Utila – is it the place for us?
We loved Utila & it has a lot going for it, but is it the place we’ll start out when we go where it’s warm?
Let’s break down the pros and cons as they apply to us:
- Affordable cost of living – we talked to a lot people living there on this trip and a decent 2 bedroom place was readily available for $400-$600 a month. Electricity is expensive as it is on all islands and groceries were definitely manageable if you stick with the local products. Anything imported is crazy expensive, but that’s all islands.
- Small community – everyone seemed to know each other and after a few days we found ourselves waving to people we’d met as we made our way around town. By the end of the week we couldn’t walk down the main road without running into someone we knew. I can only imagine that amplifies when you’re there long term.
- It’s a melting pot! We met people from all over; the US, Canada, England, Australia, Switzerland & native Utilans. We love being surrounded by people from different places & learning about their home country.
- Pretty good diving … I’ll explain more in the “cons”
- Easy access to dive sites. The boat rides in general were longer than other places we’ve been but it’s a beautiful ride in both directions so it’s on the ‘pros’ list.
- Whale Sharks! We weren’t lucky enough to see one this time but we there there late in the season. While they see them all year certain times are more likely than others and sightings in late May/early June are less common.
- Fun atmosphere – every dive shop is like an extended family & there’s always something going on somewhere. Tequila Tuesday, trivia night, Pumpkin Hill beach clean up, etc.
- Walkable – we loved that we could walk anywhere in town pretty quickly. You need to be careful with all of the vehicles speeding & jockeying for position on the narrow road but I found the traffic to be less bad than I had anticipated based on everything I read before the trip.
- Tons of dive shops – there’s a lot of opportunity to do our training and teach on Utila. With the steady stream of backpackers arriving daily with their sights set on learning to dive, Utila would be a great place to get some experience.
- Extremely limited veterinary care. We have two dogs so this is definitely a concern. We know no matter where we go the services will be limited but they are extremely limited in Utila.
- Hard to get to, this is also a pro by the way. When it comes to getting our dogs there though, this is con.
- Sand flies – how the hell does something so small bite so hard? We got lucky and had a nice breeze the first half of the week but when it dies off, watch out! Also not unique to Utila.
- The diving is good but not great. Having dove in Roatan 3 times over the last 4 years I can definitively say the work being done by the Roatan Marine Park has paid off tenfold. Animal wise, the biggest differences I noticed is that there are far more turtles, lobster & grouper over there. The visibility is also a lot better. It didn’t rain a drop while we were on Utila and still the visibility was good but not great. It would be awesome if Utila could get a marine park in place. Everyone we met was passionate about protecting the reef & there are enough dive operations on the island to band together and get one started.
The list of cons is short & without dogs it’d be even shorter. I don’t see it being feasible for us though until our dogs pass on. We’ve been talking about leaving the dogs with family and doing the first 3 months somewhere on our own while we take the dive master course and complete an internship. Utila is definitely in the running! At Alton’s, the cost is $999 for the course and comes with unlimited fun diving for the duration of the course. That’s a huge selling point & we loved it there!
Until next time …
Warm thoughts to all!