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Roatan, Honduras

Author: GregW (More Trip Reviews by GregW)
Date of Trip: December 2005

Roatan, Honduras: Part I
Roatan is the largest and most populated of the Bay Islands off the coast of mainland Honduras. The Bay Islands are part of the second largest reef system on the planet (behind the Great Barrier Reef, I believe). The reef runs from Mexico down to Belize and around Honduras. The reef passes very close to the Bay Islands, very close to the shore. At many points, you can snorkel out from shore and see the reef.

I stayed 1 day in Sandy Bay, 6 days in West End and 1 day on the mainland of Honduras in the city of Le Ceiba.

The trip started with flight 026 on Sky Service (5G) on 26 December, 2005 from Toronto (YYZ) to Le Ceiba (LCE). We arrived over Honduras on schedule and were descending into the airport, probably no more than 500 ft from the ground. The weather was gray and rainy and visibility was low. The pilot powered back up and started to climb again, coming on an explaining that the visibility was too low to land. We circled for about 1/2 an hour and came in for another attempt, which was aborted. Another 30 minutes, another aborted attempt. The captain came on and said that the airport was temporarily closed due to weather, so we were diverting to Belize City to re-fuel and try again.

We arrived in Belize City and they refueled the plane as the passengers stayed on board. After fueling, though, the airport in Le Ceiba was still closed. So we were let off the plane and into the airport in Belize City. We stayed 3 1/2 hours in Belize (beautiful day there, sunny and warm), but were not allowed to leave the international departures area. Therefore, most of the plane hit Jet's Bar in the airport. Jet's quite a character, a small man with a big presence. Most people ordered bottles of Belikin, a local brew. About 3 hours later, though, we had drunk Jet out of Belikin. Luckily they called our flight and we were off again.

We arrived back in Le Ceiba and landed safely (but a bit bumpy) at 4:30 PM CST, about 6 hours behind schedule. The weather was still rainy and gray. We had planned to head into Le Ceiba and catch the ferry over to Roatan (US$ 15), but we had missed the last departure at 4:00 PM. I was looking forward to the ferry, but consoled myself that I would get to take it back on the 1st of January.

So instead, we bought a ticket from Aerolineas Sosa for $US 42 from La Ceiba (LCE) to Roatan (RTB). The departure was scheduled for 5:15 PM CST, but we learnt that plane travel between Roatan and the mainland is more like taking a collectivo than an airline in North America. They go when the plane is full, not according to the schedule. The flight was very short, but very bumpy. However, we landed safely around 20 minutes after take off, and were finally on Roatan! There is a $US 1.30 airport tax for domestic flights.

For the first two nights, we had booked accommodation at Judy's Fantasea in Sandy Bay. We had paid $US 120 for two rooms for two nights, meaning rooms (single or double) were $US 20 a night. Judy's Fantasea is okay. The rooms are nice and there is a nice common area (though you need to pay an extra $US 30 to use the stove if you want to cook for yourself). The man who runs the place is called Sheldon, and is very nice. However, the beach in front of Judy's doubles as the road, and thus is very dirty and covered in tire tracks. And Sandy Bay has nothing in it, no nearby restaurants or bars. You can easily get a cab into West End for $US 1 for a 10 minute ride, but as 3 single guys we wanted to be closer to the action, and so ended up checking out early and staying in West End for the rest of the trip. Judy's would be good for a large group or family that didn't mind not being close to town.

West End is a very lively place. It is a mix of dive shops, restaurants and inexpensive hotels running right along the water front. I was told that there was a rule that no buildings could exceed the height of the trees, so there is excellent foliage coverage and the place doesn't look over developed. The best beach in West End can be found at Half Moon Bay at the north end of town. Nice sand, and the reef is just off the shore and easy to snorkel out to.

We stayed at Pinocchio's. For the 3 of us, we paid $US 45 a night for a 3 bed room ($US 15 each). It was basic - comfortable beds, a couple of fans, hot water and a hammock on the balcony. It is up on a hill, so has excellent views down to the water. The beach is a very, very short walk away (less than 30 seconds). There is a good restaurant on the first floor that is open for dinner every night except Wednesday.

For other accommodations that are a little more upscale, check out the Mariposa Lodge. $45 for a single room with AC, TV and nice location. Pura Vida also has a nice rooms, but was booked. The location is quite decent.

I had been told that because we were coming during the week between Christmas and New Years, that it would be best to book ahead as places would fill up. That is the reason we had booked the first couple of nights (I'd much rather see a hotel charging $20 before committing to it. Cheap hotels are great, but quality can vary widely). However, we found many places with vacancies once we got there. The owner of Pinocchio's (an Italian woman named Patricia) told us that business was down this year, but that could also be due to the growth of West Bay draining the higher end tourists away from West End.

Part II
For food, there are lots of good options. For breakfast, the best I found was at Blue Channel. They are a little less pricey than other places, and offer anything you might want to breakfast. Breakfast at Blue Channel was around $US 4 - $US 6 each.

For lunch, check out the Hot Chili Restaurant. Decent meals at a good price, and a location right on the water that can't be beat. If you head over to West Bay, try the Lobster Sandwich at Bite on the Beach for $US 9. It's amazing!

For dinner, the Argentinean Grill or Foster's both have good meat and seafood dishes for US$ 10 to US$ 20. Les Bouchiniers is a good meal for $US 20 to $US 25. The Seafood Soup there is amazing, and includes a full tail of lobster, a half a crab and lots of shrimp and fish for $US 21. For cheaper and decent local food, try the Lighthouse bar.

In general, though, there are lots of good places to eat. The only place that I wouldn't recommend is the Philly's Sub Shop. The fried bananas were good, but the subs were soggy and not worth the $US 5 price.

For nightlife, start at Sundowner's at Half Moon Bay. A great beach bar that is the place to be for Apres-dive. Get there early to get a seat around the bonfire. The place closed as 11, but people start leaving after 9 to head to either the Twisted Toucan or Purple Turtle. The Purple Turtle has a laid back vibe and a lot of the dive masters and ex-pat business owners hang out there. The Twisted Toucan is more lively with dancing and partying (almost like an episode of E!'s Wild On Roatan).

The nicest beaches on Roatan I am told are at West Bay, which is around 4 km from West End. You can take a cab, but if you feel up for it, the walk along the beach is interesting and you see a lot of deserted beach.The beaches are amazing in West Bay - beautiful sand obviously cleaned every morning. However, the place is much busier than West End, and when there is a cruise shipped docked in town, the place is a mad house of tourists trying to get some sun.

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