Guanaja was discovered by Christopher Columbus on his fourth voyage in 1502. Notably, this was the first time he came across cacao, which is the core of chocolate. He landed on Soldado Beach on the north side of the island. In later years Cayman Islanders settled in the Bay Islands, which explains the diffusion of Spanish and English language.
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.
In late October 1998, most of the buildings and homes on the island were destroyed by Hurricane Mitch. The islanders have since rebuilt, and although there are still repercussions to the economy from Mitch, tourism has been recovering. The majority of the mangrove and pine forests, which were destroyed as a direct consequence of the passage of the hurricane sweeping across the island for two days, are slowly making a comeback.
Guanaja, also known as:
• Caguamara 1600
• Isla Pinos 1600
• Guanaca 1601
• Guanaia 1657
• Guanaja 1749
• Bonaccao 1771
• Bonacca 1779
Inhabited by the Payans Indian, Christopher Columbus landed 30 July 1502, Pedro Moreno landed in 1524, Spanish slaves raids 1516–1526, buccaneering during 16th and 17th century and removal of Indians to Golfete Dulce. British Colony of Bay Islands 1852. Ceded to The Republic of Honduras 1861.