Guide To Travel To Roatan In Honduras

Are you looking for a spectacular diving trip? Are you craving a snorkeling paradise? Roatan is waiting for you with the second largest barrier reef in the world, and Caribbean turquoise waters.
 
This is an essential guide to travel to Roatan. How to get to this diving paradise, tips to plan your trip and stay on a budget while enjoying this island. 
 
But why didn’t you hear about Roatan before? Honduras is not usually on the route for many travelers. Yet, it should definitely be, so let me tell you some tips for traveling to Roatan.
 
A few decades ago, Roatan was still a virgin island only populated by locals and Garifuna people.
 
But in the last years, resorts and cruise ships are taking the coast little by little. Even so, you can still find white sand beaches, jungle and calm spots.

Where is Roatan located?

Roatan is part of the three Bay Islands from Honduras: Utila, Guanaja and Roatan on the north coast.

Utila is usually more popular around backpackers and divers. In fact, many of the people I met in Central America was going to Utila for the famous low-cost week diving courses, which are offered on this island.

Roatan is the biggest island between the three and the most tourist-oriented. Coral reef and tropical fishes surround its long shape. Almost forty miles long and about three miles wide.

Health requirements for Honduras

COVID-19 Times to Enter Honduras

 
Beware that all travelers entering Honduras must present a negative PCR or antigen test for COVID-19 that has to be performed within 72 hours of arrival. A complete vaccination card is also valid.
 
Before your traveling, you will need to fill out the Pre-Arrival Immigration Form 48 hours before your date of entry. You will need to register as a new user and fill out three forms:
  1. The customs declarations form
  2. The precheck
  3. A health survey
 According to the Honduras Ministry of Health, all resorts, hotels, and restaurants on the island are now open with biosafety requirements. Visitors are also asked to follow security protocols like wearing a mask when it is established.

What vaccines do I need to enter Roatan?

If you are traveling from South America or Africa, it’s required to show proof of the Yellow Fever Vaccination.

As a personal experience, even if you are coming from another area, but your passport has a South American stamp, they are most likely to ask you for the vaccine. Even if it was a time ago.

For other vaccines check with the embassy of your country, but I will say that this one is the most important one.

Travel to Roatan island in Honduras

Roatan: Diving and snorkeling paradise

Diving in Roatan is most affordable than most other places. However, food and hostels can be a little bit overprice, especially when comparing with the rest of Honduras.

Swim, snorkel, scuba dive, or sea kayak the day away at one of the fine beaches at West End or West Bay. There are more than 130 dive sites scattered around the island.

Don’t worry if you don’t have snorkeling gear, it can be rented at all dive shops, gift shops and even some restaurants.

The islands are one of the most affordable places to take your diving certification. Even in the last years, they got a little bit more pricy, they are still one of the inexpensive places with a memorable marine life. Don’t think about it, take your Open Water Diver certification in Roatan.

I’ve never seen so many dive operator in a row like in Roatan, and it is not a lot of space in the island anyway. Roatan is well equipped to accommodate every diver’s need.

Most dive shops will offer a lower price after several dives.

If you want to see white sharks, Utila is the island to do it, especially in peak season between June and September.

Protect the reef

The Roatan Marine Park is a nonprofit organization protecting the reef system since 2005.
 
The development in the island of the last decade and the increase in tourism put the reef under stress and in danger.
 
The organization has boats patrolling the coast for illegal activities; hosts educational activities and helps visitors understand how delicate the reef system is.
 
They have a lot of resources on their web and several ways of supporting them.
 
Remember to protect the coral’s health by not touching it, collecting, or damaging it. And use reef-safe sunscreen.
 

Why is Roatan's diving so good?

Let’s get a little bit technical. Roatan is in fact the top of an underwater mountain range called the Bonacca Ridge. The ridge also includes the other Bay Islands and other smaller islands and keys nearby.
 
If that wasn’t enough, Roatan is on the edge of the Cayman Trench that gives clear water even when you dive deep and wall dives for days.
 
Because of that, the island is surrounded on all sides by a living coral reef. The island reefs have basically every species of coral growing in the Caribbean Sea.
 
The diving and snorkeling are great from anywhere on the island. On most points of the island, you can start admiring coral right on the shore.
Snorkeling in Roatan island

What to do in Roatan besides diving

  • Zipline over the Roatan jungle. There are four canopy tours around the island, all of them offering a ride over the rain forest. Is it worth the money? I don’t think so.
  • Learn some Spanish with a local family, and take advantage of your stay on the island. Combine your stay with a dive certification.
  • Explore the mangroves over on the east end.
  • In Sandy Bay you can find the Roatán Museum and Institute of Marine Sciences, honoring the island culture and history. The Institute also offers technical lectures about the ecosystem and the island wildlife.
  • Spend the day at a resort. Some of the fancy hotels offer day passes for affordable prices. You will be able to use the public areas like the swimming pool or have a chair with an umbrella on their piece of beach.

When is the best time to go to Roatan?

Being in the Caribbean, Roatan has good weather all year round with an average temperature of 30 degrees (85°F)

The rainy season goes from October to February, usually pouring in the evenings and occasionally storms. The hottest and humid season is from March to April.

Be conscious that the island also has a hurricane season between September and November.

Besides the weather. If you happen to be in Roatan around mid-April be ready to celebrate Garifuna Day. They honor the arrival of the Garífuna on Roatán in 1797, particularly in the town of Punta Gorda.
 
September is also a celebration month for Independence Day with parties and parades all around the country.
Water taxis in roatan island in honduras

Where to stay in Roatan on a budget?

Coxen Hole is the capital of the island. It places the airport and it is home to the majority of the local population and a transportation hub. There are some hotels, but not a lot to do.
 
West End has more hostels and affordable restaurants since backpackers hang out over there more.
 
The western tip of the island holds more diving centers and a chill vibe. In fact, you will be surrounded by reggae music and the smell of pod constantly.
 
Much of the new development is on the west side of the island, while Garífuna communities dominate the eastern half, especially in Punta Gorda.
 
West Bay has been voted as one of the top beaches in the Caribbean, it is a 40-minute walk from West End. Almost the entire beach is a block of hotels. But, if your dream is laying on a white sandy beach this is your place.
 
Anywhere you stay is going to be beautiful! If your focus is diving, many of the places and accommodations offer dive packages, as I said you won’t have any problem finding a diving operator.
 
If you are looking for a little bit of solitude, search for a hostel that is not in a town, in a less populated area.
 
If you are searching for more parties and socializing, the west side of the island provides the most options and it’s one of the most budget-friendly areas.
where to stay in Roatan island

Budget tips for Roatan

Let’s be clear, once you step off the plane in one of the Bay Islands, prices will double from Honduras mainland. But there are still ways to enjoy Roatan affordable.

Some diving centers will offer discounts for hostels and restaurants if you book a diving course with them, and the other way around too. If you are planning to dive or take a PADI certification, check the schools that can offer you some packages or discounts.

There are beautiful cafés and restaurants with ocean views in Roatan. The path on Moon Half Bay is just diving centers, cafes and restaurants. However, if you want to cut costs, book a hostel or an airbnb with a kitchen.

There is a big grocery store in French Harbor named Eldon’s, and small supermarkets around the island.

Eat a lot of tropical fruit. Look for stands and vendors on the road and buy some delicious and juicy fruit, it’s no way you are going wrong with that. Some vendors also offer quick foods and the Honduran baleadas (tortillas wrap up with frijoles and cheese).

Utila and Roatan are among the cheapest places in the world to become PADI certified in diving.

Most places in Roatan take dollars; in fact the ATMs I encountered also dispense dollars as well as lempiras.

One of the cheapest ways to move around the island is by taking minibusses or colectivo taxis. The payment in this public transport is usually only in Lempiras.

Scuba dive in Roatan island in Honduras

Beware of Roatan's sandflies

Sand Flies are your enemy and you cannot ignore them.
 
When the sun starts going down the sandflies live on the sand beaches. They are hungry for you, especially your delicious ankles.
 
They are hard to avoid, but it’s better if you are aware beforehand. You can buy sprays and anti-ich lotion in most of the stores on the island. Your best solution will be running away from the sand as soon as you start feeling them.
Scuba diving in roatan island in honduras

How to get to Roatan island?

By air

From the capital Tegucigalpa, there are a couple of flights to Roatan daily, as well as from La Ceiba and San Pedro Sula.

To flight from the Honduran mainland, I will recommend Aerolineas Sosa. The airline has a small 15-passenger plane. Just so you know, the couple of times I took the flight with them, I was weighted before boarding to control the weight of the plane.

Check beforehand what the restrictions for luggage on the plane are. Most airlines only allow a small bag per passenger because of the space and the weight of the small plane.

There are also flights between Utila and Roatan, but they don’t go every day so plan ahead.

If you are coming from the States, there are a few direct flights to Roatan between Atlanta, Houston and Miami.

The view of the Caribbean water from the plane is awesome; you see the reef shadow and the green island. You will know at that moment that going to Roatan was a good decision.

It is a departure tax to pay at the airport that needs to be paid in cash, either in US dollars or in lempiras. The international tax is around $30 and for the domestic flights is $2. Make sure the tax is included in your ticket; otherwise you will have to pay and present the receipt.

how to get to Roatan island by plane

By ferry

From La Ceiba there are ferries to Utila and Roatan daily, (Guanaja once a week). There are fancy boats but you can also get affordable tickets. The port is located a few miles east of La Ceiba.
 
The trip to Roatan from La Ceiba takes about 1.5 / 2 hours.
 
Seasickness is more than normal, but if you manage not to feel sick, the ferry has a sun deck. Bring with you some plastic bags because the open water gets messy at times, especially in the evenings.
 
Check the ferry website for more information and specific schedules. 

How to get around Roatan?

From the airport

From my experience, the hostels where I stayed offer me a ride to their location from the airport for a good value. Since there are only a couple of flights a day, it’s easy to arrange and not bad pricing since you will probably share the car with other people.

If the accommodation offers you private transport for $10 maybe it’s worth that first ride.

Private taxis are also waiting for you inside the airport. Try to walk outside the airport where the highway is, taxis can lower the price there.

From the highway, you can also take a colectivo taxi for around $2 (50 lempiras). Colectivos are shared with other people and only drive on the highway; they will not take you to the hostel door, but close enough.

Minibusses run from Coxen Hole every 30 minutes from the main street to the main points of the island by the paved road.

From the ferry terminal

Private taxis are expensive from here. Again, ask your hostel to see if they have some kind of transport deal.

Similar to the airport, walk to the highway and ask from there. Colectivos are also a choice here, but you will have to take two: the first to Coxen Hole and from there another to West End if that is your destination.

Moving around Roatan

The main highway that stretches from end to end of the island is in good shape. But once you get off this the roads become muddy and with less maintenance.

One of the choices is to rent a car, a motorcycle, or a scooter to drive around the island.

Several car rental agencies are at the airport, you can have a discount if you rent them for long periods of time like an entire week.

There are also water taxis from West End to West Bay that also stop in between for around $3 (50L) the ride.

Travel to the caribbean beaches Roatan island in Honduras

Roatan paradise island “secret” is out now. Luxury real estate and huge hotel resorts are changing the shape of the island, as well as cruise ships and even backpackers like me.
 
But you can still find many secluded areas and walk for miles on the beach by yourself. The diving is breathtaking and the environment that the island offer is very unique.
 
Roatan is still a stunning Caribbean destination.
 
I encourage everyone that puts a foot in Roatan to tried to be a responsible tourist. Making sure we take care of the island including their ocean is essential for everyone and everything.
 
Hope this essential guide to visiting Roatan in Honduras helps you to plan your trip to the island. You won’t regret it.
 
Did I miss some information about Roatan? Have you been there already? I would love to know. Let me know in the comments

 

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Guide to visit Roatan island in Honduras | travel blog

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