With such an eclectic assortment of young travelers from around the globe, as well as a sizable population of fun-loving locals, it’s no surprise that Utila has a flourishing nightlife. While the favored location varies depending on one’s mood during the week, Friday night invariably sees a large crowd at the Bar in the Bush, literally in the bush at the outskirts of town on Cola de Mico Road, a 15-minute walk from the waterfront.
The sprawling cabaña complex, with an attached volleyball court, has an unusually loose, festive ambiance, with an odd mix of people wandering about with drinks in hand, enjoying the grooving music. It’s open Wednesdays and Fridays only (“9 p.m. till late”). The bar is a few minutes walk on a dark road heading out of town; walking alone back to your hotel is not recommended.
About the favorite bar in town with foreign visitors is Tranquila Bar (3 p.m.–midnight Sun.–Thurs., 3 p.m.–3 a.m. Fri.–Sat.), offering one of the few full bars on the island, with a variety of premium liquors, 25 creatively named shooters (Swamp Water, Chameleon, Scooby Snack, Sex with the Captain), and a number of cocktails. The large, multicolored bar, driftwood lounge, and dockside tables always host a crowd of tourists and locals and the music is a quality mix of rock, reggae, and nostalgic ’70s and ’80s tunes.
Another popular spot, with a bit more of a party, electronica vibe, is Coco Loco Bar (4 p.m.–midnight Sun.–Thurs., 4 p.m.–1 a.m. Fri.–Sat.), two doors away—another laid-back oceanfront place to chill out with some tunes and a drink. Happy hour, at sunset, features two-for-one drinks.
One unusually located drinking establishment is Treetanic Bar (4 p.m.–midnight daily), literally a treehouse bar in the shape of a boat, very creatively designed and decorated in the canopy of a mango tree to the side of the Jade Seahorse restaurant. The cocktails are a bit more expensive than at other bars but are exceptional, and the surroundings are unbeatable—an elevated walkway leads off the bar, meandering above the creatively landscaped grounds, to a couple of semiprivate seating areas, all like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.
Not quite as unusual, but still very charming is Babalú (4 p.m. onwards daily), Utila’s oldest dock bar newly revamped. Run by Italian expat Dado, the bar is smaller than Tranquila or Coco Loco, with weathered wood, oars hanging from the ceiling, and oil lamps. Only two kinds of beer (US$1.20) are offered, along with well drinks (US$1.50), but at these rock-bottom prices, who’s complaining? A simple and inexpensive menu is available as well, if you are looking for some munchies with your drink.
Over in Sandy Point, Driftwood Café has a relaxed bar scene with a mix of expats and locals (some of whom are known to play raucous dice games). The house specialty is Monkey Balls shooters, of vodka and housemade kahlua.
Farther along, La Champa (tel. 504/425-3893, noon–midnight Wed. and Sat. nights only, and Sun. during the day) is a huge bamboo and thatch-roof restaurant and bar decorated with wild orchids right on Chepes Beach. They play mellow music, sometimes live, and attract a laid-back, mostly expat crowd. Besides the full bar, they have an extensive menu of fajitas, quesadillas, burgers, and the like for US$3–6 a plate. Their “shuttle service,” a multicolored golf cart, will transport customers to and from town (about a 10-minute walk).
The billiard aficionado can find two small pool halls, on Cola de Mico across from the Jade Seahorse, although they are usually the exclusive domain of Honduran mainlanders. Both are best visited early as the crowd can get a little rough later on. Beer is served.
Late-night incidents walking home after a night at the bars were once a problem, but locals have pretty much stopped it entirely by instituting “tourist police” who patrol at night, with radios to call regular police. Nonetheless, it’s not a bad idea to walk home in groups.
Reef Cinema shows several movies a week in a well-designed theater, at 7:30 p.m.
© Chris Humphrey and Amy E. Robertson from Moon Honduras, 5th Edition