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Roatan Overview   by Amy B, Spring 2009

Background:  Our family (family of 4 boys ages 7-15- Milo below - & sister-in-law and her 2 girls ages 13 & 16) visited Roatan for the first time this past April (2009) due to our draw to snorkeling in a large living barrier reef and a desire to learn how to dive. We succeeded in our mission, and had a wonderful experience learning the Bay Island. It happened to be the week of the Island's most celebrated holiday, Santa Semana, so it was more crowded than usual.

We stayed in First Bight in a house called Far Tortuga (beautiful, unbeatable assistance from the property managers, Kevin and Claire, isolated from the masses, wide-open layout, infinity pool, kayak for going around the Bight, and snorkel equipment provided for wonderful snorkeling RIGHT IN FRONT of the house). (For information on renting that home see and type in Roatan and First Bight). We rented a car at the airport (prior to getting there via the internet with assistance from the owner of the house) to get us to the grocery store (Eldon's in French Harbor was THE best, but certainly not the best stocked grocery store according to US standards) and around to other places. It was a diesel pickup which, much to the dismay of US laws, held our kids in the back bed. It also held the voluminous hitch-hikers who would hop in/out as we slowed down; a thrill for all involved since we do not experience that in the States.

We visited Turquoise Bay, a beautiful resort beach, for a day of visiting the newly-constructed water pen that held stingrays, green turtles, hawksbill turtles, and a recently acquired loggerhead turtle, and a little time on jet skis (I am personally opposed to them, but the kids nagging got to me). One thing to keep in mind while at any beach in Roatan is to come prepared with bug spray...the no see-ums can be vicious! It appeared that the gentleman who was “running” the pen didn't fully know all about the animals he had accumulated for the pen, but felt he was doing the animals a favor since he bought them from local fisherman who had caught them in their fishing lines and were going to eat them. We also managed to organize a dive trip with Subway Sports, the diving center on the property of Turquoise Bay, for the following day. Subway Sports was a professional, organized operation in whose hands we felt completely safe.

We had made prior arrangements (again with assistance from the owner of the house) with a boat operator out of West Bay to take us to Utila for a day to snorkel with the whale sharks (an experience not to miss!) and have lunch on the island. Utila was much smaller than Roatan, and had more of a backpacker feel to it gathered from the minimal time spent there.

Another day was spent traveling (about a 40 minutes car ride) to West Bay to hang at the beach, and to visit/walk around/catch the sunset in the West End (about 10 minutes from West Bay). Although the West End was more crowded than where we stayed, it was fun to experience the restaurants, shops and fresh air markets selling fresh shrimp/fish/veggies/fruit. It felt like a place that those who don't enjoy staying “off the beaten path” would enjoy.

One place that is in all the tour books, but I recommend NOT visiting, is Arch's Iguana Park. It is basically an overpriced visit to animals in too-small cages, without any of the admission going to education or conservation. The animals include about 20 free-roaming iguanas (too stuffed from being fed by patrons to even move), parrots, a hyper squirrel, a spider monkey, a coatimundi, 2 squirrel monkeys, and a shoreline pen of fish. It takes all of about 30 minutes to walk through, and is not worth the time or money.

Since we were looking for quiet time as well while we were there, we also stayed around the house to snorkel, kayak, read and lounge on one of the days.

Overall, Roatan was an easy island to get around, the people were friendly, and it offered great diving. Other than a short history by the house manager Kevin, I don't know much about the history of Roatan, except that the original settlers (Caribes?) do not get along well with the Hondurans who have settled there from the mainland. I did not notice any tension during our visit, but was only told about such from some locals. I was made aware that the island depends on tourism to survive, and the current economy was not treating them well.

Amy B...

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 Many thanks to Amy B for her Spring 2009 article on Roatan
Health of the Reef
Fish Den
Mary's Place
Bear's Den
Wreck Diving
The Odyssey
Roatan Overview