Updated: Jul 14, 2022
One of the Bay Islands of Honduras, this tropical oasis brims with water and beach activities, fantastic hiking, incredible food and so much more. Sometimes overlooked by mainstream tourism, it remains a well-guarded secret - which makes it even more appealing to those of us who seek quiet, off-the-beaten-path destinations.
From the laid-back, diverse West End, to the lush and hilly interior, to the spectacular white-sand beaches, here's what I love to experience in Roatan, Honduras:
1. Diving and Snorkeling
Any way you can get on or in the water in Roatan, it’s going to be rewarding. Well-known for its colorful coral reefs, shipwrecks and kaleidoscope array of marine life, the waters around Roatan are perhaps most famous for harboring the largest fish in the sea. Swim with the majestic whale shark between February and April or between August and October. Go-to dive spots include the Hole in the Wall and Sea Quest Shallow, while snorkeling favorites include West End’s Half Moon Bay Beach.
2. Swimming with Bottlenose Dolphins
Swim with these adorable marine creatures in their natural habitat at Anthony’s Key. This small, tropical hideaway allows visitors to get up close and personal with these friendly and intelligent mammals, known for their agility and giggle-inducing antics. Sign up for shorter dolphin encounters or hour-long swim and snorkel programs.
Showcasing the island’s lush forest, ziplining takes your Roatan experience to new heights. Soar through the jungle canopy, catching glimpses of playful capuchin monkeys and colorful parrots as you zip along. Choose a more extreme adventure, with thrilling heights, angles and speed, or combine ziplining with a trip to an animal sanctuary, from a variety of island outfitters.
4. Day Trip to the Cayos Cochinos
Don’t be hemmed in with Roatan proper. From here, it’s easy to explore Cochinos Cays Marine Sanctuary, comprising Cayo Mayor, Cayo Meno and 13 smaller cays or atolls (sandbanks). Bring everything you need for a beach day and marvel at the white sand, the crystal-clear water, the pink Cochino Cays boa (if you’re fortunate enough to see one!) and the delicious, fresh seafood caught by the community of Garifuna fishermen on the islands. If you’re smitten, there’s one hotel on Cayo Mayor you can stay at to extend your time here.
5. Experience Little French Key
Treat yourself to a day at Little French Key, a private island with fun aquatic adventures for the whole family. Pick and choose from a variety of activities to create your own day in paradise, including visiting the local animal rescue center, meeting sloths at Daniel Johnson’s Monkey and Sloth Hangout, kayaking, paddleboarding, snorkeling and more. Dining and beverage service can be included, as well, for an all-inclusive experience.
6. Meet the Island Wildlife
Go beyond sloths and monkeys at West Bay Beach’s Gumbalimba Park, where you can meet the island’s largest population of black iguanas and free-range exotic birds, such as macaws, hummingbirds and parrots. Between the waterfalls, suspension bridge, museum, pool and more than 20 colorful plant and tree species, the park makes a fantastic introduction to Roatan’s natural landscape.
7. Stroll Through Carambola Gardens
Indulge in the sights and scents of the island at Carambola Gardens in Sandy Bay, where you can walk and birdwatch along many interconnecting trails through the 40-acre expanse of jungle and gardens. Hike to the summit of Carambola Mountain for views of the second largest reef in the world. On your way, you’ll pass the Iguana Wall cliff, a protected area for iguanas and parrot breeding grounds. Check out the Honduran Mahogany Tree and well-known Chocolate Tree while you’re in the gardens, too.
From the West End, with the island’s best beach, to laid-back Sandy Bay, from jungle-covered mountains to Maya ruins, Honduras offers a low-key Caribbean getaway with ample opportunities for recreation, relaxation and reconnection with the natural world around us.
Let’s chat about what you can experience there and how to make it a reality.