In the middle of surgery, my surgeon mentions to me that he knows of a great place I might like (and especially my husband because it’s such a good deal & not overly touristy). Two weeks later, I booked flights to Roatan, Honduras. Let me preface this by saying that my husband won’t travel (with me) unless it’s a good deal and the exchange rate is in our favor. Flights were not too bad for the time of the year we were looking at and the exchange rate leaned heavily in our favor ($23 Hondurian Limperas to $1 USD).
Upon doing research I found these other enticing things online about this island: Roatan happens to have the second biggest barrier reef, average year-round water temperature of 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit and ocean visibility was 70-80ft. I was SOLD. Now, let me tell you the realities:
How to get there:
We live in the Central Valley in California and prefer to fly out of San Francisco airport since international flights are cheaper there. Flights weren’t too shabby out of there for the time of year we went (April) for about $550 round trip. It was a 7hr flights with a 1hr layover to change planes in San Salvador then takes you directly to the island of Roatan (no ferries). We typically use this website to park our car while on vacation because it’s always significantly cheaper than parking at the airport. Our parking spot was at The Holiday Inn (San Mateo) & they even provide an airport shuttle for drop-off and pick-up (make sure you know the time of your flight because it stops running around 10pm or midnight– which means you’ll be taking a 10min Lyft/Uber ride there). They pick you up as well, just call the hotel after you claim your baggage.
Where to stay:
We booked our airbnb at a villa in a resort community called Palmetto Bay Villas. Although it looked absolutely beautiful and was dirt-cheap (huge house, accommodated 11 of us for about $160/each for 10 days), Palmetto Bay is a section of the island that has seen better days and I wouldn’t recommend it. I do love that it was very quiet & we felt safe (policed by an AK47-wielding guard at the resort gate) but you could tell that it was, at one time, very up-and-coming & is now in a bit of disrepair. Some of the rooms had A/C issues (which is a pretty big deal since it’s hot & humid here…try sleeping in it…)
Upside: the concierge was very responsive & accommodating (picking up/dropping off at airport, stopping in at the grocery store), almost like our own personal tour guide. Also, we always left a lot of our dive/snorkel gear out on our patio to dry and never had an issues in terms of security or anything being stolen. Also, WE PRETTY MUCH HAD THE WHOLE RESORT TO OURSELVES. So that was pretty cool. All the boat vendors that we hired were willing to pick us up directly from our very own resort palapa. Also, they didn’t charge us additionally for electricity usage, which is nice because you can rack up quite a bill with the A/C running. Many of the airbnb rentals will add an additional charge at the end of your stay depending on how much electricity you use.
The Palmetto Bay Resort palapa in early sunrise.
My friend and I came out here as many mornings as we could manage to wake our butts up early enough to do sunrise yoga. SO FREAKING MAGICAL and RELAXING.
*If I could return (and was with a large group), I would stay at West End. It’s alive and quiet at the same time. You are near a lot of places and activities and the reef there is great for diving off the shore. It’s not quite as touristy and loud as West Bay, which is why I really like it. It’s like the best of both worlds. However, it’s also ideal and cheap when traveling with only 1 other person. A great place that is great, cheap and also takes you out snorkelling/diving is SeaGrape Resort. My brother-in-law stayed here with his friend and said it was pretty sweet. Also, it’s right next to this chill bar with yummy, cheap drinks and amazing views called Land’s End. You can use their infinity pool and dive off their shore if you buy drinks there too!
Free-diving the reef off the shore of Land’s End (hotel/restaurant/bar) in West End.
Things to do:
*side note: a rental car is a MUST for getting around the island & is SO worth it. Unless you are staying at a resort.
1) I had a wonderful time, although I wish I would have spent every single day in the water. Also, because the sand flies there are RUTHLESS. (I’m not sure about any remedies that could help prevent these stealthy guys from biting you and leaving you spotted like a a Dalmatian dog with red spots). But honestly, if you are looking for great, cheap diving/snorkeling , then Roatan is your destination. We booked a 4-hr fishing trip with this amazing company that was decently priced ($75/each), picked us up our palapa, gave us an additional 2 hours (unknowingly? or maybe just because they liked our fun group?), provided beers/water/soda onboard aaaaaaand even let us convince them to take us out snorkeling for only an additional $10 (because I just-so-happened to bring my snorkel gear) at a shallow shipwreck! We were at the shipwreck for at least an hour as well. It was such an awesome experience and the crew was so friendly and accommodating. I highly recommend looking them up on TripAdvisor for boat excursions if you ever visit (Roatan Dreamcatchers). Don’t expect to see any sharks or big animals here, pretty sure the locals fished and ate them. Every now and then you’ll see an occasional shy sea turtle where there is turtle grass nearby. Lots of cool fish in the spots that have coral. (BTW the coral here is pretty amazing and varied).
The steamboat shipwreck that Roatan Dreamcatcher let us snorkel around. A LOT of fishes in/around this wreck and SO MUCH coral growth on it underwater as well.
2) Another cool thing we go to do was visit Little French Key when there were no cruise ships in port. Basically, we had a little island to ourselves. Yes, you heard me: we had an entire island, bar, music, activities ALL to ourselves! The receptionist at the desk who sells you your ferry and entrance to/from Little French Key will let you know what days there are no ships in port. However if partying is your thing, then visit this party island when the cruise ships have docked!
*Also, secret information: I don’t know why I have never come across this tidbit of info in all my research that I had done on Roatan & Little French Key but if you go snorkeling out past the over-water swings, you stumble across this super cool underwater museum! Ursula, Ariel, Eric and other statues all set-up underwater!!! It was the neatest thing to come across while free-diving (also creepy/surprising…like, ummm, is that a mermaid up ahead????). I took a photo underwater with Ursula but my friend is lagging a bit on getting me any pictures off her GoPro so you’ll just have to trust me on this.
View looking out at Little French Key
3) Another MUSTTTTT is visiting the Iguana Sanctuary and the Monkey and Sloth Hangout. The entrance fee is only like $10 at each place and it was the best $10 I have EVER spent!!!! Like, JUST GO! Initially, I didn’t care much to go see the iguana sanctuary but it’s right next to the monkeys and slots, so just do it. It was super cool seeing all these HUGE iguanas and you get to feed them as well!
My husband, Cody, and the sloth
4) Lastly, I thoroughly enjoyed the Dolphin Action Swim at Anthony’s Key Resort. It was TOTALLY worth the $135 dollars to get to hold onto their fins as they swim with you, do trainer exercises with them, take photos and pet them. It was also nice because I think we were booked as the first group of the day so there was hardly anyone there yet and the dolphins were really active for us! Then I also found this little tidbit of info as well so you’re welcome: Anthony’s Key Resort is celebrating their 50th year anniversary and are doing this RIDICULOUSLY sweet deal where you buy-one-get-one. Essentially, you are paying the price of ONE person for TWO people at a nice, all-inclusive resort. However, it’s only good thru this year, so GOOOO! Wish I had known about it earlier…
So in terms of sand flies and mosquitoes, I have yet to find a remedy that could keep them away. I just ALWAYS reapplied bug spray (the DEET-free kind so you don’t harm/destroy the delicate coral). Any variation of herbal/DEET-free mosquitoe repellant will work, just bring at least two bottles. Medications are pretty cheap on the island (as long as you’re not buying them at the touristy places like West Bay) but just in case, pack some benadryl and hydrocortisone cream with you. The hydrocortisone cream will SAVE you!
Sun: I cannot stress enough the importance of sunblock. The sun is STRONG AF here. I hardly ever burn because I have been blessed with plenty of melatonin but even I got red here. My friends that were lacking in melatonin that spent as much time in the sun as me got sun blister. Yes, you heard me: sun blisters. Now if that ain’t a vacation ruiner, I don’t know that is. On that note, pack at least 2 bottles of sunblock. 50 SPF. I promise you will still get tan even if you had 298, 876 SPF in your bottle. Also, if you burn easy, pack aloe. Don’t be a dummy.