The largest and most developed of the Bay Islands of Honduras, Roatan is primarily known for its premiere scuba diving. And indeed the reef here is full of vibrant marine life. But time spent ashore is lively as well, as the island is home to all sorts of interesting activities and local wildlife, including iguanas, parrots, monkeys and partying tourists. With its mild climate all year long, Roatan deserves its reputation as an ideal vacation getaway.
Sand and Surf
Scuba diving in Roatan is easy -- and popular. You don't need to get a permit or book a reservation. There are miles of fantastic beaches, most of them accessible. But you should watch out for rough water, so make sure you check the weather report before you go diving. At West End Village, dive operators are numerous. You can hire a local guide to lead you or to provide information on arranging your own self-guided excursion to the reef. Apart from swimming and diving, kayaking, boat tours, cruises and fishing are some other fun things to do out on the water in Roatan.
Shopping and Dining
The largest town in Roatan is Coxen Hole. This is the site where the cruise ships dock and where you'll find the most retail action. The streets are usually crowded and are not exactly a sightseeing paradise. But this is where you can track down affordable local art, crafts, souvenirs and more amid the area's many shops, galleries and boutiques. French Harbor is another thriving merchants' hub with a high-end shopping center and a few well-known fast-food chains and upscale restaurants. Jonesville is also a good place to purchase locally made arts and crafts. You arrive via water taxi, which takes you on an atmospheric ride through a tunnel of mangroves on the way.
It's not always a great idea to rent a car when you're a visitor in a foreign place. But when the place has only one main road, as Roatan does, it's easy to explore by automobile. Two spots worth a pitstop are the Butterfly Garden and the Iguana Farm. Both are usually open even on Sundays. If you're vacationing with children, a good way to spend a day is to take in a dolphin show at the Institute of Marine Sciences at Anthony's Key Resort. If you'd like to get a little more intimate, you can also swim with dolphins here. Another entertaining excursion is a horseback ride in West Bay. Or take a trip to the village of Yubu and learn about the culture of the Garifuna, who are descended from some of Honduras' earliest inhabitants.
Six Huts, First Bight