People travel all over the world for different reasons. Some for recreation and others partake in a specific sport or hobby. Diving happens to fall into both categories and travelers can find world-class diving in plethora of destinations from Florida to Brazil to Thailand to Australia.
The Caribbean Sea happens to be situated on a perfect stretch of the Atlantic where amazing reefs are home to a variety of underwater wildlife. In addition to the islands of the Caribbean and Belize, Honduras and Nicaragua have a few islands of their own that offer amazing diving for a fraction of the cost than other destinations in the same hemisphere.
The two islands where I got to dive were Little Corn Island in Nicaragua and Utila in Honduras. I will examine the pros and cons (which are not exactly cons) for both places.
The island is located off the eastern coast of the mainland. You will need to take a fight from Managua to Big Corn then transfer to a boat or ferry to reach LCI. Or you can take a twelve-hour boat from Bluefields to Big Corn. I chose to fly there for a $160 round trip ticket. There is about a $20 penalty for changing your flights and you must keep your arrival ticket (a fact I did not know which almost got me stranded when I tried to exit). The twelve-hour boat ride (from what I have heard from other travelers) is long, uncomfortable and not worth the amount of money saved from not flying. All the people I met who took the boat to Big Corn, took a flight back.
The island is tiny and caters to tourists and travelers. There is a main stretch of town with one road and no cars where the dive shops, bars, and hotels are located. The other section of the island offers bungalows for moderate-above moderate prices.
There are two dive shops on the island. Dive Little Corn (where I went) and Dolphin Dive. They offer any course you’d like to take including: Beginner, Advanced, and Dive Master. In addition to fun dives, they offer night dives, photography, and packaged dive courses.
My plan was to get an Open Water Certification to give myself more options knowing that eventually I‘d make my way up to Utila, or in the event I wanted to stay on the island longer.
The first day consisted of watching all the videos that correlate to an Open Water education. The next two days consisted of diving; one in the morning, the second in the afternoon where I was properly instructed on how to use the equipment and what to do if either the masque were to fill up with water or the regulator (the apparatus you breathe in and out of) was to fall out of my mouth.
I enjoyed diving at Little Corn very much, but I found the wild life to be rather minimal. Also I found the island itself to be a bit boring after spending a few days there.
Note: I was traveling alone so it may be a much different experience traveling there either as a couple or with a friend. Also had I stayed longer and got to experience more diving, I probably would have gotten to see more interesting sea creatures.
It was definitely a nice place to visit, but the prices of food and the bars definitely added up. Plus the island runs on generators so there is no electricity between 6am-1pm. Not a big loss for myself, but detrimental to others who are used to industrialized amenities.
Utila is another island that is not easy to get to, but definitely worth the adventure. There are a few ways to get here. There are buses and vans from both Guatemala (seventeen hours via a bus from Antigua; eight from the border) and Nicaragua (thirteen hours from León/fifteen from Managua) that arrive in La Ceiba, a small port city where you will have to spend the night. Le Ceiba is sketchy and there is not much to do (especially at night). You can also reach La Ceiba from Honduras’ main city San Pedro Sula by either chicken bus or transportation bus. If you arrive late in the afternoon or at night as I did, you will have to spend a night in La Ceiba. There are two ferries that leave the port daily, one at 9am the other at 4pm.
Once arriving you are bombarded by a slew of people trying to sell you a dive packages at the various dive shops. They are persistent and loud. After walking out of the crowd, a young woman approached me and told me about the prices of the dive courses that included a free fun dive and a free stay in the hostel dorms. I was sold and made my way to Parrots Dive Shop.
Most of the shops offer similar rates and there are about nine shops on the island to choose from.
I obtained my Advanced Open Water Certification in about three days and then decided that I had so much fun on these dives that I would continue at Parrots and get a Rescue Diver Certification that took about five days and also included CPR training. Parrots also offers $5 shared rooms per night.
The island itself is very small. There is one main road that connects the different areas of the island. Four-wheelers, bikes, and golf carts are the methods of transportation other than walking. There are two beaches located on the eastern and western sections of the island for people to relax and swim in the crystal blue waters. There are numerous other beaches that can be reached, but you will need to rent an ATV to reach them as walking by foot will take a much longer time.
Now to compare the two islands:
- Definitely a party island. There are a bunch of bars, restaurants, and an occasional beach party where DJ’s come and people don’t leave until the next morning.
- The diving is amazing and there are tons of reefs to check out including a shipwreck that goes down to 30m/100ft. Utila now hosts the Annual Dive Fest at the end of June for 1 week.
- The island is home to crew of international expats all looking to dive, sail, and live a simple beach life.
- Other than diving the other water are: fishing, sailing, snorkeling, and swimming at the two beaches. There is also a private resort nearby with a bar that you can sneak away to, pretend you’re a guest, and swim there as well.
- Utila is located next to Roatán, a larger island (32 miles long) that has fancy hotels, more beach options, and other water activities that Utila does not offer.
- The island is very minimal and attracts backpackers on a budget rather than upscale hotels so hot water showers rarely exist as well as AC in most places including your dorm/hostel. There are electrical fans.
- There is one big grocery store and a few smaller ones offer fruit, vegetables, and meat (they have been shipped in from the mainland) so you have the option to cook.
Little Corn Island
- Two dive shop options with similar prices.
- The island does not run on electricity for the early part of the day so you feel very much detached from typical Western customs.
- Great place to get certified knowing that you will dive in other parts of the world.
- Other water sports including kite surfing, paddle boarding, fishing, and snorkeling are all located nearby.
- There are both nice upscale bungalows and economical ones located around the island for any kind of budget.
- One general store is located on the main strip but it does not offer much variety so cooking (other than noodles, rice, or canned goods) is VERY limited.
- While it is a tourist spot, there are a few local bars where you can get acclimated with the people who live on the island.
As a dive destination, Utila definitely beats out LCI. People arrive in Utila from all over the world because of the amazing reefs and inexpensive dive packages. On the other hand, LCI does have nicer beaches. If you happen to be traveling to Nicaragua and make your way to LCI, you should definitely check out the diving scene because there is something different to see in every place that you dive. Diving is fun and opens up many possibilities all around the world so if you are looking for a fun activity on LCI, diving should be on top of your list. Definitely head to Utila if amazing diving is what you fancy.
Have you dove at either Little Corn Island or Utila? Do you know of any changes on the islands? Share them below!