Roatán, the largest of the Bay Islands off the coast of mainland Honduras took me by surprise. A stunningly beautiful island, a big jungle, it’s densely covered by lush green vegetation.
As we approached the island from air, I instantly figured why it used to be a hideout of many pirates like Henry Morgan, Blackbeard, and John Coxen.
“Roatan has a rich history of pirating on the island. The island became a hideout for French, English and Dutch pirates who would intercept and conquer Spanish cargo vessels en route to Europe loaded with gold and other treasures.”
No wonder Cap’n Blackbeard and others loved it here! And it is again no wonder Roatan is emerging as the Caribbean’s newest
hotspot. Although new resorts are rapidly developing along the island’s pristine beaches, and cruise ships come in on the south side almost every day of a week and their passengers invade the jaw dropping beach of West Bay or zipline through the jungle, on our trip we encountered a more natural, still pretty rural and undeveloped Roatan. I suspect though its flavor will change way too soon.
You would without a doubt enjoy the island as much as I did if you ever happen to be here (even if I’d not bother again to get to the island as stated here before). Scroll down to find out why!
West Bay Beach
Have I already mentioned the beautiful West Bay Beach? Admittedly, it is a short stretch of sand, and it gets busy, especially on cruise ship days, but it is a picture-perfect beach with some of the calmest and the clearest turquoise water I have ever seen. And that with a pretty kicking and alive marine life only a few strokes away.
During our stay, we were welcomed by a bad turn in the weather (hence such ‘big’ waves on my photos), but it did not form an obstacle to enjoy the sunset strolls along the beach.
As the islands can only be reached by boat, we joined a day trip from Roatan. Thanks to their remoteness, the spots we visited were so secluded that we couldn’t avoid but felt like Robinson Crusoe – even so secluded that on one of the smaller cays, the Honduran “Survival” program was being shot.
All the seclusion and natural beauty aside, the real stars of our trip were the kids we met on the
Garifuna local island.
Mesoamerican Barrier Reef
Mesoamerican Barrier Reef – the longest in the western hemisphere and the second longest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef, offer an amazing marine life for divers and snorkelers, and is no doubt the main attraction on the Bay Islands for the majority of people visiting Roatan or Utila. Of course, I did not leave the island without some snorkeling and diving.
The great visibility, close proximity of the reef to the shore and pretty healthy corals were the main assets of unlimited fun. As a side note, I found Belize as the better of the two places regarding marine life, and I’ve already published plenty of underwater photos here, if interested.
Carambola Botanical Gardens and Nature Trails
The Carambola Botanical Gardens located on Sandy Bay, Roatan offer a perfect place for hiking, wildlife and scenic photography. The leafy jungle trails lead the visitors through areas of flowering plants, ferns, fruit and nut trees. Among their many trails, don’t miss out the one that leads to the hilltop where you can enjoy the spectacular views in seclusion!
The Carambola Gardens turned out to be the perfect way of escaping the rainy weather for us, and this by simply relaxing in a jungle with amazing variety of plants, animals and views. Oh, and trying to frame the super speedy hummingbirds in a picture is so much worth the patience and effort!
Note that the package tours offered in West Bay are relatively expensive. You can easily and much cheaper get here by catching a water taxi to West End for 3 USD per person and then a cab for 3-5 USD one way. The entrance fee was 10 USD as of April 2014.
West End Village
On Roatan, backpackers usually head to West End where they can dive, sleep and eat from one unpaved road. Honestly, I didn’t spend much time here, except passing through on the way to Carambola Gardens. If you stay in West End, you could catch a water taxi to West Bay and could be already sunbathing at the famous beach 5 minutes later.
The vibe here in West End was rather my cup of tea, but we had decided to stay in West Bay to avoid being dependent on any means of transportation. Needles worries as it turned out.