The Bay Islands are the country's most popular tourist attraction and are known for the excellent diving and beaches. These islands can easily be reached by a short flight from Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula or La Ceiba. The three main islands are Utila, Guanaja and Roatan, which is the largest and most developed. With their white sandy beaches and easily accessible reefs around the islands, this makes the perfect place to take a beach break.
Each of the three main islands has a distinct character. Utila is flat, a backpacker paradise, and ringed by spectacular coral reefs. Scuba divers flock to the island, as it is one of the cheapest places on Earth to be PADI certified, and the magnificent yet gentle whale shark swims in the waters off the island. Roatán, the largest island, has a mountainous backbone and splendid beaches and resorts that attract tourists from all over the world. Guanaja, hit hard by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, is covered with Caribbean pine trees and remains relatively undeveloped. Guanaja, visited by Christopher Columbus in 1502, was also a hideout for 17th-century buccaneers, who grew rich by attacking gold-laden Spanish galleons. Regular airline and ferry services link the islands with the city of La Ceiba, on the mainland.
The Bay Islands were first discovered by Christopher Columbus on his fourth voyage to America in 1502. They were later claimed, and successively held, by Great Britain, Spain, and the Dutch United Provinces. Britain finally took control in 1643 and, with the exception of a one-month period of Spanish dominance in 1780, held onto them as a Crown colony, dependent on Jamaica. In 1860, in the aftermath of the William Walker filibustering affair, the British crown recognized Honduran sovereignty and ceded possession of them. The department of Islas de la Bahía was officially incorporated into the nation on 14 March 1872.
Tourism and Infrastructure
The Bay Islands of Honduras offer a very different world from that of mainland Honduras. The Islands history, which includes many disputes between the Spaniards and the British during colonial times, with the British actually controlling the islands most of time, have given the islands a unique heritage. There are several islands within the department, with three larger ones being the most popular with tourists: Utila, Roatan and Guanaja. English is so widely spoken in the Islands, that some people don't even speak Spanish, despite the fact that this is the official language of Honduras.
Getting to the islands is an easy task these days: Isleña (TACA) Airlines, Sosa Airlines, Atlantic Airlines all have service to all three major islands on a regular basis, in addition, Utila and Roatán have ferry service provided on the M.V. Galaxy. Moreover, TACA, Delta and Continental offer direct flights from the United States on select days of the week. In addition, Roatan Air Services offers charter flights between Roatan and Utila.
Roatán has a paved road that connects the most important communities of the Island. Starting from the Western End of the Island, at the community of West Bay, the roads leads through the communities of West End, Sandy Bay, Coxen Hole, Brick Bay, Mount Pleasant, French Harbour and Oakridge - Punta Gorda. From here, the road becomes a dirt road and continues east for a distance, to the area of Paya Bay, Camp Bay, Port Royal, and other communities. Roatán offers outstanding real estate investment opportunities.
There are several world-class developments under way that can be a convenient way of purchasing a piece of paradise. Parrot Tree Plantation, The Meridian at Lighthouse Point, Infinity Bay, and Lawson Rock are probably the most impressive development sites, however, others such as Palmetto Bay Club and Mayan Princess are also outstanding.