Roatan is home to the second largest barrier reef–you know, after that other one in Australia–and, therefore, has a huge diving community. Full disclosure: I am not a diver, so I can only give partial advice. That being said, I did ask some people who know, and did take a snorkeling trip with a dive company. Next trip, I WILL get scuba certified.
Since I’m already talking about scuba, I’ll start with the activities…
You do not need to do a boat tour, but for approximately $75/person, it’s totally worth it. Our house was located on Orchid Beach–convenient walking distance from both West Bay and West End. Our first morning, we hopped in kayaks and paddled out to the reef, tethered the boats to a buoy, and snorkeled around the shallow reef. Not many large groups of tourists make it there, so the reef is very much intact and alive.
Several days we walked to West Bay Beach and set up camp all the way at the end, in front of the Grand Roatan Resort. If you go there a couple of days in a row, and are like us and will talk to anyone, make friends with Xiomara (Flaca for short). She gives a decent beach massage for dirt cheap and will give you tips on where to get cheaper beers and locally made (DELICIOUS) empanadas.
The water in West Bay is so clear and so blue (due to the white sand and probable blasting of the reef to create tourist swimming zones) and it’s an easy swim to AMAZING snorkeling. The reef is shallow, but if you carefully navigate past that part to the drop off, it’s quite surreal. Observing the other world that exists under the sea is spectacular.
*Do find out from the locals which days are cruise ship days. If there are only 1-2 in port, it’s still ok, but once you get more, this beach is kind of a zoo. Now, I was able to witness several cruise ship people suit up in their snorkel gear (with flippers) and carefully back into the knee-deep, perfectly still water. Those laughs were worth the crowds for a day, as people-watching is a favorite pastime of mine. Here’s a tip: If you’re planning to snorkel at West Bay Beach, and don’t want people like me to poke fun at you, put your flippers on in the water and just walk straight in. After all, the water looks like this:For our snorkeling trip, we went with Clearwater Adventures and were so happy with that decision. Denisse Mazu, the dive master, was lovely and really provided us with a fabulous experience. When staying at The Pink Orchid, Clearwater couldn’t be more convenient as it’s, quite literally, a stone’s throw from the house.
Our snorkeling trip included a few stops at great reef sites as well as an old shipwreck. A truly unique highlight was our lunch stop in the village of Crawfish Rock, where Miss Dulce invites you into her home and serves a yummy, homemade lunch (for $10/person). Another family on the boat was far more prepared than we were, and brought some toys and trinkets for the kids in the village. I have a few pictures of the adorable kids, but if you’d like to see professional ones, that family just so happens to contain photographers and you can see the better versions here.Another dive company that came recommended by someone more experienced than I, is Las Rocas, located in West Bay. I cannot personally vouch for their dive experience, but I can say that their $7 fish tacos were one of the best things I ate the whole time I was in Roatan. The restaurant is super casual, super beachy, and it just feels right. I would be remiss if I failed to mention the “monkey lala”, which is apparently the drink of the island and available everywhere. It’s kind of a cross between dessert and drink as it’s a combination of vodka, kahlua, vanilla ice cream, coconut cream, and half and half. This is not my drink of choice, but it is delicious.
So, on to the food…
- I mentioned Las Rocas’ restaurant and you should definitely give it a try for a casual, affordable, beach dining experience.
- Creole’s Rotisserie Chicken in West End is so good! Another destination if value is your goal (approximately $8/person for a full meal with sides). They don’t appear to have a website, but here is their Trip Advisor link.
- Beachers, on West Bay Beach is a good day drinking spot that has tasty bloody marys and a scrumptious jalepeño cheddar burger that they just could not understand why I wanted without a bun. If you eat/drink here, you’re welcome to use the beach chairs in front…a win-win.
- Roatan Oasis came highly reviewed and recommended, but we found it to be just ok. Some items were really good, but some were so-so. At the prices they charge, it all needs to be really good, in my opinion. Look here for other reviews though. Perhaps we went on an off night and I would certainly be open to trying it again, but give me fish tacos at Las Rocas over this any day.
- Our last night was spent with a little treat to ourselves because, can you really ever treat yourself enough? As I mentioned in my other Roatan post, Caribe Tesoro is a B & B in a fabulous location, with a decadent restaurant called Leña Parilla. What a treat it was to sit right on their dock and watch the sunset complete with cocktails and exceedingly friendly waitstaff. Four of us opted for the tomahawk steak, and one went with the Mahi Mahi. Everything, from our grilled romaine Caesar salads to the steaks were delicious. The meat was perfectly cooked to the chef-recommend medium rare and was paired with Gorgonzola mashed potatoes and asparagus. The wine list could afford to contain some higher quality wines, but we did end up with a good Malbec. My sister lived in Chile for 7 years, worked in the wine industry there, and is a level 2 sommelier. I am a self-taught wine aficionado (translation: I drink a lot of wine). So bearing that in mind, we thought the wine list could use some help, but we’re picky when it comes to our booze. For the more casual wine drinker, it’s probably fine. In their defense, they had been open one week when we dined. Our experience wasn’t complete until our very friendly and accommodating server (Glenn Jr) pointed out his “pet” barracuda living under the dock.
Some miscellaneous info about the island:
Pretty much everyone speaks English, although the island is part of Honduras. The locals seem to speak Spanish, a local dialect, and English, which is apparently the first language they learn.
West end is buggier than West Bay. There are “noseeums” and mosquitos just waiting to devour a sweet succulent human such as myself. If you’d like to bring me with you, no need for bug spray, otherwise I highly recommend it.
Off the beatean path, and reportedly great, is Hole in the Wall. This place is NOT fancy, go figure, so disregard the reviews that complain about how rustic it is.
I did not make it to La Sirena de Camp Bay, but it is owned by the brother-in-law of a friend of mine, has great reviews, and is in a remote location that I WILL visit next time.
In true Caroline fashion, I did experience a touch of gastrointestinal distress (no one else did though), so I always recommend traveling with the appropriate drugs.
For now, that’s all I’ve got, but I shall return to this beautiful little island paradise one day.