Big Rock-Utila:  Your Private Getaway
Throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
FAQ

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

1. WHERE ARE THE BAY ISLANDS & UTILA?

     Roatan, Utila, Guanaja and 65 other small Caribbean cays comprise Honduras’s Bay Islands. If you’re looking at a map of Central America, you’ll notice that Utila is almost directly South of Key West. Located just 12 to 35 miles off the countries northern coast, these tropical clusters are the exposed summits of an undersea mountain range known as the Bonacca Ridge. The Bay Islands are the continuation of the second largest reef system in the world, the Great Western Barrier Reef. The smallest and flattest of the three major Bay Islands, Utila, is also the closest (18 miles) to the mainland and measures approximately 3 x 8 miles.


2. HOW DO I GET TO UTILA?


ARRIVING BY AIR


    Travel to Utila is best accomplished by first flying to San Pedro Sula or Tegucigalpa in Honduras. These international airports enjoy direct flights from several U.S. cities including Miami, Houston, Dallas, and New Orleans. American, Continental, Iberia, TACA, and Sol Air airlines are among those to choose from. Once arriving in Honduras, you’ll clear customs and choose between one of several domestic airlines that service Utila. The national airlines are Atlantic & Sosa

     From San Pedro Sula or Tegucigalpa, you can arrange to fly to Utila in time for a drink and sunset. Most flights to Utila make a short stopover in La Ceiba, the largest coastal city to the Bay Islands. You may need to change planes or stop for additional passengers in La Ceiba before a short 20 minute flight to Utila; just follow the directions of the airline staff. The last flights to Utila from San Pedro Sula leave around 2pm. Sunday schedules are more limited, so it is best to plan on arriving and departing during the week if you want more options. If you are arriving to Utila by air, you will fly directly over Utila Town when coming from La Ceiba so keep an eye out the window. You can also find direct flights into Roatan from Miami, Houston, or Atlanta on American, Continental, Delta and TACA airlines. It usually costs more to fly into Roatan then Sula and flights depart at 6am (M-Sa) and 12:30pm on Sundays. You can also take the ferry to Utila, once again, via La Ceiba or catch a flight to Utila. See the “arriving by land & sea” below for further details.

     When you arrive at the airport there is always a taxi ready to take you to your destination. The going rate is Lps 20.00 (about a $1) per person for any destination on the island. Tell the driver that you are going to Kurt's at Munchie's.  If you arrive by ferry at the main dock, Munchies is a short short walk.  Ask anyone and they can tell you where it is. Once you get to Munchies, ask for Kurt.  Dr. Kurt Halverson and the Utila Land Company handle all our guests and are an excellent contact for anything you need on the island.

     To make things much easier on your end if you need help with your flight, let us know and we can arrange your flights.  We can also arrange charter flights from Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula and Roatan if you prefer the direct route.
airlines and currently run about $75 one way.


ARRIVING BY LAND & SEA
    

     If you wish to stay off the planes, you can take the inexpensive bus ride from San Pedro Sula to the coastal town of La Ceiba. It takes just under 3 hours and costs less than $8 per person. First, you’ll need to hire a $10 taxi from the airport to the Hedman Alas bus station (504-237-7143) where tickets can be purchased. Within Honduras, this reliable bus company services Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, the Copan Ruins and La Ceiba. The executive bus service is very clean, accommodates lots of luggage, shows movies and the seats recline nicely; not a bad way to travel. The buses depart for La Ceiba at 6 AM, 10:20 AM, 2:20 PM and 6 PM.

     There are now two ferries traveling between La Ceiba & Utila/Roatan. The ferry cost about $10 per ticket, takes about 45 minutes to travel the 18 miles of sea. The ferry schedules run consistently throughout the day and keep good time unless the ocean’s rough. Arrival in Utila is at the municipal dock, conveniently located in the central area of East Harbor. The Princess FerryEast Harbor. The Galaxy II Ferry services the Roatan and La Ceiba route. We’ve included the most recent schedules below, however, the schedules seem to change too frequently for our website to keep up so please make sure to check for accuracy.

FERRY SCHEDULES

THE GALAXY II ITINERARY

Ferry Route
Roatan - La Ceiba
La Ceiba - Roatan
Roatan - La Ceiba
La Ceiba - Roatan

Departure Time
7:00 A.M.
10:00 A.M.
1:00 P.M.
4:00 P.M.

THE NEW PRINCESS ITINERARY

Ferry Route
Utila - La Ceiba
La Ceiba - Utila
Utila - La Ceiba
La Ceiba - Utila

Departure Time
6:20 A.M.
9:30 A.M.
2:00 P.M.
4:00 P.M.


3. HOW DO I GET TO THE BIG ROCK CABANA?

    Big Rock Cabana is accessed only by water.   It is important that you understand this so we will say it again.  Big Rock Cabana is accessed only by water.   There is no road or land route to Big Rock Cabana.   We cover the issues of why Big Rock is special, but not suited for everyone on the Must Read page.

     When you arrive at the airport take a cab to Munchies and ask for Kurt Halverson.  Kurt will have the boat and the boat captain ready for your trip out to Big Rock.


4. DO I NEED A PASSPORT, VISA OR VACCINATIONS?

     Your only entry and exit requirement is a current passport with at least 6 months remaining from time of departing Honduras is required for entry into Honduras. No visas are needed to get into Honduras for the vast majority of nationalities including Americans and EEC passport holders. Upon arrival, a 30-day visa is automatically granted and can be easily extended on the islands for a small fee. Tourist Visas are normally granted for a duration of 1 month, but can be extended on a month by month basis for a fee of Lps 300.00 per month at the local Immigration Office in Utila or on the mainland of La Ceiba. A maximum stay of 6 months is permitted after which one must depart the country for a minimum of 3 days, after which you can return and start the process over again. Don't lose the piece of yellow paper they staple into your passport, you'll need it to exit the country and to extend your stay. Also, no special vaccinations are needed to enter Honduras. Tropical diseases such as malaria are not too common and water and food are generally very safe throughout the Bay Islands. I suggest you consult your doctor for a final decision.


5. HOW DO I GET AROUND UTILA?

     One thing you cannot get on Utila is lost. There is one main road through town and one to the airport. Numerous side roads throughout the community and surrounding jungle make for interesting exploration. Getting back and forth from Big Rock requires a boat.  Once you get back to town, getting around on the island is best carried out on bicycle or your own two feet. However, it’s fun to ride around the island on an ATV 4x4, Golf Cart or scooter that can be easily rented in the town center at Lance Bodden’s rentals and parts. Renting one is worth the fee for a day.  Its also alot of fun to see some of Utila via horseback.  Arrangements can be made through the Red Ridge Stable.


6. WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VACATION IN UTILA?

     The answer to this question is not so simple and depends on several factors and personal preference regarding weather, climate, bugs, viewing whale sharks, etc. Here are a few things to ponder when making your decision:

     The rainy season runs from late October through January; however, the rain normally comes only at night and the sun creeps out during the day. Daytime temps hover in the mid 80’s Fahrenheit (27 Celsius) and fall to the high 60’s at night for most of the year. The rainy season can also limit visibility in the water to between 50 and 75 feet. If there were to ever be a hurricane, which averages every 18 years, it would most likely come in latter September through early November.

     For you divers, the water is also slightly warmer and rougher in the summer & fall and cooler, but calmer in the winter and spring. Water temperatures average in the low 80’s in the summer to high 70’s in the winter. Even though the whale sharks are seen year round, planning your trip during the months of March/April/May and August/Sept/Oct will give the best chance to spot one.
If you don’t like bug bites, the bugs are seldom around during the steady summer trade winds that last from May to September. The trade winds at big rock blow  almost constantly.  If there is a breeze to be found, you will find it at Big Rock, especially on the dock.



7. WHAT IS THE WEATHER LIKE?

     Utila is blessed with great weather and a friendly climate. The rainy season is fairly short (about 3 months) and runs from late October to January, but even then a storm is followed by several days of sun. It is not the monsoon rain either but mostly sunny days with afternoon showers, another plus for the little jewel, Utila. Located near the equator, Utila’s average temperature is 82F or 28C and keeps similar temperatures year round. The hottest months of the year (May-September) only reach temperatures of 90-95 degrees and one will enjoy the constant trade winds out of the east during this half of the year to keep things cool.  Click here for the current Weather forecast.


8. WHAT ARE THE PEOPLE LIKE & WHAT LANGUAGE DO THEY SPEAK?
    

     English is commonly spoken on Utila and in the Airports on mainland Honduras. However, if you know Spanish, it always makes it easier to talk with the Spanish locals. Utilians speak English with a marvelous accent and carry names such as Morgan, Cooper and Jackson.


9. IS UTILA SAFE?

     Crime is rare on Utila. Utila is a quaint, tight nit community and everybody knows everybody’s name. Hondurans are very friendly to foreigners. Given the remoteness of Big Rock, crime is even less likely.  Most of the Honduran economy originates in tourisms and in the fruit industry (owned by American interests, Chiquita & Dole).


10. DOES THE HOUSE HAVE AIR CONDITIONING?
    

     Yes. We cover the first $100 of electrical use per week.   I know this sounds like alot of electricity, but on Utila its just enough.  At last check, our energy prices were just over $0.50/Kwh.  For comparison, the current rate in Dallas is $0.12/Kwh.   We have wonderful fans and wonderful breezes at big rock.  If you take advantage of them during the day and run the AC only in the evenings, you should have more than enough electricity from that $100.  Any overages will be deducted from the security deposit.


11. WHAT CURRENCY IS USED & HOW DO I EXCHANGE MONEY?
    

     The official currency of Honduras is called Limpera (Limp/Lps for short). Currently it is valued at roughly 18.9 limps per US dollar. Most stores and shops on Utila will take the US dollar as readily as the Limpera. There are also two banks close to the downtown center; BGA bank and Bank Atlantida. Money can be exchanged for a slightly better exchange rate at a local hardware or grocery store such as Archie’s close to the downtown center. You can change enough money to get you to Utila at the San Pedro Sula airport upon arrival.


12. WHAT ABOUT MEDICAL CARE?

     Opened in 1981, the Utila Community Clinic is a private medical clinic headed by John P McVay D.O. Licensed to practice medicine in the USA states of Ohio and Florida, Dr John McVay has over 20 years of experience practicing medicine and has been based in Utila for over 3 years. Utila Clinic has a well-stocked Pharmacy with many prescription medications that are difficult to obtain in Honduras and the capability to perform minor surgical procedures and cope with most medical emergencies. Dr John has extensive Diving Medicine experience and is the attending Doctor at the Utila Hyper baric Chamber. Dr John has developed close personal relationships with many Doctors and Hospitals in the nearby Honduras mainland port of La Ceiba and with the consulting staff at Divers Alert Network (DAN). The fees are quite inexpensive. Bay Island College of Diving holds the islands hyperbaric chamber & trauma for any decompression sickness incidents or other diving emergencies.


13. IS THE SCUBA DIVING REALLY THAT GOOD?
    

     Utila offers world class diving with miles of pristine barrier reefs, beautiful coral & drop offs that go from 20 feet to over 3000 feet deep at the best rates in the world. Both beginners & advanced divers will enjoy crystal clear waters, cave & night dives, over 400 species of fish & 70 types of coral and an endless array of dive sights. Utila and the Bay Islands are the continuation of the largest reef system in the northern hemisphere and Utila is the only one of the Bay Islands that butts up to the continental shelf.

     Close to shore and at the east end of the island are a series of shallow coral gardens, great for snorkeling and night dives. On the north side of the island, the undersea landscape becomes grandiose, with huge coral heads separated by deep sand fissures lining the drop-off. Another well-known feature of the abyss side of the island is a mini drop-off and cavern, actually an ancient wave cut running parallel to shore. The ceiling above is riddled with openings pierced by bands of sunlight. And this is just one of almost 40 different dive sights around the island. You can check out more of the island’s dive sights on Utila Dive Center’s reef and dive sight map.




14. WHAT ARE THE BUGS LIKE?


     Utila is like any island in the Caribbean as far as little bugs that bite, an unfortunate fact of traveling in a warmer climate. At various times of the year, depending on the weather, mosquitoes and sand flies can be more than one might like. Most visitors will tell you that the sand flies, not the mosquitoes, are the biggest nuisance. It’s actually pretty simple; you’ll be bug free when there’s a breeze or if you’re enjoying the sun’s rays, but you need to develop some simple habits when the breeze stops or the sun goes down. We get almost consistent breezes to keep the bugs away.

     The first tip is to make sure to bring bug repellent; Deep Woods OFF works the best and baby oil is also reported to have success. Make sure not to leave the house without it if you might not be back by sunset. The next bug deterrent is to cover your skin by wearing light clothing if you are out after sunset.  They also don’t seem to like a room with A.C. and we have a sandfly rated netting over your sleeping area.

     Regardless of how diligent you are, the fact is that you will still most likely come home with some bites. They seem to affect everyone differently and can really itch. If you’ve been munched on, first try hard to fight your urge to scratch. If you must, gently rub the itching areas with your hands (no finger nails!) or a towel. Cortisone cream, benadryl or waiting about 10 minutes works well in making the itch go away.



15. CAN I RENT A BOAT OR CAR?
    Car?  No.   There might be 5 cars on the whole island.   If you are in town for the day, you can rent a golf cart or ATV from Lance Bodden.  Kurt can direct you to Lance's or just ask around and someone will point you to him.

    Boat?  Yes.  In fact we highly recommend it.   We maintain a boat on Utila.   It is a 26' center console modified deep-V hull. Her name is the "Down Time" and she is outfitted for most any need you might have.   She is outfitted with fishfinder, compass, dive tank racks and dive ladder.  She is powered by a Yamaha 250.   She carries a 50 gallon gas tank which is more than enough to get you there an back again.  Unfortunately, no matter how experienced you might be with a boat, we do not permit our guests to rent the boat without also hiring a captain.  The reefs around Utila can be treacherous. We have contracted with one of the finest captains on Utila, Captain Rusty, who will arrange to pick you up anytime you like and get you home again.

    We also can arrange for a divemaster to guide you diving.   If you would like to dive off of the downtime, we require that you hire our divemaster for a minimum of 2 days.  If, at the end of two days of diving, you can convince our divemaster of your skill in diving, we will permit you to dive off the Down Time without a divemaster.   Such a decision is purely the divemaster's and there is no appeal.

    Although an air compressor is in future plans, we make arrangements to rent tanks from local dive shops.  This is included in your diving costs, but does require stops in town in the afternoons.

    In the event that you decide you prefer not to rent our boat with a captain, we will provide you with transport to and from Big Rock on your arrival and departure.  Water Taxi's are available with about an hour's notice and generally run $35USD each way to town.

     We highly recommend that you charter the Down Time for the week.  We believe that your stay will be much more enjoyable if you have the ability to go when you want to go.


16. CAN I DRINK THE WATER?

     The Water in Utila is generally clean and drawn from local wells. Our water at Big Rock comes from the sky and is stored in a 25,000 gallon cistern on the property.  The restaurants have excellent records for keeping bellies on the up & up. Nonetheless, we still suggest you drink bottled water for general consumption. We provide water for you with the Cabana rental in a 5 gallon jug dispenser and you can purchase bottled water in just about any restaurant or grocery store.


17. WHAT SHOULD I BRING?


Valid Passport.
U.S. cash or Lempira (the local currency, about 18.9 Lempira to 1 US dollar). You can change U.S. Dollars almost anywhere on the island, but you may not be able to change any other currency here, so bring U.S. Dollars with you.
Credit cards: be aware that they are not accepted everywhere, and when they are accepted there’s sometimes an additional charge to cover their fee.
Diving certification card, diving or snorkeling gear. If you are diving with us, you need your own gear.  We will provide the tanks and weights, but you need your own gear.
Bathing suits (at least 2) and cover ups or sarongs. Lightweight action clothing or easy care cotton blends: T-shirts (light grey is the best), shorts, blouses; Comfortable walking shoes, sandals or surf shoes; Lightweight long sleeve top and slacks; ladies might enjoy summer dresses for dining out on the dock; A very light sweater or jacket; hats with ample brims.
Day pack and/or fanny pack
Sunglasses and lip protection
Personal items, toiletries and medications.
Sunscreen, Deepwoods OFF mosquito repellent, antihistamines, (cortisone) anti-itch cream.
Camera, video camera, underwater camera, Music CDs, extra batteries, DVDs, large Ziploc bags to store and protect your electronics from the salty air.
Address book for post cards to instigate jealousy amongst your friends & family..
Reading material and a good attitude.


18. WHAT KIND OF ELECTRICITY IS USED?
    

     The electricity is the same as in the U.S; 110 volts and 60 cycles.



19. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR TRAVELING WITH BABIES?

    We love babies, but you must must must read the Must Read page to understand where you will be for a week or two while on Utila.

     That said, Utila is a great place for babies and kids as far as fun & safety are concerned. There is little crime, there are few cars on the island, and all the fun is close by. As far as supplies go, Utilians have babies too and they also like the modern conveniences that go with them such as diapers, food, bike seats, etc. If you forgot something at home, chances are that you can find it at the local grocery store. This doesn’t mean that you should leave home without your little ones favorite baby food or toy but that you can most likely make do in a pinch.

     The first rule of thumb is to take as little as possible but make sure to bring the normal items you would on any trip.  Umbrellas and sun suits are good for blocking the sun. Wet wipes, a baby carrier or stroller, blanky or favorite toy, and your feeding equipment are a must.

     One critter on the island that likes your baby more than the Utilians are the sand flies. But with some simple precautions and thinking ahead, you and your child can leave unscathed. Be careful when the breeze stops and the sun is going down; this is the only time the sand flies can party (on your dime). Of course there’s always OFF for you but you’ll need to use other preventions to protect your baby’s tender skin. Bring light clothing to cover her body and feet and keep her in front of a fan (moving air) when sleeping. The bugs also don’t like the A.C. and I’ve been told that baby oil works almost as good as OFF if you baby’s old enough for it.

     Another precaution is to keep your baby out of the sun. The sun is harsh and the water reflects it.  Burning is a real and serious possibility.


20. WHAT HOTELS DO YOU RECOMMEND?
    

     If staying the night in San Pedro Sula, the Grand Hotel Sula (Phone: 504-552-9999) located in the Central Park downtown square is probably the best in town. If you need to stay close to the airport, than the Microtel Inn & Suites is your answer (Phone: 504-559-0300) Both of these hotels cost about $75 per night for a double. The Paris is quite good if you are staying in La Ceiba and runs about $30/night. As for Utila, I like the Mango Inn, Colibri Hill Resort & the Nightland Cabins at the Jade Seahorse in that order. The first two have pools. You can find a good list of hotels & accommodations at www.AboutUtila.com.

21. WHAT ABOUT GROCERIES AND SUPPLIES?

    There are a couple of grocery stores in town but Bush’s is the largest and best supplied.   Almost anything you might want or need can be found at Bushes.   Remember that this is Honduras, so while some “gourmet” items might be found from time to time, higher end items are not always available. Basic meats (chicken, ground beef), cheddar, jack cheese, eggs, cereals, milk, pastas and a wide variety of other staples are always available.  Fresh vegetables are almost always available as are fruits. Over the last few years, Bush's has begun to stock more and more high end items.  The last time we were there you could even get ribeyes!  Wine, beer and liquor are all also available here and at very reasonable prices.  If there is something that you know you are going to want, ask us.  We can usually tell you if something is available.  If there is something special you really really want stocked, we may be able to get it (there is a pretty high end supplier on Roatan) but it will cost you (it has to be flown over from the island.  So let us know.

    We normally suggest that people compile a grocery list before they arrive so that they can buy for the the whole week.  Of course you can always make the run into town, but given gas prices, its expensive and why waste your time?

    Fresh fish, if you don't catch it yourself, fish is available from the fish market on the Utila Cayes.  The good news is that Big Rock is very close to the Cayes and you can make fresh fish runs on your way back from many dive sites.

21. DO YOU HAVE A WASHER AND DRYER?

      Yes, we do.  You are welcome to use it, but understand that washers and dryers use lots of energy and your meter is running.  You will need to supply your own detergent.  Clothes will dry quickly in the sun.

22. WHO TAKES CARE OF BIG ROCK WHEN YOU ARE NOT THERE?

     We have a caretaker who lives on the property full time with his wife and young daughter.   His name is Mario and he is a very friendly spaniard from the mainland.  Neither Mario or his wife speak English.  They are there primarily to maintain the security of the Cabana and to keep the beach and property clean.   You are welcome to converse with Mario, his wife and daughter, but be advised that they will not be much help should the need arise.  They have their own cabana near the rear of the property and will not bother you.
    









Web Hosting Companies