Utila is the smallest of Honduras’ three major Bay Islands. Reached by ferry from the mainland or Roatan, Utila is a laidback island and a diver’s utopia with many dive shops, small beach bars and charming accommodations. It has become a favorite among divers since the coral reefs around the island are among the most beautiful and intact reef systems in the world. The abundance of marine life here is absolutely incredible, and it is not uncommon to see whale sharks, dolphins or giant eagle rays during a dive trip.
In this post, I’ll be sharing with you 3 magical dive sites that you can’t miss when scuba diving in Utila, Honduras.
3 Magical Dive Sites In Utila
1. Raggedy Cay
Beginner/Advanced – max. depth: 30 m
My favorite dive site in Utila is Raggedy Cay along the west coast of the island.
The site is basically a coral wall dropping down to 30 m, with the top of the reef being at 7 m. The shallow top of the reef can, therefore, be explored towards the end of the dive before completing a final safety stop.
Raggedy Cay is home to lots of colorful coral formations as well as a large variety of marine life, including turtles, moray eels, spotted eagle rays, nurse sharks, triggerfish, groupers, snappers, and many more. One of my highlights here was a giant porcupine pufferfish that followed us throughout our entire dive. It was super curious and kept circling me and my camera while looking at me with its big cow-like eyes.
The reef is in an incredibly good condition. The visibility is typically between 10 – 30 m. The dive site is suitable for all divers, though an advanced qualification is recommended if you want to go deeper than 20 m.
2. Halliburton Wreck
Advanced – max. depth: 30 m
Probably one of the most famous dive sites around the island of Utila: the Halliburton Wreck.
Halliburton is a cargo ship that was sunk in the 1990s in a community-led project to create an artificial reef in the local waters. It lies at 30 m and sits perfectly upright on the sand, making it one of the most beautiful wreck sites I’ve ever seen. The wheelhouse at the very top of the ship was probably my favorite part of the wreck. There are many different kinds of reef fish circling the outer side of the bridge as well as two large tiger groupers, who seem to be the guarding the wheelhouse.
The wreck has become a rich ecosystem for coral and marine life, especially macro species, such as small crabs and shrimp that are hiding in the crevices of the vessel. However, you also get to see barracuda, stingrays, parrotfish, snappers and green moray eels.
Most of all, Halliburton wreck is in a pristine condition and can safely be explored by divers, even the cargo hold in the body of the ship. As with other dive sites around Utila, the visibility is usually pretty good. Although the wreck is intact and easy to dive, it is recommended to be trained as an AOW due to its depth.
3. Moon Hole
Beginner – max. depth: 18 m
Moon Hole is a classic among the dive sites in Utila.
Moon Hole is named after its unique underwater landscape, which consists of a large circular sandy crater surrounded by a shallow reef with a mix of hard and soft coral. With the top of the reef at 4-7 m, there’s plenty of natural sunlight, which makes this dive site an excellent place for some underwater photography.
Crossing over the western wall, you’ll find Ron’s Wreck, a small fishing boat that lies in the sand at 18 m. The wreck is home to a few tiny creatures that hide in the little cracks of the ship. Apart from that, the wreck and reef around feature all kinds of marine life, including pipefish, parrotfish, anemones, spotted eagle rays, moray eels, lionfish, and many other colorful reef fish.
Given the fact that Moon Hole is visited by many divers every day (it is located very close to shore and only takes around 5 minutes by boat from most dive shops), it is still in a rather good condition. Visibility here is generally pretty good. Due to the shallow top of the reef and the sandy crater, this dive site is perfect for novices and inexperienced divers who want to work on their skills.
There are so many dive centers to choose from. I recommend using your first day on the island to check out different dive shops and see which one you feel most comfortable with. The following dive shops are the ones that appealed most to me for various reasons.
If you’re looking for a rather small dive shop with friendly staff and a laidback vibe, I recommend going with Alton’s. They’re very professional, though a lot smaller than some of the other dive centers. They have comparably low dive rates, and their prices include the full-time use of their facilities, such as their kayaks as well as a dock with hammocks and the perfect sunset view. On top of that, they have their own little bar/restaurant that offers food, drinks as well as excellent coffee after and in-between diving.
If you want to become a certified diver or continue your scuba training, I recommend choosing Utila Dive Center. Although it is a pretty large operator, the facilities are incredibly professional and clean, and everything is very well-structured and organized. The staff is very international, there are tons of different courses taking place all the time, and you even get good discounts for future dives when completing your training with them. They also offer cheap/free accommodation for students and Divemaster trainees.
Gunter’s is one of if not the most traditional dive shop on the island of Utila – they have been operating here since 1985! They don’t cater as many divers as UDC, so everyone is treated in a pretty individual way. Both the staff and the equipment are professional. Dive rates are fair, and you even get to dive at unmarked dive sites that other dive centers don’t go to. Gunter’s Eco Marine Dive Center is located a little out of the main town, though they also offer accommodation for students.