Islas de la Bahia...
a Unique Paradise
Islas de la Bahia - 'Islands of the Bay' - are a small chain of 6 islands off the north coast of Honduras, located in the Caribbean Sea. There are 3 larger ones - Roatan being the central island, the largest and most developed.
Honduras is a typical Central American Country, but its outlying 'Islas de la Bahia' feel like they are definitely a part of the Caribbean Islands. A Vacationers Paradise, the Bay Islands of Honduras are famous for their Diving, Snorkeling, and Beaches.
The "Islands of the Bay' or 'Bay Islands' are one of the few, true Caribbean Islands. The Atlantic Ocean does not border them on any side, much like it does on a majority of the other "Caribbean Islands". They are fully located in the Caribbean Sea.
The 'Islas de la Bahia' were, apparently, formed from a crack at the bottom of the ocean that allowed lava to squeeze up through. This hot lava, as it came into contact with the cold seawater, instantly solidified into very beautiful, and very unique, formations that can be seen all over the Islands.
These formations are called 'Iron Shores'. A good example can be found by 'Cruiser-Shippers' at their most visited destination on Roatan - Tabyana Beach - located on West Bay Beach. There is a large outcropping of 'Iron Shores' located on the left of the Beach. That is also where the Living Coral Reef starts and runs parallel to the length of West Bay Beach.
By the early 17th century, the 'Islas de la Bahia' were a major base for Pirates and Buccaneers. The Coral Reefs surrounding the islands, and shallow harbors, worked to their advantage. The Spanish and English ships were a lot heavier. While chasing the Pirates, they could not enter through the reefs, and into the harbors, without grounding.
This fact made the 'Bay Islands', especially Roatan Island, a great staging area for intercepting the Spanish galleons taking treasures back to Spain. There are estimates of upwards of 7,000 pirates located on Roatan at one time. Treasure hunting anyone??
The history of the 'Islas de la Bahia' are full of adventure. Christopher Columbus discovered the Islands on his last voyage to the New World, in 1502. Subsequent Spanish colonists decimated the local native population, enslaving many Islanders and bringing disease that killed others. As indicated earlier, in the 18th century, the 'Bay Islands' became a haven for British pirates who raided Spanish ships laden with gems, silver and gold. After Spanish troops destroyed the pirate bases and killed or enslaved Roatan pirates in 1782, the islands were largely uninhabited. In 1797 the British changed the history of Honduras, when they exiled thousands of Garifuna rebels from St. Vincent Island, in the Caribbean Sea, to Roatan Island. The Garifuna people, a mixture of Caribbean natives and African slaves, settled on each 'Bay Island' and parts of Honduras’ northern coast. The Islands were part of the British Empire until 1859.
English remains a principle language on the Islands, so the 'Islas de la Bahia' are a great introduction to the country of Honduras for English-speaking travelers, as Spanish is normally the prevalent language. Three Main Islands comprise the 'Islas de la Bahia': Roatan, Utila, and Guanaja. Each 'Bay Island' has its own unique characteristics.
Roatan is the largest of the three main 'Islas de la Bahia' and the most popular with tourists, with the some of the best places for diving in Honduras, and the best beaches. Travelers looking for a top 'Bay Islands' Beach Resort will want to consider West Bay Beach on Roatan. Independent travelers will find some affordable hotels in Roatan’s West End.
Utila is generally the cheapest of the Bay Islands, with less expensive diving rates, accommodations, and food. Nevertheless, prices here or on the other Islands are more expensive than on the Mainland of Honduras as all supplies, etc., need to be shipped in. The beaches on Utila are, generally, not as good as on Roatan, but the laid-back attitude of the locals makes it a great place for backpackers.
Guanaja or 'Island of Pines', in Spanish, as named by Christopher Columbus, is the least developed of the three main Islands, but has some of the best diving and snorkeling sites of the 'Bay Islands'. Guanaja is also designated a 'Marine Reserve', which affords great, and enduring, protection of its sites for the future. Most of Guanaja is undeveloped and there are few cars on the island.
Closer to the Mainland, the Cayos Cochinos are two small islands off the north coast of Honduras. Declared a Marine Reserve, the Cayos Cochinos have some great diving sites and are an easy day trip from La Ceiba on the Mainland.
United (Continental) and Delta Airlines offer direct flights to Roatan Island from the United States. You can also get connecting flights from San Pedro Sula or Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. Travelers can also take a Bay Islands High Speed Ferry from the Mainland, the Galaxy Wave. The Galaxy Wave to Roatan and Utila leaves from La Ceiba; the ferry to Guanaja departs from Trujillo, towards the east.
Unfortunately, there are no 'Bay Island' ferrys from Island to Island, but you can take a Water Taxi. A Water Taxi is often the most convenient way to travel around the Islands anyway, especially around Roatan. A ten minute ride on a Water Taxi (from the West End to the West Bay on Roatan, for example) costs about $3US. A Water Taxi can also be hired for a private tour of the Islands, getting passengers to areas unreachable by car.
Whether you stay in a top 'Bay Islands' beach resort in Roatan’s West Bay Beach or a budget place on Utila Island, the 'Bay Islands' are sure to delight visitors. Sun, sand, and the second-largest Coral Reef in the world (after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia), make the 'Bay Islands' a great place for a relaxing and fun-filled getaway.
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