In 1502, The Bay Islands were discovered by Christopher Columbus, claimed by many nations over the years, they were finally controlled by Britain in 1643 as a crown colony, at the time dependent on Jamaica. In 1860 the British crown recognized Honduran sovereignty. The Bay Islands were included into the rest of the country in 1872.
The Bay Islands are located in the western Caribbean sea. The three main islands (Roatan, Utila, and Guanaja) are situated about 45 miles north of Mainland Honduras, 550 miles west of Jamaica. Roatan is the largest of the three main islands, Utila is roughly 20 miles to the west of Roatan, and Guanaja is 17 miles to the east. All three islands were formed along the meso-american reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world. Second of course to the Australian Great Barrier Reef.
Two other groups of islands are often included in the area of the bay islands, the Cayos Cochinos (or Hog Islands), and Swan Islands. Cayos Cochinos are relatively close to the bay islands (just 25 miles south). The Swan Islands however are a considerable distance away, roughly 170 miles to the north east of Roatan.
The latest population estimate of The Islands is 31,000 as per a census in 2001, however many on Roatan consider that number to be grossly underestimated. Roatan alone is expected to have roughly 40,000-60,000 people. Out of that number, about half are of Mainland Honduras origins. About 40% are of Caracol, or British or Afro Caribbean desent. Roughly 10% is expected to be expatriates, and seasonal foreigners. The islands are almost exclusively Christian, with large number of Seventh Day Adventists, and Baptists. The major towns of the islands are Coxen Hole (Roatan), Banaca (Guanaja) and Utila Town (Utila).
The language of the islands is commonly English, however Spanish is the official and legal language. English was spoken on the islands since the times of British control, because of this the islanders feature a unique english accent, similar too that of the Cayman Islands and Jamaica.
The Bay Islands have become the most attractive area to buy real estate in Honduras, especially Roatan island. This beautiful and unique area is quickly becoming a booming corner of the Caribbean Sea.