In 1502 Columbus landed on this island on his fourth and final voyage of discovery and called it Isla de Los Pinos (Isle of Pines) although it already had a name, Guanaca, used by the natives that inhabited it. He was reportedly met by large dugout canoes carrying 25 Mayan Indians in each, and was quickly welcomed ashore. Columbus found excellent water and noted that he had, “never tasted water of better quality.”
The name Guanaca appears as early as 1511 on a map drawn by Peter Martyr but it later was corrupted by English pirates, privateers and settlers and was pronounced Bonacca. There has been other names for the island over the years before the Bay Islands were turned over to Honduras as the English, the Dutch and the Spaniards modified the name to their liking.
Upon gaining possession of the Bay Islands the Honduran government made Guanaja the official name of the island but the residents kept the old name for as long as they could and older inhabitants throughout the islands still call it Bonacca. The main settlement is called The Cay, an abbreviation of Lower Cays, the original name.
The Caracol people are an English-speaking people who have been established in Northern Honduras (specifically, the Bay Islands) since the early 19th century and are mainly of European British-Caribbean descent. Caracol is a Spanish term that literally translates as conch, snail or shell and relates the people of the Bay Islands to their unique environment and their seafaring culture.
English is the first language of all native islanders regardless of race, and Spanish is spoken second, whereas mainland Honduras is primarily Spanish-speaking. This comes as a result of the island’s past as a British colony. With the steady influx of mainland Hondurans migrating to the islands an increase in Spanish has arisen, but because of the tourism and cruise ship industry that support the islands, English continues to be the first spoken and dominant language among native island peoples. Over time the form of English spoken by the Caracol has changed. The language differs mostly in morphology but also in pronunciation and accent and, to a lesser extent, in syntax and vocabulary, from the English of the other British Caribbean colonies. Evidenced by the usage of the wide variety of old standard English terms and words that are used throughout the islands. They are similar enough to be mutually intelligible and understood throughout the entire Bay Islands. The language can also be learned, although it is not taught in the general sense, whilst the accent derived from the wide variety of expatriates living and working on the Islands from North America and Europe.