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Taking a Look Beneath the Surface in Honduras

August 27, 1989|JOHN C. FINE | Fine is a free-lance writer living in Scarsdale, N.Y

GUANAJA, Honduras — There's magic here amid the warm, tropical seas and tranquil wilderness of the Bay Islands of Honduras, about 40 miles offshore.

Guanaja has become the domain of scuba divers and vacationers seeking peace and escape from destinations that make a holiday seem like a ride in a crowded subway car.

Guanaja has no roads, no automobiles or trucks, only a small dirt airstrip served regularly by Tan-Sasha Airlines from the other Bay Island of Roatan or from the Honduran city of La Ceiba.

There are direct Tan jet flights from Miami, Houston and New Orleans to La Ceiba and San Pedro Sula. The short flight on to Guanaja is scenic.

On the ground at the end of the dirt strip at Guanaja the manager of the Posada Del Sol welcomes visitors and escorts them to a large diesel boat that delivers guests to the hotel.

There are wonderful images in the little bay near the Guanaja airstrip. We arrived just before sunset, the light reflecting off derelict ships abandoned in the mud.

The boat took us past Bonacca, a stilt-house settlement.

Romantic Cays

We passed romantic cays--small islands covered with lush tropical foliage and coconut palms, hiding mansions that have become the secluded retreats of wealthy Americans.

Fifteen minutes later, the boat eased against the pier at Posada Del Sol, a majestic hacienda with thick white stucco walls and tiered layers of Spanish tile.

A week at Posada Del Sol is what a Caribbean vacation should be: days filled with marine adventure, diving, windsurfing, sailing, snorkeling and fishing; hikes through some of the most beautiful tropical forests in the world; good food savored and friendships easily made.

It was built into a cliff on the beautiful lagoon. Rooms face a freshwater swimming pool surrounded by orchids and hibiscus.

Room keys are provided on request, although the people of Guanaja are known for their honesty.

Electricity is powered by generators, and there are no telephones. A shortwave radio hookup to the United States provides a link for emergency calls. But calls can be placed through the radio operator to any place in the world.

Spot for Adventurers

Being out of touch, however, is what this new gem in the Caribbean is noted for. Until word gets out, the 18-room Posada, with spacious, comfortable rooms, good food and some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling in the Caribbean, is a blessing for those looking for a little adventure. Former professional diver George Cundiff owns the Posada.

Outside the lagoon, walls and drop-offs offer stunning coral formations filled with life. The dive sites are explored only by divers and guests of the hotel, so the seas remain serene.

The inn maintains a fleet of boats for fishing, water skiing and excursions. Vessels are in good condition, and the larger dive boats can accommodate 30 divers.

Three principal diving teachers and a staff of guides make everything convenient. Tanks are loaded aboard the dive boats, gear is stowed in a dehumidified locker room and boats are backed into a covered boathouse for easy access.

The boats sport large and sturdy canvas covers to shelter visitors from the sun. Deck space on the open bridge area is available for anyone who wants to savor the sun between dives in water that ranges from 76 to 80 degrees.

Diving starts at 8:30 a.m. Photographers can snap away on the shallow coral formations or go deeper to feed grouper, moray eels and barracuda.

Diving is new at Posada, which started operations on a small scale in January, 1986.

At least once a week, picnics are scheduled at Michael's Rock on the other side of the island. Conditions permitting, divers visit large underwater caves, then are put ashore to sun or snorkel on a secluded beach while a barbecue is prepared.

Later, an excursion zeroes in on a waterfall. Divers can choose another dive while hardy climbers pick their way over rocks, holding onto vines, to climb through beautiful foliage toward the top of Guanaja's tallest mountain. At the waterfall, it's a treat to bathe in a pool below the cliffs.

Posada offers reasonable prices, coupled with special excursion fares that make Guanaja one of the most appealing places in the Caribbean.

Information about Posada Del Sol, flights and brochures about the island are available from its U.S. office at 171 W. Blue Heron Blvd., Riviera Beach, Fla. 33404.

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