Roatán

West End Village on Roatán

Roatán is one of the Bay Islands of Honduras, in the Caribbean Sea.

Villages

French Harbor, Roatán

Understand

The island is located near the largest barrier reef in the Caribbean Sea and the second largest worldwide after Australia's Great Barrier Reef. It has become an important cruise ship and scuba diving destination in Honduras.

For many years the island was a hidden gem, with some of the most beautiful white beaches and the best snorkel and diving spots in the Caribbean, but it was 'discovered' around 2005 by cruise ships and hotel developers.

Tourists used to be mainly divers but the islands beaches have attracted additional package tourists and cruise ships. In recent years, several new cruise ship ports have been opened, causing a significant influx of traditional cruise ship tourists to the island. You'll know when the cruise ships are in port because suddenly there are several thousand additional tourists on the beaches and in towns. It is best to avoid buying anything when cruise ships are docked, the prices of food, goods, and services generally double to quadruple to capitalize on the higher expendable incomes of the typical cruise ship passenger.

There are three types of traveling experiences in Roatán. 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 Roatán, 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, Roatán 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 Roatán. The final type of traveling experience on Roatán is the cruise ship, these visitors are generally in town for short bursts of time and come in huge numbers, it's not unusual for you to wake up and have West Bay suddenly be covered with several thousand cruise ship passengers rubbing shoulders to find a small patch of available beach to soak up the sun in. Several cruise ships have ports in Roatán, but some dock only in the exclusive private towns and beaches owned by the resort, and you will hardly notice them except for the large ships on the horizon.

Luckily there are still parts of the island that harken to past times when Roatán 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.

Get in

By plane

Juan Manuel Gálvez International Airport (Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Manuel Gálvez) (IATA: RTB) is on the island of Roatán.

Several US airlines offer non-stop flights to Roatán on weekends.

American, Delta and Continental offer flights to San Pedro Sula's's Ramón Villeda Morales International Airport (Aeropuerto Internacional Ramón Villeda Morales) (IATA:SAP, ICAO:MHLM), also known as La Mesa International Airport situated on the mainland, from which you can then get connecting services to Roatán.

Avianca, a group of five regional airlines, offers service from Miami, Orlando, Chicago, Dallas, Toronto, Houston, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington DC with connecting service to Roatán, including mid-week flights.

There are also local airlines such as SOSA, CM Airlines, Air Viva and Isleña (part of Avianca's regional service) connecting the island with La Ceiba, San Pedro Sula, and Tegucigalpa. Prices are all over the map due to fuel costs and inflation, but usually average in at about US$200 for a flight from Tegucigalpa-Toncontin to Roatán.

By boat

By cruise

The island is visited by some cruise lines, such as Princess, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian Cruise Lines.

A new cruise ship stop named Mahogany Bay opened up recently outside of French Harbor. The beach is nice and the setting amazingly surreal, with 2 rusting shipwrecks within view. The cruise ship companies' employees will actively discourage you from leaving the private beach compound of Mahogany Bay and suggest only going to other parts of the island via expensive taxis or even more expensive tours. However, if you walk off the compound (shoes preferable over sandals) to the main road, taxis get a third to half cheaper.

Cruises also port in Coxen Hole.

By ferry

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 Roatán are 7AM and 2PMs. It costs about US$28 US (524 lempira) for a 1 way trip. Prices have risen significantly recently.

A catamaran operates a direct daily ferry service between West End, Roatán and Utila leaving Utila at 6:30AM, arriving West End around 11AM. Departing Roatán at 1PM it arrives in Utila around 5PM. Contact Captain Vern, (vfine@hotmail.com), ☎ +504 3346-2600, ☎ +504 9910-8040.

Other options are to island hop traveling on The Galaxy Wave between Roatán and La Ceiba and then The Utila Princess between La Ceiba and Utila.

Direct boats to/from Utila are available, but run infrequently and are not regularly scheduled. Ask around the West End to see if any are running or plan to run. The cost is $50-$55, or about the same price as the ferry but more convenient.

Afternoon boats can encounter rougher seas due to stronger winds. Make sure to take some travel sickness pills if you are unsure how you will react.

Charter boat

Another 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.

Get around

Roatán has a system of paved roads connecting the most important communities of the Island. From the Western End of the Island, at the community of West Bay, the road leads through West End, Sandy Bay, Coxen Hole, Brick Bay, Mount Pleasant, French Harbour and Oakridge - Punta Gorda after which it becomes a dirt road and continues east for a distance, to the area of Paya Bay, Camp Bay, Port Royal, and other eastern communities.

Bus

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

Taxi

There are hundreds of taxis, and you must bargain to get the best rates. 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 US$10. Tipping is not expected by drivers.

Water taxi

There are water taxis during daylight that link West Bay and West End for US$3 per person 1 way. The water taxis will generally wait until they have at least 4 people before departing. Total trip time is about 10-15 minutes.

Scooters

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 Roatán 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.

Talk

English, Spanish, Garifuna.

English is widely spoken, especially in the West End and West Bay communities and is the native language of Roatánians 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 Roatán are bilingual (English/Spanish).

See

Do

West Bay, Roatán

Snorkeling, diving and fishing

The fishing is good just off the reef in Roatán. Marlin, Barracuda, Tuna, Wahoo, Mahi Mahi and much more can be caught. There is a yearly tournament held every September. It is a catch and release event drawing over 65 boats from all over.

There is great snorkeling and diving to be found here and many dive shops to choose from. Anthony's Key Resort offers a dolphin dive that is very popular among tourist. Waihuka in Coxen Hole offers the shark dive. Booking the shark dive must be done through one of the local shops.

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 m, you will arrive at a 10-30 ft deep reef that is great for snorkeling and freediving. Slightly further out the reef gets much deeper and you hit the wall.

Walking

You can walk along the beach to West Bay from West End in about 45 min, and can take a water taxi back if you like ($3 USD). They seem to stop running around sunset, so make sure to catch them before it is too late.

Horseback riding

Other

Buy

The US dollar (US$) 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.

Prices of everything skyrocket when cruise ships are in town, if you are looking to purchase anything, including food, it is best to wait until they have left port.

Local handicrafts abound and can be had for very little money. Look for Central American arts and crafts, brightly-painted pottery, wood carvings, costume jewelry, tee-shirts, cigars and clothing. Remember that the initial price should be considered the start for some 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.

Grocery Stores

Gift Shops

Eat

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 US$10 US. Argentinian steaks are also popular.

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.

Drink

Roatán 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.

The best part about drinking in the west end is the pub crawl that occurs almost every night. 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 m 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 or the Twisted Toucan's will be the joint to party at and where you will meet most of the locals in the region this being a favorite 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.

Sleep

There are excellent accommodations ranging from US$4-$400 per night. Condos are available as are beach cabanas. Note the quoted prices usually do not include 16% tax, so plan accordingly.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, January 17, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.