This article originally appeared in Delta Air Lines’ 2012 Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America Travel Guide. It has been extracted from its original format. To read the full travel guide, visit the digital edition.
Roatan is the largest of the Bay Islands, a pristine archipelago that covers about 92 sq. miles along the world’s second largest barrier reef. In these clear Caribbean waters, divers and snorkelers will find turtles, stingrays, grouper and moray eels, which are almost as common as parrot fish. Even whale sharks make themselves at home here (typically May to September) in the waters between Roatan and Utila islands. Diving and snorkeling facilities draw beginners and experts alike, and every kind of dive experience is here for the asking—day dives, night dives, wall and cave diving, wreck diving—among deep and shallow reefs made up of a variety of colorful corals, sponges and tropical marine life. Additionally, the water temperature is balmy and the visibility is hard to beat. To dive or not to dive will determine your choice of hotel, with Anthony’s Key Resort offering one good bet for divers and snorkelers, and for those interested in learning all about and swimming with dolphins. Parrot Tree Resort might be a pick for a great luxury hideaway with its own beach north of French Harbor. The Mayan Princess Hotel is also a good choice, right on West Bay Beach, the island’s best. Water wonders also include glass bottom boat touring, sea kayaking, and deep-sea fishing when the catch of the day can be marlin, wahoo, tarpon, barracuda, kingfish and jack.
Land-based visitors will enjoy a trip to the botanical gardens, a butterfly garden, an iguana farm and quiet fishing villages. You can rent a scooter to tour this approximately 40-mile-long and 2-mile-wide island, exploring small Garifuna villages, discovering hidden sandy coves, and stopping for lunch at little harborside cafes. The liveliest town is West End, with certainly the most dive shops, best shopping boutique (Waves of Art), and restaurants (for fish, Mavis & Dixie’s, and for beef, Argentinian Grill).
- Best time to go:
January to August
- Fun fact:
The largest track of virgin rainforest in Central America is La Mosquitia, the locale for the Paul Theroux best seller book, “Mosquito Coast,” made into a movie with Harrison Ford
- Getting there:
Delta flies from Atlanta to Roatan
- Entry documents:
- Must-try local food:
Anafre (hotpot of refried beans and cheese fondue)
- Best buys:
Hammocks, paintings, wood carvings, leather items, Lenca pottery
- Information Please:
Honduras Tourism Institute—letsgohonduras.com