The Bay Island of Roatan
Roatan, one of the most developed of the Bay Islands, is a premier destination for divers and other ocean lovers. Just off the shores of the Bay Islands, you’ll find the world’s second largest barrier reef, which is home to a rich diversity of aquatic plant and fish life. Whether you dive, snorkel, swim or boat, you’ll find plenty of adventures awaiting you on the isle of Roatan.
Roatan’s Regional History
The island of Roatan has had a tumultuous and bloody past in recent years, though that wasn’t always the case. Before the Spaniards arrived, the island and the surrounding areas were under the reign of the Maya people from about the fourth until the tenth centuries. At the time of Columbus’s arrival, the island was occupied by the peaceful Paya Indians. They eked out their simple existence mining jade for commerce and living off the fat of the land. Foods like fish, corn, turtle meat, iguana; fruits, deer, crabs and clean potable water were plentiful. Times were good.
After the arrival of the European settlers, the unrest began. First settled by the Spanish conquistadors, the plentiful resources and clean water (as well as relatively safe harbors) soon drew the attention of other European nations, namely the English. British pirates were soon ravaging the coasts, fighting to gain control of the land for the honor of the Crown. In the 1600’s, it was the site of the largest gathering of pirates and buccaneers in the history of the world. Eventually, the island came under the control of the British crown, which lasted until the 1960’s when control of the island was officially handed over to the Honduran government. Since then, the rest of the world has sought out the peaceful shores and fabulous reefs for diving and island adventure.
Sea, Sand, and Sun
While perhaps the biggest and most popular pastime on the island of Roatan is diving. The island is rife with local dive operators, and for those who’ve never gone scuba diving before, it’s a convenient and affordable place to learn. While not quite as inexpensive as the nearby island of Utila, budget travelers will have an easier time here than in the other neighboring island of Guanaja. Popular dive sites around Roatan include the West End Wall (for deep diving), Doc’s Elbow (for night dives) and the Barbaretta Wall, which is an uninhabited area, largely free of human evidence. If diving isn’t quite your thing, don’t worry, there are plenty of other opportunities to have fun, in and out of the water:
- You can go on deep dive in a unique Deep Sea Submersible at the West End village.
- You can set out to go fishing.
- Take a horseback ride all along the beach.
- Visit the Roatan Butterfly Gardens, just five minutes from the main entrance to the West End Village. Check out a wide variety of butterflies such as the owl, zebra, helicopter, firecracker, Julia, sunset long wing, monarch and queen. It’s also home to several lush tropical trees like the cashew, mango, papaya and banana. And, if that wasn’t enough, check out the tropical plants, like the hibiscus, crotons, orchids and jasmine.
- Check out a zip line jungle canopy tour, where you can glide like a bird through the jungle, attached to safety by cables and harnesses.
- Take a tour on the Coral Reef Explorer glass bottom boat to view sea turtles, spotted Eagle Rays, and barracuda without having to get even your toes wet!
- Sail along the islands and cays; there are over seventy in the Bay Island region alone!
- Learn more about taking a dive with dolphins.
- Visit an iguana farm and see hundreds of these unique lizards.
- Visit the Garifuna Village of Punta Gorda for some great music, dancing and Garifuna cuisine.
Island Fun on Any Budget
While not quite as frugal as the island of Utila, Roatan still offers great fun no matter what budget you are on. If you’d prefer an exotic island resort, you can find it. If you’d prefer to rest your head within a backpacker friendly hostel, you can do that too. The same applies to just about anything: restaurants, hotels, souvenir shops and cafes. Beautiful and diverse, this eclectic island will capture your heart and your imagination!