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Roatan-West Bay, West End and More

Roatan - West End and West Bay on Roatan are the two most popular areas.  A comparison is helpful.

In the table about Roatan that follows, we'll do a quick look at each of the two Roatan beaches, West End and West Bay (sunset pictured). West Bay, Roatan Sunset, courtesy of Kathy Munster. You can begin by asking yourself, "What are my preferences?  What am I looking for in this Roatan vacation?" 

Keep things in perspective -- this is not a choice between a good and a bad selection.  This is a good/good choice, merely based on preferences.  You can't lose!

Here is a Roatan map to help you catch your bearings. Note that it is not oriented with North to the top.

Finally, Kathy Munster, a Roatan visitor, wrote us with some suggestions and ideas from her trip.  She provides her impressions of the island from her Spring 2004 visit.  With her permission, I have included it below the West End/West Bay comparison table.


 

West End, Roatan

West Bay, Roatan

Beach - Grass Bottom Beach - Sand Bottom
Area has night life - active (by Honduras standards) Laid back; perfect, slow pace.  Quiet.
Wide, wide array of accommodations Accommodations are mid-range in price and up
Plenty of shops Few shops to speak of
Plenty of restaurants Few restaurants
On the main drag Water taxi (~$1.20) or land taxi ($10 and up)
Woody's grocery store, others small dry goods shops No groceries to speak of
Reef - 200 yards out Reef 30 yards out
Lots of dive shops Some dive shops
Minibuses from Coxen Hole No minibuses
Internet cafe Internet cafe at Foster's (Oasis Internet Cafe, with int'l phone, fax, and copy machine)
Rudy's Smoothies No Rudy's!
   

Let me say it again, when deciding on Roatan between West End and West Bay, this is not a choice between a good and a bad selection.  This is a good/good choice, merely based on preferences.  You can't lose!

Spring, 2004  Roatan...
The Best Caribbean Island
  by Kathy Munster

We have traveled extensively in the Leeward and Windward Islands for the past 21 years.  I have loved every island for its flavor and uniqueness, but I have never fallen in love with a place like we did Roatan.  Due to personal restrictions, we did not leave the island to visit the mainland.  We will do that the next time.....and there will be a next time.  We are in the process of purchasing a lot on the island.

Just some notes to add to your extensive ones:

●   Purchased a copy of the Moon Handbook, and found it to be invaluable. 
●   There are many, many inexpensive accommodations on Roatan.  You will get what you pay for, i.e., a $5.00 room may be a tiny room in a modified container, with similar accommodations for the community shower. 
●   We thought Half Moon Bay Cottages were a real value, and the setting is wonderful. 
●   There are some waterfront apartments in West End...I think they're called The Beach House at Half Moon Bay....they appear to be really nice, clean, and new, right on the water/beach and on "Main Street West End".   You can't get a better location.  I think they are not budget priced, but that would depend on the number of occupants.
●   You can also get wonderful fruits and veggies off of trucks in West End.  Very good quality stuff and prices.

West Bay

●   On West Bay Beach, most of the budget accommodations are set back from the beach, and will likely overlook the swamp that separates them from the road.
●   There are those to be found (Island Pearl, Cabana Roatana, to name two) that have wonderful settings and in some cases, even water views.  The vegetation is very heavy around these sites, so the sea view is restricted.  But the cool shade of the palms is welcome on an afternoon as the sun sets.

We stayed at a hotel called Paradise Beach Club.  It was more upscale, depending on the accommodations you pay for.  We had a beachfront villa that is unsurpassed for its location.  The hotel has less expensive yet very nice rooms for around $85/night.  If you ask for a balcony room, upper floor, ocean-side, you will get some spectacular views.

[Editorial insert:  We stayed at Bananarama on West Bay and loved the privacy, the airy openness, the landscaping, and the slower pace that West Bay offers.  Immaculate.  Dave]

The food at the hotel was iffy, at best.  The only place to get a really great meal on West Bay is Bite on the Beach.  It's closed Sunday and Monday.  We tried every place on West Bay that was serving breakfast, and found that the only one we would return to (and did) was the Palapa at Mayan Princess.  The wonderful French Restaurant at Island Pearl is closed indefinitely.

West Bay Cont'd

There is much construction going on on West Bay (and the entire island, for that matter) and some of the ambiance is lost due to that.  The Mayan Princess is a long way from opening their new restaurant/bar.  We did hear that when they do, they will tear down the Palapa Bar, which is a pity.  It's a great spot.

The Money Drill

I did the bank routine, to cash traveler's checks.  Had to go to Coxen Hole to do this.  Stood in the bank for 1 hour, and needed every form of ID I could find.  I found out I could have cashed them (any amount) at Warren's Grocery, which was right across the street, for nearly the same exchange rate. 

Everyone, including street vendors, took traveler's checks, but not always at the greatest exchange rate.  Usually they would round it out to 17/1, when the actual was closer to 18/1.  ATMs are not a good deal here yet -- too unreliable and not always accurate.  (Note:  Kathy wrote this article in 2004.  Any updates on ATMs is appreciated via email).

Coxen Hole

There is a mercado (market) in Coxen Hole.  It's just a couple of blocks off the main street.  I can't tell you how to get there, as we were re-routed due to extensive construction of a new sewer system in a major section of downtown Coxen Hole.  I am seeing results of the increasing cruise-ship business (I believe there are 5 a week, now). There is serious beautifying of Coxen Hole, with colorful roadside walls being built. The walls line the streets in and out of Coxen Hole, and hide the not-so-attractive yards.

The only gas stations we found were in Coxen Hole. This requires watching that gas gauge carefully.

French Harbor

There is a superb grocery store in French Harbor (a working town) called Eldon's.  Rumor has it that he will be opening a new facility at the yet-to-be-built development called Keyhole Estates, which is on West Bay Road, just before the entrance to Henry Morgan Hotel.

French Harbor has a couple of excellent restaurants but I did not get a warm, fuzzy feeling here.  I would not be comfortable walking around here.   It has real potential to be a great spot...the shrimpers come in here, and its an interesting working harbor.   I'd go here at night with escorts (or not at all).  [Edit.  French Harbor is more a working town and less a tourist attraction.  Like Kathy, trust your own judgment, wherever you travel in Honduras.  In another section of the website, I discuss security in greater detail.  Dave] 

General Impressions

We visited other "settlements" on the island.  The general feeling I have is that there are other lovely communities but you need a car to access them.  One in particular with a great beach is Fantasy Island  It is the perfect place to go if you want to just stay at the resort , or have a car at your disposal. But really remote!

There are numerous up-scale housing developments going up throughout the island.  (in case you're thinking about buying a piece of paradise).  Again, some of these were very remote (Parrot Tree, Palmetto Bay, to name two) but with really incredible plans for future communities.  Presently, though, they are far from amenities.

Roads

●   The main highway that stretches from end to end of the island, is in really good shape -- one of the best I've experienced in the Caribbean.  But, once you get off this thoroughfare, it can be really dicey. 
●   A four-wheel vehicle is recommended for any travel here. 
●   The roads into the resorts and beach on West Bay are a pothole-filled challenge. 
●   The main street in West End is a sandy stretch that is very slow going and a crater-filled obstacle course.  So...you just go slowly!  It's one of the things that lends the great character to West End.

This island is definitely in a major growth mode.  I suspect the flavor of it will change, probably way too soon.

All in all, a completely relaxing, wonderful experience.  Thanks again for all of your input.  We did get the Sawyer's bug spray (your link) and it worked quite well. No serious bites.

I am sharing your website address with many of the people we met on the island!

Take care,
Kathy


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Need some ideas on accommodations and food? Roatan resident, and culinary critic (grinning) Larry Schlesser offers up some of his best suggestions.  Next ->

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You are in the Roatan Section

Part 1 - West End and West Bay, in Comparison

Part 2 - Accommodations and Restaurants


More Things to do in Roatan (off-site)

 
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