Guanaja Island Facts & History


For those looking for privacy and seclusion, this is the place to go. There are few roads on the island and most resorts are located at different points around the island which are only accessible by boat. Water Taxi's are always available!

History - Paya Indians inhabited the island for centuries prior to any European presence. The Paya lived a nomadic, hunter-gatherer, fishing lifestyle and used canoes to travel between the islands. They also engaged in trade with the Maya and other tribes from the mainland. They lived in non-permanent homes of sticks and thatch and used simple tools. Guanaja was discovered by the Europeans/Christopher Columbus on his fourth voyage in 1502. Notably, this was the first time the new world came across cacao, which is the core of chocolate. He landed on Soldado Beach on the north side of the island. Guanaja, or Isle of Pines as Christopher Columbus called it, is the most mountainous of the three islands off the coast of Honduras that make up the archipelago called The Bay Islands. The island has an abundance of year-round fresh water springs, creeks and waterfalls. The island is known for its spectacular diving and Caribbean pine trees. Of the three islands, Guanaja is the most undiscovered and pristine. Homer Hickam, author of Rocket Boys/October Sky, was one of the first scuba explorers of Guanaja, first visiting in 1973. Along with a team of other scuba explorers, he extensively mapped the reef system around the island for sport divers. He still owns property on the northeast end of the island.

The Reefs - The coral reefs and 45 dive sites of Guanaja are some of the best in the world. They are part of the Mesoamerican barrier reef system which starts in Belize and is the 2nd largest reef in the world after the Australian Great Barrier Reef. 

Location and Size - The size of Guanaja is about 3x11 miles and the landscape is both lush and mountainous as well as a rugged and more dry in some areas - one peak rises to almost 1400 feet. The island is located approximately 18 miles east of Roatan and 30 miles north of the mainland of Honduras. Guanaja is one of the last remaining unspoiled paradises in the Caribbean.  

Population - There are 3 towns on the island: Bonacca, Mangrove Bight, and Savannah Bight. The majority of the population (approx. 10,000 total) lives on Bonacca which is actually a cay off the main island. Bonacca has been called the Venice of the Caribbean because of bridges and canals that connect the community. The primary source of income for the islanders is fishing and shrimping.

The People - The native islanders of Guanaja are descendants of the original immigrants from the Bahamas and Cayman Islands in the early 1800s. More recently, people from the mainland of Honduras have moved to Guanaja as well. Today the population is a delightful mix of individuals who speak a distinctive English/Caribbean dialect.