The island crowded with restaurant shacks was naturally also crowded with boats on the beach. However, we walked the beach to a sandbar for some swimming. One side of the island had silky smooth sand, but the other was a rough broken white coral beach. Later, we picked up another couple, and we also stopped briefly at another island before returning home. I did a quick snorkel while the boatman exchanged words with a friend. I noticed also that the Honduran navy patrolled the islands regularly.
There are a number of sandbars and minor islands which are home to fisherman during good weather. Some of these are host to restaurant and even lodging facilities.
When the boat arrives at the dive spot, the boatman's assistant will help locate the floating buoy to anchor the boat. The boats are not permitted to drop their anchor onto the coral reef because repeated anchor drops by boats does damage the coral.
My underwater images were taken with a Kodak PlaySport video camera and my iPhone video camera, so I have no underwater stills. Sorry about this. I'll post some links for videos uploaded. Meanwhile, suffice to describe the outcrop of island where the boatman found shallow water for snorkeling. A clear bright day and relatively shallow water is necessary for good video. The PlaySport camera has a color correction for underwater photography, but until now nobody has developed an app for the iPhone that does the same thing.
Snorkeling will quickly reveal to the visitor a dense colorful variety in terms of coral and reef fish species. Study the coral reef carefully to spot sea urchins, starfish, and other species that may shrink from view. Be sure not to step or brush the any plant or animal life within this eco-system. Sometimes, one will feel a stinging sensation from the nearly microscopic jellyfish, but this is not dangerous. Barracuda are also a potential threat. Hold that video camera in front of you and stare them down. Otherwise, I found nothing to fear while snorkeling.
Incidentally, I recommend bringing your own equipment from the USA. There are dive shops, but these sell equipment imported from the USA and elsewhere. Proper fit of mask, fins, and snorkel are all very important to an enjoyable experience.
Maybe there are alternative menus at other beach shack restaurants, but our boatman took us to a simple place where the menu was limited to a very tasty fried fish, like red snapper, alongside a generous portion of fried plantains and seasoned fried rice. Coca Cola in the old fashioned heavy glass bottles, rather than plastic bottles, was served, reminding me of the old message in a bottle image of the beach. We had no complaints. Later, we visited the outdoor kitchen in the back. The prices are a little inflated because of the island location, but are not terribly expensive. Another interesting observation was that, using a simple hook and some fish line, the boatman caught a small fish while we were snorkeling, then had that cooked at the restaurant for himself. Normally, no fishing is permitted here, however.
The only way to get to Cayos Cochinos is by boat. Most boats come from Sambo Creek, which as several operators directly affiliated with the national park. There's a brick and mortar operator at Sambo Creek that's easy to find and which charges $39 p/person to join a 12 to 16 person open boat with sun canopy for a 6 hour all inclusive trip. To rent a private boat, they will charge $195-. Either way, the trip includes a brief hike on the big island to see the "pink snake", but lunch at a stop-over island is extra. It's also possible to arrange an overnight stay either by camping or at some of the bungalow hotels on the island. Some of these island hotels are quite fancy with views across the water.
After seeing the situation at the beach at Sambo Creek, we decided that an owner-operator experience would better fit our need, and that we could hire this for about half what the tour operator salesperson quoted. Boaters in the immediate vicinity are well aware of the operator prices are were reluctant to come down in price at first, but we eventually located a boatman willing to bargain. We agreed to pay $130- for the six hour boat ride, with the trip beginning the next day at 8pm, and with pick-up at the beach of our hotel. We didn't give him any advance.
The next morning however, the boatman failed to show for whatever reason, and we had to walk down the beach and into town to bargain again. It took us about hour, but we eventually found a slightly better deal ($118-) although we had to pay the park entrance fee ($5- each). We paid for the trip at the end of the trip.
The photos below show me helping push the boat into the water. The boat came with a boatman who controlled the outboard motor, and his helper who found the anchor spot and helped get divers in and out of the boat.