I just returned from two weeks on Guanaja, one of Honduras’ Bay Islands. Aside from enjoying plenty of hammock time, great views of wildlife (spotted eagle rays, dolphins, ospreys, magnificent frigatebirds), island food, tropical sunny weather (and some spectacular evening thunderstorms), and visiting friends, I had some interesting “beyond tourist” moments that I want to share.
Anyone can have a “beyond tourist” moment on vacation, and it doesn’t even require getting out of the resort (although it’s nice to do so, in order to see how the locals live). Just spend time talking to the people who live in your destination and get to know them a little. Since I’ve been visiting Guanaja for more than 10 years and own property there, I’m regularly doing things like grocery shopping for myself, buying plants from the local nurseryman and chatting up locals in the bank line.
Here’s a glimpse into the island of Guanaja that the guidebooks don’t cover:
• While I was shopping in Casa Sikaffy, one of the island’s largest grocery stores (that’s smaller than your average 7-Eleven), the lights suddenly went out. First thought: power outage. Nope. The owner’s sister walked up to me and explained, “There’s a funeral, and the body just passed in the street outside, so we turned the lights out for respect.” The street that she was referring to? A pedestrian walkway that’s only 7-feet wide.
• Guanaja’s a relatively small island with limited infrastructure. Plastic recycling is something it hasn’t been able to tackle in a realistic way, until now. An ex-pat friend, Mike, showed me the island’s new “bottle crusher,” which takes piles of plastic bottles and presses them into large squares—ready to transport to the mainland for recycling. It’s a great way to get trash off the streets and beaches, and money into the pockets of islanders.
• I had the chance to talk with a gentleman from one of Guanaja’s families that date from English settlement times, in the early 1800s. Mr. Borden is 80, and he told me about all the property throughout the island that he’s owned over the years. While it’s certainly an overstatement to say that he’s owned the entire island, his property holdings have covered a large amount of territory. It was a pleasure to hear about what Guanaja was like in the “old days” when there were few people, no electricity and the fishing “industry” consisted only of families fishing for their dinner.