CAYOS COCHINOS: ROATAN’S HIDDEN TREASURE
This group of tiny islands found just off the northern shores of Honduras are technically part of the Roatan municipality, but if you didn’t know any better, you might miss them entirely. Free of cars, bikes, and paved roads, you can hike through scenic jungles and explore pristine waters. Officially a marine protected area, the Cayos Cochinos is truly a diver’s paradise.
Where are the Cayos Cochinos?
The Cayos Cochinos is made up of the Cayos Menor and Cayos Grande as well as about a dozen coral cays located only about 30 kilometers north of Honduras. While this biological marine reserve is made up of many different islands, it is officially a part of the Bay Islands.
In total, the land only measures about 2 square kilometers, and the population hovers at around 100 people. Though perhaps the most beautiful place on Earth, this tiny archipelago is rarely visited by tourists.
How do I Access Cayos Cochinos?
The only island accessible to tourists is Cayos Grande. The Cayos Menor and the remaining small islands are open to scientists and staff members of the Honduras Coral Reef Fund. Cayos Grande is only accessible by boat for a small fee, and park rangers constantly patrol the waters to make sure visitors adhere to the area’s rules.
There are two local villages on the island: East End, which is home to the Garifuna people, and Chachahuate, a rather primitive town whose inhabitants come from Nueva Armenia, Jutiapa. There are about ten private residences and a smattering of houses spread throughout the keys, but otherwise the island is deserted. You can only access it via boats from La Ceiba or chartered boats from the other Bay Islands.
What Will I Find on Cayos Cochinos?
When you arrive on Cayos Cochinos, you can take the hiking path from the private residences to the highest point on the island where you’ll find a lighthouse. While you’re hiking through the jungle, keep an eye out for the pink boa constrictor, a native to the area found nowhere else in the world.
Why Are the Cayos Cochinos Waters so Special?
The Cayos were established as a marine reserve back in 1994, and with the help of the Smithsonian Institution and the World Wildlife Fund, the Honduras Coral Reef Fund works very hard to protect all wildlife within a 460 square kilometer area.
Commercial netting, trapping, and fishing are prohibited extending 8km in every direction, and while natives are permitted to fish with hard lines, netting and spearfishing are strictly prohibited.
Practically untouched, these are some of the purest waters available anywhere on the Mesoamerican Reef. Practically ripped out of a page of National Geographic, the wildlife in and around the islands is a sight to behold.
Come to Cayos Cochinos!
Free of trash, free of pollution, free of tourists, the Cayos Cochinos are truly Roatan’s hidden treasure. Though few divers get the opportunity to tour these protected waters, the experience is worth its weight in gold.
Make sure to watch International Diver touring Cayos Cochinos!
Have you ever visited this secret treasure? Comment below to tell us more about your experiences!