First of all I have to wow, what a stunning tropical island Roatan is! Filled with pristine white sand beaches, lush jungle and a world class coral reef, all my caribean fantasies were realized on this little island off the coast of Honduras. As the largest and most popular destination in a collection of islets called The Bay Islands, Roatan is home to the second largest reef system in the world (the Great Barrier reef in Australia being the first).
I spent some time in the town called West End, located on the north shore of the western end of the island. I found this to be a great location as its popular with backpackers, has nice restaurants, a beautiful beach, lots of dive shops and beach/waterside patios. While this is one of the best places in the world to go diving, there are a few other activities you can enjoy while visiting this beautiful jungle paradise!
I came to Roatan as a newly certified diver, having only completed my open water certification the day before while visiting the neighboring island of Utila. Roatan was such a beautiful place to be introduced into the world of diving! Pretty much every dive shop runs courses, so if you have the time, you can get certified right then and there (usually takes about 4 days at a cost of $300-350 USD). If you’re already certified, there are a plethora of dive companies heading out multiple times a day to show off the incredible under water world.
I dove with a small, family owned company called Native Sons and I highly recommend them. Groups are small, dive masters experienced and knowledgeable and safety is their top concern. The dive gear I used was new and in good working order and if you stay at their on site hotel/hostel (called Hotel Chillies) you get a discount on your dives. There are so many dives sites all around the island, you’ll never dive the same place twice. Depending on the season, its a great place to swim with whale sharks, dolphins and reef sharks!
If your not a diver or just want to go for a swim, snorkeling is a great alternative. West End is located around Half Moon Bay which has a beautiful sand beach and amazing coral reef, right at the mouth of the bay. This is the best beach in town, complete with palm trees and soft white sand. You can rent snorkel gear from many of the dive shops in town and simply swim out to the reef and search for tropical fish, sting rays and sea turtles.
There are at least 3 different companies in the western end of Roatan operating zip lining adventures through the jungle. I love heading into the tree tops where ever I go as its a fun, active way to see the jungle from a different perspective. I went to the “tourist trap” park called Gumbalimba. This place was created to cater to the cruise ship crowds who dock on Roatan for the day and definitely has a theme park feel to it. However, I went first thing in the morning, before the cruise shops even docked and had the entire place to myself! Not only did I have a private zip line tour, I also enjoyed wandering the lush, jungle park at my own pace. If this type of place isn’t your thing, I’ve heard South Shore Zip Lines offer amazing views of the jungle and ocean. All zip line companies offer pick up and drop off services as included features.
Relax on West Bay Beach
Its not hard to figure out why this is rated as one of the top beaches in the world! Although the beach is lined with resorts, you can throw down your beach towel anywhere you like. Some hotels offer day passes to use their facilities such as a pool and if your craving a frozen beverage, every resort has a beach side patio. From West Bay beach you can do many different water sport activities such as diving, rent a sea doo, rent a kayak or SUP and I even watched someone try (and fail) at using the water jetpack flyer!
Rent A Scooter
The scenery on the island is stunning and I had a great time scooting around the west end taking pictures and enjoying the lush jungle scenery. West End has numerous places you can just walk up to and rent a scooter for 1/2 day or full day (its cheaper to rent for a full day). The west end of the island is pretty simple to navigate and you can explore places such as West Bay, Flower Bay, Coxen Hole and Sandy Bay. If you want to venture a bit further I suggest renting a jeep. Once past Coxen Hole heading east, I felt uncomfortable on the busy highway riding only a scooter and would suggest renting a jeep instead.
If your planning a visit to Roatan, West Bay is a great place to stop for a few days, or a week. Even if you’re not a dive enthusiast, there are other options for activities and things to see and do while visiting this incredible jungle island!