Roatan is an island in the Caribbean off the coast of Honduras. Being part of the West Caribbean Reef System, it offers great scuba and snorkeling. The water is warm and clear year-round and has colorful fish, sea turtles and other marine life to observe. With the international airport Juan Manuel Galvez International Airport (RTB) and several cruse ships stopping here, it is very easy to get to. Unfortunately; like many cruse ship ports, the prices for everything is higher than expected.
I arrived via RTB on new years day 2014. The weather was warm and the skies were clear despite being in the middle of the rainy season. I negotiated a $25 cab for the 20 minute ride to West Bay. Once there, the cab driver helped find a hotel by stopping at a few places. Many hotels were full or not open because of the big New Years Eve parties the night before. I ended up staying at the Seagrape Plantaion Resort for $60 per night. After securing my stuff and changing into appropriate beach wear, I decided to walk around to check out the town. West End is pretty small for being a large tourist destination on the island. It consists of one street about 1/2 mile long with various shops, hotels, restaurants and bars. Most prices are quite similar to those you would expect to pay in the States. A fish taco, chips and beer set me back $15. The fish was quite good though. They are trying to help the reef by using mostly Lionfish in their seafood dishes. This was my first time trying Lionfish but I will certainly eat more to help the Caribbean 🙂
Sunsets here are beautiful. Time seems to stand still as many of the tourists and locals take a minute to watch the sun go down in the evening.
I set out early on the second day to look for low-cost lodging. This is not an easy task here. After several stops and much negotiating, I secured a room at the Dolphin Hotel for $45 per night. They allowed early check in so I was able to get my things, check out of the Sea Grape and move my stuff to the Dolphin just after breakfast. This left the rest of the day free to explore more of the island.
There are many water taxis in the area to take you around the island for various prices. I got a ride for $5 to West Bay.
I didn’t realize how close I was to West Bay but I guess $5 isn’t a bad deal vs getting robbed. I was told by many locals that the road between West End and West Bay gets sketchy after the pavement ends. Tourists often get robbed along the way.
West Bay is a white coral sand beach about 1/4 mile long with a dock on one end the “Black wall” on the other end and luxury resorts in the middle. Each of these resorts have chairs for guests and overpriced restaurants serving food and drinks. There are also many locals trying to drum up business. They offer massages, parasailing, souvenirs, snorkeling, scuba and fishing trips on their boats…you name it. Walking the beach can get a bit overwhelming but I made it all the way to the end to “the black wall”. This is a spot where many people lay out their towels and snorkel over the shallow reef just off shore. It is literally the end of the bay because of the large rock formation that extends into the sea. This also limits the number of vendors walking back and forth too. Here, you can relax and enjoy the beach without all of the hassle.
There are lots of fish to check out on this shallow reef.
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West bay lunches are very expensive at the resorts and not much cheaper at the local convenience store / deli. $9 sandwich and a $4 beer is what they got me for there. I guess being isolated from the town and surrounded by resorts lends itself to these steep prices. Plan ahead so that you have enough for the water taxi back or try to rob another tourist on the walk back. lol
The next few days were raining all day so it put a damper on the beach activities. After a few days of this, I considered taking a boat to the mainland and touring the country. However, after talking to many locals about this idea, I was quickly talked out of this idea. I was told that the mainland is not a safe place and bus travel is not good. I was shocked to find out the port city of San Pedro Sula Honduras is THE most dangerous city in the world…above Kabul Afghanistan, Mexico City, etc.
All-in-all Roatan is nice but not for me. It’s a third-world country trying to charge first-world prices. I think that better values can be found around the Caribbean where you will find safer, more accommodating countries.