Roatán: Paradise in the Bay Islands

June 17, 2014 No Comments

Cruise ships dock at the modern Port of Roatán Town Center, located in Coxen Hole, Roatán’s capital. Upon arrival, guests are greeted by Garifuna musicians and dancers. The Town Center is the island’s epicenter for shopping and entertainment, with restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, and other amenities.

Visit West End, about 14 miles from Coxen Hole, to discover local Honduran crafts such as Garifuna paintings, handwoven baskets, Lenca pottery, glasswork, mahogany carvings, and wooden instruments. Regularly scheduled water taxis connect West End with West Bay Beach, a one-mile stretch of fine white sand rimmed by smooth turquoise seas. Snorkeling here is as easy as renting gear from one of the dozen onshore snorkel shacks and then walking a few feet into the water. Of course, there are a number of snorkeling shore excursions from which to choose.

The beachfront Gumbalimba Park, located in West Bay, is the perfect day trip for families and groups. Within the 20 acres of park grounds, guests can hike a nature trail through a jungle brimming with rare plants and wildlife, listen to the tranquil sounds of the waterfall in the mini-rainforest, interact with the colorful parrots and macaws in the Bird Sanctuary, and play with the white-faced and howler monkeys in the Monkey Refuge. There’s also a private beach with lounge chairs in the sun, shaded hammocks, a freshwater pool, a restaurant, and various water activities.

For another excellent nature excursion, head to Sandy Bay, a peaceful town farther up the island’s northern coast. Sandy Bay is home to the Carambola Botanical Gardens—30 acres of serene nature trails perfect for hiking, photographing, and bird-watching. The summit of Carambola Mountain offers some magnificent sweeping views of the island and surrounding waters. The photo op is worth the 1.2-mile climb. Sandy Bay is also home to the Roatán Museum, the Institute of Marine Sciences, and Dolphin Encounter, where guests get up close and personal with the friendly sea mammals.

Off the coast of Roatán is a diver’s paradise, complete with more than 130 unique dive sites ranging from coral reefs and walls to wrecks and tunnels—even an underwater museum. Off the northern coast, the barrier reefs form an inner lagoon that protects the shores from the wide-open sea. Dive into the crystal-clear waters at the Sandy Bay–West End Marine Reserve, which is home to top dive sites like Hole in the Wall, the El Aguila wreck, and Peter’s Place. While Dixon Cove is too shallow for diving, snorkelers can head there to see two partially submerged wrecks that have been sticking out of the water since the 1970s.

At Sherman Arch’s Iguanas Refuge in French Cay, more than 4,000 iguanas roam freely in a 12-acre protected haven. Visitors can pet and feed the friendly reptiles, or check out the monkeys, rescued sea turtles, and tarpon also living on-site.

The 70,000-gallon swimming pool on Maya Key is an enticing option. Just a three-minute boat ride from the pier, Maya Key is an 11.5-acre tropical paradise with two secluded beaches, a 5,000-square-foot lounge, and a wildlife sanctuary and rescue center.


This tour does double duty as both a snorkeling adventure and a toes-in-the-sand beach day. Grab your mask and fins for a swim alongside schools of tropical fish. Walk right offshore into one of the island’s most spectacular coral worlds. Then, head back up to the soft sands of Tabyana Beach to play a little volleyball or just soak up the island sunshine.

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