Cayos Cochinos, also known as The Hog Islands, are comprised of two small islands, Cayo Menor and Cayo Grande, and 13 tiny coral cays, with a total land area which measures approximately 2 km², located approximately 30 kilometers northeast of La Ceiba, Honduras in the department (State) known as Atlantida, on the northern coast of Honduras. Although the Cayos location is geographically separate from the Bay Islands Roatán, Utila, and Guanaja, they belong to the same Bay Islands department and are included in the Roatán municipality. According to the 2001 census there were 108 inhabitants.
Managed by the Honduran Coral Reef Foundation, Cayos Cochinos is a Marine Protected Area, which includes part of the world's second largest coral reef system known as the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. Cayo Menor, the smaller of the two main islands, has a scientific research station. These islands are amazingly beautiful, prompting National Geographic to write, "The waters around this collection of coral cays are a marine biologist's dream: protected by the government, off-limits to commercial divers and fishermen, and busy with creatures that may not yet have names." Dr. Matthias Hammer, founder of Biosphere Expeditions said "The Cayos Cochinos reefs are the least disturbed ecosystem in the Bay Islands."
There aren't any cars on the islands, which makes for a unique escape for travelers looking to avoid an urban atmosphere or a crowded tourist metropolis. Some parts of the islands have an almost uninhabited feeling which is probably one of the reasons why several Survivor type reality shows, inclucing the Italian show L'Isola dei Famosi, have chosen Cayos Cochinos to film their episodes. Cayo Grande has a hiking trail which will take you from the beaches to the residences. The island's highest point has a lighthouse which you can hike to and enjoy the spectacular panoramic view around Cayos Cochinos. The islands inhabitants are Garifunas living in fishing villages (Chachauate and East End), which contain 9 private homes on Cayo Grande, and 6 homes on the 13 smaller keys.
Cayos Cochinos has the healthiest, most pristine marine life in the Bay Islands, thanks to the preservation efforts made by the Honduras Coral Reef Fund, which maintains the environmental restrictions and protects the marine park, and collects a $5/day, $10/week, $20/month entrance fee from all tourists who visit.
With the assistance of the Smithsonian Institution, in an effort to protect the marine and terrestrial flora and fauna within a 460 km² area, in 1994 Cayos Cochinos and its surrounding waters were declared a marine reserve, which extends 8 kilometers in all directions. Although the local Garifuna people are permitted to fish with hand lines and qualified Garifuna fishermen can participate in the lobster diving season, laws prohibit all commercial fishing, trapping, and netting within the boundaries of the marine park. Many non-profit organizations including the Smithsonian Institution, Honduras Coral Reef Fund, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and Operation Wallacea have helped preserve the natural beauty of the area since 1994.