Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.
Roatán is well known for its world class snorkeling and diving as it makes up part of the Honduran Bay Islands located near the Mesoamerican Reef , the largest barrier reef in the Caribbean Sea. Rodora was unsure of her diving ability, so we choose Roatan as it gave us the flexibility to dive, snorkel and relax on beaches.
Link to a separate blog detailing our diving experience can be found here
How to get to Roatán
The cheapest method of transportation is a 1.5 hour ferry ride from La Ceiba
The week before we arrived, there was a very large storm in the area and the Ferry didn’t run for 3 days in a row. The seas have a reputation of getting rough out here. We were so exhausted by the time we sat down on the Ferry that we passed out and slept most of the 1.5 hour trip. The boat moved around in the big swell and the staff did hand out sea sick bags just in case, but I don’t think I saw anyone actually get sick. The Ferry is called the Galaxy Wave and has been in service since 2006. Designed in Australia, it is a large and fast catamaran that has capacity for 460 passengers with a length of 152 feet.
Getting to Roatán on the late ferry; have your accommodation pre-booked
When the ferry eventually arrived in Roatán, our next step was trying to find a bus. Unfortunately buses stop running after 5pm, so after running around the Ferry terminal like chickens trying to find a bus, we were informed this wasn’t possible. The only other option was to pay for a taxi to take us on the half an hour journey to West End. The taxi was shared (Collectivo), so we had 2 other unknown people in the taxi with us and it ended up costing US$4 per person (which is the local rate as the locals paid the same as us).
We unfortunately made the mistake of assuming by the time we arrived in the West End that hotel receptions would be open; as we expected they would wait for people to come from the Ferry. When we arrived (7.10pm), the reception of the hotel we wanted to stay at was closed. We went next door and they said they only had one room for a week at US$66 per night. Way too much for our savvy budget; so Toby left all his stuff with me and went on a hunt to find another room. Luckily around the corner there was another hotel, Burkes Place, at US$20 (it was a bit isolated and in the middle of nowhere) but was just what we needed as we were both exhausted from the 13 hour travel journey.
The next morning we went back to Chillies (http://www.nativesonsroatan.com/chillies.htm), our first choice, and got a room for US$22 per night. Perfect location across the road from the beach and connected to the dive shop we ended up choosing for our dive course. After walking around the island and discussing dive course options with various dive schools we chose Native Sons (www.nativesonsroatan.com/). The benefits were:
Rodora and I both love animals and she was quick to adopt a grey and white cat named Tricky. I forget exactly how it started, but ultimately within the first day or two it was sleeping in our bed each night and continued to do so most nights we were there. If we were around our room during the day, especially if it was raining, he would regularly stop past for a nap on the bed. We were both sad to leave him behind and would have taken him with us if it was possible.
Keeping close to budget with so many temptations
Budget is something we keep a daily eye on. The less we spend, the longer we can travel without guilt of spending all our money. We spent 19 days in Roatán and averaged $58 per person / per day. This included both of us getting our Open Water Diving certification ($280ea); also I got my Advanced certification ($280). Add in some fun dives at $30ea and Rodora had 9 total dives and I had 13.
I think we found one of the cheapest and best places to stay in the area. We did sacrifice a little bit of comfort by having a shared bathroom and cold showers. Cold showers are much more common in this region due to the constant heat and humidity. I will admit, we are very much looking forward to our next hot shower.
The biggest money saver was self-catering. The constant flow of Canadian and American tourists that stay here have definitely inflated prices. We were seeing regular meals in restaurants priced at $15-$30 per main. More on eating out later. The first tip you’re given if you want to self-cater and are staying more than a week is to go to the big grocery stores near Coxen Hall; the biggest is Eldon’s Supermarket. From West End you can get a bus/van for 22 Limpera’s ($1.10) per person each way. There was a much larger variety to choose from, especially for meat and chicken. The dry foods like pasta, rice, granola were also marginally cheaper than the stores in West End with much more variety. The biggest money saver was beer; which cost about 160 Limpera’s ($8) for a 6 pack in West End, but only 90 Limpera’s ($4.50) in Eldon’s.
We got lucky one day by finding a fisherman with fresh fish off the boat. Here is a photo with Rodora holding them. Only $2.50 per fish which we cooked that night and was absolutely delicious.
Eating out at West End
We rarely ate out due to price and menus resembling American food. We did treat ourselves twice to all you could eat Chicken Wings at the Coconut Restaurant (above Coconut Divers). This seems like a regular Thursday night deal for $6.50 each. I personally don’t like wings much, but these were easily some of the best I’ve ever had.
Our other favourite was Creole Rotisserie Chicken. This is located at the far western end of West End. Typically only open from 3pm until they sell out of Chicken; sometimes as early as 8.30pm. Half a chicken for 110 Limpera’s ($5.50) was a bargain. They also sell amazing Cinnamon buns. These sell out quickly also, so get there before the evening dinner rush to avoid disappointment.
Another bonus from Chillie’s (our accommodation) was the friendly pets that are hanging around. They had a couple of dogs and I think 4 cats in total. One cat was apparently saved as a very young kitten from being dragged into a giant crab’s hole. They are very well loved animals as we see the owner walking the dogs daily on the beach and the cats are very well fed. One in particular that sat near the office all day was quite plump.
West End and West Bay
Confusingly similar names for places nearly next to each other; that are more different than you might expect. West End is the easiest of places to get to and is aimed at more budget style independent travellers. The beach isn’t quite as nice, but it has all the major services you would expect of a beachside town. Lots of restaurants, bars, dive shops, grocery stores and ATM’s. Accommodation ranges from budget to high end, but there’s no real resorts here.
West Bay is where all the resorts are. From the big all inclusive, to the more private boutique style. The beaches are the more traditional Caribbean style of groomed white sand and crystal clear blue/turquoise water. The main difference here is that it’s a resort experience you’re paying for. You have a bar or restaurant on site and for a change you might go into one of the other resorts. Prices here are typically what you would see on an American menu; $5-$10 for a drink; $15-$30 or more for a meal.
Remember, that there is a huge divide between rich and poor in this country. The official “daily” minimum wage is somewhere around US$5 per day. Hard to find recent data online about this. Wiki and Lonely Planet both quote an amount of US$3.15 per day in 2007. Also a gross national income per capita of $US1,649 for 2007. Interestingly, a taxi driver told us in peak season he could earn anywhere up to $600 per week; but he didn’t bother getting out of bed for work in quiet season. The Bay Islands are almost a separate country in terms of economy as compared to the mainland.
We stayed in the West End and did day time snorkeling/beach trips to West Bay by water taxi when we weren’t diving and the weather was nice. These cost about 50L ($2.50) per person each way and take about 10-15 minutes. The snorkeling is also much better off the beaches of West Bay.
Some useful information for Roatán
This is a website we came across through google with plenty of general information for those visiting Roatán. Simple stuff, like what to bring, taxi’s, internet, food, health and money.
Our time in Roatán is fast coming to an end as we depart on Monday 23 December. Thinking back nearly 3 weeks ago, we still weren’t sure whether we would stay in budget Utila or the more picturesque Roatán. Rodora still wasn’t sure if she’d dive more than 1 day. The only downside to Roatán is the tourist cost of food and drink at restaurants and bars. Self-cater your food and drink and you have the perfect mix of heaven. This is a place we’ll try hard to come back to in the future.
Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates. http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/