Once in awhile you just need a vacation. (Even if you live at the beach.) This was one of those days!
Cayos Cochinos (Hog Islands) are a chain of islands and little cays located between the Bay Islands (Roatan, Utila and Guanaja) and the mainland of Honduras. These tiny islands are sparsely inhabited (the last census had the population pegged at 108), and drop-dead gorgeous. Only about an hour and a half by boat from Roatan, it makes for an easy day trip and a great way to get off the island for a bit. Yes, I see the irony of leaving one tropical island for another :)
Last week one of my friends had a birthday and organized a trip for 9 of us to head out to Cayos Cochinos for the day. Because seven of us are dive instructors, plus 1 divemaster and 1 advanced open water diver, we also loaded up the boat with tanks and our gear so that we could do a dive in the unspoiled reef near the big island.
We headed out early in the morning and were treated to a pod of dolphins following the boat about halfway to Cayos! They were sneaky ninjas though, and I didn't get a great photo. From there it was off to the island that has the marine park and research station on it to pay our park fees ($10/day) and take the obligatory "Cayos sign photo" that everyone does here.
After we had registered and paid our fees, we went out for a dive. It was amazing how different the reef is over there than Roatan despite it being so close. There was a lot more soft coral and it felt more lush that Roatan's reef, and definitely more similar to the south side sites than the north side ones. I was beyond thrilled to find a black & white crinoid on my dive, which I've been searching for on Roatan for almost 3 years with no luck.
After the dive, we busted into our enormous stash of booze and chips (I think we had 14 bags of chips for 9 people) and cruised over to a tiny cay called Chachauate, where there is a Garifuna village and some ladies who cook lunch for tourists. While pulling up to the island and getting off the boat we couldn't figure out why everyone was running up to us and trying to sell us earrings (if you are reading this because you'd like to go to Cayos, PLEASE do not buy anything made from turtles, flamingo tongues or coral from these kids. These are protected marine life. The wooden and coconut jewelry is ok to buy.) Then we looked around at each other and realized we totally looked like tourists with our cameras and backpacks - and technically we were! - but we were so used to living on Roatan and not being seen as a tourist anymore that it came as a bit of a surprise and we had a laugh at ourselves.
The kids on Chachauate love to play with visitors and will generally mob you once you step off the boat. They are adorable and I don't blame them for being excited to have new people to play with (on an island for 40 people, wouldn't you?) The kids only speak Spanish and Garifuna, so having a few words of basic Spanish is fun to be able to interact with them, but they mostly just want you to get in the water, carry them around in deeper parts, do swimming races and jump around with them.
We got lunch from one of the local ladies. She originally offered fried fish for $10 and lobster for $25 but there was no way we were paying gringo prices so we settled on everyone having the fish for $6.50 each. It came with a big plate of fried plantains for us all to share, a tomato-onion sauce and coconut rice & beans.
This dog decided he was going to be my best friend at lunch and I nearly took him back with me:
We spent a lot of time taking pics of the stunning surroundings!
After Chachauate, we started heading back to Roatan... with birthday champagne, of course!
We reached Roatan around sunset and the boat captain let us get in the water with some of the toys we brought. Here's my friend Ty killing it freeboarding:
Epic sunset as usual, to end the day.
Our trip to Cayos Cochinos was on a private charter that we organized ourselves, but there are tour companies on Roatan that regularly make Cayos trips. They cost $165-$180 per person and are a full day trip, with stops for snorkeling, fishing, Chachauate, etc. Lunch is always included as are marine park fees, and on some boats they will feed you breakfast as well. The tours normally don't do diving and need a minimum of 8 people to go (max 12-16 depending on the boat). It's a blast! Contact me if you'd like a recommendation.
Guys, make sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter ... there's lots of extras posted there that don't make it onto the blog. I also have Google+ if anyone even uses that? And I'm on Bloglovin', so you can follow me there too! Plus it makes me take more island 'vacations'. So there's that.