It's a funny little place, Guanaja. In many ways, it's the forgotten Bay Island. Christopher Columbus landed here on July 30, 1502, during his fourth and final voyage to the Americas, but he didn't stay long. Over the next few centuries, the island became a favorite pirate hideout and was visited by everyone from Henry Morgan and Blackbeard to the Barbarossa brothers. Today, most locals base themselves around the small key Bonacca Cay, while the main island remains practically untouched apart from a few scattered settlements. The islanders, an amalgamation of culture if there ever was one, jump back and forth between Caribbean English and Spanish, and everyone seems to be related in some way.
Time is told in hurricanes by the roughly 10,000 or so residents here. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch's 483kmph (300-mph) winds blew over the island's once-dominant pine trees and knocked many of the stilted houses right off their stilts. Especially hard hit was Mangrove Bight, on the eastern end of the island, which was virtually wiped off the map. A decade later, while nearby Roatán and Utila are experiencing rampant development, Guanaja has seen very little. Hotels and restaurants close on a frequent basis, but then are bought by someone else and reopened. It's a constant cycle. There is frequent talk of large luxury resorts opening here, but so far, little action. Some development is occurring on the west end, mostly because North Americans and wealthy Hondurans are building vacation homes and a marina there, but for now, Guanaja remains one of the most unspoiled places in the Caribbean.
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