab bar and is the best place to enjoy a beautiful Utila sunset.
Eat Baleadas (Belly-Ardas): There are so many cheap local restaurants on offer you’d be crazy to waste too much money on the dive shop restaurants. Baleadas are huge flour tortillas folded in half and filled with beans, bacon, avocado, egg, white cheese, salad plus more. The super baleadas are big enough for two meals so proceed with caution and an empty belly.
Take a Tour: There are soooo many tours on offer from Utila, it’s one of the best spots for whale shark spotting (although we were unlucky) and it is also within quick reach of a whole host of beautiful little deserted islands referred to as the cays. Pop into any of the tour companies and see what’s going.