Roatan is the largest of the Honduras Bay islands and one of the prettiest. It is approximately 77 kilometres (48 mi) long and less than 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) across at its widest point.
Located near the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef – the largest barrier reef in the Caribbean Sea (second largest worldwide after the Great Barrier reef in Australia), Roatan has become an increasingly popular cruise ship, scuba diving and eco-tourism destination and a playground for water sports and adventure lovers.
Throughout European colonial times, the Bay of Honduras attracted various settlers, pirates, traders and military forces. Roatan and the other islands were used as frequent resting points for sea travellers, for its tranquil beaches, soothing climate and bountiful vegetation.
Nowadays Roatan continues to develop its tourist sector and puts an extra effort to preserve the corral reef, which unfortunately has seen some strain in the face of the increasing population and ever expanding tourism.
While Roatan is not impossible to be seen in one day, the cruise ship passengers have a limited time to explore the entire island, so it is best to focus on one destination at a time- the West End Beach, The French Key, Mahogany Bay or one of the many other resort areas, where you can lie by the beach, sip a refreshing cocktail from a coconut shell and admire the impossibly blue waters of the Caribbean.
If you are here on vacation, then you have enough time to indulge in many adventures: if you choose diving or snorkeling- you will not be disappointed; the reef offers a spectacular array of some of the most exotic marine species in the world and the pleasant temperature of the water will allow you to explore for hours.
If you like to mix it up a bit- then zip-line adventures are awaiting you, as well as a full compliment of water sports and curiously unusual adventures involving wild life and deep-see fishing.
During my visit in the French Key- a relatively remote spot from the cruise ship terminal (you have to commit to a 30 min ride and another 10 min boat trip to this small island)- I was pleasantly surprised by the ambiance of the place- white sand beaches preserved in their natural beauty provided seclusion and much needed comfort under the shade of palm trees, while not too far you could enjoy a variety of entertainment- from small shacks serving seafood and cocktails, to souvenir and dive shops, offering kayaks, peddle boards, snorkeling and even horseback riding along the coast.
At the very entrance, by the pier, a miniature zoo welcomes the visitors- monkeys, used to be photographed, are readily posing, demonstrating skillful acrobatics; colorful parrots and toucans are chirping happily and surprisingly enough: a lion and a young jaguar are also here, nervously circling their cages.
As if this was not unusual enough, the jaguar was taken from his cage a few times during the day and after been generously fed, was brought to the ocean by his trainer, where brave tourists were allowed to play with him and even take pictures cuddling his spotted self.
You can see a lot of trained animals on the island- on most beaches, the biggest attraction are monkeys, which allow you to hold and play with them, some even go as far as to search your hair for flees or make faces- the biggest crowd pleaser.
If you are in the mood for some Golf and enjoy luxuriating by glamorous infinity pools- you are in luck- the Black Pearl resort is just the place. The Golf course is superb, the staff professional and friendly, the choice of pools and delicious dishes at the quaint restaurant will impress even the most demanding visitor. There are posh villas for rent at decent price on the property, overlooking the tranquil and picturesque setting of the golf course and the water front. You can visit just for the day or you can stay longer- the amenities that the Black Pearl Resort offers are excellent and you will have a fun time outdoors as much as in the luxury accommodations for sure.
Whether having fun in the water, or on land, Roatan is a great place to visit, however you should be also fully aware that touristy places are always the focal point of pickpockets and as usual you have to practice your street-smarts. While the resorts are lovely, you will also see some poverty on the streets, so having excessive jewelry or pricy items on you will never be a very good idea.
I strongly recommend, if you are first time visitors, to join a tour rather than try to explore by yourself, to make the best of the short time you have on the island.
Whatever you decide to do, I am sure you will have fun and when returning to the ship, a colorful folkloric group of local dancers in most peculiar masks and outfits will dance with you one last time before they bid you a fond farewell….:-)