divers swimming above a coral reef

Diving in Utila: 13 Reasons to Go (+Top Utila Dive Sites)

Diving in Utila is one of the Caribbean’s best kept secrets. 

Utila is not as well-known as big names like Bonaire, but has a big reputation amongst dive instructors because of its world-class diving at an affordable price.

And aside from scuba diving in Utila, there’s plenty of fun, tropical excursions!

Read on to learn why diving in Utila is unforgettable, and top dive sites.

1. In Utila, dive into the Caribbean’s largest reef system (second-largest in the world!)

A school of blue tangs
An abundance of schools of fish in Utila, like this school of blue tangs.

Utila is advantageously located north of Honduras (close to its more famous island cousin Roatán) in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. 

Over 60 types of hard corals form a vast network of reefs surrounding the island that in turn provides habitat for over 500 fish species, five species of marine turtles and sharks

From my experience the water was beautifully warm, with my dive computer logging 79-81 degrees Fahrenheit in May. 

Blue and purple fish or creole wrasse swimming in the ocean.
Blue and purple creole wrasse are a common sight in Utila.

The diving is fantastic with ultra clear visibility for dense schools of fish across an ethereal landscape of sea fans and rolling hills. 

You can look out for diverse marine life such as an occasional hawksbill turtle, parrot fish in spectacular green and pink hues, or my favorite: the quivering black and white beauties known as spotted drumfish

Bright blue and cobalt colored queen parrotfish taking a huge bite of coral.
Queen parrotfish taking a huge bite of coral.

Schools of fish are plentiful and include silvery barracudas, and yellow striped grunts

It’s also easy to spot common Caribbean marine life like moray eels and fun crustaceans such as coral banded shrimp

2. You may see whale sharks in Utila! 

Whale shark in Utila

Another advantage to diving in Utila compared to other Caribbean destinations is an increased chance of seeing exciting big life like whale sharks!

Utila is located near the whale sharks’ migratory patterns. For example, the north part of the island extends into the open seas where whale sharks tend to swim by.

It also helps that the waters near Utila are rich with plankton – the main food source for whale sharks. 

That said, there’s no guarantee that you’ll see a whale shark while diving in Utila

And while most sites say the likelihood is higher from March to April, but my dive guides told me that whale sharks show up throughout the year

So you never know when a whale shark might show up. 

3. Many top dive sites to choose from in Utila

Swimthrough with a diver's outline in a turquoise light.

There are also many amazing dive sites to choose from in Utila, with over 90 listed dive sites

Sites are generally organized by the north side of the island, versus the south side. 

I have only dived on the north side, and the recommendation I received from a former instructor in Utila is that the north side tends to be more beautiful.

But since the boat journeys can be longer to the north, many Open Water student divers will be more likely headed south. 

Yellow green hill of sea fans

If you are a more experienced diver, be sure to request dive sites on the north side of the island!

The same former instructor has also passed on her favorite dive sites in Utila: 

  • Duppy Waters
  • Blackish Point
  • The Maze
  • Raggedy Cay
  • Black Hills
  • Sting Ray Point
  • Ted’s Point
  • Airport Caves
  • Labyrinth

The dive sites I visited were all incredible! Here’s what I checked out during my last trip:

Joshua’s Swash

Yellow trumpetfish hiding in yellow coral.
Trumpetfish being coy in the coral

This dive site has a lot of fun underwater features, such as small canyons and channels to swim through. 

I encountered lobsters and lionfish (parasitic species in the Caribbean, sadly) camouflaged among the rocks. Peek into a crevice and you may find a school of shimmery squirrelfish hiding!

Another fascinating fish you may encounter is the spotted goatfish. They have goofy mustached-looking tendrils they use to probe the sand for food.

Depth: 60 feet or 18 meters


school of blue tangs crossing a coral bommie.
I can never get tired of blue tangs!

Moonhole is a stunner with an abundance of fish life to look at – and as an added plus there’s a large sandy bottom that makes it accessible for beginner divers too!

My dive group started out at Ron’s wreck nearby (where there’s a very tiny ship wreck) before we crossed over to the main Moonhole site. 

Big schools of blue tangs and purple-pink creole wrasse make for a breathtaking view. 

It’s also a great place to see some of my favorite Carribean fish: beautiful bright turquoise queen parrotfish, geometrically striped stoplight parrotfish, and blue-streaked queen triggerfish.

stoplight parrotfish swimming, with bright yellow tail and blue head.
This stoplight parrotfish isn’t making any stops for me!

And of course, I’m partial to trumpetfish because of their odd-shaped, elongated bodies!

Also keep an eye out for moray eels hiding in cracks and under rocks at this site. 

Depth: 60 feet or 18 meters

Airport Caves

Ruby brittle star with striped arms on a purple coral.
Ruby brittle star is one of the most fun things to find!

This site was a night dive for me, and it was a fun and new experience for me in a few ways. 

While I’ve done night dives elsewhere, what I found fascinating about Airport Caves is the sheer number of sleeping parrotfish you’ll find strewn about the rocks!

At night, parrotfish will build a mucous cocoon to protect itself, which is absolutely adorable. It’s similar to how we sleep in tents or sleeping bags while camping!

basket star with tendrils across a purple sea fan
This may look like a weed, but it’s a giant, wriggling basketstar.

There were also a large number of shrimp, tiny crabs, and wriggling basketstars (which look like fern leaves unfurling, it’s pretty wild). 

My favorite sight were all the ruby brittle stars – they are bright red and scamper away quickly from your torch light. 

Depth: 45 feet or 14 meters

Iron Bound

Yellow french grunts crossing a canyon.
School of french grunts crossing.

Iron Bound was probably my favorite site on my Utila trip – largely due to exceptionally sunny and clear conditions on that day. 

This dive can start with a swim through (and yes, there’s a resident moray eel in a cave at the end), before you wander through hills of beautiful coral rocks and sea fans. 

moray eel with its mouth open under a cave.
Moray eel greeting us at the end of a swimthrough.

In the meantime there’s plenty of fun Caribbean fish life such as french angelfish (dramatically black with specks of bright yellow), sting rays, puffers, and barracudas. I was also lucky enough to spot a giant tarpon.

Black and white drumfish swimming
Black and white drumfish are a joy to watch.

Don’t miss the spotted drumfish – a shy black-and-white striped fish with dramatically long fins. It’s a dazzling sight to see them move!

Depth: 65 feet or 25 meters

Ted’s Point

A gorgeous and popular dive site in the south side of the island, Ted’s Point is colorful, with a very shallow reef that starts at 15 feet. 

yellow striped french angelfish stops to say hello
Juvenile french angelfish

But you can dive to 65 feet with even more to see: spotted drumfish can be hiding in the deeper areas, and throughout there’s plenty of fish such as schools of blue tang, trunkfish, and indigo hamlets. 

indigo hamlet swimming across the coral.
Indigo hamlet are also hermaphrodites.

Indigo hamlets are probably my favorite to spot since they are bright blue, and are also hermaphrodites with the ability to change genders during spawning!

Depth: 65 feet or 25 meters

Utila island at sunset with orange hues.

4. Utila is easy to get to

Despite having a remote-island feel to it, Utila is actually easy to get to

If you’re a traveler from North America, it’s easy to fly into either Roatan (RTB) or San Pedro Sula (SAP) in Honduras. There are direct flights from many US cities, such as Miami, Atlanta, and Houston. From there you can transfer to Utila.

There are two ways to get to Utila from Honduras: by ferry or by plane.

Ferry trails streaming from the ocean in blue hues.


For the ferry, depart from either La Ceiba in the Honduras mainland or neighboring island Roatan with the main company Utila Dream Ferry. The ferry ride from La Ceiba takes 45 minutes and the ferry ride from Roatan takes 60 minutes

Round trip for both costs 1600 HNL (~65 USD) at the port, or 1350 HNL (~55 USD) online. So I recommend buying in advance! 

I took the ferry from Roatan, and found it to be a very smooth ride with plenty of seating below the deck and outdoors with shade. There’s also indoor seats with AC if you buy better tickets. 

Inside of Utila dream ferry with rows of seats.

One thing to note: if departing from Roatan, the ferry terminal for Utila Dream Ferry is located in the middle of Roatan island, in Dixon Cove

It’s a quick 7 minute car ride from Roatan airport (RTB), but can take 30 minutes if you’re staying in West Bay/West End and 60 minutes if you’re in Camp Bay in the east. 

I recommend allocating time accordingly and to check with the locals when to avoid traffic so you don’t miss your ferry!


If you are flying to Utila, you’ll need to transfer from San Pedro Sula (SAP) or Roatan (RTB) and then take a connecting flight to Utila. The main airline is CM Airlines. 

I don’t recommend this option because of the high cost, where the ferry is inexpensive and almost just as fast as a flight!

Orange trumpetfish swimming.

5. Utila diving is relatively affordable

Diving in Utila is one of the most affordable locations in the world, and certainly has the lowest cost in the Caribbean.

My dives cost about $35-40 per dive – and of course the more dives you book as a package, you’re likely to get a discount! 

This is a big difference compared to Grand Cayman where dives are easily double that!

6. Learn about eco diving in Utila with lionfish hunting

A scuba diver opening the lid to his lionfish zookeeper cage.
A diver opening a containment unit for his freshly caught lionfish.

If you have a passion for sustainability in the ocean, many dive shops will lead lionfish hunting excursions!

Lionfish, while exotic to look at, are unfortunately an invasive species that are destroying the ecosystem in the Carribbean. 

In fact, studies show that even one lionfish living in a reef can reduce native reef fish by 79 percent

A deadl ionfish on a stake behind fed to an eel.
Feeding a lionfish to a moray eel to teach them to hunt lionfish.

Lionfish are incredibly fast swimmers, have no natural predators, and can reproduce every few days (juveniles only take about a year to reach maturation).

I’ll end my rant here about how bad lionfish are, but generally hunting lionfish in Utila is a great way to do your part as a eco-scuba diver! 

7. You may have a chance to snorkel with dolphins!

Dolphins that are spinner variety in the blue ocean.
Three dolphins that swam very close to me!

If diving through beautiful reefs Utila isn’t alluring enough, you’re also likely to see dolphins

Some dive boats will re-route to where dolphins happen to appear that hour. 

While it’s not possible to scuba dive with dolphins this way (they’re way too fast and will move on before you get your gear on), it is possible to snorkel with them. 

I was lucky enough to do a surface interval “snorkel” with a pod of a dozen dolphins, and the experience was magical! 

8. Lots of reputable Utila dive shops to choose from

A woman gesturing to a dive boat with her thumbs
Standing in front of the dive boats at Utila Dive Center

Despite being affordable, Utila has many reputable dive shops and dive schools. 

I highly recommend Utila Dive Center (UDC), a well-regarded dive school internationally as a certification hub for dive instructors and dive masters.

Since Utila Dive Center is one of the bigger shops on the island, I appreciate that they divided Open Water students and advanced or experienced divers into separate boats. 

I was also very pleased with the quality of the dive instructors – they were all very enthusiastic and complete professionals! 

Utila Dive Center is one of the first dive shops I’ve been to where many of the clientele are on the younger side (under 35 years old), making Utila Dive Center a popular destination amongst the backpacker crowd

However, I will say the dive shop is frequently crowded with a lot of people and commotion from the sheer number of students, so if you prefer a quieter dive shop you may want to look elsewhere. 

A diver looking at a small shipwreck.

Another dive shop is Underwater Vision. While I didn’t go to this shop, it’s well-reviewed online and quite popular. Similar to UDC, Underwater Vision is also a dive school with multiple course types, and has an added advantage of having package options for dorm type stays – also a good fit for backpackers or people looking for budget accommodations. 

Lastly, I have heard good things about Alton’s Dive Center, which also has packaged accommodations with diving for shared dorms and private rooms. 

9. Advance your dive career with certifications.

A woman holding a large camera on a dive boat.
Ready for my next dive on the Utila Dive Center boats!

For those dreaming of a dive career, Utila is a great place to affordably start! 

May dive shops, including Utila Dive Center, offer a variety of certifications, such as rescue diver, dive master, dive instructor, and even technical diving. 

Given that dive master certification takes 4 weeks – it makes sense to do it somewhere affordable to live! 

In fact, I was excited to learn that at Utila Dive Center, if you become a dive master you will get free fun dives for life with the school!

10. Utila is a small island that’s convenient to get around.

Map of Utila island in hand painted sign.

One of the most charming parts of Utila is that the island is very small. 

Need to get from the ferry port to your hotel? Just call a tuk tuk – the same kind as you’d typically see around Southeast Asia. 

Most rides on Main Street are usually just $2+ USD or 50 Lempiras

11. Accommodations are affordable and unique: hostels, boutiques, and cays

A woman with her arms and head out of the water on the pool deck.

Utila has a reputation as a backpacker destination. And that is definitely true with hostels as low as $15-25 a night

At a higher budget, $80-100 a night for boutique hotels are an option. I stayed at a new boutique hotel, Manruii, which was impeccably decorated and featured a beautiful pool and pool bar. 

If you’re looking for a luxury experience, or have always dreamed of experiencing a private island, you can even book a “cay” (a small tropical island) through Utila Cays Rentals.

12. Most chill island: great beaches, great food after diving

A woman on top of a big chair that says I heart Utila.

One of the great advantages of diving in Utila is the relatively small size of the island. 

Finish your scuba diving and then you can head straight to the beach to rest! 

Chepes beach with brown palapas.

I enjoyed Chepes beach, located west of Main Street area since it has palapas, or thatched umbrellas to help guard you from the sun. 

Create your own swim-up bar with the tables under the palapas!

Edo’s Place Bar & Grill is also located right next to the beach, with over-the-water seating. 

Two women eating baleadas on the table.

I was delighted by Honduran food, which is satisfying to eat and also quite varied. 

The most common snack or meal you can eat anytime of day is baleadas, which is like a sandwich or quesadilla. It features a tortilla with beans and cheese, folded in half, with avocados or any kind of preferred protein in the middle. 

Fried shrimp or coconut shrimp on a blue plate.

Coconut shrimp with a side of rice and beans or plantains is also common, as well as ceviche with tostones (fried plantain chips). If in season it’s also possible to order lobster!

One of my favorite places to eat was surprisingly the cafe inside of Utila Dive Center, which served favorites like baleadas, burritos, and coffee. 

Other food places I enjoyed included the frozen hot chocolate at the Utila Chocolate Factory for a pick-me-up after a tiring day. 

If you’re tired of Honduran food, you can also go to Mister Buddha for sushi and Mango Tango for slightly more upscale dining restaurant in Utila. 

13. Attractions in Utila when you are not scuba diving

An upcycled art installation surrounding a woman dressed in white.

There’s a surprising number of things to do in Utila other than scuba diving. 

An off-the-beaten-path find is Jade Seahorse – a remarkable art installation that is a garden of upcycled tiles and ceramics. 

The creativity is astonishing and reminded me a lot of the Magic Gardens in Philadelphia, USA. 

For the more adventurous and able-bodied, I recommend hiking all the way up to Pumpkin Hill to get the best vista of the entire island of Utila. 

A woman smiling on top of Pumpkin Hill.

Just be warned that you’ll have to hike up steep paths in the Honduran heat! So just be prepared to bring plenty of water and a hat to protect you from the sun. 

There’s also a climb up a rusty ladder in a dark tube that’s not for the faint-of-heart or claustrophobic. 

A rusty tube that leads into a dark ladder.

But once you make it up, you’re rewarded with an incredible view!

Bonus tips for Planning Your Scuba Diving Trip to Utila

Two large black fish with yellow eyes and yellow stripes
Two large french angelfish making their way

Best time of year to dive in Utila

It’s true that diving in Utila is great year-round. If you really want to maximize, March to May is dry season.

Temperatures are generally in the high 70s to 80s Farenheit (25-29 Celcius). 

And since it’s more of an underrated destination, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about crowds. 

Whale sharks show up year-round! 

What to pack for diving in Utila:

If you prefer to bring your own gear, and you run on the cold side, you can bring a full 3mm wetsuit

That said most people will be fine in a 3mm shortie, or even their swimsuit (although exposure protection is recommended, you never know if you scratch yourself against something, or worse yet, hit fire coral).  

I also recommend packing insect repellent, as the sand flies and mosquitoes are quite active on the island. 

You can bring cash (Honduran Lempiras or US dollars) to make paying the tuk-tuk drivers more easy. 

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