Utila is an island for scuba divers. There is really no way around it. Basically everyone on the island is either there to learn to scuba dive, there to teach scuba diving, or there to learn to teach scuba diving. The exceptions are the island locals, although most of islands permanent inhabitants work in jobs that help support the scuba industry in some way.
So what did I (a failed scuba diver) do on this scuba-centric island? Well… not a whole lot. And that was just fine by me.
The weather was beautiful (except for the two days I tried to dive, a sign from the gods maybe?), and I spent a whole lot of time sitting in the sun reading. Here’s what I did when I wasn’t busy not being busy.
Sometimes there was room on the boat headed out for diving for the day and for a few bucks I was able to hitch a ride to some pretty spectacular snorkeling spots. I was usually the only snorkeler, and I spent hours puttering around staring at beautiful fish and lying on the boat while I waited for the scuba crew to re-surface.
One day I ended up at this random beach that you can apparently only get to by boat.
Another day we found a baby sea turtle that had gotten caught in a current and couldn’t seem to make it to open water. We rescued it and brought it to the local sea turtle expert back on Utila.
Mmmm…. Food. We ate A LOT of baleadas during our week on Utila, as they are the cheapest and more ubiquitous meal on the island. A baleada is a large tortilla, stuffed with mashed beans and meat or cheese or avocado. In eight days we probably consumed over a dozen baleada meals.
When we were not eating baleadas we were feasting on the best chicken wings (ever) at Trudy’s Hotel. Wing night is only once a week, and it is un-missible. At $.50 a wing you can’t afford to skip what was our favorite meal on the island.
I Watched the Super Bowl
Now obviously this is not a typical activity on the island, but I was shocked (and thrilled!!) to find a bar that was going to show my beloved Peyton Manning (go Broncos!) kick some serious butt against the Seattle Seahawks. Alas… that is not at all what happened and I spent the day alternating between mourning the loss of what may have been the worst Super Bowl showing I have ever seen and explaining our fellow hostel occupants (none of whom were American) what it is about football that Americans find interesting. I have to admit that the more I explained (and the more beers I drank) the more difficult this task became, and I found myself passing out with the thought why do Americans love football? floating through my inebriated brain.
We Got Stuck
The plan was to spend enough time on Utila to get our certifications and then move on. But Utila is a magical place where the outside world ceases to exist, and I can’t tell you how many of our fellow hostel mates had extended their time on Utila by days, weeks, or even months. One of our roommates had come to the island to get open water certified (a four day venture) and ended up embarking on a journey to become a dive master (which requires months).
After falling in love with diving and island life our four days stretched to eight. We would have stayed longer but we really wanted to see Nicaragua and our meet up date with my friend in Costa Rica was rapidly approaching, so we reluctantly said goodbye to Utila and the scuba enthusiasts and island dwellers we met there.
Sure, the island is a little rough around the edges and it does not have any “pristine” beaches to speak of, but it is a mish-mash of international 20-somethings, local families, and over 60 ex-pats enjoying their golden years (or at least their golden winters) soaking up the sun and making absolutely no plans.
Dollars and Sense
TIP: Really you should make this island a priority ONLY if you plan to scuba dive. I got along fine not diving, but I was definitely out of place and may have been the only non-diver staying at our hostel.
TIP: While there is a definite party vibe on this island the early scuba boats mean that there are always a few people having a low key night in preparation for taking the early boat.
TIP: This island is known for whale sharks, which are most commonly sighted in March. We were a bit early, but on our last day there was a report of a whale shark sighting. If seeing these rare animals is a priority make sure you are paying attention to the season they swim through these waters.