Planning your trip to the Bay Islands? Here are some things you need to know before going to Roatan:
Roatan, the largest of the Bay Islands, is by far the most visited of the Bay Islands in Honduras. It is also the largest of the islands and the most populated. Roughly 60,000 souls live and work on the island, however rather than one large city; there are actually several different towns and villages throughout the island. Your experience on Roatan will depend on where you stay, because each of the towns on the island has their own, unique feeling to them. That being said, and if my advice is of any good, generally stay away from staying in Coxen Hole and French Harbour, these two are the largest towns, this is where the working people live, and they are definitely not touristy or for that matter, pretty. You might need to go to them to go to the bank, purchase groceries, or even to eat at a nice restaurant, but other than that, there is really no reason to go there.
The most pleasant, charming area is by far West End. This small beach side community offers many small hotels and inns, many restaurants and bars, and is where you will find most of the tourists. Nearby, in West Bay Beach, you will find several larger hotels located on what many consider the best beach in Central America. Many of these hotels are larger, all inclusive operations, however if you look around, you can find a jewel or two hidden between the larger resorts and right on the beach. One of these jewels is the Bananarama Resort.
Another area that offers different options is Sandy Bay. Properties here are more spread out, and you need to walk along the beach to get from one to the other. Although there are not so many restaurants and bars available, the setting is indeed more intimate and quiet. The East End of Roatan is generally speaking much less developed. With the exception a few resorts, such as the Parrot Tree Plantation, the Media Luna Resort and the Turquoise Bay Resort, that are isolated, free standing resorts and kind of far from the rest of the island; you will find fewer hotels and tourist services on this part of the island. However you will also find some really nice and picturesque towns, such as Calabash Bight, Jonesville and Oakridge, just to mention a few.
If you are interested in finding that beautiful, isolated Caribbean Beach, then one of the things to know before going to Roatan is that far out on the East End you will find some truly spectacular beaches and settings. The Paya Bay Resort offers two lovely beaches, one of them actually private to the property, and a bit farther down the road towards Camp Bay you will find the Playa Barbosa as well as Camp Bay Beach, truly unique white sand beaches that are away from the crowds you will find on West Bay Beach.
The Bay Islanders generally consider themselves as direct descendents of the original British colonizers that came to the islands at the end of the seventeen hundreds and beginning of the eighteen hundreds. Names such as Jackson, Hynds, Wood, Bush, Bodden, Tatum, McNab are still very common in Roatan. As a general rule, islanders refer to those who live in Honduras as “them Spaniards” basically because the mainland was conquered by the Spaniards and Spanish is spoken throughout Central America. There tends to be an animosity from the Islanders to “them Spaniards” and they all like to promote the mainland as very dangerous and unsafe to visit. This is not a fact or a reality, but rather an attempt to keep you on the island so that you do not discover the beauty of the mainland. Believe me, this is one of the most important tips about the things to know before going to Roatan! Mainland Honduras is a short 1 ½ hour ferry trip, and there are so many absolutely beautiful places just across the channel from Roatan, that not visiting them is a true shame!
Take for example the Cangrejal River Valley: a truly unique valley located only ½ hour from the ferry terminal! Here you can enjoy a dense tropical rain forest, where two different National Parks meet: Nombre de Dios National Park and Pico Bonito National Park. The Cangrejal River, with crystal clear waters offers the best white water rafting in Honduras, and for that matter, all of the Caribbean and even possibly Central America.
Best of all you can find a variety of small inns, lodges and boutique bed and breakfasts located within the Cangrejal River Valley. A true, unique setting to complement your stay at the lovely island of Roatan. These lodges can all arrange for pick up at the ferry or airport to have you transferred to their properties. Staff at all of them are bilingual, and you will find that they will be more than happy to help you set up a variety of activities that are all within walking distance from your bedroom. Do yourself a favor, and include a couple of nights in the Cangrejal River Valley when planning your Roatan vacation!