Only a few miles off the mainland Central America lies the paradise island of Roatan, Honduras.
Thick green forests.
White sand beaches.
Roatan is relatively unknown by most. By the end of this article you're going to have Roatan on your list of destinations.
That's a promise.
Surrounded by the second largest coral reef in the world, the island is a popular spot amongst divers. Each week charter flights bring in groups from Canada and Italy, amongst many other countries, to enjoy the turquoise blue warm waters of the Caribbean which is home to diverse marine fauna and flora.
The entire 33-mile island is surrounded by a shallow reef, with several diving spots offering a spectacular view of thousands of marine creatures for both experienced and novice divers. The reefs begin in as little as 20 to 40 feet with delightful drop offs up to 100+ feet. The pristine dive sites offer many drop offs, canyons and the Caribbean's largest variety of coral and sponges. Locals and visitors who dive here say it's the most relaxing and therapeutic thing to do. Being deep under the sea calms you down, regulates your breathing and transports you into a different world.
Exploring the Waters of Roatan
If you are not a diver, it is easy to get a few lessons and get certified with some of the best instructors who flock to teach in this area. Subway Watersports in Roatan instruct in the comfort of your hotel swimming pool before moving on to shallow, then deeper dives on the reef. Their instructors are native English speakers who give one on one attention to each diver.
If you are afraid of the deep ocean, you can still snorkel on the reef. Any spot you chose off the island, you will find yourself amongst plenty of fish, giving you the feeling of swimming in a giant aquarium.
And if a close encounter with fish is what you are looking for, head over to Anthony's Key Resort where you can swim, snorkel or dive with trained dolphins. These highly intelligent animals will perform tricks, let you touch their thick smooth skins and even give you a kiss on the cheeks.
The Eastern and Western parts of Roatan are significantly different when it comes to culture, commercialization and night life. If you want to focus on diving and water activities, have privacy and natural surroundings, chose the East side of the island.
Turquoise Bay Dive and Beach Resort on the eastern shore of the island is perhaps the best accommodations divers can ask for. The boutique hotel has 26 modestly priced spacious rooms with basic amenities and free internet access. There is a swimming pool, bar and restaurant. All inclusive packages include scrumptious buffet meals where you can eat the fresh catch prepared with local flavors.
The beach at Turquoise Bay is small but scenic and private. Here you can lounge in hammocks, take a kayak into the sea and enjoy the picturesque sunset or the star studded sky. Perhaps the biggest attraction is that the dive shop, Subway Watersports is located right on the property which has tours leaving every hour for day and night dives.
Roatan by Land
If you want to take a break from the sea and indulge in some land activities, consider a visit to one of the largest iguana preservation farms. The Iguana Park at French Cay has over two thousand iguanas roaming free in their natural habitats.
Another fun high adrenaline adventure in Roatan is to go zip lining at one of the many adventure hubs, some as long as 18 zip lines. For a quiet day of sightseeing, you can pet capuchin monkeys and macaws at Gumbalimba Park. Here you can spend the entire day walking around the lush gardens, insectariam and gaining knowledge of the 200 types of plant species found on the island.
The afternoon is the perfect time to take a motor boat through the thick mangrove forests that make a beautiful canopy over the muddy waters just off the shallow corals.
Nightlife in Roatan
If you are looking for nightlife and activities, head to the West of the island. The Mayan Princess Beach and Dive Resort in West Bay is a luxurious beach resort that is great for relaxing, beach snorkeling and upscale dining. You can rent snorkel equipment at the dive shop at the resort and walk straight into the beach where you will find yourself standing in knee deep water with a variety fishes.
The resort has three restaurants, spa, private beach and dive shop. It offers suites with full kitchens, living room and huge balconies. The resort is the perfect place for families looking for the right balance of nature, adventure, culture and pampering.
Near the Mayan Princess Resort is the West End area, famous for its restaurants, bars and clubs. This is where locals and expats flock to for a night out.
You will find a multinational crowd singing away karaoke on Thursday nights at The Blue Marlin. All the establishments have outdoor seating with decks overlooking the water. Thongs Thai is perhaps one of the most popular ones serving spicy food against the cool ocean breeze. Dance bars offer a mix of American 80's, Hip Hop, Reggae and Latin music.
Roatan is one of the few established islands in the Caribbean that still retains its authentic island charm. You get the comforts of the west as well as the quiet seclusion of the island. The people are extremely proud of their island which is also reflected in their warm and friendly natures. They live simple lives and work hard, yet enjoy all that their surroundings have to offer.
~ Words and photos by Sucheta Rawal. Originally published on DIWYY. To read more about Honduras, visit Sucheta's blog Go Eat Give.