Bonacca Town

Bonacca town is the largest community on the island of Guanaja. It is where the seat of the municipal government is, and was, until early on the morning of October 2, one of the most unique towns in the Caribbean and in Central America. Some people consider that Bonacca Town is the Venice of the Caribbean. The reason for this is that the town is built on several small cays. To this day, there are still narrow canals that separate the small cays where the town is built. To this day, you can see small dories and dugout canoes within the canals.

Guanaja is the oldest toponym on any geographical map of the Americas! It was first put on the map by Bartholomew Columbus himself, who accompanied his brother, Cristopher Columbus during his fourth and final trip to the “Indies” You might find it interesting to note that on that first map elaborated by Bartholomew Columbus, the island appears in the vicinity of Asia! Columbus and his crew thought that they had found a new route to the far east and did not understand that they had found a new Continent!

The Island of Guanaja is, in my opinion, the loveliest of the Bay Islands. It is also the most pristine of the Bay Islands where you can vacation. However, Guanaja has a nasty reputation due to the sand flies that inhabit its paradisiacal beaches. Because of this, the largest community has made Bonacca town its home. It offers a save haven from the infamous sand flies! Bonacca town is a quirky community where there are no cars or motorcycles. It is only accessible by boat, and the community has long survived on fishing, although tourism has been growing over the years. As such, streets are narrow alleyways that are never more that a couple of blocks from the Caribbean Sea.

Fire Breaks out in Bonacca Town

On the morning of October 2, 2021, a fire broke out in one of the homes. It was still dark; unfortunately, the fire swept through the old dilapidated wooden buildings very quickly. There is no fire department in Guanaja, and therefore, the community had a difficult time containing the rapidly spreading fire. Helicopters flew in from the Soto Cano air force base near Comayagua. By 8:30 am they were already helping contain the fire by dumping seawater on the ravaging fire. In total, about 20% of the community was burnt to the ground!

Fire in Bonacca Town
Community fighting the fire. Photo Courtesy of Roland Rumm

The good news is that there was no loss of life! Several members of the community had medical assistance due to smoke inhalation and burns. Those who saw their homes go up in smoke lost everything they had, basically only saving the clothes they had on! There was an immediate response, both within the country as from around the world. Banking accounts and crowd funding efforts are collecting money to help those who need it most.

Guanaja is Open for Tourism!

As for tourism, the good news is that most of the hotels and resorts in Guanaja are NOT on Bonacca Town. The airport is on the main island, and fortunately, the only bank on the island did not burn down. This means that if you have plans  to travel and enjoy a vacation diving or relaxing in Guanaja, you can go ahead with your plans. As a matter of fact, by not rescheduling your trip, you will be helping the community to rebuild. Many hotel employees did lose their homes, and desperately need to make money and tips at the hotels where they work.

Fortunately, there is still a good part of Bonacca Town is still intact. This small tightly knit community will  preserve its unique architecture. Visit Guanaja, enjoy its pristine beaches, outstanding reefs, and friendly folks. This is a great way to support the local community during these times of hardship.