Guanaja-Island of Charm
Las Islas de la Bahia, Honduras, the bay islands are comprised of three major islands and numerous cays. Guanaja, Roatan and Utila lie just 20-30 miles off the northern shore of Honduras are much more Caribbean than Central American, so much so that the locals are quite adamant about the fact that they are "Islanders not Spaniards". When approached from the east, Guanaja is the first island encountered in the chain.
Guanaja is clearly the island visited least by tourists and even many yachtsmen choose to bypass the island in favor of the more developed Roatan. Isla Guanaja was discovered by Christopher Columbus on July 30, 1502, on his fourth and final voyage of discovery. Columbus was met by large dugout canoes carrying 25 Paya Indians in each and was quickly welcomed ashore. Columbus found excellent water and he noted that he had, "never tasted water of better quality." Guanaja was so covered in pine trees that Columbus initially named the island, Pine Island.
Sadly most of the pine trees that covered Guanaja were destroyed by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Guanaja has recovered well but evidence of Mitch still exists over much of the land, most notably trees with the bark completely blown off them. Mitch sat over the island for nearly two days with sustained winds in excess of 200 m.p.h. In spite of Mitch the island is doing well has regained much of its beauty and was a great deal of fun for us to explore.
The only real city on the island is Bonacca which is actually located on a small cay a half mile off the main island of Guanaja. Perhaps best described as the Venice of the Caribbean, Bonacca is home to over 6,000 people all living on less than 100 acres. There are no streets and certainly no cars or scooters. In fact, even bicycles are prohibited. Everyone walks along sidewalks and paths with many of the homes and businesses being on stilts out over the water and 3 stories high. Just about everything you might need can be found in Bonacca if you are willing to look or ask. The locals all speak English so it was easy to interact. Remember they are "islanders not Spaniards."
We spent a few days anchored off a little island with a resort on it called Graham's Place. Graham's island paradise is a haven for anyone wanting to just hang out and enjoy the sun, beach and snorkeling away from the hustle and bustle of more developed island resorts. One of the highlights is his animals. Amy wrote in her journal, "Graham's place rocked, we got to swim with two nurse sharks, twenty sea turtles, twelve groupers (including a two hundred pound goliath grouper), bone fish and, many more exciting creatures. The turtles would swim right up to you and look at you with their adorable eyes while you pet them on the head, and the way the 5 ft barracuda looks at you makes you want to faint. The grouper was so big you could feel the water being pushed by his tail when he swam." If you are looking for a little getaway next winter check out www.grahamsplacehonduras.com.
The island is also home to several small waterfalls. The most beautiful of which is most easily accessed from the north side of the island. After a blustery sail we anchored in the lee of Michael's Rock on the north shore and enjoyed 4 days of solitude in this beautiful anchorage. The snorkeling and diving is great and the hike to the waterfall was great fun. We had forgotten how tired you can get walking up a trail. Apparently we have found our sea legs but I am afraid we have lost our land legs in the process.
In total we spent twelve wonderful days enjoying Guanaja, what a groovy/funky/beautiful little island Guanaja is. The islanders were welcoming and very enjoyable to interact with and made us feel right at home. The expat community redefined the word "diversity" and is a constant source of good laughs, information, and stimulating conversation. If you are sailing by or looking for a secluded getaway check out Guanaja.
Fair Winds and Caribbean Rhythms, the 4Wheelers