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Introducing Utila

Famous throughout the backpacking globe as the place to learn to dive in Latin America, Utila's reputation precedes it. A distinctly quirky little island, Utila has a unique heritage: British and African ancestry and live-and-direct cultural influences from Jamaica and the Central American mainland.

Stroll along the island's main street and you'll hear killer reggae basslines from dancehalls, see elderly English-looking couples enjoying the evening breeze from their rocking chairs, and witness some of the most competitive domino games this side of Kingston.

Utila is small – about 13km long and 5km wide – and flat except for one small hill. Virtually the entire population lives in one settlement, Utila Town, set on a curving bay. There are only two small beaches here, and a cluster of tiny cays off the island's southwest shore.

Today Utila earns its keep from its reef. There are over a dozen dive schools here, and dive sites dotted around the shoreline. Whale sharks are regularly spotted around the island and are a huge draw.

A little rough around the edges, Utila is no manicured Caribbean hideaway. For such a tiny island Utila has an annoying traffic problem: a constant tide of motorcycles, quadbikes, tuk-tuks and pickups curses the island's two streets. Trash is another huge issue.