Guanaja, Honduras

Bay Island of Guanaja General Information

Las Islas de la Bahia or Bay Islands in Honduras are made up of three major islands and numerous cays. Guanaja, Roatan and Utila lie just 20-30 miles off the northern shore of Honduras and are much more Caribbean than Central American, so much so that the locals are quite adamant that they are “islanders, not Spaniards.” When approached from the east, Guanaja is the first island encountered in the chain.

Guanaja Honduras - Bonacca KeyGuanaja is clearly the island least visited by tourists. Many yachtsmen also choose to bypass the island in favor of the more developed Roatan.

However, Guanaja Diving Resorts are very cozy and offer magnificent views and world class Honduras Diving with some outstanding open water experiences to enhance your Honduras Travel.

Banking is limited on the island of Guanaja. There is only one bank, Banco Atlantida, and no ATMs. It is recommended you carry cash, as traveler’s checks are not accepted, and cannnot be changed at the bank. Almost all establishments do not accept credit cards.

To visit Banco Atlantida’s website, and other available banks on the mainland of Honduras, visit the Honduras Banks page by clicking the link.

Christopher Columbus discovered Isla Guanaja on July 30, 1502, on his fourth and final voyage of discovery. Columbus was met by large dugout canoes carrying 25 Mayan Indians in each and was quickly welcomed ashore. Columbus found excellent water and 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, 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 mph. Even so, the island has regained much of its beauty is a great deal of fun to explore.

Guanaja HondurasThe only real city on the island is Bonacca, which is actually 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 more than 6,000 people all living on fewer than 100 acres.

Guanaja's Bonacca Key

There are no streets, and certainly no cars or scooters. Even bicycles are prohibited. Everyone walks along sidewalks and paths. Many of the homes and businesses are on stilts out over the water and are three 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 is easy to interact.

Guanaja Airport

The Guanaja commercial airport was recently built, and is an excellent opportunity to develop tourism in Guanaja. Guanaja could also benefit from investments in hotels. The project cost 8 million lempiras, and was a joint effort from the Honduran government, who spent 3.8 million, and the Japanese government, who contributed 4.9 million lempiras toward the terminal. An estimated 500 thousand people, both local and foreigners, will benefit. Click the following link for Guanaja Flight Information.

Naval Base Built on Guanaja

The increase of tourism, bringing commercial and industrial development, motivated the naval force to construct a new base on Guanaja. More people in these areas means an opportunity for positive public outreach for the military.

According to Juan Rodriguez, Commander of the Naval Base, they would like to extend the project to include Naval Bases on the islands of Roatan and Utila as well. Guanaja was the first due to its remoteness and increased activity of drug planes passing overhead. “The base will have the personnel and equipment necessary to respond when called upon”, Rodriguez stated. There are patrol boats, naval infantry, and special services at the naval base.

Guanaja Honduras - Graham's
Graham’s Island

Spend a few days 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 bustle of more developed island resorts.

One of the highlights is a menagerie of animals.

“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,”

Amy wrote in her journal.

“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-foot 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.”

The island also is home to several small waterfalls, the most beautiful of which is most easily accessed from the north side of the island. The snorkeling and scuba diving is great, and the hike to the waterfall also great fun.

Guanaja – People are welcoming and make one feel right at home. The expat community redefines the word “diversity” and is a constant source of good laughs, information and stimulating conversation.

By Mark Wheeler

Guanaja is a small island (one of the Bay Islands, or Islas de Bahia) in Central America, located about forty miles off the Honduran coast in the Caribbean Sea. Honduras shares its borders with Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador. To make things even simpler, hop on a plane in Miami and in 1 hour 55 minutes you will be there! COOL!

Actually, there are three main islands that make up the Bay Islands of Honduras; Roatan, the largest and currently very popular on the cruise ship circuit, Utila, the smallest, known for its whale sharks and Guanaja, which is the tallest of the three, has its own fresh water source from the mountain streams and no roads for cars. There are dozens of other, smaller “cays” that dot the Caribbean in this island chain and many privately owned.

Guanaja is pronounced “Gwa-nah-ha”. I first heard of this Bay Island about five years ago. Recently I began researching the possibilities of retirement there. Let’s face it folks, you do not want to outlive your money!

The Baby Boom generation, born between 1946 and 1964, are a new generation of retirees. The Boomers want adventure, they want bang for their retirement buck and many are willing to seek out retirement in a country other than the United States to find it.

If you want to lead a fairly active lifestyle you might want to go white water rafting, hiking, fishing, scuba diving or snorkeling. The Bay Islands are surrounded by the world’s second largest coral reef and the pristine water of the Caribbean Sea. Maybe you want to slow down a bit, Honduran beaches, waterfalls, lakes, and cloud forests provide beautiful settings for spas and retreats.

Written by Denise Clarke

Notable Folks Who’ve Visited Guanaja:

O. Henry visited Guanaja

O. Henry

About a hundred years ago, a young North American named William Sydney Porter arrived in Honduras aboard a dilapidated freighter. He spent about a year in Honduras, dividing his time between Trujillo and Roatan. It was the time of the great “banana boom,” and like so many other gringos who found themselves in Central America during that era, Porter had a shady past.

Let’s be more specific. Porter didn’t merely have a shady past. He was wanted by federal authorities in the United States for bank fraud. He had been an employee of a bank in Austin, Texas that came up many thousands of dollars short following an audit. The evidence, and fingers of fellow employees, pointed in the general direction of Porter. Rather than endure a trial that would have produced a certain verdict of guilt, Porter skipped the country and ended up in Roatan. Let us at least commend him on his choice of exile.

Little is known of Porter’s activities during his stay in Honduras. What we do know is that upon receiving word that his wife back in the States was stricken with a terminal illness, Porter returned home to be with her during her hour of need. He also returned home to a three year stretch in a U.S. Federal Penitentiary.

During his stay in prison, Porter perfected a natural flair he possessed for writing. He began producing short stories for magazines from his prison cell. In order to hide his status as a federal convict, Porter adopted the pen name "O. Henry." By the time he completed his prison sentence, O. Henry stories were appearing in the most popular magazines of the day. Collections of his stories have since been translated into dozens of languages. Although Porter, or O. Henry, died in 1910, he remains one of the most popular and beloved U.S. authors of all time.

O. Henry’s trademark was the surprise ending that each of his stories contained. He would set a story moving in one direction, and just when the reader was convinced of the general direction of the narrative, the story would be completely reversed. He used this device to dramatic and humorous effect in such stories as The Ransom of Red Chief, The Gift of the Magi, and The Cop and the Anthem.

The real charm of O. Henry’s tales lies not in his reversal of the narrative, but in the reversal of his characters’ character. In O. Henry’s world, rich men become dunces, while rogues become heroes and down-and-outers become gentlemen.

While little is known about O. Henry’s actual activities in Roatan and Trujillo, his impressions survive in several of his stories. A number of south-of-the-border tales in his Cabbages and Kings collection take place in the mythical town of “Coralio” in the imaginary Central American republic of “Anchuria.” Spanish speakers know that Honduras comes from the Spanish word hondo implying depth. O. Henry’s Anchuria comes from the Spanish term ancho which means width — perhaps a reference to the width of O. Henry’s imagination.

Coralio could very easily be turn-of-the-century Coxen Hole where a motley collection of gringos hang about the town’s sole billiard parlor while small boats filled with fruit and coconuts are rowed out to ships moored near the reef. In one tale, a local consular agent, frustrated by the mid-summer heat, retires drunk to his hammock everyday by noon. In another, a couple of would be empresarios open an ice plant, only to learn that the locals dislike putting ice in their drinks because it makes the drinks cold. In a third, a not-so-shrewd businessman schemes to convince the locals to buy and use something they neither want nor need, but that he wishes to sell them — shoes. One wonders how that trick was eventually pulled off in this barefoot-is-best environment.

If you are a resident of the Bay Islands, find yourself a copy of O. Henry, retire to your hammock, and enjoy. If you’re a tourist, and you find yourself back home and missing the islands, grab a volume of O. Henry, lay back on the sofa, and return temporarily to that land of palm trees, endless beaches, and soft ocean breezes.

by Raymond Lowry

Leave a Reply