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Utila vs Roatan: Which Bay Island is Right for You?

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Utila vs Roatan, the age-old debate! It’s like choosing between Netflix and Hulu or peanut butter and jelly. Except, when it concerns your precious vacation time, the decision can be daunting. On one hand, Utila has a laid-back backpacker vibe and a nightlife scene that can’t be beat. On the other hand, Roatan’s pristine beaches and unbelievable scuba diving are sights not soon forgotten.

Now, as a self-proclaimed beach bum, I’ve done my fair share of island hopping in Honduras. Back in January of 2021, I left home in Madison, Wisconsin to spend “one month” in sunny Roatan. Well…I got one taste of the white-sand beaches, laid-back island vibes and affordable living and extended my flight for two more months. Long story short, I ended up living in Roatan for over a year, scuba diving my ass off, zooming around on a friend’s motorbike and drinking way too many Salva Vidas. You could say, when it comes to Roatan – I know what I’m talking about.

So grab a piña colada (or a glass of wine, you’re still home after all), sip back and listen up. I’m about to dive into the ultimate showdown of Utila or Roatan Honduras.

The I love Utila sign
My friend and I on a huge beach chair with an I love Roatan sign

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The Pros and Cons of Visiting Utila vs Roatan

Roatan and Utila are two of the most popular destinations in Honduras. Both offer stunning scenery and a plethora of activities for all different kinds of travelers. However, when it comes to choosing between these two Bay Islands, it can be difficult to decide which one is best for your trip to Honduras.

To make your decision a little less painful, I’ve put together a handy table of pros 👍🏼 and cons 👎🏼 for Utila vs Roatan. We’ll look at nightlife scenes, beaches, activities, affordability, accessibility, and more to help you determine which is the best fit for your Caribbean vacation.

👍🏼 Pros of Visiting Utila

  • It’s the more affordable choice
  • There’s an amazing nightlife scene
  • It’s a great destination for solo travelers
  • Accommodation is more affordable
  • It’s the place to get your scuba diving certifications (and they often come with free accommodation)
  • Less cruise ships dock here (depending on if you like cruises, this is either a pro or a con for you)
  • There are better souvenir shops

👍🏼 Pros of Visiting Roatan

  • The island is bigger and there’s more to do
  • Getting to Roatan is easier than getting to Utila
  • It has an international airport
  • There are more transportation options on the island
  • There are more hotel, resort and Airbnb options in Roatan
  • It’s more accessible for cruise ship passengers
  • There are more delicious restaurants in Roatan and an abundance of grocery stores

👎🏼 Cons of Visiting Utila

  • It’s difficult to get to
  • There is no airport on the island (except for private planes)
  • There aren’t as many luxury accommodation options on the island so you might have to “rough it” a little more than usual
  • There are less restaurants/grocery stores/food options to choose from

👎🏼 Cons of Visiting Roatan

  • It’s more expensive
  • There are very few options for budget accommodations
  • It’s less walkable than Utila
  • There are less perks associated with getting your scuba diving certification
  • The Roatan nightlife scene isn’t quite as strong (although it’s still pretty great)

Utila vs Roatan: Which island has better scuba diving?

When it comes to deciding between Utila vs Roatan, scuba diving is an important factor to consider.

It’s hard to definitively say which island has better scuba diving: Utila vs Roatan? Both offer an amazing array of dive sites and marine life. Sun Divers, my favorite Roatan dive center, claims that Roatan is “fishier” than Utila. Roatan reefs are covered in large schools of fish and sightings like eagle rays, moray eels and sea turtles are all but guaranteed.

In contrast, Utila’s scuba diving scene frames coral as the star of the show. You’ll observe colonies of thriving pillar coral and enormous elkhorn while diving in Utila. Although Utila is known for the occasional whale shark sighting, they’ve been quite elusive in recent years.

Another difference in the Utila vs Roatan diving scene is affordability. When it comes to fun diving and PADI courses, Roatan tends to be the more expensive option. Many dive centers in Utila will offer their students free accommodation with the purchase of a dive course.

In summary, if you’re looking for a wide variety of dive sites and lots of marine life, Roatan is the better choice. If you’re a budget diver, Utila is the perfect destination for you.

A green sea turtle on the Mesoamerican Reef off of Roatan Honduras
Photo by Francesca Deeweerdt.

Introduction to Roatan

Before jumping into how amazing Roatan is, I want to start off with one fact. I moved to Roatan for “one month” in January of 2021. I left Roatan in January of 2022. Clearly, this island is pretty special if my one-month trip turned into living on Roatan for a year instead!

Roatan is an island paradise where the sun (almost) always shines and the people (almost) always smile, except when the power goes out – then we just curse at RECO. Whether you’re an avid scuba diver or prefer to keep both feet on land, Roatan has something for everyone.

If you do love to do some underwater explorin’…you’re definitely in the right place. The waters surrounding Roatan are renowned for their world-class scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. With a wide variety of coral reefs, colorful fish, and even a few shipwrecks, the underwater world around Roatan Island will leave you breathless. They had pilot whales, dolphins near shore and even whale sharks spotted earlier this year 🤫

After you’ve spent the day diving, kayaking in the gentle waters off of West Bay Beach or just soaking up some sun on a beach chair, it’s time to pony up for Roatan’s nightlife scene. This tiny island has a surprising number of beach bars and tasty restaurants to explore. Whether you want to dance the night away to latin music, or just grab some grub with friends, there’s something amazing waiting to be discovered on this magical Honduras Bay Island.

Relaxing poolside at Grand Roatan

How to Get to Roatan

Getting to Roatan is relatively easy, even if it’s not always cheap. There are daily flights directly to Roatan from U.S. hubs like Dallas, Houston and Miami, as well as Minneapolis in the high-season. Sometimes booking a separate flight to San Pedro Sula on the mainland and then grabbing a quick flight to Roatan is the more affordable option for budget-conscious travelers.

Keep in mind, if you’re visiting Roatan from other parts of Central America, like Costa Rica, flights can be infrequent, inconvenient, and expensive. It’s always best to plan ahead when planning your trip to Roatan. 

Where to Stay in Roatan

From budget-friendly hostels to luxurious resorts, there is a wide range of accommodation options in Roatan to fit any type of traveler.

When deciding where to stay in Roatan, the first step is deciding on a neighborhood. I always recommend West Bay for couples, families, and honeymooners with large vacation budgets and West End for solo travelers, party-lovers or anyone traveling on a budget. West End is to nightlife and adventure what West Bay is to relaxation and luxury.

The nearby town of Sandy Bay is also an option for relaxation-focused travelers with a smaller vacation budget. However, keep in mind you might want your own vehicle if you stay in this neck of the woods, since not many things are walkable from over here.

  • The Roatan Backpacker’s Hostel (budget): The Backpacker’s Hostel is currently the only hostel in operation on Roatan. With dorms starting at around $30/night, it’s the perfect accommodation for adventurous solo travelers on a budget. They also offer a variety of fun activities like yoga, Spanish lessons and even traditional Honduran cooking classes.
  • Tranquilseas Eco Lodge & Dive Center (mid-level): Tranquilseas Eco Lodge is Sandy Bay’s best luxury accommodation for eco-conscious travelers and scuba divers. In addition to tailored scuba diving trips to Roatan’s best dive sites, the hotel also offers fishing charters, yoga and trips around the island. Plus, their rooms are recently renovated so you can relax in air conditioned style!
  • Brisas del Mar (mid-level): If you’re searching for luxury in lively West End, then look no further than Brisas del Mar. This beautiful, recently renovated hotel is located directly on one of West End’s many beaches and includes a pool and delicious on-site restaurant, Tequila Jacks. Pro tip: if O’Neil is working, definitely order a homemade margarita. 
  • Grand Roatan Caribbean Resort (luxury): Grand Roatan is one of the island’s most luxurious resorts and, since they’re in the midst of major renovations, it’s only getting nicer by the year! Book an ocean-view room on pristine West Bay Beach to enjoy your Roatan vacation in style at their four-story spa and four on-site restaurants. 
  • Ibagari Boutique Hotel (luxury): Ibagari is a super luxurious boutique hotel located on the beach in between West End and West Bay. Booking a room here will guarantee a Roatan vacation spent in luxury with their island excursions, sunset cruises, and daily snorkeling/diving trips.
The views of West Bay Beach from Grand Roatan Caribbean Resort
The views from Grand Roatan Caribbean Resort.
Me relaxing poolside at Tranquilseas Eco Lodge in Sandy Bay
The pool at Tranquilseas Eco Lodge.

The Best Things to do in Roatan

The biggest factor, when deciding between Utila vs Roatan, is things to do on each island! Let’s start with the best things to do in Roatan Honduras.

Being the largest of the Bay Islands in Honduras, Roatan has a plethora of activities to offer its visitors. Whether you’re a culture enthusiast, a nature lover, a wildlife fanatic, or an adventure seeker, you’ll find something to do on Roatan that will leave you with incredible memories.

Keep reading for a sneak peek of the best activities Roatan has to offer!

Go Scuba Diving or Snorkeling

Picture this: the wind in your hair, the sun on your face and the salty spray of the ocean on your skin. This unforgettable boat ride is the start of every scuba diving adventure in beautiful Roatan.

Once you reach your dive site, you’ll be greeted with crystal-clear Caribbean waters teeming with colorful fish. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll even spot an eagle ray, sea turtle or nurse shark hanging out on the reefs!

I did a lot of scuba diving during my 12 months living in Roatan, so you can trust me when I say my favorite dive shop is Sun Divers Roatan in West End. I earned both my PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water Certifications with Sun Divers and it opened a world of possibilities for me both in Roatan and when I traveled to Southeast Asia.

Even if you’re not a scuba diver, you would be remiss to leave Roatan without experiencing the magic of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. Consider booking a snorkeling excursion with a local guide to get a taste of Roatan’s marine life before heading back to land.

🌙 Pro Tip:

Don’t limit yourself to the marine life visible during the day! Consider booking a night dive or night snorkeling excursion to observe exciting nocturnal critters like octopus, squid, lobster and even Roatan’s bioluminescent algae known as “the string of pearls.”

Visit the Roatan Brewing Company

Now Roatan is nothing like Denver, there’s no booming craft beer scene with trendy microbreweries on every corner. Roatan has got one brewery – only one – and it’s appropriately named The Roatan Brewing Company.

Now a visit to the RBC is less of a quick beer tasting and more of a whole day experience. The brewery is known island-wide for their “Sunday Fundays” and both locals, expats and tourists congregate here to play lawn games, peruse the stands at the Roatan craft market (if happens to be the right Sunday) and, of course, drink copious amounts of delicious beer.

I love Salva Vidas as much as the next girl, but sometimes a gal just needs a hoppy IPA and a bangin’ cubano. For those of you who haven’t visited yet, Salva Vida = Roatan’s local beer.

The Roatan Brewing Company
A cubano and chips from the Roatan Brewing Company

Book a Fishing Charter or Catamaran Cruise

Step #1: arrive on a tropical island. Step #2: get your ass out on the water!

There are countless options for boating excursions on Roatan, but I always say you can’t go wrong with a classic catamaran cruise at sunset. The Stray Cat (great name, right?) takes ocean-lovers out daily from the Brisas del Mar dock in West End. The cruise starts at 2:00PM and $65/person gets you unlimited local beer, cocktails and some snacks on the boat. To snag a spot, reach out to Elliot on WhatsApp at +504 3317-3669.

Or, if a 5:00 AM balls-to-the-wall fishing charter is more your speed, consider booking a charter with Wahoo Slayer to catch some serious fish in Roatan. Contact them on Facebook to coordinate your excursion!

Our friends enjoying the sunset from the Stray Cat Catamaran in Roatan Honduras

Take an Island Cooking Class

If you’re looking for an authentic way to immerse yourself in the Roatan culture, taking a traditional Honduran cooking class should definitely be on your island to-do list. Not only will you learn how to prepare delicious Honduran dishes, but you’ll also get a glimpse into the history and traditions behind them. The cooking class at the Roatan Backpacker’s Hostel offers more than just a lesson on food, as you’ll get to socialize and connect with a local chef while enjoying a home-cooked meal.

The class offers a couple of different local dishes to choose from, but we decided to go with the classic Honduran chicken in coconut milk with rice, beans, and fried plantains. Oh and don’t forget the homemade hot sauce! Get in touch to book your cooking class by emailing [email protected].

Making homemade hot sauce in Roatan
Making traditional Honduran chicken in an island cooking class on Roatan

Plan a Trip to the East End for Kite Surfing, Mangroves and Pristine Beaches

The West End is the more developed side of the island. Most expats live on this side and it’s where 95% of the island’s tourism is concentrated. However, don’t forget that the underdeveloped, less populated East Side of Roatan has its own exciting experiences to offer tourists. It’s a side of Roatan that most visitors don’t get to see.

Rent a car (I like to go to the rental place in Coconut Tree Plaza), pack up the car with snacks and Salva Vidas and take the one-hour drive down to Camp Bay. Grab a delicious lunch at La Sirena de Camp Bay before heading over to relax on Camp Bay Beach. Depending on the season, there’s a high probability you’ll have the whole beach to yourself. On the drive home, which I would suggest starting before the sun sets (that side of the island is not well-lit), make a stop at Hole in the Wall for a couple cold beers and some riveting conversation with Captain Ed. Pro tip: if you have strong opinions, I would suggest not starting or encouraging a political discussion with this character.

If you’re hoping to attend the cultural festival at Punta Gorda, go scuba diving on the east end or take a kitsurfing lesson, consider booking a night or two at Camp Bay Lodge!

An aerial view of Camp Bay Beach
No photoshop used, I was the only person on the beach.

Get a Taste of Roatan Nightlife

I’ll be honest, when it comes to Honduras nightlife – Utila pretty much takes the cake. However, that doesn’t mean that Roatan doesn’t have some bangin’ nightlife scenes as well! 

Now that the COVID-19 curfew is long lifted, there are plenty of places to get your drink and dance on in both West End and West Bay. The typical Roatan party “migration” starts at Sundowners Beach Bar for a pregame until 10:00PM, when the group migrates to either Blue Marlin or Frank’s (aka The Pub) for a reggaeton dance floor. 

When you stumble off the dance floor four hours later, sweaty as hell and ready to eat a horse, be sure to stop by Raul’s Taco stand in the roundabout – the premiere drunk food experience in West End. 

Sundowners Beach Bar in Roatan

Where to Eat in Roatan

When it comes to the foodie scene, Roatan wins the debate of Utila vs Roatan by a landslide. The island is full of top-notch dining options that will leave your taste buds and stomach satisfied during your whole stay.

Although there are plenty of expat-owned joints selling familiar food like burgers, pizza and nachos, I urge you to get out of your comfort zone and try some traditional Honduran food. Trust me, after your trip to Roatan, baleadas are going to be your new favorite dish!

  • Loretta’s Island Cooking: Loretta’s is my #1 favorite restaurant in Roatan! When I lived on the island, it was located a 30 second walk from my apartment. A family-owned joint, Loretta and her daughter cook up some of the freshest, tastiest seafood on the island. They even do traditional Honduran breakfast which is chefs kiss delicious. Try the lobster pasta or the conch in cream sauce!
  • Yahongreh: Yahongreh is one of my favorite spots in West End for brekkie. She serves delicious baleadas, bagels and tipico breakfast at her little street-side restaurant. Be sure to try the homemade hot sauce. 
  • Creloe’s Rotisserie: If you’re looking for an affordable, but hearty dinner, Creole’s Rotisserie is the spot for you. Dola sells thick and juciy rotisserie chickens with a variety of yummy sides like tortillas, coleslaw, pasta salad and roasted beets. 
  • Sandy Buns: We love a good brunch on vacation! Sandy Buns is the best spot in town for a massive and delicious brunch/lunch with a view of the ocean. Try their homemade bagels and cinnamon rolls!
  • Calelu’s: Calelu’s serves my favorite baleada in Roatan, so be sure to try it out during your visit! I always order my baleadas with scrambed eggs, pickled onions, avocado and mantequilla (along with the refried red bean base). Calelu’s serves tons of other tasty dishes and even has a grocery store in the back.
  • Anthony’s Chicken: If you love chicken and spicy food, don’t leave Roatan without a visit to Anthony’s Chicken. Rosie makes some of the tastiest local food on the island, especially when it comes to heaping piles of jerk chicken with coconut rice & beans and fried plantains. 
Conch in cream sauce from Loretta's Island Cooking in Roatan
Conch in cream sauce + rice and beans from Loretta’s Island Cooking.
Jerk chicken and fried platains from Anthony's Chicken in Roatan
Spicy jerk chicken, beans & rice, pico and fried plantains from Anthony’s Chicken.

Introduction to Utila

Utila is a small island off the coast of Honduras that I was lucky enough to visit Utila for a full week at the beginning of 2021. This stunning little island is well-known around the Caribbean for it’s affordable living, abundance of marine life and booming nightlife scene. It’s a haven for solo travelers, scuba divers, backpackers and budget travelers of all ages – which is probably why I loved it so much!

Utila Honduras is a prime destination for snorkeling and scuba diving due to its clear, warm waters and diversity of marine life. Whether you’re a beginner or experienced scuba diver, you’ll find plenty of sites suitable for your level and abilities. From eagle rays to sea turtles, you’ll get up close and personal with some of the most majestic and vibrant sea creatures on the planet. Maybe even a whale shark if you’re super lucky!

Even if you’re not the underwater explorer type, there’s plenty of exciting activities to experience in Utila. Relax on some of the best beaches in Honduras, paddle board on Utila’s calm bays or explore the islands foodie and nightlife scene.

When deciding on Utila vs Roatan, it’s important to go in with all the facts about Utila and Roatan. Keep reading for the best of Utila!

Me enjoying a tasty latte oceanside at Hotel Trudy

How to Get to Utila

The easiest way to get to Utila is by getting to Roatan and starting your journey there. Make your way to Mahogany Bay and simply book a ticket on the Utila Dream Ferry (the Roatan to Utila ferry) for around $25-30 each way. Although you can buy tickets when you arrive at the ferry, I always prefer to purchase them ahead of time in case prices rise. The trip from Roatan to Utila takes 50 minutes to an hour and it’s a good idea to stock up on nausea medication if you’re prone to sea sickness.

Where to Stay in Utila

When deciding Utila vs Roatan for your next vacation, keep in mind that Roatan has a wider array of options for accommodation. However, the options that Utila does have are much more affordable. Below are some of the best accommodation options for your trip to Utila.

  • Hotel Trudy (budget): Hotel Trudy is where I stayed during the one week I visited Utila. Since we were still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I ended up paying $6/night for a 4-bed hostel dorm that I had all to myself. The hostel’s on-site Utila dive center – Underwater Vision – was the perfect spot to get in some awesome dives in Utila. Not only is it budget-friendly, but Hotel Trudy offers “theme nights” throughout the week that make it super easy to socialize and make friends as a solo traveler in Honduras.
  • La Hamaca Hostel (budget): La Hamaca Hostel has a prime location in the heart of Utila and is a great place for solo travelers to meet and socialize over coordinated hostel events and bar games. Note: if you want to scuba dive during your time in Utila, this is probably not the accommodation for you. 
  • Coral View Beach Resort (mid-level): Located on a private beach, Coral View Beach Resort is actually within walking distance of three different beaches in the area – including Neptune’s.
  • Mango Inn (mid-level): Mango Inn has a prime location in the heart of Utila with a swimming pool and attached bar and restaurant.
  • East Wind (luxury): East Wind’s luxurious oceanside property includes four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fully stocked kitchen, and beachfront access.
  • Coral Ridge House (luxury): The luxurious Coral Ridge House includes three bedrooms, three bathrooms, air conditioning, and a stunning ocean view of a semi-private beach.
Hotel Trudy in Utila
Hotel Trudy in Utila.

The Best Things to Do in Utila

During my week in Utila, I spent my time experiencing the best that the island has to offer! Thankfully, Utila offers plenty of activities for adventurers and beach-goers alike.

For the adrenaline junkie, you can explore the depths of the Caribbean Sea with world-class scuba diving and snorkeling experiences. For more laid back travelers, head into town to experience the vibrant nightlife and plethora of restaurants serving traditional Honduran fare. You’ll find plenty of quaint souvenir shops to browse through and you can even visit the Treetanic Bar – rated 4th best bar in the world by Lonely Planet Magazine.

Without further ado, keep reading for the best things to do in Utila. Hopefully it’ll settle your Utila vs Roatan debate once and for all.

Get Your Scuba Diving Certification

Many scuba divers decide to dive in Utila becuse it’s much cheaper than diving Roatan. In fact, it’s one of the most popular destinations in the world to get your scuba certification! Thankfully, Utila diving is just as beautiful as it is affordable. 

Although I didn’t earn my PADI certification in Utila (I earned it in Roatan with Sun Divers), I met many travelers at Hotel Trudy who were in town to earn their certification with Underwater Vision. Many Utila dive centers offer free accommodation with the price of a diving certificate, so it’s a fantastic spot to try out scuba diving on a budget. Even if you’ve already completed your courses, scuba diving Utila is an experience not-to-be-missed on the Bay Islands scuba diving bucket list.

Reach out to Underwater Vision on their Facebook page to book your diving or accommodation.

Visit the Utila Brewing Company

Roatan isn’t the only Bay Island with its own brewing company! While visiting Utila, I made a stop at the Utila Brewing Company to try some tasty brews and do some people watching in the shade.

They’re open serving tasty craft beers five days/week (closed Tuesday & Thursdays) and it’s the best spot in town on Fridays when they host their weekly burger nights.

Craft beer from the Utila Brewing Company – the craft brewery scene is strong when looking at Utila vs Roatan

Take in the Views from Pumpkin Hill

Similar to Gili Trawangan (another great scuba diving destination), Utila is completely flat with one small hill known as Pumpkin Hill. Because of its flatness, it’s not the ideal island for hiking, but if you’re searching for some much-needed exercise to work off lard-heavy baleadas, then the short hike to the top might be the perfect activity for you in Utila. 

Simply hop in an tuk tuk for around 100 HNL to the trailhead and hike 20 minutes to the highest point on the island. You’ll be rewarded with 360 degree ocean views…if they trimmed the trees at the top. Which they hadn’t when I was there 🙄 

Pumpkin Hill on Utila

Visit the Treetanic Bar at Jade Seahorse

The Treetanic Bar at Jade Seahorse was voted the #4 best bar in the world by Lonely Planet Magazine. When you visit…you’ll understand why. The whole property is covered in colorful mosaics. It’s incredibly artsy and beautiful and the perfect place to snap some gorgeous shots of Utila. 

…unfortunately there is one drawback. The entire bar/outdoor area is COVERED in massive spiders. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this until I was already too far in to go back…

The Treetanic Bar at the Jade Seahorse in Utila

Spend a Beach Day at Coral Beach

One of the best Utila beaches is Coral Beach, and taking the ferry there gives you the perfect excuse for a long tuk tuk ride with an ocean view!

Hop in any tuk tuk on Utila’s main street, ask for the “Coral Beach ferry” and you’ll be on your way. The drive should cost around 75-100 HNL but it’s definitely worth it, since Coral Beach is the ultimate Utila relaxation spot. The 300+ acre resort community boasts a white sand beach, fun water sports rentals and delicious food and cocktails from Neptune’s.

I made the way down to Coral Beach for a beach day during my trip to Utila and it was exactly the rest and rejuvenation I needed.

A cute beach sign on Coral Beach
A taco salad that was mostly nachos from Neptune's Utila

Try Out Utila’s Legendary Nightlife

When it comes to the Utila vs Roatan nightlife debate, Utila wins this one hands down.

This charming island in Honduras may be small, but it packs a big punch when it comes to partying. Prepare to dance the night away to reggaetone in one of Utila’s many beachside bars! The laid-back, friendly atmosphere makes it the perfect place to get your party on. And it doesn’t hurt that the drinks are both cheap and delicious!

My favorite spots to party on Utila were Tranquila Bar and La Cueva, but remember that the Utila Brewing Company is the place to be every Friday night.

Where to Eat in Utila

When considering Utila vs Roatan, it’s important to note that Roatan has the stronger array of restaurants. Although Utila doesn’t have quite the foodie scene that Roatan does, there are still delicious eats to be found if you know where to look.

Utila has a mix of affordable, local fare and a bit pricier (but still affordable) international eats. However, if you’re looking for a McDonald’s, you’re going to be looking a while. There are no fast food joints on this island paradise.

  • Mango Tango: This oceanside joint is widely considered one of the best restaurants in Utila. I luckily visited on a night when they had lionfish in stock and I feasted on lionfish ceviche washed down with a cold Salva Vida. Mango Tango is a little on the expensive side for Utila, but it’s still insanely affordable. 
  • Camilla’s Bakery: Camilla’s was located a short five minute walk down the street from my hostel, so I’m not ashamed to say I frequented this bakery for breakfast more than once. Even though it’s not exactly local, I’m a sucker for a bagel, so I ordered them homeade with cream cheese, ham, avocado and tomato. 
  • La Casita: In Honduras, I’m always in search of the best baleada join. La Casita’s baleadas did not disappoint and, at less than $2 a pop, you can’t beat those prices. 
  • Baleadas Mama Rosa: Mama Rosa was another fantastic spot for baleadas in Utila! Stop by before a day of diving for some carb and bean filled breakfast heaven. 
  • Mister Buddha: Although you can find lots of international food in Honduras, the Bay Islands definitely had a shortage of sushi while I lived there. I had heard good things about Mister Buddha’s sushi, so I stopped by one night to give it a try! The sush was very yummy, but it was very expensive for Utila and the wait times were ridiculous (over an hour for two rolls). 
  • RJ’s Barbecue: RJ’s is the place to be for a Sunday barbecue in Utila. I decided to order the roast pork with all the yummy sides: rice, roasted veggies, salad, garlic bread and mashed potatoes and gravy.
A delicious dinner of lionfish ceviche and fried plantains at Utila's Mango Tango restaurant
Lionfish ceviche from Mango Tango in Utila.
the baleada scene is pretty even when considering utila vs roatan
A delicious baleada from La Casita.

Utila vs Roatan FAQs:

Where is Utila?

Utila is an island in Honduras located in the Caribbean Sea, about 18 miles off the coast of Honduras. It is part of the Bay Islands of Honduras and is known for its stunning beaches, scuba diving and vibrant nightlife. It’s the perfect place to relax and explore the beauty of the Caribbean on a budget.

How long is the ferry ride from Roatan to Utila?

The ferry ride from Roatan to Utila is approximately 50 minutes to an hour on the Utila Dream Ferry. The ferries usually run multiple times daily, although it sometimes depends on the season. When you arrive, you’ll be dropped off in the middle of Utila’s main stretch. Here, you can grab a bite to eat or do some souvenir shopping.

Is Utila Honduras safe?

Utila is generally considered a safe destination for tourists and I felt very safe there as a solo female traveler. The island has a very small police force, so you won’t see large numbers of officers patrolling the streets. However, you should still exercise caution when visiting and be aware of your surroundings. I also wouldn’t suggest walking alone in secluded areas after dark, but that’s true of anywhere in the world.

Is Roatan Honduras safe for Americans?

Absolutely! Roatan is a safe and beautiful place for Americans to visit. The island has a very low violent crime rate and the locals are incredibly friendly. You do hear about burglaries in West End now and then, but simply follow the Roatan Crime Watch Facebook page for crime updates in the area. As long as you exercise a normal level of caution and keep an eye on your belongings (and your drink girls!), you’ll be perfectly safe when visiting Roatan.
When it comes to the Utila vs Roatan safety debate, I would say both islands felt equally safe to me.

How big is Roatan?

Roatan is about 40 miles long and, at its widest, 5 miles wide, making it the largest of the Bay Islands in Honduras.

Is Roatan expensive?

Roatan is generally considered to be more affordable than most other Caribbean destinations, with the exception of the Dominican Republic. However, when looking at Honduras as a whole, Roatan is the most expensive destination in the country.
Utila is much more affordable than Roatan and destinations in mainland Honduras, like Copan Ruinas, are much more affordable than Utila.
However, a vacation to Roatan will still set you back a lot less than other Caribbean spots like Aruba or the U.S. Virgin Islands. A local meal will cost anything from $2-12 and a meal at a sit-down restaurant will cost around $20-40/person. Local beers are sold for $2-4 each and cocktails average $4-10 on the island. Scuba diving in Roatan is also very affordable, with packages starting at around $35/dive.

What is the best time to dive in Utila?

The best time to dive in Utila is generally between March and May when the water is warmest, visibility is at its peak and the marine life is at its most active. As with Roatan, Utila enjoys a warm, tropical climate throughout the year, making it an ideal destination for year-round diving. However, I would recommend missing the rainy season (December through February) unless you’re fine with frigid boat rides in the rain.

What is the currency in Honduras?

The official currency in Honduras is the Lempira (HNL). US Dollars are also widely accepted in the country, particularly in tourist areas. There are ATMs available, but it’s always advisable to bring more cash than you think you’ll need, as it’s not always easy to find a working ATM and cash is usually preferred.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the decision of Utila vs Roatan depends on your individual needs and preferences. Do you want to dance the night way at beach bars or eat your way through a local foodie scene? Are you looking for a budget-friendly dive experience, or are you willing to pay a little extra for superior service?

Both islands offer beautiful beaches, plenty of outdoor activities and a craft brewery to match. Both offer tons of unique dive sites for all levels of PADI scuba divers. One thing’s for sure, whichever island wins your debate of Utila vs Roatan, you’ll be in for an unforgettable experience.

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