Learning To SCUBA Dive On The Island Of Utila

Utila Honduras Scuba Tanks

Scuba Diving on the Island of Utila

Utila, Honduras

The island of Utila in Honduras is one of the cheapest places in the world to get your PADI diving certification. Here’s how I did it.

Many travelers & backpackers learn to SCUBA dive in Utila. It’s smaller and cheaper to visit than it’s bigger next door neighbor, the island of Roatán. Because of it’s popularity, there are many dive shops on Utila, and it can be hard to choose one.

That’s why my buddy Richard and I teamed up to check out a bunch of different Utila dive shops and find the best deal for an Open Water Diving Course. This way we could cover more ground.

Utila Honduras Scuba

Heading to My First Dive

Choosing A Dive Shop

After interviewing staff at a few different places, we decided on Parrots Dive Center. This is the criteria we used for choosing a dive shop:

  • Are the employees energetic & friendly?
  • Is the instructor experienced?
  • How many people will be in a class?
  • How many instructors are there per class?
  • Are there additional “fun” dives included?
  • Is accommodation included? How many nights?
  • How nice is the accommodation?
  • What’s the quality of the equipment?
  • What time is class in the morning?

The employees at Parrots seemed laid back, professional, & fun. The shop was locally owned too, another important factor. We even received 5 free nights in a double room away from Utila’s noisy main street, when most places only offered 4 nights in a busy hostel environment.

Two free fun dives were included with the course as well.

There were 6 of us in the SCUBA class. Our 4 day course started with our instructor Alan teaching us basic diving principles of depth, pressure, & breathing air underwater. In the mornings we sat in a classroom, in the afternoons we practiced our new skills in the bay.

Utila Honduras Scuba

Dive Master Alan

Utila Honduras Scuba

SCUBA School

Learning How To SCUBA Dive

Some of the underwater skills we needed to learn: equalizing the pressure in our sinuses, clearing a flooded mask, sharing air with another diver, and proper timing of our dives at different depths to avoid Nitrogen Sickness (aka “The Bends”).

For one of the tests the instructor turns off your air tank underwater! This important test is to simulate running out of air. You don’t want to panic in a real emergency, so this experience lets you feel the effect due to an equipment (or human) error.

When the air is turned off, it takes a second to notice. The effect isn’t instant. You will slowly begin to have trouble breathing.

When this happens, you get the attention of your buddy with hand signals in order to share his/her air supply with a backup regulator mouthpiece that every diver carries.

So now I know what it feels like to run out of air deep underwater…

Utila Honduras Scuba

Open Water Diving in Utila

Weightless Underwater

The real fun started when we finally went diving for the first few times. Slowly sinking 60 feet down to the ocean floor is an incredible experience. But it keeps getting better!

Once at the bottom, you press a button on your BCD diving vest and inflate it with a bit of air from your tank.

Because you’ll be wearing a weight belt (mine was 14 pounds) to help you sink, adding this air to your vest will level you out. This makes you weightless underwater. You won’t sink to the bottom, or float up to the top.

It lets you hover at one depth, neutrally buoyant.

Utila Honduras Scuba

Underwater World

Utila Honduras Scuba

Superhero SCUBA Powers

I ❤ SCUBA Diving!

I thought I knew what weightlessness would feel like, but I was wrong. True underwater weightlessness is an amazing experience! You can control your body just by breathing.

Want to go up a bit? Breath in a bit deeper. Want to do down? Breath out a bit longer.

Hang completely upside down, swim sideways & backwards while spinning, or do 20 somersaults in a row. We removed our fins to engage in Matrix-style movie stunts, jumping at each other feet first, followed by backflips.

We’re all just a bunch of grown-up kids down there. ★

More Information

Location: Utila, Honduras [Map] Company: Parrots Dive Center
Cost: $260 USD
Useful Notes: You don’t need to book a course in advance, it’s actually better to visit all the shops yourself to make a decision. Some places have a wild party vibe, others are more relaxed.

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What About You?
Do you love scuba diving? Where’s your favorite spot? I would LOVE to hear…

33 Comments

  1. Hi Matt
    Can you just turn up at Utila and get a dive course sorted straight away? Have emailed a few places but not had any replies.

    cheers,
    Lee

  2. Matt, I swear you must be one of my top influencers when I do a search online. You always pop up in my google search and the stuff you share is always recommended. Well done and thanks for having great taste! Each time I click through to what you either wrote or recommended, it’s fantastic. I was just looking up Diving in Honduras for nostalgic purposes and there you were. We loved our time in Utilla back in 2003. We were in the midst of doing our dive masters there. It’s a great and affordable destination. Cheers.

  3. It’s pretty common in some countries – many of the dive centres I visited in Indonesia & the Philippines had lodging too (although sadly not as cheap as the ones in Utila)

  4. Hi Matt,
    Quick question. When you were going around interviewing different dive centers, what kinds of things did you ask them? What kind of qualities were you looking for in a dive center?
    Thanks!

    1. – How many nights free?
      – Can I see the room?
      – Can I see your dive equipment?
      – How many fun dives are included?
      – What time is class in the morning?
      – Maximum # of people in the class?
      – How many instructors per class?

      I went with Parrots mainly because the instructor was cool, 5 nights free (most only do 4), and I got to share a private room that was away from the noisy main street (most are dorms).

      I also heard good things from people about Captain Morgans & Cross Creek Dive Shop.
      Utila Dive Center had the best equipment & boats, but they are also the most expensive.

  5. Diving was the most amazing experience — and to think, I NEVER thought I’d be brave enough (eh, it was either take classes or do nothing by myself all day while my friend took classes on the tiny island of Koh Tao, Thailand)! What I thought was really crazy was the way you lose sense of up and down, and in low visibility, you can turn around and suddenly be two inches away from something and never notice you drifted!

    But I thought the best part was the feeling of flying — what I would give to dive again soon!

  6. Hi, Matt

    I see you are still having fun! I met you at Tom & Debbie’s big party. Here in NH we are up to our wazoo’s in s n o w! Keep up the fun travels. I know that you might meet the girl of your dream’s somewhere along the line, get married, and never get back to the US ever!

    Jim

  7. Welcome to underwater world! :-) Wait till you bring your camera diving with you :-) If you happen to be in South East Asia, please come to Indonesia, Indo’s underwater is amazing! Raja Ampat, Komodo, Ambon, Bali, I love it!! Hope I can dive in Honduras too :-)

  8. LOL love the superhero pose! I can’t share your Dad’s appreciation for your boat companions (lol), but that water does look amazing! =) So glad to see what you see, thank you.

  9. Very timely post for me, as I am currently sitting in an restaurant at the bus station in San Salvador waiting to catch the bus to Honduras and eventually make my way to Utila (hopefully by tomorrow morning). Great description of what it’s like to dive. I am excited to experience this for myself, as well as conquer one of my fears.

  10. I can see by the water, beaches and boat companions you must be stressed out again. I should learn to control my body by breathing, I currently control my body using an equally effective expelling of, well, lets just say it’s not breathable.

  11. I’ve always wanted to do this. But I’m not a good swimmer, lol and doesn’t the certificate require some sort of swimming test? Then again, I always see diving as controlled sinking, anyway. That’s kinda scary cool that the instructor would turn off the tank during training…

    1. There is a 200 meter swim and 10 minutes of treading water/floating. Just practice for a few weeks before, and you’ll be fine.

      Once underwater, it’s easy to get around. But in rough seas you’ll need your swimming skills.

    2. You can also use a snorkel and fins for the swimming test but you’ll have to do 300 meters. I just got my Open Water certification last week and didn’t know how to swim at all before the course. The instructor taught me how to swim the day before the swimming test and first dive. I went with the snorkeling option and it was a lot easier for me. I think if you can snorkel you should have no problem diving.

    3. When the instructor turns the tank off, their hand remains on the valve. Since it’s under high pressure, as soon as they turn it on even a fraction, you can breathe normally. It doesn’t even take a second. :)

      For the swimming test it is untimed. You can take as long as you want, and you can even do it on your back the whole 200 meters (if you do it without gear). You just have to be moving the whole time, not stopped, so it’s really easy. I’ve had people who were the worst in shape pass it with no trouble whatsoever.

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