Roatán, the largest of the Bay Islands of Honduras, is surrounded by the beautiful Mesoamerican Barrier Reef and also boasts a lush, verdant landscape above water. As you fly toward the island on a direct flight from the U.S. or Canada, you’ll notice how much of this paradise remains undeveloped.
Natural beauty abounds on Roatán. Homes built on the gorgeous jungle-covered hillsides overlook the turquoise Caribbean water and even beachfront homes enjoy privacy and tranquility. Rolling hills continue the length of the island, leading down to beaches and mangroves along the shore. This variety of landscape on Roatán provides a natural playground for people of all ages to enjoy.
Whether you’re visiting Roatán on vacation or you move there to enjoy the affordable expat life, there are plenty of activities available to keep you busy. Here are our recommendations for the top five activities to do in Roatán.
1. SCUBA diving or snorkeling: The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is the second largest barrier reef in the world, stretching from the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico down and around the Bay Islands of Honduras. Around Roatán, the coral reef is so close to the island that you can comfortably and conveniently swim from shore and see some of the most extraordinary coral reef and marine life on Earth.
Friendly sea turtles, vibrant parrotfish, elegant eagle rays, and schools of silversides are all common sightings just off shore for snorkelers or SCUBA divers. Roatán’s calm, protected waters make it an excellent location to learn to SCUBA dive. Choose from any of the multitude of dive shops on the island to complete your certification and enjoy even more of Roatán’s stunning natural riches. Don’t forget your underwater camera!
2. Island tours: Roatán is only about five miles wide at its widest point, but it stretches almost 40 miles in length. Take advantage of local expertise to learn more about the various neighborhoods and communities around the island. Local history is filled with tales of piracy and fierce battles between the English and Spanish for control of this important naval location. Cultural variety has always been prevalent in Roatán, and it continues to evolve with more expats moving to the island. From historic Old Port Royal to vibrant Punta Gorda, there is much to see and to learn about the history of this island and its many groups of inhabitants.
Enjoy your own private island tour catered to your interests—whether you want to learn more history, check out new beaches and places to snorkel, or take advantage of the many activities along the way. Popular stops include Arch’s Iguana Farm (a rescue center to conserve the island’s iguana population), Blue Harbor Tropical Arboretum, Marble Hill Farms, and Camp Bay’s popular restaurant, La Sirena. You won’t be able to see everything in one day so this is an activity you can do again and again with visitors and friends.
3. Live music on the beach: Roatán is an island in the Caribbean, so of course you have to take advantage of the white-sand beaches and laidback vibes! Grab a cold drink and settle into a lounge chair in the sand while local and expat musicians entertain the crowd. Tunes waft over the water and virtually every venue is open-air, so you won’t be overwhelmed with loud music in cramped indoor bars.
Relax, enjoy the sunset, and sway to the island rhythms. Every night of the week offers live music in at least one locale. If you’re a Roatán resident you’ll easily access the calendars and get to know the regular spots. If you’re visiting, ask your hotel concierge or property manager for the schedule that week. You don’t want to miss out!
4. Golf: Roatán’s 18-hole championship golf course: The Black Pearl, was designed by legendary golfer and designer, Pete Dye. Views of the ocean from nearly every point throughout the course provide an incredible background as you enjoy the sunshine and salt air. Roatán’s natural beauty is highlighted by this eco-friendly course, with rolling green hills overlooking stunning Caribbean waters.
Located at Pristine Bay along the north shore, The Black Pearl is challenging while not being overwhelming for even new golfers. The course is never overcrowded, so you can relax and enjoy the views as you spend a fun day in the sun with your friends.
5. Zipline canopy tours: Imagine flying through the jungle and spotting a huge iguana sunbathing on a tree branch as you pass. Roatán’s central ridge leading down to the shore provides the perfect natural setting for a canopy tour, also called a zipline. There are many canopy tours on the island, from West Bay to the East End, so take your pick or try them all!
Professional guides will clip you into your safety harness and then guide you along the many platforms connected by long cables. You can zip and zoom down the hills and across the valleys of Roatán, most times ending up on a white sandy Caribbean beach. Don’t be scared of heights with this activity, you’ll hardly even notice while you’re admiring the jungle landscape and trying to spot interesting wildlife!
The island of Roatán offers such an array of activities and entertainment that you will never be bored. While the island might not have a large shopping mall and movie theater, it offers infinitely more amazing and wonderful sights in its natural beauty. From the underwater marvels to the jungle treetops filled with tropical birds, Roatán truly is the gem of the Caribbean.
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