Roatán, 29km (18 miles) east of Utila, is the largest, most developed, and most visited of the Bay Islands. The real estate market has been hot in recent years, but is now closer to spewing lava as once quiet beach communities become full-scale resorts or second homes for North Americans, who are flocking here like barracudas and snapping up every inch of available land. The cruise season is also expanding rapidly -- Royal Caribbean and Carnival cruises alone are investing a combined $80 million in increasing the capacity. When a cruise ship is docked at Coxen Hole, look out: The island will be crawling with craft markets and tour buses, and the best beaches like West Bay become crowded with families of sun worshipers.
Much of the new development is on the west side of the island, where tourism is concentrated, while Garífuna communities dominate the eastern half. But if you look in the right places, you can still see the Bay Islands of yesteryear. Many of the island's hills remain undeveloped enough to be covered in Tropical Oak, Evergreen Palms, and Gumbo Limbo trees, and just one (partly paved, partly potholed) road runs the length of the island.
Diving and snorkeling remain the most popular activities on the island, but other options are expanding rapidly. Now you can also zip-line across the jungle-clad hills, take a submarine hundreds of feet into the ocean, or take an aerial real-estate tour.