A Secret Place in the Caribbean

A Secret Place In The Caribbean

Since we first discovered our secret island in the Caribbean, we’ve returned to it many times and each time it feels special and it feels wonderful. It feels like we’ve come home.

I can hardly believe it, but it’s has indeed been ten years since the Backpacking Husband and I, finding ourselves with an empty-nest, sold everything we owned to travel the world. It was right here on this island that those travel adventures first began. We’d been exploring the islands of the Caribbean and Utila was our special find.

Our secret place in the Caribbean.


Utila is the smallest of the Bay Islands, just 18 miles or 29 km off the coast of Honduras in the Caribbean Sea. It’s only 11km long and 4km wide as is surrounded by tropical waters and coral reef. The other two islands in this archipelago are Guanaja (the most remote) and Roatan (the largest and most populated of the three islands).

Back then it felt like not too many people knew about Utila – our secret island in the Caribbean – perhaps just a few backpackers looking to learn how to scuba dive. A tiny tropical island paradise sitting on the Meso-American reef – the second largest coral reef in the world – tucked away in a bay where the water is warm and clear.

It felt like we’d discovered a secret place.

Where in the world is Utila?
It felt like we’d discovered a secret place… 

Each time we’ve visited Utila we’ve stayed many months – a couple of times we’ve stayed for the whole summer.

On Utila you can of course now find a variety of accommodations on sites like Booking Dotcom

But we always rent a little Caribbean style house near the beach from our friends Tony and Jo at Utila Vacation Rentals.

On our world travels, I kind of expected we’d come across another island like Utila, somewhere in the world. Perhaps amongst those tiny islands in the Sulu Sea between the Philippines and Malaysia or off Thailand amidst those verdant jewels in the Gulf of Thailand or on the Andaman Sea. And, if not there, then surely somewhere in Indonesia?

But now, having travelled around the whole world more than once, I can tell you that there really is no other place like Utila.

There really is nowhere else in the world like Utila

The first time we came to Utila was for the scuba diving. The island is known as a haven for scuba divers and it was through our research that we first discovered it. The Backpacking Husband was going to do his Dive Master certification in Utila.

It’s long haul to get here. That first time, we flew from Glasgow Scotland via New York then through Miami and onto Roatan (the larger of the Bay Islands) and all the time the planes were getting smaller and smaller until we ended up in a tiny Cessna.

I’d never flown in a Cessna before and I remember being terrified and exhilarated in equal measures.

The Backpacking Housewife and a Cessna Airplane
My first time in a Cessna – both terrifying and exhilarating!

That first summer spent on Utila set our expectations for all our travels to come. We fell in love with the island and its people. We became intoxicated (sometimes quite literally as the rum is delicious) with the no news, no shoes, snoozing/reading in a hammock and never really knowing or caring what day it is, kind of lifestyle.

And, despite the troublesome biting sand flies and the intense throbbing heat and the blistering sunshine and the exhausting humidity – and lack of air conditioning – we immediately fell into sync with this island’s laid-back vibe.

The Backpacking Housewife in a hammock on Utila Island 2014
A no news, no shoes, snoozing/reading in a hammock and never really knowing or caring what day it is, kind of lifestyle…

Ten years on, we’ve just returned from the island once again, and again we’ve noticed some changes. Roads that used to be sand tracks have now been paved. There’s more traffic in the respect of scooters and four-wheel quads and tuktuks.

But there are thankfully still very few cars on the island. ‘Progress’ is slowly happening.

UTILA ISLAND LIFE: A new road along Chepes Beach on Utila

Our favourite dive shop Gunter’s Ecomarine has sadly, since the pandemic, closed down. For us and our Ecomarine family it feels like it’s the end of an era on our secret island in the Caribbean. I’m not one to resist change so I just feel privileged to have known it back then, in what was for us those Golden Years, when life at Ecomarine was sweet and the days consisted of diving or snorkelling off the Salva Vida and ‘hanging out’ with friends on sultry evenings when Ecomarine dock was all about open air movie nights, beers, rum, music, and dancing.

This year, the Backpacking Husband and I found a great new dive shop to be part of at Tank’d Pro Dive Centre on Utila.

Happily, much on the island has remained the same. We still swim in the warm Caribbean sea and take boat tips out on the reef or to the ‘cays’ (smaller tropical islands just off Utila) and to Neptune’s Beach Bar and Restaurant. And, while my dear backpacking husband is scuba diving and lionfish hunting (an invasive species to the islands) I’m very happy to sunbathe and swim and read in a hammock and hang out with my friends.

I see our favourite local store on the island has moved 200 yards down the street to occupy a slightly larger space. That’s great progress for our shopkeeper friend Wardy from whom we like to buy our fruit and vegetables. Fresh supplies still come to the island from the Honduran mainland, but only on a Tuesday and a Friday, so you have to be quick to buy what you need!

I also saw there is a touristy ‘I Heart Utila’ sign and an Instagramable ‘picture frame’ on the public beach .

I Heart Utila

Ten years on, and it looks like our secret is out. These days, there are many new houses being built on the island, especially on the beachfront areas, and I cant help but wonder how the infrastructure will manage with an influx of ex-pat new residents.

The power company is certainly struggling to keep the power on these days as its generators are simply not capable of keeping up with the higher demand. And, with the tropical heat and extreme humidity on this island, for me personally, not being able to cool down is a problem. This year, despite trying very hard not to get heatstroke (again) I finally succumbed during a power cut when I had no access to a fan or to air conditioning. I have to warn you that the heat on Utila can be brutal at times!

Change is inevitable but our secret love affair with Utila continues. Best of all we have lovely friends here.

So, I guess you have to leave to go back?!

No place like Utila

I’ve also written A GUIDE TO UTILA you might be interested in seeing: A POSTCARD FROM UTILA

Where in the world is your special place?

Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!



You may also like


Annie Elvin -

I thought it was from a new book. I was so excited. Lovely to read though. I had the same feeling when I was in the Islands of Fiji and the Cook Islands. Both paradise. That was almost 20 years ago so they will have changed now.

Any signs of a new book?



Thanks Annie – I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Have you read my novel ‘Island in the Sun’ yet? It was inspired by my time on my ‘secret place in the Caribbean’. Janice xx

aFabulousTrip -

Honestly it sounds like a dream ! Sure some things changed over the years, but as long as it’s not turning in a “overtourism” place it looks like a perfect place to relax and have a nice vacation !


I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before it becomes overtouristy and that makes me want to appreciate it even more right now. Thanks for your lovely comment and come back soon!


Hi Deahh – you must have seen some changes in the ten years between your visits to Utila. I’ve seen old photos and heard people talk about what it was like back then and wish I’d known this beautiful place years ago – although feel very fortunate to know it now as I’m sure in the future it will become more commercialised. We’ve been to the Philippines but not to El Nino – and I’m even more curious about it now in order to compare. Someone on Utila once told us that Koh Tao in was ‘a Utila in Thailand’ and we did spend some time on Koh Tao – and I loved it – but to be honest I didn’t find many similarities between the two islands except that perhaps they a similar size. Thanks for your lovely comment. Janice xx

deahh -

I’ve been to Utila twice (ten years apart) and loved it both times. The closest thing I found to it in the east, I suppose, was El Nido in Palawan, Philippines. Very relaxed atmosphere!


Leave a Comment

* By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More