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Roatán is one of the Honduras Bay Islands in the Caribbean Sea.
The island of Roatan is located 30 miles off the north coast of Honduras atop the worlds second largest coral reef. The reef attracts many fish, and is world known for scuba diving. Roatan is the largest of the Bay Islands at about 77 kilometres (48 mi) long, and less than 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) at its widest. The island has a number of beaches, all of which are public. Originally an English colony, and later ceded to Honduras, Roatan has a mixture of english and spanish speaking natives. With two cruise ship ports, Roatan has become a cruise destination, and roads and beaches can be busy when ships are in port. Prices for services may be higher when a ship is in. In recent years the island has experienced a lot of development and has a number of resorts along with more rustic accommodation as well. The western side of the island is the most populated and where most tourists stay, and the eastern side is more remote and isolated. Roatan has a warm climate with daytime temperatures between 80-90 year round.
West Bay - is the furthest-west area of the island, has some good restaurants and places to stay, and several large resorts have been built on the beach. It's arguably the best stretch of beach in the western portion of the island - powder-white sand that is very well maintained. The reef is a short swim away for excellent snorkeling, especially near the west-most tip, also known as Tabyana Beach. West Bay is also home to some of the best sunsets. It is recommended to spend beach time in the West Bay and bar time in the West End.
West End - has some good restaurants and places to stay, and it is definitely the most fun town on the island. There are bars, restaurants, live music, right on the Caribbean. The are also a multitude of dive shops, if you are interested in learning to dive, or would like to do some fun dives as a certified diver.
Sandy Bay- a mostly residential area, Sandy Bay also has a few resorts, such as Anthony's Key Resort, where you can swim with dolphins, as well as a hostel, Roatan Backpackers' Hostel. There are also a few restaurants such as The Blue Parrot, The Beach Grill at Blue Bahia, and Tranquil Seas. Octopus Divers is in Sandy Bay, if you're staying in the area and would like to do diving. The Carambola Gardens is located in Sandy Bay as well. If you are interested in doing volunteer work on the island, there are several non-profits in Sandy Bay, such as Clinica Esperanza, Care4Communities, and the SandCastle Library. The Sandy Bay beach gives easy access to beautiful snorkeling, which is about a 200 meter swim from shore.
Coxen Hole - is where the airport is located, and most of life's necessities can be found here, including stores, restaurants, and banks.
French Harbor - has some good restaurants and resorts and most tourists do not venture further east than French Harbor, which is at roughly the mid point of the island. Past this point are a few newer beach resorts, resort communities, and some private towns with beaches and resorts. Many of the resorts, restaurants and bars on this part of the island were in the past a secret of locals and expats but with the west end becoming more crowded the secret is out and more tourist are finding their way to the east end of the island. One point of interest would be Jonesville and the infamous Hole in the Wall restaurant reached by taking a small water taxi from Jonesville to reach it. Another is Camp Bay Beach Adventure Lodge and the Tasty Tarpon Restaurant located on Camp Bay Beach the largest of all the beaches of the Bay Islands and can be accessed by car or boat.
Punta Gorda - Fishing community of the Garifuna.
Oak Ridge Fishing community with few roads, and buildings on stilts over the water.
Camp Bay - is a further on from Oak Ridge about 4.5 miles and home to the largest natural beach on all the Bay Islands - Camp Bay Beach, which you can gain free access to at a couple different locations and has a small beachfront resort and restaurant: Camp Bay Beach Adventure Lodge. Camp Bay is about the furthest you can go in a car. Past Camp Bay are the mangroves which are quite beautiful when navigated by boat and kayak. There are many tours through the mangroves which can be chartered from various points on the island.
Port Royal Small community, originally founded by English pirates
Juan Manuel Gálvez International Airport (Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Manuel Gálvez) (RTB) is on the island of Roatán. Several US airlines offer non-stop flights to Roatan on weekends.
American Airlines, flies non-stop from Miami (Wednesdays and Saturdays only).
United Airlines, offers direct flights from Houston (Daily during high season, less often other times), and from Newark (weekend).
Delta Airlines, flies non-stop from Atlanta (Saturdays only).
American, Delta and Continental offer flights to San Pedro Sula's's Ramón Villeda Morales International Airport (Aeropuerto Internacional Ramón Villeda Morales) (SAP), also known as La Mesa International Airport situated on the mainland, from which you can then get connecting services to Roatan.
The island is visited by a number of cruise lines, such as Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Lines.
There are two cruise ship ports, Port of Roatan in Coxen Hole, and Mahogany Bay outside of French Harbor. Mahogany Bay has an onsite beach, shops, and activities such as zipline, so cruise visitors don't have to experience the rest of the island. The beach is nice and the setting amazingly surreal, with 2 rusting shipwrecks within view. Cruises also port in Coxen Hole.
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.
Buses run every 15 min between Coxen 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.
English, Spanish, Garifuna.
English is widely spoken, especially in the West End and West Bay communities and is the native language of many Roatanians of British and African descent (except for the Garifuna). Spanish is spoken natively by most residents 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.
What to see
Cameo Factory in Coxen Hole
Caves of Helene, explore the caves.
Dolphin show, at Anthony's Key Resort.
East end, if you are up for an adventure, visit the east end of the island past Oak Ridge to Camp Bay Beach the largest of all the Bay Island beaches. The road changes from pavement to dirt/gravel mix and continues on to Punta Blanca and Camp Bay. A 4x4 vehicle is not required for the journey and you'll see many driving compact cars and scooters. This end of the island is home to many locals and some expats as well as a few resorts, one that needs to be mentioned is Camp Bay Beach Beach Adventure Lodge wich is the only resort on Camp Bay Beach. It is also the home of the Tasty Tarpon restaurant and a place to gain free access to the beach with free parking and a depot for your east end adventure from snorkeling/ diving to fly fishing and Mangrove Forest boat or kayak tours. There are a few other interesting stops along the way such 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 these places always have 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.
Garifuna Village Tour, in Punta Gorda
Iguana Farm, near French Harbor.
Mangrove Forest Kayak tour, at Camp Bay Beach Adventure Lodge
Marine Science Museum, at Anthony's Key Resort.
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 coloured wooden houses on stilts along the shore.
Pigeon Cayes, Two small deserted islands.
Punta Gorda, renting a scooter and driving to Punta Gorda takes about 1 hr 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 of Punta Gorda is friendly and you may run into a beach party if you are lucky.
Roatan Butterfly Garden
Whites Beach, is supposed to be beautiful.
Marine Park. The marine park is a protected area of reef stretching from West Bay to Sandy Bay and snorkeling and diving are good ways to see the marine life. Go out in a kayak, a boat, or just swim out from the shore. The reef is less than 100m from shore in many locations.
Saint Helene. Santa Helena located in Roatans municipal of Santos Guardiola, is a small secluded island 12 miles further east of Roatan. This one mile by two mile island is sparsely populated with indigenous people that still live life as it was in the 'Old Caribbean', unspoiled and uncommercialized from tourist related development, without electricity or government subsidised infrastructure. St. Helene is the epitome of a 'sleepy little fishing village'.
Arches Iguana Farm, French Harbur.
Roatan is known for its Scuba Diving. There are many dive shops all over the island, but the majority are located on the west side.
Coconut Tree Divers (Coconut Tree), Half Moon Bay, West End (Turn left at West End roundabout, shop is immediately on your left.). The only PADI Career Development Center in Roatan. The shop offers 4 daily dives: the morning boat leaves at 9AM for 2 dives and returns at around 12:30PM. The afternoon dives go out at 1PM and 2.30PM respectively. Night dives are available every Tues & Thurs. The shop's 2nd boat, Wish-U- Were-Here, is dedicated for cruise ship visitors on various cruise ship schedules. 1 day experience program, PADI Discover Scuba Diving, for those who want to try scuba diving for the first time; inc. basic theory in the classroom, a short session in shallow confined water, followed by a 45-60 min dive in the afternoon. Friendly, experienced staff. Nitrox and Trimix are available. Snorkelers welcome.
Roatan Divers (Roatan Divers), West End (Next to Lighthouse restaurant.). PADI 5 star certified dive centre in West End. Smallest groups, with new equipment and experienced multilingual staff. Offering Nitrox from $3 extra per tank. 3 daily dives, starting at 9.00, 11.30 and 14.30, night dives on request. Prices include all dive rental equipment. All PADI, from Open water to professional level. Fast boats will get you to the dive sites faster, meaning less time on board, with more time in the water. Private dock, making boarding a breeze, and a hot shower after diving.
Tyll's Dive (Tyll's Dive Shop), West End (When you enter into West End turn left and we are across the street from The Blue Marlin (formley known as Purple Turtle)). Scuba divers with a small family atmosphere. Caters to small groups of 8 or less. Offers 3 dives a day starting at 9AM, 11AM. and 2PM, six days a week, Sundays and night dives upon request. Prices include all dive rental equipment. Small dive classes are offered from Open Water to Dive Master. 1 on 1 dive instruction available, Crowd free diving, multi-lingual staff. All the dive Instructors are PADI Certified as well as emergency first aid responders.