If I had ten lempira for every time I heard someone say how lucky they were to have such great snorkelling conditions right off the dock at Coral View, I could have paid for my week at the resort and had change left for a sunset beer on the glorious pier. To complain about cosmetic shortcomings of the rooms or oversights by the staff is missing the point: Utila is a backpacker’s paradise and anyone who comes here for five star accommodation should get back on the boat and head elsewhere.
I spent a week at Coral View as part of a school group learning to dive via Operation Wallacea. After a week in the jungle, Utila and Coral View were indeed luxurious, albeit nowhere near Western standards. I didn’t realise it until reading the reviews below, but I stayed in the resort’s prime room, the fourth floor “penthouse” with adjacent balcony, from which I could sunbathe or watch shooting stars. For our purposes, the room was fitted with three bunk beds, which presumably get moved or removed to suit each week’s clientele. The room had an air conditioner and a small refrigerator, but neither was working because of the cost of running them. For me, the tropical sea breezes and ceiling fan were sufficient in late July and the basic, but hot shower did the trick after a day of diving. There is a murky pool where we did some snorkelling skills and a volleyball court.
I’m not sure if the crew of diving instructors our group had are year-round residents, but everyone in our group received excellent training and all of us passed our PADI open water course under their expert tuition. The rota ran like clockwork with two dives a day, including “fun dives” exploring the reef and its varied sea life. Most people said that snorkelling in the area was even better than scuba diving, but I only did the latter.
Because we were with a large school group, I don’t think the meals we were provided were typical of Miss Tonia’s usual output. We were given scoops of rice, potato salad, and stale tortilla chips with movie-theatre cheese sauce, washed down with plastic pitchers full of Kool-aid style juice. Meat occasionally made an appearance, but we very rarely had any fresh produce, which is a shame given the abundance of fresh fruits available on the island. We were told that it was because produce is so expensive and it tends to “go off” too quickly. As we were on a pre-paid student deal, costs were being kept down. I think paying guests get better quality fare, including hamburgers and fries that can be ordered from the kitchen. I saw Miss Tonia and her family tucking in to ripe avocadoes and other treats, so I know it’s possible. There’s a water cooler in the restaurant for filling up bottles.
Miss Tonia is an outgoing and very welcoming host who went out of her way to treat our group well. She even whipped up a huge strawberry flavoured birthday cake for one of the school girls and she accompanied us to the ferry on our final day to make sure all our luggage got put into the same part of the hold. The rest of the staff were unsmiling and didn’t seem to enjoy their work much, but maybe they were tired of cleaning up after school kids. They did wash a bag full of jungle-dirty laundry for five dollars and, although it wasn’t cleaned to Western standards, I was very grateful for the service.
One negative experience was the amount of petty theft that was going on throughout the resort during our stay. Every day, people’s sandals, shorts, diving boots, and cash were taken from the docks and it made me very uneasy about taking anything down with me when I went diving. No telling if it was locals, school kids, university students, or pelicans doing the thieving, but it’s best to let Miss Tonia lock away your passport.
In my experience, the walk into town is an easy twenty minute one, provided you steer clear of the Kamikaze mopeds and all-terrain vehicles that tear up and down the island; and hiring a taxi, which costs just under two dollars, was never necessary. Even in the blazing sunlight, you know you can cool off with a frozen lemonade in Munchies bar (look for the “iguana garden” out back) once you reach the town.
To summarize, Coral View was probably the nicest accommodation I saw on the island, though I’m told there are swankier ones to be found in other parts. It was not immaculately clean or perfectly fitted, but it afforded wonderful views, fantastic diving, a friendly owner, convenient snorkelling, and sustaining, basic food. It’s a perfect place for backpackers, students, and those who don’t need luxuries to have a good time in a great location.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Whether you are seeking relaxation or adventure, Coral View Beach Resort has the perfect tropical vacation in store for you. Experience incomparable personal service at this family-owned and operated resort. Stay in a luxury room with air-conditioning, hot water, a private bath, wireless internet access and an ocean or lagoon view. Dive with our full-service PADI Dive Center (packages and certification available). Make your trip an adventure with our whale watching, snorkeling and kayaking excursions. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Coral View Beach Hotel Utila