Utila Town is backpacker central among the Bay Islands, where dreadlocked divemasters are just as common a sight as Garifuna locals. The town retains a certain laid-back charm, especially compared to the over-development of nearby Roatan. Unfortunately, this purity is unmistakably ebbing away with every shipment of golf carts, and every new wave of jostling divemasters to join the horde that congregates daily just off of the docks.
The island's economy is overwhelmingly centered on tourism and, in particular, around diving. The vast majority of visitors come for this, and will find an abundance of dive shops to cater to their needs. The ownership of and relationship between these various outfits plays out in a complicated soap opera, shuttling back and forth between local and foreign ownership and with various shifting alliances. If you're ever feeling bored ask a local divemaster to relate the story of the feud that played out between the owners of Underwater Vision and Alton's, involving a decade of animosity between a father and son that only ended when the younger abandoned his shop to become the island's mayor.
Utila's tourism explosion has left the island's utilities scrambling to keep up, resulting in regular brownouts and a permanent, island-wide water shortage. It is locally claimed that Utila's energy prices are the highest in the world. Although this is not confirmed, it's not difficult to believe when one considers that the entire power supply is generated from expensively-imported diesel fuel. If you plan on renting an apartment, be sure to check into whether water and electricity are included in the price, as these could potentially be substantial add-ons.
Michael Karanicolas is awesome.