Utila offers a variety of diving in over 100 dive sites around the island. Following are some of Laguna Beach Resort’s favorites beginning with its spectacular shore dive.
Click for a map of dive sites.
LAGUNA BEACH SHORE DIVE
The reef is located approximately 150 yards from the Resort beach.
The dive begins with a wall dive with drops from 15' to 100', featuring bluebell tunicates, stingrays, and an abundance of juveniles due to the proximity to the mangrove lagoon. Following the tongue & groove coral formations towards the shallows takes you past abundant elkhorn & pillar coral. Particularly during night dives expect many invertebrates, including lobster, shrimp and squid, as well as occasional sightings of both moray and conga eels. Continue into shallows towards the beach to find urchins & conch hiding in the turtle grass. Exit onto the beach just a short 10 yards from the restaurant.
BLACK CORAL WALL:
Just west of Laguna Beach Resort mooring buoy, you will find the most vertical wall of the south side. Heading west from the mooring, the wall drops from fifteen to eighty feet. Abundant bushy black coral and deep water sea fans start in as shallow as twenty feet. Keep an eye out to the blue for passing spotted eagle rays. At night with a flashlight, the wall’s true colors come to life. Look for basket stars in the vase sponges, octopus in the shallows, as well as large eye toadfish.
The top of the reef at fifteen to twenty feet offers sand patches and channels for exploring at safety stop depth. A large school of horse eye jacks, as well as numerous juvenile reef fishes abound. The wall here drops to eighty feet and offers plenty of nooks and crannies for giant green moray eels, large groupers and dog snapper. Look closely for arrow blennies and slender filefish. Another classic night dive.
Creating a break in the reef that runs parallel to shore, a wide sand patch gradually slopes from the beach to well past one hundred feet. A favorite shallow dive for looking at the little things in the sand; sea horses, sailfin blennies, juvenile green razorfish, upside down jelly fish, and garden eels are among the many treasures to be found. Coral rich walls flank either side of the sand patch.
JACK NEAL COVE:
This is another sweet sandy spot, in which it’s almost always possible to find one or more sea horses, pipefish, pike blennies, corkscrew anemones with cleaning shrimp, and peacock flounders, if you look closely in the sand. You may also encounter a curious school of reef squid here in the shallows. The coral walls on either side of the sand patch offer perfect habitat for parrotfish, trumpetfish, and spotted drums. Keep an eye out for occasional hawksbill sea turtles.
The last dive site on the south side before the Utila Cays, a sandy slope drops from the mooring buoy at twenty feet to over one hundred feet, and is flanked by a steep wall to the west, and shallower wall to the east. In the sand look for southern stingrays, and off the wall, keep an eye out on the blue for passing spotted eagle rays. The wall to the west has particularly abundant and large sea fans and soft coral plumes.
The first of the west end dive sites of Utila. The top of the reef in this area is twenty five to thirty feet, with sand channels which lead you to the gradually sloping wall. A nice site for making deeper dives to 130 ft. Look for spotted moray eels, puffer fish, and spawning Creole wrasse. Occasional sightings of hawksbill sea turtles and spotted eagle rays.
This dive site is on the west end of the north side of the island. A sand patch just in front of the mooring buoy at forty feet, leads to a sloping wall. To the west the wall is more vertical, and drops to well over recreational dive limits. The top of the reef here is twenty five to thirty feet and like a coral garden of hard coral heads and gorgonians. Look for octopus, flamingo tongues, and nudibranchs. Also keep an eye above the reef for passing wahoo, mackerel, barracuda, and sea turtles.
TURTLE HARBOUR MARINE RESERVE:
Welcome to the wild side, on the north side of Utila where the sheer cliff wall seems to drop off into the twilight zone. Turtle Harbour is preserved especially for the hawksbill sea turtles which nest on the beach here. They are often spotted in the shallows and along the walls. Visibility is usually exceptional, and each dive site in this area offers something spectacular.
CJ’S DROP OFF:
The deepest dive in Turtle Harbour, the wall here drops off to approximately one thousand feet. The contrast of the deep sheer wall to the rich life on the shallow top of the reef makes this an ideal site for multilevel diving. Spend your safety stop admiring schools of Bermuda chubs, mahogany snappers, and look more closely for lettuce sea slugs.
Just over the edge from the mooring buoy in twenty five feet, the wall drops directly to eighty five feet, where you will find an open cavern full of silversides, bar jacks and occasional large groupers. From here, head east towards “The Maze” and explore the extreme formations of canyons and sand channels at forty to sixty feet. Look for juvenile spotted drum and glassy sweepers in the many holes and overhangs.
Just beyond the mooring buoy you will find a canyon with overhangs which leads out to the wall at sixty feet. The wall drops here to one hundred and fifty feet. Heading west along the wall, you will find a dramatic pinnacle which rises from one hundred and fifty feet to twenty five feet from the surface. Along the wall look for longsnout butterflyfish, fairy basslets and blackcap basslets. From sixty feet and shallower is a great place to find spotted, green and goldentail morays.
GREAT WALL (DUPPY WATERS):
The easternmost site in Turtle Harbour, and perhaps our favorite! The wall here seems bottomless and is alive with giant barrel sponges, groupers, horse eye jacks, Creole wrasse, spiny lobster, and occasional jewfish. Keep an eye on the blue for mobula (manta ray) and great barracuda. The top of the reef is thirty feet, and teems with juvenile wrasses, damsels and soft corals.
Another spectacular north side dive. Here, you won’t find the depth that you find in Turtle Harbour, but a gentle current makes this wall perfect for a drift dive along overhangs and caverns at sixty feet, great habitat for nurse sharks. This is one of the only sites in Utila where you will almost certainly see midnight parrotfish, rainbow parrotfish and tarpon. A rich variety of sponges and corals encrust the overhangs with living color, making this a superb dive.
On the east end, this area is known as the Ironshore, for it’s jagged volcanic rock formations. This dive site allows for a shallow exploration along the shoreline, which has been carved away by waves, creating dramatic overhangs, chimneys and blow holes. Look up to see the waves crashing just twenty feet above you. Here you will find greater soapfish, trunkfish and spotted drum. Spend some time over the white sand bottom to find both yellow and southern stingrays.
This dive site is the reason many come back again and again! This sea mount off the east end of Utila, rises from the depths to thirty five feet from the surface. On a typical dive here, you will see more pelagics than any other site on the island. Schools of horse eye jacks, Atlantic spadefish, southern sennets, ocean triggerfish, and yellow snapper are just a few of the many species abound here.
This diverse south side site offers a sandy bottom at sixty five feet where a small sailboat serves as home to tunicates, sponges, and young brain coral. In the sand here you can find brown garden eels and stargazers. To the east is a sloping wall with maximum depths of over one hundred feet. To the west is shallower with maximum depths of sixty feet, but you don’t need to go far to encounter free swimming morays, permits, groupers, yellow head jawfish, and sand tile fish.
A playground of caverns, caves and swim throughs from ten feet to sixty feet, perfect for afternoon and night dives. Schools of sergeant majors, schoolmaster snappers, glassy sweepers, and dog snappers. Look closely for spotted scorpionfish, and the infamous longlure frogfish that live amongst the coral heads and sponges. Keep an eye on the blue for passing spotted eagle rays.