Abstract Background The second messenger cyclic diguanylate (c-di-GMP) plays a central role in bacterial adaptation to extracellular stimuli, controlling processes such as motility, biofilm development, cell development and, in some pathogens, virulence. The intracellular level of c-di-GMP is controlled by the complementary activities of diguanylate cyclases containing a GGDEF domain and two classes of c-di-GMP phosphodiesterases containing an EAL or HD-GYP hydrolytic domain. Compared to the GGDEF and EAL domains, the functions of HD-GYP domain family proteins are poorly characterized. The human diarrheal pathogen Vibrio cholerae encodes nine putative HD-GYP domain proteins. To determine the contributions of HD-GYP domain proteins to c-di-GMP signaling in V. cholerae, we systematically analyzed the enzymatic functionality of each protein and their involvement in processes known to be regulated by c-di-GMP: motility, biofilm development and virulence. Results Complementary in vitro and in vivo experiments showed that four HD-GYP domain proteins are active c-di-GMP phosphodiesterases: VC1295, VC1348, VCA0210 and VCA0681. Mutation of individual HD-GYP domain genes, as well as combinatorial mutations of multiple HD-GYP domain genes, had no effect on motility or biofilm formation of V. cholerae under the conditions tested. Furthermore, no single HD-GYP domain gene affected intestinal colonization by V. cholerae in an infant mouse model. However, inactivation of multiple HD-GYP domain genes, including the four encoding functional phosphodiesterases, significantly attenuated colonization. Conclusions These results indicate that the HD-GYP family of c-di-GMP phosphodiesterases impacts signaling by this second messenger during infection. Altogether, this work greatly furthers the understanding of this important family of c-di-GMP metabolic enzymes and demonstrates a role for HD-GYP domain proteins in the virulence of V. cholerae.