Roatan and Utila



Roatan and Utila in a Nutshell

Roatan offers fabulous resorts at reasonable prices along with easy, plentiful diving. This area is conveniently accessed from the United States, and the dive sites offer a lot of variety including wrecks, caves, walls, shark dives, and dolphin dives.

Utila, just next to Roatan, is less developed and also offers fantastic diving options. Utila is also an excellent choice for the independent traveller. 

Many of the resorts in both locations offer shore diving.


About Roatan and Utila

Roatan and Utila are in the "Bay of Islands" off the coast of Honduras, Central America, in the Caribbean Sea. The water is warm, the visibility is generally great, and many of the resorts offer shore diving. Roatan attracts many families to its all-inclusive resorts.

Utila is a small island next to Roatan; it is a popular destination for divers to obtain dive certifications or earn their divemaster or instructor licenses. 


Roatan and utila marine life

Roatan and Utila offer a variety of Caribbean reef life including turtles, trumpetfish, groupers, octopi, squid, spotted drum, moray eels, parrotfish, triggerfish, grunts, tang, wrasse, chromis, pufferfish, porcupine fish, and eagle rays - along with the occassional great barracuda or nurse shark.

Macro life includes lettuce slugs, arrow crabs, lobsters, flamingo tongue cowries and the occassional seahorses.


Whale Sharks, Reef Sharks, and Dolphins

Whale sharks are occassionally seen in Utila, and if one is spotted word quickly spreads through the Utila resorts.

Many resorts in Roatan run shark dives every week; Caribbean reef sharks are attracted by feedings. Some of resorts in Roatan also offer dolphin dives with semi-wild dolphins. The dolphins play and interact with divers on the ocean floor.


Underwater video of Roatan's Reefs

Video shows octopus, eels, seahorse, trumpetfish, eagle ray, and other various caribbean marine life


Best Time to Dive ROatan

Roatan can be dived year-round. If there is swell or wind on one side of the island, the opposite side of the island is usually calm. November, December and January get the most rain, as the rainy season is mid-October to late February. However, those are also the coolest months; May through September can be quite hot.


Roatan and Utila - topside activities

Fishing is a very common activity offered in both locations. There is a wildlife refuge where you can see white-faced capuchins, howler monkeys, caimans, and various birds. Roatan also has a butterfly garden, an iguana farm, and botanical gardens. Visitors can explore the rainforest canopy with exciting jungle excursions, or swim, snorkel, or dive with dolphins. 




Reviews (7)

  • Reviewer
Culver City, CA
United States

Roatan never disappoints. Except, maybe the 1st time I went there over Thanksgiving and the rains, but the topside activities, mainly having drinks with divers from allover the world at the bars, made up for for the storms. But fast forward to May, where conditions were superb. No rain for 5 days, calm waters, perfect temperatures (above and below) and low humidity.
The diving is close to perfect: Water temp. 82, visibility 80-100 ft., marine life has the usual players from large turtles, tons of spiny lobsters (many were in clusters), frequent groupers, large porcupine fish, etc. Of course there is the shark dive on the other side out of Coxen Hole featuring a dependable showing of at least 30 large reef sharks, and some large groupers attracted to the bait, then there are the night dives ( I took 2, one with just me and a guide that lasted and hour and 15 minutes) with gazillions of urchins, common octopus, crabs galore, banded shrimp, many spotted eels and then some. There is actually an excellent downloadable Roatan reef life book (written be a long term Roatan expert) that can also be downloaded for a few bucks and pretty much features everything that can be seen underwater. On the West End the scene is basically dive shop, bar, hotel, dive shop, bar, hotel and so on. Nice people, down to earth, cheaper than other Caribbean islands, no mega resorts, but many simple cheap and clean hotels.
Roatan has a multitude of excellent dive companies offering any type of certification. Overall, a great destination for beginners and advanced divers since one has a diverse choice of shallow sand bottom dives to deeper wall dives.

Visited on 05/2014 - Submitted on 09/03/2014

When I think of Roatan and diving, I think of how this location is the destination that made me fall in love with my favorite thing to do in the world: diving. I got SCUBA certified on the island in 2007 and spent 15 days there exploring, meeting locals and exploring marine life as much as I possibly could. Marine life include beautiful coral, trumpet fish, huge grouper, a variety of rays, sea turtle, barracuda, parrotfish, puffer fish. When I dream of diving, this is the destination that I always think about returning to. I went in November and the year that I went, it was one of the stormiest seasons that they had seen in approximately 30 years. Initially, this prevented us from diving, but I was able to complete my PADI course top-side and when the storms cleared, visibility ranged from 15 feet (right after heavy storms and low visibility was only experiences once or twice) to approximately 95 feel. Even despite the stormy season, I still completed 14 dives while there-each as beautiful as the next.

Top-side, there are restaurants, bars, beach lounging opportunities and plenty of exploration to be done. Roatan is only about 30 miles long, so depending on how long your trip is, you have an opportunity to explore much of the island. From hiking, to renting a car and taking a day trip to loop the island and explore different communities, to just spending time lounging at the dive shop and meeting locals. In addition, if interested, you can also take some time and go to the mainland to explore other areas of Honduras.

On a side-note, Roatan is a cruise destination as well. On the days that cuise ships come in, locals raise their prices and are much more adamant about trying to get you to come into shops. The culture and community are a little different on these days and on non-cruise days, the culture and community are much more laid back, calm and inviting.

Diving Raotan stole my heart. For all of my friends are new divers, this is the destination that I ALWAYS say they must explore.

Visited on 11/2007 - Submitted on 03/02/2014

We visited Roatan twice last year and are going back in a few months. I chose Roatan because I like to do some freedive photography in addition to scuba, and research showed that many consider Roatan good for snorkeling/freediving since the reef is close to shore in many places. Using Google Earth is a pretty good way to see the reef location at various spots on the island.

West End and West Bay are on the northwestern end of the island, and this is the more tourist-oriented area, with lots of hotels, restaurants, and shops. West Bay seems to have the nicest beaches in the area, although there are various other spots around the island that also have great beaches. Most of the dive spots are just offshore along the whole north side, and it's pretty much a continuous reef with great diving anywhere along the north coast. We haven't explored many sites on the south side, but there are plenty there too. In case of rough seas, it is often possible to just switch to the opposite side of the island to get good conditions.

We chose to stay in Sandy Bay, which is on the north side just a few miles east of West End and West Bay. We've stayed at 3 different resorts here, each much different, but we loved all three. We like Sandy Bay since it is more tranquil than the tourist areas, but we did head over to West End and West Bay a couple times to check them out. If you want a more active nightlife, Sandy Bay might not be your top choice. Depending where you stay in Sandy Bay, the reef can be just feet away, or a 10 minute swim across a lagoon.

Dive spots are close, so each operator does one-tank dives, then you do shore intervals back at your resort. The water seemed about 80 degrees in February and a bit warmer in July. We always had excellent visibility, warm water, and zero to very little current. Fairly typical Caribbean sea life, though we saw lots more groupers than other destinations, 4 species. Two wrecks near Sandy Bay, swimming through 4 levels of the Odyssey was very cool. Lots of turtles, eagle rays, some eels...great variety and a few species I hadn't seen before like sharp tail eel, a couple grouper species, blue parrotfish, and a few more. In July/Aug we were able to locate and snorkel with whale sharks about 8 times, brief but cool encounters, as each one was solitary and moving. I had great freediving on each trip too. There is an operator on the south side who offers dives with Caribbean reef sharks. Whether or not you are a shark enthusiast, it would be a crime to miss this dive if you are on Roatan. We did it both times we were there, just a very cool (and safe) experience, and a must for photographers. If currents are light, after watching the sharks from a fixed position, you are allowed to swim amongst them.

We mostly just dived and stayed around our resorts. We did do a tour of a wildlife sanctuary, and my wife enjoyed horseback riding on the beach (and in the ocean). Next time we will probably have one of the taxi drivers give us an island tour.

Pretty easy to get here from the US...many flight fly to Roatan from Houston..also, TACA flies in from El Salvador, we did it both ways and it was a relatively short trip from SF.

If you like diving the Caribbean and Belize and Cozumel but haven't tried the Bay Islands, I think you will love it!

Visited on 08/2013 - Submitted on 03/01/2014
  • Reviewer
Costa Mesa, CA
United States

I went right to Roatan after Thanksgiving which is their rainy season. It rained 50 inches the week I was there. I had a place over the water which would have been lovely in the dry season but it was the rainy season. During the transfer of my luggage from the truck to my cabana, the rain had soaked my bags. Walking from my room to the dining room, the crabs would dart about almost like lizards running around in the desert. Geckos hang all over the place, even in the rooms. It's a good thing, because they eat mosquitos. Bring repellant, the no see' ums will get you.

Of course the diving was stellar but since it was storming, we were shuttled to the other side of the island for calmer conditions. The first day we were there, the swells were 15 ft. It made for very tricky diver pickups. Mary's Place was memorable due to the shark carcass that drew in all the fish. I think we dove it at least 3 times because it was protected. The Aquila was a fun wreck dive. The sponges and corals were beautiful. Caribbean fish like sergeant majors, parrot fish, grunts, hogfish and wrasses are everywhere. Big groupers were curious. Roatan is good for the beginning diver making the transition to more advanced dives as some of the wrecks are near the recreational limits. I wore a 3 mm wetsuit and the water temperature was just fine for me in December.

Dolphin encounter was epic. Food was so-so. We didn't venture into town due to the downpour.

Advice: Pick a nice weather time for your trip! Dec and Jan can be rainy.

Visited on 12/2002 - Submitted on 02/19/2014


I first learned how to dive on Utila back in August 2011. First off, let me say this is a *very* fun island. It is mostly geared towards a younger backpacker crowd, unlike it's slightly more grownup counterpart Roatan. Lots of dive shops for any pace and budget, some nice cheap little restaurants, and many great bars (don't miss Treetanic!) If you are looking to have fun and meet some new people, this is a great place to do it. I spent two weeks here by myself and had a total blast.

As for the diving, it is also quite nice. The conditions in August were terrific- some of the best I have seen anywhere. Very warm water (no need for wetsuit, even to 140 feet), and visibility was outstanding (100+ feet!) Coral cover and reef fish abundance and diversity were alright, although certainly not spectacular compared to other places throughout the world. There was a noticeable lack of large fish, and I did not see much interesting macro life (although I must admit, my eyes were not very trained at that point!) However, I did see many spotted eagle rays and even three whale sharks during my two weeks there, which was a real treat. The wall dives on the north side of the island are also quite nice, and I hear a good spot for tec diving.

Coral and marine life were ok, although this is also a fantastic spot to see whale sharks when they are in "season'.

All-in-all, I'd say this is a great spot to learn how to dive, although the marine life will probably not be as good as many other places the experienced diver has been. Regardless, this is a great little island for chilling out and having some fun!

Visited on 08/2011 - Submitted on 02/17/2014