Guanaja is one of the Bay Islands of Honduras and is nestled in the Caribbean at approximately 70 kilometres (43 mi) off the north coast of Honduras.
In 1502 Columbus discovered this island on his fourth voyage and called it Isla de Los Pinos (Isle of Pines) although it already had a name, Guanaca, used by the natives that inhabited it. This name appears as early as 1511 on a map drawn by Peter Martyr. Later the island became a treasure trove for English pirates Drake and Morgan, Dutch and Spanish privateers, and other English settlers whom would coin her as Bonacca.
Bonacca, Bay Islands, became a British Colony in 1852, and was then ceded to The Republic of Honduras in 1861. Upon gaining possession of the Bay Islands the Honduran government made Guanaja the official name of the island, but the residents still use the name of old…
The island’s main settlement is called The Cay or Bonacca Town, and was first settled by the Haylocks who had moved to the two little cays that lay about a half kilometre off the south shore of the main island to get rid of the flies that plagued them during calm nights. They eventually stayed and later deeded the southernmost cay (Hog Cay) to the Kirkconnells. Many other families like the Boddens, the Phillips and the Woods, came later and by the 1880s a thriving community had developed.
Today, Guanaja is home to approximately 10,000 residents of multi-cultural diversity with English, Spanish, German and Mestizo backgrounds. The primary source of income for the islanders is fishing and shrimping; while tourism is confined to a handful of small resorts that cater to divers, snorkelers and adventure travelers. The island’s warm, clear waters support an extensive coral reef that is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef and second only to the Great Barrier Reef off the coasts of Australia. Homer Hickam, author of Rocket Boys/October Sky, was one of the first scuba explorers of Guanaja, first visiting in 1973. Along with a team of other scuba explorers, he extensively mapped the reef system around the island for sport divers. He still owns property on the northeast end of the island.