10 days in Honduras : Copán & Utila

Published: April 13th 2018
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On Tuesday morning, 3rd of April, I took a very early bus to Copán in Honduras. We left at 4AM to avoid heavy traffic in Antigua, Guatemala City and the border. Fortunately, our shuttle was rather empty, just 6 people, and so we all had space enough to stretch and sleep some more.

The night before, at 10PM, Max, Jennifer and Rebecka, the Swedish guys from our hike to Acatenango, had decided to join me on my trip to Copán and I had managed to get the number of the shuttle company from the night watch in my hostel and they had managed to reserve a free spot in the shuttle for the next morning.

The bus ride was a bit longer than expected, but that was because the others in the shuttle ordered on our second stop a huge breakfast that took quite some time. It didn’t matter though, because we still arrived in Copán at 12AM.

In Copán, our shuttle stopped just in front of my hostel and even though the town was quite small, I was happy not to have to walk much with my luggage. The manager of the hostel was nice enough, but badly organised and, apparently, not big on hightech. Why? Well, 1st, they didn’t have my reservation, event though I had booked 2 days earlier on hostelworld. 2d, there were 3 guys checking out when we arrived and we heard the worst story! They had booked 3 nights via booking.com but, because of traffic problems, they hadn’t been able to make the first night and in the hostel they had told them that it was no problem, they would just cancel the first night. But when they checked out, the manager told them that, since they had not cancelled their reservation on booking.com, the hostel would be charged 3 nights by booking.com and that they had to pay the 3 nights, even though they had been there only 2 nights. Poor guys, that sucks!

And then I told the manager that I had booked 2 nights on hostelworld, but that I would stay only 1 night. He wanted me to cancel my booking on hostelworld but that would make me loose my deposit and I KNOW that hostelworld doesn’t charge them for the nights someone books on hostelworld, so I made him check that with his boss immediately and in the end I could keep my booking on hostelworld and just paid for 1 night. Really bad organised !

The hostel itself (Berakah Hostel) was pretty nice though. There were 2 areas, the first one in the main building contains the private rooms and the second building the dorms. Everywhere, there are nice sitting areas, but best was the dorm building. There was a really nice outdoor area with a fire place and light all around the trees to give a nice atmosphere in the night. There were several hamacs and inside there was a pool table and a kitchen. Beer in the hostel was quite cheap and wifi worked well.

Max, Jennifer and Rebecka first wanted to hitchhike from Copán to San Pedro Sula, because they wanted to save money and arrive early the next day to La Ceiba and take a ferry to Utila, but in the end they decided to stay 1 night in Copán and take the shuttle the next day with me to La Ceiba. First, me and another girl there, Nathalie from Manchester, were really happy about it, because for the shuttle to go, we needed to be at least 5 people. The next morning it would turn out that we would have been 5 people anyway, even without them, but it was still nice they stayed as well.

First, we went for lunch, because we were starving, and then me and Max went to the ruins. Jennifer didn’t want to go because she’s not really interested in ruins and Rebecka has a fever due to the herpes she had gotten a few days earlier, so she also went back to the hostel. The entrance fee to the ruins was really high (15$US + 15$US for the tunnels), but it was worth it. The park was really nice, there were almost no other tourists besides us, the ruins were really nice and there were many (more or less wild) parrots. We didn’t take a tour, since we had already seen other ruins and didn’t need any more information about the Maya culture. So we just walked around, climbed the temples and discovered the tunnels that had been carved into one of the temples to show the older temple that has been discovered below the temple that you can see from the outside. I must say, the temples are NOT worth 15$US and if you go there, I can recommend you to only pay for the park entrance. The tunnels are very short and there is not much to see, especially not the bright colours they advertise !

After the Acatenango hike, our muscles were still very sore and climbing the temples was hard, so, after 2 hours, we were happy we had seen everything and could go back to our hostel. We even took a tuc tuc to get back, too tired and lazy to walk the 2 km. ^_^

After a nice shower and some relaxing, I went for dinner with Max, Jennifer, Rebecka, Nathalie and Max (a German guy from our hostel). I had a traditional dish from Honduras with scrambled eggs, beans, avocado, sour cream, cheese and grilled chicken. It was delicious! :-D We had a nice evening and afterwards they played some pool while I enjoyed the good wifi and uploaded some pictures, so you guys could finally see my pictures from Guatemala. :-)

The next morning, our shuttle to La Ceiba left at 7AM. In the advertisement, it said that the shuttles to La Ceiba leave at 5AM, but the hostel owner told us that they changed it to 7AM since it’s not high season and there is less traffic. We were a bit sceptic, but he had promised us 100 times we would get the last ferry to Utila.

In the shuttle, we met Henrik from Germany who was also going to Utila and the shuttle ride was quite ok. It was quite funny, Henrik looks much like my friend Lars from Germany and so I always had to think about him when I saw Henrik. :-)

At some point, we should have made a 30 minutes break, but SOME people again had to order a huge lunch that took forever to be served and so our break was much longer than expected. I really don’t like that, if you’re given a certain time for a break and because of 2 or 3 people it gets much longer and in the end you arrive behind schedule ! Usually it’s not a big problem, just a bit annoying, but since we wanted to get the ferry at 4PM, we were quite on a tight schedule already.

Of course, we arrived to La Ceiba half an hour late and, what’s more, the bus driver couldn’t find the place where he had to drop off one of the passengers. So it got even later. The others pressed me to tell the driver that we absolutely had to be at the ferry station at 3:30PM (it was already 3:20 when we were looking for the drop off place of the other guy), but the driver told me not to worry, we would get the last ferry at 4:45. Max, Jennifer and Henrik were pretty mad, saying the one at 4PM was much more expensive than the one at 4:45PM and they didn’t stop pressuring me into pressuring the driver. I HATE THAT ! Honestly, if you go to an island to do an (expensive) diving course for 300$US, than you can as well pay 10$US more for the stupid ferry ! So I told them I would not talk to the driver any more, because he was becoming quite annoyed with me and the others and would not speed up anyway. So they were mad at me and I was annoyed as well, but wouldn’t let them bother me anymore.

In the end, it turned out that the cheap ferry at 4PM doesn’t exist anymore (hasn’t existed for more than 1 year!) and that the one at 4:45PM was exactly the same price as the cheap one should have been! I was happy, there had been absolutely no point in hurrying and pressuring the poor shuttle driver.

Before the ferry left, I called the diving company Kathryn (from our hike to Acatenango) had recommended me to ask them if they had free spots and they told me it was absolutely no problem and there would be people waiting at the docks to guide us to their place.

So, after 2h on the ferry, we finally arrived in Utila and there were people waiting with signs « Underwater Vision », the company Kathryn had recommended. Max, Jennifer, Rebecka and Henrik decided to join me in going there and so we all went with tuc tucs to Underwater Vision. There were 3 other girls from the UK arriving as well and they divided us into 2 groups, the beginners doing the Open Water Course and the more experienced people doing the Advanced course. They showed us around the hostel and explained us how the course would go. There was free accommodation in the hostel for everyone who did a course and I liked the place and the staff very much, so I decided to do this course. The others did as well.

The hostel was ok, nothing special, rooms very hot and showers not clean, but what do you expect with people coming and going from the beach all the time. Showers were cold, but it was so hot in Utila, that it didn’t matter. The common areas were pretty nice though. There was a private beach with a beach volleyball place, some hamacs and a really good and quite cheap restaurant. Food there was really good and every night there was something special. The first night, we went out to have dinner at a different place, but afterwards we always stayed in the hostel. One night, they had fresh and quite good sushi, the next night amazing pizza, then a barbecue with fresh meat and fish, etc. I really can’t complain. ^_^ There also were parties almost every night, but usually I was too tired to join them because the course was exhausting and we started every day at 7AM.

Moreover, all people there were really nice, friendly and helpful and the diving courses were really good. The instructors were patient and the exam in the end was easy thanks to their good teaching.

Compared to other places, diving courses in Utila are really cheap and Underwater Vision is one of the best diving centres there is. It works with PADI certification and the certification you get is valid everywhere in the world. They highly respect PADI diving rules and everything is very safe. In other places, like Belize, they break almost every rule there is and it’s absolutely not safe, so it’s much better to do a course here in Honduras. It’s not expensive either : 299$US for the Open Water and the Advanced course (accommodation included) and if you do 2 courses, you get 10% off the second course. So we decided to do the advanced course right after the Open Water course. :-)

During our first day diving in the open water, we saw lots of dolphins (+/- 50!) and for just 200L (Lempira = 7€), we could swim/snorkel for 30 minutes with them! :-D Just amazing!!!

Unfortunately, I god an ear inflammation during my second open water dive and it was really bad. First, I didn’t feel anything, but after a few hours my ear started hurting so much that I actually went to the medical centre and had a doctor look at it. Inflammation of the outer ear, so not too bad, but 24h no diving and no flying the next days. So I cancelled my flight to Costa Rica, but that was actually good. Having a medical that says I can’t fly, my insurance will pay for the flight and I can stay in Honduras a few more days I would have cancelled my flight anyway, but so I got my money back and can pay for the advanced course! ^_^

On Saturday night, I was quite tired because of the pain in my ear and the painkillers, so I went to bed early and nothing much happened. The next day, on Sunday, the others of my group went diving and I had the morning off, relaxing and recovering. At lunch time, we all went together to a restaurant (Relapse) to celebrate our « graduation » (I was invited, even though I hadn’t finished yet). We had a few beers and a tequila shot and really good food. We had a very good time together, even though the atmosphere between Max, Rebecka and Jennifer was really tight.

During my time in Utila, I spent a lot of time with the 3 guys from Sweden. Henrik was in the advanced course and left on Saturday already and Nathalie was in a different hostel, so I didn’t see them much. I liked Rebecka best, because we got along very well and it was really easy to talk to her ! Jennifer is only 22 and so we have not as much to talk about and she and Max were fighting all the time. I truly have no idea how Rebecka can stand travelling with them. Well, she and Max have been friends for almost 17 years, but still, Max and Jennifer are really exhausting! They have an on and off relationship and don’t work very well as a couple. I think, they would both be happier if they just broke up and continued travelling each on his own. But well, their relationship, not mine. ^_^

In the beginning, I really like Max, but after a few days with him, he turned out as being a pain in the ass. He’s hyperactiv, but that’s ok, I can live with that. But in addition to that, he is a bad know-it-all and he is really headstrong. It’s impossible to discuss anything with him and he always has to be right, even if 10 other people tell him that he’s wrong. Honestly, he’s not a very nice person and I was happy to spend just a few that with him. That’s why I spent much more time with Rebecka than with him.

So, that day, they had been arguing about what they would do next. Max and Rebecka wanted to stay a few more days to do the advanced course, while Jennifer wanted to move on. In the beginning, they agreed that Jennifer would go alone and Max and Rebecka would join her a few days later, but then, suddenly, Max changed his mind, saying he would go with Jennifer and either Rebecka stays alone or leaves with them. Rebecka doesn’t like traveling alone, so this was hard for her, but I had offered, she could continue traveling with me. :-) So they were debating this on Sunday and the atmosphere between them was really bad. I can understand Rebecka though. Max had invited her to travel with him and they had decided to stay together and now he wanted to just leave her (what he did in the end! :S).

In the afternoon, we wanted to meet Nathalie, but my 3 swedish friends wanted to visit somebody’s boat and in the end they came back so late that we had no time to see her... In the evening, there was a family dinner where everyone could cook something and bring food or alcohol. Rebecka and I had decided to cook together, but since she was on that boat, I started cooking alone and she joined me later. After finishing our food, we decided to go to the famous Dr. John. He was a doctor in the States, but then decided to quit everything and go live all alone in a remote house in Utila. There he started his « shot-challenge » and became super famous. His house is completely painted and decorated in pink and he seems to be drunk most of the time. It was really funny, but considering he lives like this the whole year, drinking and taking pictures with young people 24h/day, 7 days/week and living in a dirty house is quite disgusting !

We had fun though, mostly because there were 4 young people from Honduras there at the same time as us and doing the shot-challenge with us. :-D Everybody says the shots are strong and disgusting, but Rebecka and me quite liked them. They were cold, refreshing and tasted like lemon. :-D Once you finish the challenge (shots are free) you can buy one of his famous TShirts and, of course, that’s what we did. From this evening on, we wore our TShirts with pride! ^_^

The guys from Honduras were there with quads and took us back to the center of Utila so we didn’t have to take a tuc tuc. Very nice! :-)

At the family dinner later, we had a lot more alcohol, mixing different things (bad decision!) and had a great time with the people there.

At Underwater Vision, many people stay for quite a long time, since many do their diving master certification there (4-5 weeks) and many are instructors and actually live on the island. So being there with them actually felt like being in a family. :-)

Funny thing, even if it felt like family, the contacts were rather superficial and we didn’t keep in touch with anyone afterwards. It was very different from people you usually meet in hostels, but it was nice as well.

The next day, I went back to the doctor and she told me I was allowed to dive again (juhu!!! :-D) but that I have to take antibiotics for the next couple of days. Second time in 2 months that I have to take antibiotics! But well, better than not being able to dive.

Actually, I was not the only one having health problems because of diving. Rebecka got sick as well, having ear problems and nose bleeding after diving and Eimar (an English girl from our course) also got sick. They didn’t go to see a doctor and so had for much longer with their problems than me. After this break and the medication, I only had a little pain in my ear but felt quite good, while they had much more problems. So, lucky me and good I went to see a doctor. :-)

The next day, on Tuesday, we started our advanced diving course with 2 deep dives to 30m depth. It was really nice and the exercices we had to do were fun. :-) In the afternoon I did 2 more dives, my fun dives, but I shouldn’t have done this. I didn’t hydrate myself well, didn’t eat anything and I didn’t use enough sunscreen and so in the evening I was really sick, dehydrated, famished and sunburned. We had some theory to do in the evening but I didn’t get much of it and went to bed at 8 PM!!

Fortunately the next day I felt much better and could enjoy the dives to the ship wreck and the navigation dive. In the afternoon, we had free time and could relax and enjoy our last day in Utila. At 5:30, we met at the boat again to do our last dive, a night dive. That was quite scary, all in the dark, but we saw so many sea animals (starfish, lobster, ...) that is was my absolute favorite dive ! :-D

We spent our last night in Utila at the hostel, playing bingo and drinking some beers with our friends there.

I really liked being in Utila ! It was a beautiful place, people were really nice and Underwater Vision is an amazing diving school that I can only recommend !

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