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Roatan, HondurasAuthor: GregW (More Trip Reviews by GregW)
Date of Trip: December 2005
I don't dive, but my friend does and said the diving was incredible. He said that dives he did there were nicer than the dives in Cozumel or any of the Caribbean islands he's been to. The coral reef is amazing and beautiful, almost untouched. The only problem he noted was the lack of sea life - there aren't too many fish around, which we were told by a local was due to increasing temperatures in the sea water and local fishing. It is apparently a very inexpensive place to dive, with a tank going for $US 30 or two tanks for $US 50. PADI open water certification (4 days) can be gotten for around $US 250.
English is very widely spoken on Roatan. There is little need for any Spanish.
The only complaint I have about Roatan is that the bugs are awful. I have never been bit more than on Roatan. I never really used bug spray in Costa Rica unless going into the jungle, and never on any Caribbean island. So for the first two days, I didn't use any bug spray and my arms and legs soon looked like I had chicken pox. The DEET definitely helped (spray both yourself and the bed), but you'll still get bit. There are mosquitos in the air, no-see-ums in the sand and bed bugs in the sheets.
After 6 days on the island, it was time to start heading home. On the 1st of January, we headed from West End to Coxen Hole to catch the ferry over to the mainland. Unfortunately, the ferry was not operating on New Year's Day, so we had to fly. Only one airline was operating on New Year's Day - Islena, the national airline of Honduras and associated with TACA. The flight that morning at 1 PM was full, but they put us on stand by. We missed the first flight, but so many people were on stand by, they full a plane over from the mainland to take us all before the next scheduled flight at 5 PM. For $US 42 we flew a short flight without issue. For some reason, though, the flight attendant took out the seat belt extender and life vest like she was going to run through the safety procedures, but then decided against it. No big deal, right? Everyone knows the drill up and down. However, upon landing, the girl in front of me didn't know how to undo her seat belt. I guess those safety briefings are worth something!
We spent a night in La Ceiba. There wasn't much going on, as it was a national holiday (Jan. 1st). We stayed at the Gran Hotel Paris in a triple room with AC, hot water and cable for $58. The Hotel Paris has nice rooms, good location, an excellent pool and a poolside bar. The restaurant cannot be recommended, though. Mybuds got filet, which was overdone, and my calamari was terribly salty and chewy.
Next morning we set off to the airport in La Ceiba for Sky Service 027 from LCE to YYZ. The plane was scheduled for a 10:45 departure. We arrived just before 9am to find a massive line-up at the Sky Service counter. Most of the Sky Service passengers were staying at a local all-inclusive resort, and thus were brought via bus to the airport 3 hours ahead of time. We were close to the last in line. There are a number of lines to go through to leave La Ceiba. First you line up to have your checked bags searched. Then you line up for a boarding pass. Then you line up to pay the airport tax ($US 32). Then you line up in the immigration line. Then you line up for security. Then you line up to get on the plane. Immigration was very slow, and the plane ended up leaving about an hour late because it took so long for everyone to clear immigration.
We arrived back in Toronto to a monstrous line up for customs and immigration and a mad house in the baggage area. Why is it that a great vacation has to end with a crappy experience like customs and overcrowded baggage areas? There must be a better way to end a vacation, no?
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