Chachauate, Honduras– Someone once told me that “chachauate” meant “nut” and, if so, I could totally see that because no trip to Honduras is complete without a visit to the breath-taking island known as Cayo Chachaute. You would be absolutely nuts to pass it up! Leaving from the mainland of Honduras from the traditional Garifuna village, known as Sambo Creek, with just swim suits, beach sandals, a camera, some sunscreen and a few vague ideas of what to expect on the journey ahead was how we started the day. However, it wasn’t until actually boarding the motorboat that the real adventure began. At a speed of about 40 mph the 19 kilometers to the islands flew by. With the wind at our backs there was nothing but hair, t-shirts and expectations flowing.
As we grew closer and closer to the islands the water turned bluer and bluer, eventually turning to a turquoise green. That was our first sign of the magical Caribbean Sea we had always imagined, which gave us great hope that we would soon reach our final destination of Chachauate, Cayos Cochinos.
Just to give you a quick study hall on the region: The Cayos Cochinos Islands, also known as the Hog Cays, is a small archipelago, which is located just 19 kilometers off the northern coast of Honduras in the Caribbean Sea. The two larger islands are covered with thick tropical forest and are ringed by white sand beaches. The Cayos and surrounding waters were declared a marine reserve in 1994, with the help of the Smithsonian Institute, protecting all marine and terrestrial flora and fauna within a 460-square-km area from fishing, development or any other harmful activity. The reserve extends 8 kilometers in all directions. Because of the reserve, and more importantly because only a few people live on the islands, the surrounding reef is in fantastic shape and is teeming with colorful marine life. All in all, the Cayos are one of the most spectacular collections of islands, beaches, and reefs in the western Caribbean.
Upon entering the islands you are required to pay an entrance fee of $5.00, which I couldn’t see anyone doing without great joy. This now meant we were there – only a few moments from the part of Cayos Cochinos we selected to disembark. As we approached the Chachauate village what had once looked like a tiny dot along the sea had just became larger. Although only a tad-bit larger as the island is only 100 meters long by 25 meters wide. As I hopped off the boat and placed my feet down into the warm glowing water it was as if a dream had just come true that instant. Having spent so much time researching, planning, and traveling I never thought we would actually be there. I mean who would have thought a paradise like this even existed! It was indeed a dream come true. I think I might’ve even pinched myself to make sure this was real life.
We were immediately greeted at the coastline by Chela, a native to the island. There we exchanged names, talked lunch, and were guided to her palapa hut to store all of our belongings. Within 10 minutes of being in the village we already had snorkeling equipment, a home-cooked traditional fish meal on the way and a best buddy. Our buddy was Eric, Chela’s 12 year-old son. Equally as kind as his incredible mother he took us around and showed us the ways of the land. From snorkeling in the sea to just relaxing on a raft Eric made us feel right at home.
With Eric by our side we instantly made buddies with all of the other island people. However, it was Eric and all of the other children that really made our experience on the island what it was. From watching a group of girls having sand fights to being dragged into the sea to having a photo shoot and finally, relaxing and playing a game of checkers, we definitely got our share of an island tour.
It was really great to witness what a tight-knit community the 80-100 Garifunas of Chachauate are. Along with being neighbors and friends, they all treat each other as if they are family and I guess, in a sense, they sort of are. Everyone shares and looks out for one another, which is something that is not so commonly seen these days. It was the people of the island that really made our visit such a warm one. Well, that and the blistering sun shining down big and bright.
It goes without saying that our experience on Chachauate, Cayos Cochinos made our trip to Honduras extra special. Everything was so unbelievably perfect! It truly was an adventure so great you would not be able to understand just from pictures or a Lonely Planet Honduras book or even this article – you’ll just have to go and see for yourself!
Seriously, no trip to Honduras is complete without a visit to this spectacular place. If you do plan to spend some time on Chachauate please feel free to reach out… I saved Chela’s mobile number. Yes, there is cell phone service on that teeny tiny island. Woo hoo for technology! Just be prepared to not want to leave… Oh, and bring enough sunscreen!
If you would like to keep up with my travels, you can find me here on Wander Sauce or at Scatter Heart Travel and Instagram. I hope you tag along on the upcoming journeys through Guatemala and Trinidad & Tobago!
In the meantime, here is a little glimpse into Chachauate through Eric’s eyes.