Friday, January 28, 2011

Travel Notes - Roatan Honduras

On our recent cruise, the first port of call was Roatan, Honduras.  Roatan is a small, beautiful island popular with scuba divers.  It has only recently become a cruise ship stop, so it's not as developed as other ports (a big plus in our book).

Cruise ships dock at Coxen Hole, which is a tiny town on the southwest side of the island.  Upon arrival in port, we joined up with some fellow cruisers for a van ride to West Bay beach, a spectacular and popular destination crowded with resorts ($27 per person, including snorkeling gear).  Our ride included a shy but lovable15-year old "guide."  Ultimately, it was more interesting to ask him about his life than about the sights.  He came from a large family (8 kids), loved soccer, had chickens, and dove for fish and lobster with his dad. He also told us about hunting iguana. Iguana try to escape the hunter by crawling in holes, but the hunting dogs dig them out.  The hunters kill them with a stick, not guns.  On a caribbean island, you would expect seafood to be the local delicacy, but according to our guide, it is iguana (which, of course "tastes like chicken").  I have to confess we ate conch, not iguana during our visit. 

On the way to the beach, we stopped to visit a small monkey sanctuary housed in a private residence.  Dan and I opted to wander the neighborhood, while some of our fellow passengers paid $5 to have monkeys crawl all over them (not our thing).  While Dan was off trying to photograph a goat in a nearby yard, I asked an Indian tourist in our group about the tropical fruit trees -- she identified cashew, mango, bread fruit, banana, and coconut trees for me.  However, the biggest shock to my tourist mind was the quiet fact that a hundred feet from our van, there were two women washing clothes by hand in a small stream flowing with brown water.  I have never felt more like an overprivileged American.

After another quick stop in the town of West End (everyone decided to forego shopping there), we arrived at West Bay beach.  I spent $17 (!!!) on sunscreen at a beach resort (it would have almost been worth the $25 to check a bag and bring my own) and $27 on a rashguard from a dive shop (yep, forgot to pack that), and then we were finally ready to snorkel.  We negotiated with an entrepreneurial boat owner ($40) to drive us out to a good snorkeling location (the blue channel).  As soon as we got in the water, the sun went behind the clouds.  There were a lot of fish, but nothing we haven't seen before.

After snorkeling, we enjoyed a snack of fried conch and nachos along with the local beer (Barena) at a beach restaurant called Foster's.  We were entertained watching another patron's leashed pet monkey jump around.

After eating, Dan swam out to a reef within sight from the beach.  He reported back that it was every bit as great as the one we had just paid to boat to.  We learned a few lessons in Roatan.  We should have spent far less money than we did (but maybe our money went to people who needed it more than we did).


  1. "It has only recently become a cruise ship stop, so it's not as developed as other ports "

    So, cruise ships are responsible for development? If memory serves me correctly, many crise destinations were very developed long before they saw a cruise ship

  2. True, but in my (admittedly limited) observations, cruise ships can alter ports dramatically. Look for an upcoming post on Cozumel.

  3. And... it would have been more accurate to use the word "commercialized" instead of "developed" when referring the cruise ship ports.