Little Roatán has its share of visitors. In high season, during the North American winter, it hosts multiple cruise ships each day. About a million tourists come each year, drawn by the tropical beach fun, world-class scuba diving, and relaxed attitude.
Still, it gets a fraction of the visitors that you would see in other Caribbean destinations and much of the development is small-scale and manageable. It’s low-key and a bit rough around the edges—which makes it fun (and still perfectly safe).
But this island, 48 miles long and about five miles at its widest, off mainland Honduras, is also a great place to live long-term. The retirees and other expats who have made it their home (joining the 80,000 or so Hondurans and native islanders there too) have found a great quality of life, with a low cost of living, warm weather year-round, that classic “island” vibe and tropical atmosphere, great restaurants, white-sand beaches, modern conveniences like high-speed internet, and, with the opening of a new hospital, good quality medical care.
There is so much that makes Roatán special. But here are five of the reasons you might want to make it your home.
1. It Has a Natural Beauty
When you approach Roatán from the mainland by sea or from the air, it’s a striking sight. Verdant jungle-covered mountains and rolling hills rise from the spine of the island.
Get up close to see the details and it’s even more beautiful, especially along the coastal areas. Picture white-sand beaches lined with palm trees, surrounded by a sea of azure, impossibly clear water.
Or head to the highlands. From the top of the hills you have the perfect vantage point to gaze upon the slopes that cascade down to the water and lead out to the huge reef that encircles the island.
2. It’s the Perfect Place to Get in/on the Water
Visitors were first drawn to Roatán because the world’s second largest barrier reef is just a quick boat ride offshore. It offers some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities in the world, and there are many dive shops where you can rent and buy gear. If you’re an expat living on Roatán, you can get the local’s discount—with dive tours (boat, dive master, equipment, and everything included) for $25.
Boating around Roatán and nearby islands is also popular, as is fishing. Tarpon, bonefish, snapper, lobster, wahoo, and more are abundant in the surrounding water.
3. The Laidback Lifestyle
Roatán is the place many envision when they hear Jimmy Buffet singing about one of his tropical paradises. In communities like West End and West Bay, beach bars line the water, offering tasty cocktails and cold beers with views of the Caribbean. No shirt, no shoes…no problem.
And the laidback feeling isn’t just in those areas. Everywhere on Roatán runs on island time. Nobody is in a rush. It’s relaxed and casual. Sandals and shorts are the uniform—even for nice dinners out. And if you see a friend or neighbor out and about…you’ll always stop to chat.
4. You Can Find Good Value Real Estate
Homes, condos, and ready-to-build lots on Roatán are much more affordable than what you can get on other Caribbean islands. Consider beachfront lots in established developments for under $100,000. Go inland a bit, but still a quick walk to the water, and you could pay half that.
Homes on the water, built to North American standards, can be had from $200,000. And if you’d rather get a lock-and-leave condo in a resort-style community on something like popular West Bay beach, you can get a one-bedroom unit for well under $200,000.
Many homes offer water access too, whether it’s a community marina or dock, or even a private dock. Some homes are even boat access only—the ultimate in privacy.
5. There’s an Active Expat Community
There’s always something going on here. You can find live music, often from expat musicians, at bars and restaurants in places like West End and Sandy Bay. Watching sunset with a cold beer in hand and surrounded by friends old and new is practically mandatory. And there are plenty of dinners out, sailboat trips, parties, and other get-togethers.
But it’s not all about partying. Expats on Roatán also give back. When you fly in you’ll see volunteers, mostly retirees, helping confused tourists get through the customs and immigration area of the airport. You can also work with local school kids doing sports activities or teaching English. Animal rescue is another opportunity, as is working in a health clinic that provides low-cost care for those in need.
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