By Blue Bliss Beach House owner Gail Collins
A lot of common questions about the house that I have been asked over the years are listed below, in no particular order. Please note that this is based on my personal experience, but I believe it will help those who are not familiar with Utila.
NOTE: Prices do fluctuate from season to season. Also, the currency exchange rates are not fixed, so all prices listed below may change at any moment. A good rule of thumb is 20 Limpera to $1US for figuring prices in your head, since the official exchange rate hovers around 21 or 22 Limpera per $1US.
Q: How do you get to Utila and what is the approximate cost to travel?
You can find more about the current airline offerings on
It is possible to make the trip to Utila in one day if you fly the entire way. Recently there have been reports of reasonable airfares and regular routes (on certain days) from San Pedro Sula to Utila, but I have not taken one personally.
I have heard that it is possible to fly to/from Tiajuana instead of San Deigo on Taca, so that may be an option for California residents. Since I live in Florida, I have no first-hand knowledge of doing this.
I fly from Miami to San Pedro Sula (large airport on the Northeast coast) using whatever airline is reasonable. Costs vary from season to season, but I generally try to get a round trip flight for about $350-450. From the airport, I take the Hedman-Alas bus (luxury tourist bus, very safe and comfortable, runs on schedule, excellent employees) to La Ceiba for about $25-30.
In La Ceiba, I stay overnight (usually at the Grand Paris Hotel for about $50 when not staying with friends) and do a bit of shopping (non-perishables and hardware store kind of items which are cheaper on the mainland). There are many cheaper and more expensive hotel options available.
There are two round-trip ferries per day between Utila from La Ceiba on the Utila Dream. The morning ferry runs from La Ceiba to Utila at 9:30 am and costs about $28/$35 for the 18-mile ride. Once I hit Utila, I finish shopping for groceries, have lunch at Mermaids and then take a dory to the house. The caretaker has a small boat, so if it is not rough, he can get us. If it is rough or we happen to have large purchases, he will hire a larger boat for about $35 for the day. If it is not available, then there are other captains for hire, also at about $35 for the trip to the house.
As a general rule of thumb, I figure on $1000 for a couple of weeks to pay for food, taxis, hotels, electricity at the house, boat rides to town, taking friends to dinner, etc. I generally come home with a couple of hundred left over, but I also don't do bars or eat out in fancy restaurants a lot, so I save quite a bit there.
I have taken flights from San Pedro Sula to La Ceiba, but since the planes are smaller, I have had luggage left behind, which is a hassle. Also, if the afternoon flight is not full, they tend to cancel it, so you wind up on the late night flight into La Ceiba and have to spend the night anyway. The bus is often cheaper, faster and more comfortable than the plane.
Flying into Roatan can be expensive ($700+), so I don't go that route. If you fly into Roatan during the week, you may have to either go to La Cieba to catch the ferry to Utila or charter a plane or boat. The Utila Dream ferry does have a ferry to and from Roatan on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, leaving Roatan at 1 pm, for about $35/$40. Flights from San Pedro Sula to Utila on local carriers are sometimes available (depends on the day), but again, they generally cost more than I am willing to spend. Please note that plane and ferry schedules often change so be sure to do your research!
I don't like trying to get a dory to the house after the late ferry, since it doesn't leave any time to shop. I just have to come back into town the next day and pay for another boat ride, plus I miss all of that sitting-on-the-porch time, so I always try to catch the morning ferry from La Ceiba.
Q: Is this a subdivision? How close are the other homes to yours?
Big Rock Beach is our section of the island. Jack Neil Beach is to the east of us. Treasure Beach is to the west. The entire south side of the island west of the lagoon is referred to as the South Shore. We are 18 miles off the mainland and you can see the mountains when it is clear.
There are four houses built on the lots in Big Rock Beach so far - lots 3, 8,9 and mine on 10. I believe Utopia Dive Resort is on Lots 1 and 2, plus more property to the west in the next section. Each lot is about 100' wide, except for mine, which is an L shape with 76 feet of beachfront. My lot is deeper than the others. Lot 11 fits inside the L to square it off. It is to the east of me, is not developed, and is the last lot in the section.
Q: How are the roads in Rock Beach and how do people get around, such as to go to the grocery store?
I created a map with Points of Interest for one of my cousins to use while staying at the house (link on left). It has some of the stores and other places of interest marked on it. It is not complete, of course, but a general guide. There is also a map of the Dive Buoys of Utila created by the Bay Islands Conservation Association that is very nice. Blue Bliss is located by Buoy #32, but the actual buoy is located much closer to shore than it appears on the map.
One thing of importance is that the island is divided by a canal, so you have to take a boat to the house. It is possible to hire a boat to go inside the lagoon when there are rough seas, but then you have a longer way to go on the utility road (behind the house) or beach. It is a rough road put in by the electric company, only good for 4 wheelers or walking, and sometimes it's under water in the rainy season. It can be easier to walk down the beach. Neptune Beach Village has a ferry from the main dock in town to their restaurant/bar for a nominal fee, so that is also an option. There is talk of a bridge over the canal someday. Once that happens, there will be a building boom on the west end of the island.
The town has about 2000 full time residents. There are four fairly large grocery stores that I know of (Bush's = gringo/upscale store with wonderful hydroponic lettuce from Roatan; Hendersons and Bodden = regular stores on the main street; a local store that's up the hill = best prices and meat), four hardware stores (Delco has everything under the sun including large appliances and bikes), two bakeries (one local with killer cinnamon buns and one with fancy breads like black olive or sprouted wheat, and bagels). There are a number of internet wi-fi places, a movie theater, designer coffee shops and a lot of restaurants, bars and smaller stores selling everything. Of course, businesses come and go, so what was there last year might not be there now. There is not as much variety as the mainland, but you can get pretty much anything you can think of in Utila. It's just not in a mall.
We walk or take tuk-tuks in town. If I were living there full time, I'd have a bike to get around town. A car is overkill, frankly. A four wheeler would be nice at the house or in town. All of the stores deliver purchases to your dory at the municipal dock as part of the service (tip is expected), or you can hire a kid with a three wheeled delivery bike to follow you around.
Q: What are the current duties of the caretaker and his wife? What is the current arrangement for the caretaker's housing and wages? What a fair wage in Utila?
The caretaker's main job is security. He works 4 hours per day doing yard work and general maintenance, 6 days per week. One day per week he cleans the beach. Generally, he will do a week at each of the three houses in rotation. We hire him for other jobs as needed and negotiate the price. He gets about $500 per month (split between the other two owners), plus the apartment and 65 KWH (about $75) worth of electricity per month (my share). To give you an idea of the wages, a carpenter will make about $15 per day and a maid is $12.50 per day. I hire the caretaker's wife to clean the house twice a month, which comes to $25 per month. I throw in a bit extra for cleaning supplies and phone calls. If I have guests using the house, they pay her for a day to do the laundry and cleaning after they leave. Generally I figure $90-100 per month for expenses, depending on the exchange rate, when I am not there.
Q: How much can the upstairs be rented for?
Blue Bliss has never been rented. I built the house as an investment, so took money from my stock portfolio to avoid having a mortgage. The overhead is so minimal, I really didn't want the hassle of trying to rent it out, nor the wear and tear on the house while it is on the market. The house is not set up with Internet/TV/water toys/boat or any of the things that a vacationer would expect, although I do have family that uses it from time to time.
Since I haven't rented the house out, I really don't have any figures off the top of my head on what the rental rates would be. Of course, it varies with the length of time and season. You can get some idea of current rates at http://aboututila.com/AccomInfo/Houses.htm. There are some listings that are extremely cheap, but they will be part of a dive package. The next cheapest generally don't have hot water or private baths and may well be shared rooms - you need to read the details carefully. There are some Treasure Beach rentals on Air B'n'B at https://www.airbnb.com/users/show/6827978 , but those houses are much grander than mine. I think mine would go at a mid-range price for beachfront rental.
Q: What about bugs?
Bugs are a fact of life in the tropics. If the wind is not blowing, we get mosquitoes and sand fleas at dusk and dawn, or in shady spots. Some people are bothered by them much more than others. The best solution is Deep Woods Off bug spray. I have also sewn a netting pair of pants and jacket that go over my regular clothes that worked very well, but was not exactly fashionable. The house has screens on all of the windows. Because regular mesh will not keep out sand fleas, I replaced the screens with finer mesh fabric (no-see-um netting as opposed to mosquito netting), which I also used for bed nets. This is the site that I bought netting from:
http://store.skeeta.biz/fabric-mesh/no-see-um-netting They also sell tops and pants that you can wear over your regular clothes.
Turning on the AC will make the bugs inactive, so we do that on nights when there is no wind. Lucky for us, the prevailing winds blow the bugs away most of the time. One day, I kept finding the bedspread, top sheet and pillows on the floor in the east bedroom. I thought it was the caretaker's daughter, who was about three at the time. So I made the bed back up AGAIN and was still in the room when the wind blew them right back onto the floor. I sure was glad I hadn't scolded the little girl for it! But we definitely can get some really strong winds.
Q: Does the road at the house go all the way to town and is it paved?
No, the island is divided by a canal, so the house is boat access. However, you can travel by boat in the lagoon if the weather is bad. Also, once you get used to the idea of using a boat instead of a car, it is not as isolated as you would think. It's sort of like living in the country where you go to town a couple of times a week instead of living in a city. Personally, I find Utila town to be very similar to Key West in the 70's. (Yes, I remember it!) I don't like living someplace that crowded anymore and I don't do bars or nightlife, so the South Shore is much more to my liking. You might like being in town better. That is something you should think about.
Q: Can you get insurance?
Yes. Kent Wildt <firstname.lastname@example.org> in La Ceiba quoted me very reasonable coverage costs last year through Lloyds of London. He writes a lot of the insurance policies in the Bay Islands.
Q: How is the Internet?
There are now two Internet Service Providers in Utila. There are also other companies who do dish and satellite service. The house is probably in range of both companies. I do not have Internet service installed at the house, since I'm not there enough to justify the cost. There are plenty of wi-fi spots in town. I generally use Mermaids, on the main street, when I go to town with my laptop. If you are a commodities trader who needs excellent connections to make (or lose) a fortune, then you may need to do some serious research into satellite services.
Q: How is the phone service?
Honduras has two phone companies, and the one you choose can depend quite literally on where you are standing when you want to make a phone call. Tigo and Claro both offer prepaid phone cards on every corner in town. We use Claro, buy the code for a specified number of minutes and the clerk will punch the codes into an unlocked phone. Postpaid plans are available too. Signals from both companies are pretty good now, but about five years ago, you had to walk out on the end of the dock to get a signal. Everyone has a cell phone now. The entire country has 504 as the area code and the country code is +011.
Q: How is the electric service?
Most of the time, it's great! UPCO (Utila Power Company) does a good job at keeping the lights on. Of course, there are outages, but they do their best to notify everyone on Facebook of scheduled work. They also post the current cost of power there. The power line is underground from the pole to the house, so we don't have to worry about trees falling on the lines. Our meter is a pre-paid one, so you buy power from UPCO in town and get a code to punch into the box on the rear exterior wall. You can always see how much power you have. When you run out of kWh, the power simply shuts off. This is contrary to most people's experience, but it is easy to get used to this way of thinking. The upside is that you can never run up a huge bill accidentally. The current kWh tariff is Lps. 8.50 (about $0.39).
One thing that we do to reduce the power bill is to turn the water heater on for about 30-60 minutes per day, instead of leaving it on all the time. That gives us enough hot water for showers and dishes at night and into the next day. It's a simple way to conserve energy.
Q: How is the water?
The house is supplied by a well located on the rear of the property. It is located in solid coral rock (not dirt) and has never run dry. It is impossible to test for bacteria, since the labs require the sample within 24 hours and we just can't get it to them that quickly, so we shock the well with bleach once a year to be on the safe side. We purchase drinking water, delivered to the house in five gallon jugs, and use the well water for showers, toilets and the hoses. There has never been a problem with bad water from the well.
The house has sediment and UV filters installed, but they have never been used since we are not there that often. The caretaker doesn't want to use it, since he is not that familiar with the system, so we have a bypass valve installed. The new owner can chose to use it or not.