Learning to Scuba Dive in Utila, Honduras and how to choose a Dive Centre

Scuba Diving opens up a deep world of possibilities

There are so many scuba diving sites around the world. Travelling from country to country I would hear of incredible marine life. Yet,  closest I could get was floating on the surface with a mask and snorkel. I had to learn to scuba dive!

PADI Scuba Diving Utila Honduras
Very happy on my first dive after becoming a certified PADI Open Water Scuba Diver

Utila is among the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras and it’s one of the cheapest places in the world for learning to scuba dive. Perfect! Honduras was part of my travel plans and learning to scuba dive a bucket list experience.

Arriving on the shaky ferry from La Ceiba, I was approached on the docks by Henry Larson. A native to the island he has over 7,000 dives to his name and was bursting with enthusiasm and passion for scuba diving. Larson worked for Parrot’s Dive Centre and they were a company I’d heard of before. It’s one of the only locally owned dive centres on Utila and that was a huge plus for me. They sounded good, so I kept Parrot’s in mind and checked out what the competition was offering.

On Utila you’re spoiled for choice. The island is full of dive shops, all vying for your custom. I investigated a few, had some chats with the competition returned to Parrot’s. The vibe there was amazing, the people so friendly and the price very competitive.

Being keen to get started I commenced the four and half day PADI Open Water Scuba Diving course the same day I docked on the island.

Parrots Dive Centre Utila
Parrots Dive Centre in Utila

First of all, the dive centre needs to know that you can swim. Task one is to swim 200 metres in open water and then to float at the surface for 10 minutes. Success; and in to the classroom.

For PADI Open Water, there are five classroom based modules. This involves videos, reading and knowledge review tests to ensure you understand the material.

Sunset from boat dock in Utila
The sun setting behind Parrot’s Dive Centre in Utila

Much of the course it is common sense. It doesn’t mean you can put your feet up though. There’s also a lot to learn about safety and the various equipment used. Remember…there’s an exam to take at the end of the course.

Learning to Scuba Dive Utila
Out on the boat learning to scuba dive

Whilst not hard to learn, there are elements that do require more than basic attention. Causing some initial confusion, was learning how to read a dive table. On a very basic level, this helps to plan your dives and ensure your body doesn’t fill with nitrogen, causing ‘the bends. You must ensure enough time is spent at the surface when planning multiple dives. Also that your ‘stop time’ in the water is of a suitable length when rising to the surface. Don’t ascend  too quickly!

Becoming a certified PADI Open Water Scuba Diver isn’t all about the classroom though. Of course, you have to get in the water. That’s where the fun begins.

Happy snorkel man
Super excited after my first Confined Water exercise

These are ‘Confined Water’ exercises and there’s four to undertake. Each one taking you deeper and deeper.

Preparation for an emergency is key and there’s some interesting exercises for this. For example, swimming underwater without a mask and your eyes open. The salt stings! Yet you get used to it after a while and your eyes adjust. Other exercises involved using you dive buddies air and making a controlled emergency ascent to the surface. Although a lot is covered in the confined water exercises, they’re a lot of fun. .

The beauty of Utila is the abundance of coral and sea life. You’ll see no end whilst learning and our exceptional instructor Larson pointed out every creature.

PADI Open Water exam
We were about to take the exam and all looked far too happy about it (I’d just drank a red Gatorade)

Drawing to a close, after four days of study and diving, it was time for the PADI Open Water exam. There’s 50 multiple choice questions, covering all areas of study. Larson ensured we were all well prepared and with the papers marked, the results were in.

Everyone easily passed. After an intense four days, we were now certified PADI Open Water Scuba Divers, ready to dive the world.

Virus boat Parrot's Dive Centre
‘Virus’ – the boat at Parrot’s Dive Centre

At Parrot’s Dive Centre, not only do you learn to scuba dive, there’s also two free fun dives added to the end of the programme.

The next day we set off on a boat and had our first experience of fun diving (without having to undertake learning exercises). It was an incredible feeling and something I’m amazed to have experienced. I’m now looking forward to diving around the world!

How to choose a Dive Centre on Utila

There’s so much choice on Utila it can be hard to know where to start. The prices for PADI Open Water range from $250 – $350 USD. All Dive Centres will throw in incentives:

  • Free accommodation
  • A free beer on arrival
  • A free night at the end of your course
  • Free fun dives

With so much free, are they reallyfree‘, or just factored in to the price. Go beyond all that and do the following:

  • Look around the island and visit different Dive Centres
  • Speak to the staff
  • Ask to take a tour of the facilities
  • Look at the accommodation, classroom (make sure it’s air conditioned) and their equipment.

This way you’ll get a feel for where you’ll be most comfortable and can choose a place that suits you. Some spend a lot on promotion and therefore are more well known. It doesn’t mean their courses are any better though.Some places have a chilled vibe, whereas some are more of a party atmosphere.

Scuba Diving Flyers Utila
I was given all these Dive Centre flyers on the ferry dock…and there are still many more to choose from

You’ll also want to ask the Dive Centre these questions:

  • Does the price include all taxes?
  • Are any fun dives included at the end of the course?
  • What is the cost of accommodation after the course?
  • Is there an onsite kitchen you can use?
  • Is filtered water included / what’s the cost of filtered water?
  • Is the Dive Centre locally owned?
  • Does it have local instructors?

I chose Parrot’s Dive Centre as it ticked all the boxes, is run locally and Larson was way more enthusiastic about diving than anyone!

Blue Caribbean Sea around Utila
The beautiful blue Caribbean Sea around Utila

The cost of learning PADI Open Water on Utila

Prices on Utila for PADI Open Water vary from $250 – $350 USD. This will include the PADI Open Water course, accommodation and usually some extras, such as two fun dives. Remember that you should shop around to find the best place for you. Don’t base your decision purely on money.
Once you have completed your course, the Dive Centre will usually let you stay for around $5-6 USD per night. You may have noticed that there aren’t many hostels on the island which can be booked in advance. Don’t worry about arriving without a reservation. You will be able to stay at a Dive Centre, even if you aren’t undertaking a course.
Food prices on Utila are a higher than on the mainland of Honduras. If you like to cook your own meals, ensure the dive centre has a kitchen. If you like eating out, factor around $5 USD per meal in to your budget. Alternatively you can eat super cheap baleadas for less than $1 USD a time! These are flour tortillas stuffed with beans, onions, cheese and anything else the chef has available.

Other things you need when learning to Scuba Dive

Utilia is hot, hot, hot! You’ll need sun screen to prevent severe burn. Eco friendly sunscreen such as this one protects the coral reefs and your skin:


4 thoughts on “Learning to Scuba Dive in Utila, Honduras and how to choose a Dive Centre”

    1. It will be amazing when it’s all over and we can get back to amazing things like Scuba Diving. I hope you are keeping well in such crazy times! Thanks for your comment.

    1. Hi Jeffery.

      I was there in a February and it was really warm, but it would be even hotter in September / October, with temperatures on land likely to be around 30 Celcius / 86 Farenheit. I’m not expert enough as to say whether a wetsuit would definitely be required, but I think it’s possible you could go without due to the high temperature.

      If you do need one, Parrot’s Dive Center should be able to hire one to you, or any of the other shops on the island.

      Hope you have a great time 🙂

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