This post was most recently updated on July 9th, 2019
Is a visit to Roatan in your future? If yes, it is sure to be a treasured trip. For a time, thousands of pirates made it their base of operations! It has also housed indigenous and Carib peoples, Spaniards, and Latin American mainlanders over the centuries. There’s no time like the present to find all that “the big island” off of Honduras has to offer as we search high and low on Roatan!
The highest point on Roatan measured from sea level is only about 1,000 feet. But Roatan is actually a ridge that protrudes above the ocean surface from the 25,000 foot depth of the Cayman Trench. The depths of the waters around Honduras and its islands inspired the country’s name by the Spanish sailors that visited it. The name ‘Honduras’ means deepness. Roatan is world-renowned for diving. And its waters are also home to the gentle whale shark.
Roatan as a Cruise Port
This gem among islands was the final port of call for my wife and me on the Carnival Dream. We were literally ones in a million tourists who will visit Roatan during the year! This cruise took us along the Great Mesoamerican Reef that parallels the Yucatan Peninsula and includes Roatan. We found Roatan Adventure Tours to be highly recommended and easily booked through Trip Advisor. It also saved us $30 over the cruise excursion. For the next 6 hours, our guide, Dolfus, was invaluable to help us search high and low on Roatan!
The morning we arrived at Roatan, I was out for a run on the highest deck of the ship. I was astounded at how close we were docking to the island. It would not have surprised me to feel us run aground! In fact, as we saw the ship throughout the day from various vantage points on the island, it looked like maybe we had! Such a close docking made possible by Roatan’s deep waters enabled the easiest port and boat access of the trip.
Our Custom Island Tour
As we walked off the boat we were literally right in the thick of things. We first encountered Mahogany Bay which is the resort area owned by the cruise line. It’s a colorful and happening place for sure, complete with calypso performers! We saw lots to enjoy here including a private beach off to the right as we left the ship. But our path laid straight ahead past all the shops to the taxi stand area. From there it was a short walk along the road and over a hill to find Dolfus waiting to introduce us to Roatan!
Over 100,000 people call Roatan home. They are remarkable people who run their own shops, labor in fishing or agriculture, work in the tourist industry, and are employed by corporations or government. Dolfus, a lifetime Roatan resident, told us of their stories while he drove us through their neighborhoods and business districts. We even passed his house and met his grandson! Stilted houses provide protection from flooding and near-ground dwelling flies. Caribbean breezes finish up laundry. And browsing and buying Roatan handicrafts was a delight.
Our search high and low on Roatan also took us to its highest vistas, wealthiest accommodations and through its beautiful stretches of jungle vegetation. Not a single skyscraper rises to view since it is prohibited to build higher than three stories. We saw beautiful panoramas, learned of the beneficial influence of the affluent on Roatan and marveled at the lush and colorful jungle. Our cameras were constantly snapping!
Lunchtime brought us to the locals-approved, jungle-surrounded Treehouse Cafe. The staff was attentive and friendly, the atmosphere relaxing and the food excellent. I furthered my acquaintance with the ubiquitous iguana having one for an entree! As you’ve probably already guessed, it tastes like chicken. 🙂 But watch out for the bones. My wife opted for the shrimp which was delicious of course. The side of rice and beans prepared Honduran style was equally delectable. Back on the cruise ship that night, the dining room featured food from the local port as it had the two previous ports. I enjoyed another round of Honduran fare. Adjacent to the restaurant we were able to see monkeys and macaws up close.
Snorkeling on Roatan
You can’t search high and low on Roatan without taking in the waterfront and snorkeling in the ocean depths. The touristy West End and West Bay are bright, lively and crowded. But Dolfus didn’t keep to the beaten path, check out the photo of us driving on a stretch of beach! Dolfus also knew just where to direct us for excellent snorkeling while he tended our stuff.
The beaches of Roatan made the “25 Best Beaches in the World” list on Trip Advisor! And with air and water temperatures in the 80’s the snorkeling was heavenly. Underwater wonders were as immediate as entering the sea. The formations and residents of the world’s 2nd largest barrier reef were mesmerizing. After about an hour we exited this other world just in time to grab our towels and take cover from a short afternoon rainstorm!
We made it back to the ship with plenty of time to board. (Roatan Adventure Tours always guarantees this!) First we checked out some of the shops and the private beach in Mahogany Bay, along with some gorgeous gardens. Then we stepped back into the Carnival Dream, our hearts and cameras filled with wonderful memories. It had been an ideal day and a perfect way to see Roatan!
- Factor in ship time and local time differences. We were “late” to our tour because Roatan was in a different time zone than the ship (and the previous two ports of call). Also, ship time is the time at which the ship departs; don’t miss the boat!
- We had facebook messenger access on my phone for communicating with Roatan Adventure Tours “real-time” as we found each other that morning. Internet access might be valuable in ways you hadn’t initially considered like this.
- If you use a taxi instead of a tour van be sure to settle on the cost before entering the cab. Be sure you are both talking the same denomination for starters (Lempiras or dollars, there’s a big difference). Be sure you are agreeing on the cost for the ride and not per person.
- Make sure you have what you need to keep your photo taking device live, you’ll be shooting non-stop as you see the island and the reef!
- Drink only bottled water/beverages on Roatan.
Roatan was our last cruise port in a week-long western Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Dream. If you’d like to know more about our cruise and other cruise ports, click on these links:
What’s it Like to Come Home from Your First Cruise?
Port Day in Cozumel: 6-8 Hour Itinerary
A Day in Belize (Cruise Port Day)
This post was written by my husband, Darren Wilcox. Of course, we both enjoyed this amazing port day on Roatan Island! Thanks, Darren, for planning our activities and setting up a great tour as well as relating all the details for others to enjoy!
Glad to learn so much about the Roatan Island!
I had no idea the island but interested to know it has such dramatic landscape, rich culture, and friendly people.
I wonder if it is convenient to visit there if not by a cruise? @knycx.journeying
Looks like several airlines can get you there and a few even non-stop!
Never been to Roatan or any other part of Honduras, but would love to visit one day! The barrier reef and the beaches sound like great spots to scuba dive, snorkel, and enjoy fresh local food (maybe even a taste of the iguana…).
That’s right, get it on your bucket list! 🙂
I’ve wanted to visit for a long while but had never seen pictures. Thanks for the great tips and shots. As a diver, I’ve heard it’s an amazing place and even snorkeling it looks wonderful. Happy for you two.
Thanks and yes, it is world renowned for diving!
Haven’t been to Honduras, but one of my girl friends has been to Roatan and loved it. Beautiful photos, didn’t know Roatan made the 25 Best Beaches in the World. Would love to visit someday
You’ll love it when you do!
Glad you had a great time together! First time I’ve heard of Roatan and pretty sure that I’m one of the many. How did you first heard of it? That’s awesome to know that Roatan’s beaches are one of the top best 25 in the world! I know this is such a random question but did they enforce the rules about using biodegradable sun lotion for swimming in the ocean? Since many reef corals are dying due to pollution and toxic sun lotions. Cancun now requires swimmers to use biodegradable sun lotion.
Good thought! Eco-friendly sunscreens are available in the shops and marine parks on Roatan. But we did not see any enforcement measures. On your honor!
Beautiful, just beautiful! So cool to hear the history behind the name “Honduras”; it helped better explain why the boat was able to dock so close to the island!! 🙂
The whole island exudes beauty, high and low! 🙂
Wow! Love the green scenery and the nature. Roatan is a beautiful place.
I loved it as well. When are you going?! 🙂
Our cruise just changed our itinerary Feb. 2022
Grand Cayman is not allowing visitors, so we will be in port at Roatan for one day of adventures. We are pretty adventures and like to get off the beaten path. Particular interest in the jungle, snorkeling, and local food. Can you help reccomend?
We hired a private tour guide in Roatan who took us to a great beach for snorkeling and even watched our belongings for us while we snorkeled. He took us on a driving tour of the island, including driving right on the beach and stopping anytime we wanted, to take photos. He shared history and interesting information with us and took us to a local restaurant for lunch. I highly recommend doing the same.