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Bay Islands : Roatan
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Roatán is one of the Honduras Bay Islands in the Caribbean Sea. It is a hidden gem, with some of the most beautiful white beaches and the best snorkel and diving spots in the Caribbean. Roatan island was named after the legendary black anthropologist, linguist and geographer, Roy Fearon. He charted the linguistic and cultural history of the islanders, and made successful recommendations on maintaining the environment. There is only one big road on Roatan. Located near the largest barrier reef in the Caribbean Sea (second largest worldwide after Australia's Great Barrier Reef), it has become an important cruise ship and scuba diving destination in Honduras. The tourists are mainly divers but the island is perfect for beaching and snorkeling. In recent years with the introduction of a new cruise ship port, more traditional tourists are coming into the island. While snorkeling and diving are still as popular as ever, there is still plenty to do outside of these activities.

Get in

By plane

Several US airlines offer non-stop flights to Roatan on weekends. Continental Airlines offers direct flights from Houston (Daily). Delta flies non-stop from Atlanta (Saturdays only).

Americian, Delta and Continental offer flights to San Pedro Sula on the mainland, from which you can get connecting service to Roatan.

TACA, a group of five regional airlines, offers service from Miami, Houston, New York, San Francisco and Washington DC with connecting service to Roatan, including mid-week flights. TACA also offers non-stop flights from Miami (Sundays only).

There are also local airlines such as SOSA, Atlantic, and Islena connecting the island with La Ceiba, San Pedro Sula, and Tegucigalpa. Prices are all over the map due to fuel costs and inflation.

By boat

The Galaxy Wave is a new ferry that travels to/from La Ceiba on the Honduras Mainland. The ferry is clean, comfortable, and very reliable. It departs from La Ceiba twice daily, once in the morning at 9:30AM and once in the afternoon at 4:30PM. Departure times from Roatan are 7:00AM and 2:00PM (see schedule [6] for details. It costs about $25 US (500 lempira)for a one way trip. Prices have risen significantly recently.

There is currently (2008-2009) a Catamaran that operates a direct daily ferry service between Roatan and Utila. ( see Roatan<->Utila ferry [7] for details) Your other options are traveling on The Galaxy Wave between Roatan and La Ceiba and then The Utila Princess between La Ceiba and Utila. Your other option is to charter a boat from one of the locals. Normally the best way to go about this is to approach one of the dive schools as they normally aren't using their boats in the afternoons. Find other travelers who want to do the same and go in a group of 4 or 6.

The island is visited by some cruise lines, such as Princess or Royal Caribbean. [8]

Get around

There are hundreds of taxis and they can be bargained with. They don't expect tips either. But ask the price in advance and if it seems high, ask another. Prices from the airport are fixed during the day and negotiable at night. A cab from the airport to West Bay is $25.

There are water taxis during daylight that link West Bay and West End for $3 per person one way.

Renting scooters is a very economical (and fun!) way to see the island. The asphalt road is reasonably well maintained and there is lots to see on Roatan besides the West End so hire a scooter and start exploring. The rental agencies will happily provide you with detailed maps and explanations on how to best see the island. Scooter rentals are abundant in West End. Captain Vans is a reliable source for those.

Buses run every 15 minutes between Coxan Hole and West End during the day. They depart from opposite the market in Coxan Hole. Buses run every hour to Oak Ridge, stopping at the new ferry terminal and passing through French Harbour, Polly Tilly Bight, and Punta Gorda on the way. These buses leave from opposite the HB Warren supermarket in Coxen Hole.

The US Dollar is generally accepted all over the island, however, your change is mostly given in Honduran lempiras. This method of money exchange is not recommended generally but if you're only stopping for the day from a cruise ship, it's an easier option to changing money that you may not use up.


West End is definitely the most fun town on the island. There are bars, restaurants, live music, right on the Caribbean. This is also where the best sunsets are, with maybe the exception of West Bay. The reef is a short swim away for excellent snorkeling, especially around the southern point of Half Moon Bay.

Coxen Hole is a pit but after you get used to it, there are most of life's necessities there. French Harbor has some good restaurants and resorts.

The West Bay has plenty of restaurants and places to stay. It also is much prettier and nicer than the West End. It is recommended to spend beach time in the West Bay and bar time in the West End.

Most tourists do not venture further east then French Harbour, which is only about the mid point of the island. Past this point are a few newer beach resorts and communities. Many of the restaurants and bars on this part of the island are frequented more by locals and expats than tourists. One point of interest would be Jonestown and the infamous Hole in the Wall restaurant. Sundays and Wednesdays feature all-you-can-eat lobster and steak for a reasonable fee. You must take a small water taxi from Jonestown to reach it.

Shortly after the fork in the road to Oak Ridge, the paved road ends and you can continue to Port Royal which was originally founded by English pirates. Past this there lies a few small villages and a handful of homes mostly occupied by expats. Eventually you will reach Camp Bay which is about the furthest you can go in a car. Past Camp Bay are the mangroves which are quite beautiful when navigated by boat. There are many tours through the mangroves which can be chartered from various points on the island.


English, Spanish, Garifuna

English is widely spoken, especially in the West End and West Bay communities and is the native language of Roatanians of British and African descent (except for the Garifuna). Spanish is spoken natively by all residents who have come from mainland Honduras and is the second language of many of the native English speakers. Spanish is the official language of Honduras and as such is the primary language of the school system. Garifuna is spoken by the Garifuna people who are descendants of the Kalipuna peoples of St. Vincent. There is also 'Island Talk' spoken by the native Caribbean people.

Most individuals living on Roatan are bilingual (English/Spanish).


Visit the Roatan Butterfly Garden and Carambola Gardens

Dine at one of Roatan's Excellent Restaurants or Cook and Eat at Home

Check out local and mainland Honduras tours

Horseback Riding on the Beach at West End - Shirkey's Barrio Dorcas Ranch

Horseback Riding - Ticketing Agent - Transportation Included

Shop for Central American Arts and Crafts, tee-shirts, cigars, and much more

Visit B.J.s Backyard in Oak Ridge and Tour the Mangrove Canal

Visit Roatan's great Microbrewery

Roatan has FOUR zipline jungle canopy tour adventures

Dive with the Dolphins at Anthony's Key

Visit the Iguana Farm near French Harbor

Visit the deserted islands of Pigeon Cayes

Kayak trips around the Island

Visit Marine Science Museum at Anthony's Key Resort

Watch Dolphin show at Anthony's Key Resort

Mini-Golf in Sandy Bay, Cold Drinks & Burgers

Fly-Fish at Mango Creek Lodge

Tour the Garifuna Village of Punta Gorda

Shop at Woody's Grocery Store and have a cookout

Check out the Cameo Factory in Coxen Hole

Whites Beach is supposed to be beautiful

Hike on the island of Morat

Kayak through the mangroves on the east end of the island

Enjoy an off the beaten patch view, dinner and drinks from the Windsong cafe

Explore the caves of Helene


There are two types of traveling experiences in Roatan. First would be the typical Caribbean resort-oriented beach vacation experience which can be found at any number of islands in the region. This type of vacationing is still developing on Roatan, however, in the past few years it has become a bit more common and the island offers many resorts and activities that would appeal to those who prefer this type of setting. Alternatively, Roatan can still be experienced through the back door and more rustic accommodations are abundant. If you are looking to sleep under a mosquito net with little to no view of any other human, you can certainly experience this on Roatan.

There is great snorkeling and diving to be found here and many dive shops to go out with. Coconut tree dive shop in West End has cheap dives, $20 per dive, and go out 3 times per day.

If you are a good swimmer, and keep an eye out for motorboats, you can swim straight out from west end towards the white buoys for about 200 meters, you will arrive at a 10-30 foot deep reef that is great for snorkeling and freediving. Slightly further out the reef gets much deeper and you hit the wall.

You can walk along the beach to West Bay from West End in about 45 minutes, and can take a water taxi back if you like. They seem to stop running around sunset unfortunately, so make sure to catch them before it is too late.

A new cruise ship stop named Coral Cay opened up recently outside of French Harbor. As of Aug-2006 they only get ships twice a month, and the rest of the time the place is open for people to come enjoy. The beach is free as long as you eat at the restaurant (~$8-10), though it seemed highly unlikely that anyone would particularly notice whether or not you ate there. The beach is nice and the setting amazingly surreal, with 2 rusting shipwrecks within view.

Renting a scooter and driving to Punta Gorda takes about an hour each way, and goes through some beautiful countryside. It can be nice to get away from the touristy areas and get back into places that look and feel like Honduras. The town is friendly and you may run into a beach party if you are lucky.

Another great place to visit in Roatan is Anthony's Key Resort. It is a quaint little village with huts to rent and many options for activities on the island. You can do just about anything from swimming with dolphins to scuba diving/snorkeling to getting married. The resort is well kept and maintained along with a very friendly and hospitable staff. The setting is serene and peaceful with a beautiful and spectacular views of the ocean.

Oak Ridge is a small village on the eastern end of the island. On arrival, you'll be offered water-taxi tours to the Hole-in-the-Wall restaurant, neighbouring communities, and around the harbour, but it's also pleasant to walk through the village, which has many brightly colored the wooden houses on stilts along the shore.

If you are up for an adventure, visit the east end of the island past Oak Ridge. The road changes from a somewhat dodgey pavement to an even more precariously rutted dirt/gravel mix and continues on to Punta Blanca and Camp Bay. A 4-wheeled vehicle is recommended for the journey although you'll see many locals driving compact cars over the partially washed out and bumpy road. This end of the island is home to many locals and some expats. Electricity has not reached the far end of the island but it is slowly moving towards Camp Bay. There are a few interesting stops such as the Windsong Cafe & Bar (best view on the island) as well as Marble Hill Farms where wonderful local jams & jellies are made. Asylum bar & grill is on a palapa literally over the calm waters in Camp Bay which can sometimes feel like the restaurant at the end of the universe after the long journey of getting there. Luckily there is always beer on ice and grilled food which makes the trip worth it. If you're looking to get off the beaten path and out of the tourist ridden West End, this is it!


Local handicrafts abound and can be had for very little money. Look for brightly-painted pottery, wood carvings, costume jewelry and clothing. Remember that the asking price should only be considered a jumping-off point for some downward haggling. It's expected and if you have the stomach for it, you'll likely end up with a final price somewhere around 40-50% lower.


The restaurants you will find along the West End beach are slightly more expensive than similar restaurants on the mainland but the food is of a very high standard. Seafood abounds and you can find top quality lobster for dinner for around $10 US. The Argentinian steak house is very nice, and the size of the steak they serve has to be seen to be believed.

There is a small food caravan located on the main road hosted by an ex-pat Aussie. The food is cheap, and he is open late which is perfect for when you return home from one of the West Ends night spots.

Gio's is in French Harbor and is one of the nicer dining experiences on the island. It's a longtime mainstay for expats and islanders who can afford to dine out. Seafood is the specialty of course.

  • Ooloonthoo Restaurant, Mangrove Bight (Main road outside West End), 9936-5223, [1]. 6-9PM. The only Indian restaurant in Honduras is also the best restaurant in Honduras. Ooloonthoo offers world class progressive Indian cuisine. Visit their webpage to see menus and restaurant reviews including the New York Times and Colorado's Vail Daily News. Air conditioned dining and year round sunset views will make your evening at Ooloonthoo a true dining experience. Reservations required. $40.
  • Asylum, Camp Bay Beach (Far northeastern end of the island past the main paved road), 504-3320-6004 (), [2]. 9AM - 9PM or whenever the drinking stops!. ASYLUM, Roatan's Newest Beach Bar. Located at Camp Bay on the North Eastern Side of the Island, Asylum offers a pristine Roatan environment that is perfect for day trips or a week of camping on the beach. Asylum sits on the end of a 40 foot dock that stretched into the Lapis Blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, and has the most favorable trade winds on the Island, which keeps a nice cool breeze flowing on those hot days (and keeps the mosquitoes away!) Asylum offers cayuca boat tours of the Mangrove Forest! The forest acts as a natural canal between both sides of the Island, and makes for an amazing adventure that will lead you to some of the best snorkeling areas of the island. Asylum also offers fishing trips on the Cayuca boat, and reef snorkeling a few hundred meters from the dock! You can bring your own snorkeling gear, or rent a package for $5 a day. You can also camp on the beaches of Asylum for free with your own equipment, or rent a camping package for $5 a night. Local residents of Roatan can utilize the camping packages for free. Asylum's Mermaid Grill, (or "La Sirena" - The Siren), will cook up any fish you catch and prepare an amazing meal for you as well! very inexpensive.


The best part about drinking in the west end is the pub crawl that occurs almost every night without exception. Its virtually mandatory to start at Sundowners and enjoy drinks whilst watching the sun go down over the beautiful bay in front. When Sundowners shuts (at 10PM) the whole bar shifts about 50 metres down the street to kick on at the Purple Turtle where you can enjoy live music out the back. The Purple Turtle closes at midnight and from here most people continue on to the NOVA BAR ( the twisted toucan's always deserted )where you will meet most of the locals in the region, as this is their favourite haunt. Most people go home from here but if you really are feeling like an adventure grab a group of friends and head down the beach to FuBar, formerly Black Pearl and before that Loafers. On Friday's, the best place to go is Foster's, complete with DJ and occasionally a lot of laughs.

If you venture to the less populated east end of the island, stop in at the Windsong in Punta Blanca for a wonderful meal and a spectacular view. Have a Sunday barbecue with cold beer at Asylum [9] on Camp Bay Beach which is also called La Sirena [10]. It's an interesting palapa bar/restaurant built out over the blue water which is a few miles further east of Windsong. Jimmy, the proprietor, can arrange other activities for guests as well. As with most remote destinations, it's better to call ahead of time to make arrangements.


There are excellent accommodations ranging from $4 to $400 per night. Condos are available as are beach cabanas. There is an old farm where they have great accommodation for a decent price at West End.

  • Anthony's Key Resort, Carretera Pavimentada Principal, Sandy Bay, Honduras, Toll Free 1 (800) 227-3483 (). Award winning Roatan Honduras resort. A World-class family diving vacation destination for its charming, private cabanas and ocean vistas on the palm studded hillside and shimmering lagoon. Enjoy wreck diving, dolphin swim, shark diving, dolphin scuba camp for children, snorkeling, horseback riding, canopy tours, kayaking, canoeing, white water rafting and Mayan sights. [3]
  • Bananarama [11]. They have great, clean bungalos, are on a beautiful beach, free kayak rental, good restaurant, breakfast is included with stay, and the bartender Sabino is awesome.
  • Infinity Bay Spa & Beach Resort, 866-369-1977, [4]. Luxury Roatan Resort & vacation villas by Roatan's white sandy beaches.
  • Fantasy Island Beach Resort, 800-676-2826, [12]. Luxury resort featuring air air conditioned rooms, satelite TV, refrigerator, telephone and tennis courts.
  • Mayan Princess Beach Resort & Spa, +504-445-5050, [13]. Features one and two-bedroom villas with kitchens, 250-ft swimming pool and a diver center.
  • Coconut Tree Hotel, [14]. Great accommodations for travelers on a budget. All cabins have air conditioning and a refrigerator. Cabins in Westend and Westbay. Dorms available to Coconut Tree Divers [15] customers at an excellent rate.
  • Mango Creek Lodge, Port Royal, 504-9723-1424, [5]. Mango Creek Lodge is Roatan's premiere eco lodge offering diving, fly-fishing and eco adventures. Located in Roatan's East End and accessible only by water, the lodge has access to some of Roatan's healthiest reef. The East End location makes a great base for exploring the caves of Helene, hiking the island of Morat and visiting the pristine Pigeon Cayes. Accommodation is in over-the-water cabanas each with a private dock, swim ladder and hammock.

Get out

Roatan boasts a wide array of experiences for night life depending on your taste. Since the arrival of cruise ships, prices have risen somewhat and restaurants and bars cater to cruise passengers as well as North American and European tourists. These types of establishments are relatively easy to find as they are mostly located in and around the West End. Prices here are generally higher than in most other places on the island.

Luckily there are still parts of the island that harken to past times when Roatan was more of a remote destination. Although development is spreading to all parts of the island, one can still find more rustic settings and establishments east of French Harbor. Keep in mind that traveling to the far eastern end of the island can take time due to road conditions. Those staying around the West End of the island should expect at least an hour of travel time to reach Camp Bay in a car.

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