Before we boarded the ferry from La Ceiba, Honduras to the Bay Island of Utila we knew who Darrell was. The tall, very tan and very blond man in his forties or fifties walked into the sheltered area that served as the ferry station and we heard, “Hey, Darrell”, “Good to see you Darrell” and “Where ya’ been, Darrell?” with handshakes dispensed all around. When we arrived on the island, after a rough fifty minute crossing, we heard an English couple asking “Where’s Darrell?” So, we were able to establish our bona fides as friendly newcomers right away by turning around and gesturing towards Darrell. This seems to have set the tone for our visit to Utila as the island is an incredibly friendly community with few pretensions and a large, open and welcoming community of both locals and expats. Utila is a kick off your shoes and set-a-spell kind of place!
We’ve rented a quaint little apartment for a few weeks on the third floor of a clapboard residence (kind of like being in a tree house) named Jericho Gardens. We’d planned on practicing our Spanish but, once again, our sloth has been rewarded because, even though Spanish is the official language of Honduras, English seems to be the preferred language on Utila which was once a British colony.
The island itself seems like a small American town from the 1950’s (think Mayberry) with very narrow streets, many paved but some dirt, most suitable for pedestrians or various forms of transportation such as bikes, scooters, ATVs, and golf carts. There are few cars or trucks on the island which is easily explained once you see how difficult it can be for them to maneuver around the narrow streets. The houses that line the winding roads vary from large and picturesque two and three-story wood frame homes (many divided into apartments or housing businesses) to smaller, more modest dwellings. The lanes and paths that branch off the roads are, for the most part, trash and garbage free. Vacant land is readily filled to capacity with native growth in this moist and humid tropical climate.
Surrounding Utila are the warm, inviting crystal clear waters of the Caribbean and many smaller cays, some occupied but many uninhabited (although they may be privately owned). The island is known internationally as one of the best and cheapest places to learn how to SCUBA dive as well as possessing many easily accessible places for amazing snorkeling among the coral reefs that are part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second-largest in the world.
Now admittedly, utopian may be a bit of a stretch as a label for Utila but it’s an awesomely beautiful island that has quickly claimed a space on our list of favorite places. And, once visited, it might beckon as a safe haven to which one returns.
By Anita and Richard, September, 2013