A Brief History of Honduras’ Bay Islands

by Jack Guy

Jun 29, 2018

© Christopher Heil | Dreamstime.com

Trends / History

The Bay Islands lie in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Honduras, and there are two main islands.

Utila and Roatan were first spotted by Christopher Columbus in 1502, but weren’t settled by Europeans until 1642 when English buccaneers arrived. The Spanish and British continued to tussle for control of the islands 1650–1850.

During this time, a community of British people settled on the island. Their descendants can still be seen today, a small group of people who look British, but speak in a Caribbean accent in English. The community remained after Britain ceded the islands to Honduras in 1859, and, in fact, made up the majority of the population until the late 20th century.

At this point, Spanish speakers from mainland Honduras started to move to the islands in greater numbers and society remains mixed today. From the late 1990s onward, tourism became increasingly important to the economy, with scuba diving a particular focus.

The industry took a battering in 1998, when Hurricane Mitch left a trail of destruction in its wake. However, the islands were quick to recover, and today they thrive as Central America has become a popular destination for backpackers.

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