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Bay Islands

Roatan, Guanaja and Utila - the Bay Islands 50km (31 miles) off the north coast of Honduras - are a continuation of the Belizean reefs and offer great snorkeling and diving. The islands' economy is based mostly on fishing, but tourism is becoming increasingly important. Utila retains low-key tourist facilities, while Roatan is gradually joining Guanaja as a more upscale destination. Roatan is the most popular island, but one does not fit all-to truly experience de Bay Islands' charms, you should make plans to visit all three. Getting around the islands is fairly easy, since flights and ferries are available.

The islands have an interesting history, including evidence of Maya occupation. Columbus landed on Guanaja in 1502, but the Spanish later enslaved the islanders and sent them to work on plantations in Cuba and in the gold and silver mines of Mexico. By 1528, the islands were completely depopulated, and English, French and Dutch pirates then occupied the islands. The islands, in many ways, still look more toward England and the US than to the Honduran mainland, and a richly Caribbean version of English is the main language.

The Bay Islands are one of the most extensive reef systems in the world, and offer spectacular diving and snorkeling. Surrounded by warm Caribbean waters, these hilly islands are as picturesque as unspoiled. There are numerous different coral types, sponges, fishes and marine life as well as warm, clear blue water and excellent visibility. Honduras' Bay Islands offer the right balance between adventure and relaxation, nature and civilization, and, in the end, a great vacation.

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