It’s 1:30am when I begin to hear the alarm on my phone go off. I stumbled out of my bunk with my eyes half open, grabbed my packs and walked toward the hostel bar where the shuttle would pick us up. As I am awaiting the 2:00am shuttle to La Ceiba, a few people were still enjoying last call at the bar with their newly found friends. The shuttle picked Justin and I up along with a few other travelers from nearby hostels. It took 15 hours of traveling from Leon, Nicaragua to La Ceiba, Honduras. Luckily, we arrived to La Ceiba in just enough time to catch the last ferry to Roatan (literally 10 minutes to spare). After nearly 19 hours of traveling, we finally made it to Roatan.
We were able to find accommodations a few minutes away from West End at Roatan Backpackers Hostel. It’s the closest thing to a home and the furthest thing from a hostel. There is no front desk and no receptionist waiting to check you in. Instead you walk up the driveway to to a beautiful home and are welcomed by the owner Mel and her two sons who love the extra company.
Christmas break is quite possibly the most difficult time of the year to find accommodations. Most of Central America was founded on Catholicism which makes Christmas break the busiest time of the year. If you are traveling during this time I urge you to book ahead of time where you would like to stay. Since our plans changed so frequently we only booked a few days in advanced. Instead of getting a hostel in the West End of Roatan where all of the dive shops, restaurants, and markets are, we stayed in Sandy Bay, which is a 3 minute taxi ride to West End costing 30 Lempiras each ( $1.36 USD) which was the only down side of our stay.
Roatan has one major road that runs through the large island (35 miles long and only 4 miles wide). The East End is a conglomerate of privately owned land and very expensive hotels. Justin and I rented a motorcycle and it took us a little over and hour and a half from West End to the eastern shores. The East side has a lot to offer but only if your on a motorcycle or in a vehicle because the road is a dirt path filled with ditches and very large rocks. To the far west is West Bay. A private sector of the island dedicated to high end hotels guarded by gates charging an entrance fee. Justin and I pulled off the “lost tourist” act and were able to sneak past the guards. The beach along the resorts is beautiful. Filled with white sand, crystal clear water and surrounded by a magnificent coral reef. The reefs are perfect for snorkeling and free diving. It starts very shallow then gradually goes deeper until you hit the drop off or wall surrounding the island of coral reef. Both the eastern and western ends of the island are beautiful but perhaps the most captivating scenery is right in the middle of the island. Roatan is a very mountains island with hills and cliffs cutting there way through the scenery to give you an outstanding 360 degree view of the island and the beautiful beaches surrounding it.
Justin and I came to Roatan for one reason in particular, we wanted to dive! In my profession I hear divers talk about the amazing wall dives off the coast of Roatan all the time so I had to check them out for myself. The entire island is surrounded by coral reef. The colorful and lively reef extends for 200 meters outside of the island and then drops off into a deep blue abyss. The coral is protected by the Roatan Marine Park to ensure the longevity of the underwater ecosystem. The hardest part about diving in Roatan is choosing which company to dive with. Every other building is a dive shop, all offering great deals and all professionally rated which makes choosing a fitting dive shop very difficult. One thing I did not know before booking our accommodations is that a couple of the dive shops in the area own there own dorms. They rent out rooms for as little as 110 Lempiras ($5.00 USD) if you dive with them. We found this out while we booked our first couple of dives through Coconut Tree Divers. Gaynor is one of the very friendly owners that we first talked to when booking our dives. She gave us a very good deal since Justin and I both work in the industry. The boats were nice and spacious and the dive masters who showed us around the unfamiliar reef were friendly and understanding. Afterwards we met up with a former coworker Erica. She works at West End Divers which we also highly recommend. It’s a small friendly dive shop that really caters to the divers. Justin and I mentioned that we had never seen garden eels before (a tiny green eel that that burrows in the sand) and they changed the dive site to a site where a large pack of them nested by the mooring ball. I could have watched the garden eels the entire dive!
Even if you do not dive Roatan offers many different things to do. West End is filled with boutique and art shops, and home to a variety of restaurants any where form 220 Lempiras ($10.00 USD) to 44 Lempiras ($2.00 USD). “Baleada” is a unique dish only found in Honduras. They taste amazing and are any where from 22 – 44 Lempiras ($1.00- $2.00 USD). They are made with a large tortilla covered in black beans with whatever else you’d like on them: eggs, avocados, tomatoes, chicken, beef, pork, rice, and any sort of veggie grown locally. All the shops and restaurants wrap around Half Moon Bay. There is a large area marked off for snorkeling and on the opposite side of the bay there is a rocking sailboat. It is an old sailboat owned by our new friend Karl who decided to retire it in the bay permanently and make a few fun adjustments. The back sail is now a staircase and the main staff has a swinging rope on it. Luckily, we had a couple local kids swim out to the boat to show us how it’s supposed to be done. One person stands on top of the stairs while the others sway the boat back and forth until it almost capsizes. When the port side is almost underwater you jump off holding onto the rope to ensure maximum height. Otherwise you can still just jump off the top platform and swim your way back to shore.
Most of our time in Roatan was spent diving, snorkeling, or just exploring the very laid back lifestyle of the island. We made our way through Coxen Hole which is the biggest town on the island filled with shops and restaurants. We also took our motorcycle to the iguana farm on our way to the dock of French Key which is a beautiful island no more then 100 meters away form the main island.
The Ferry back to Le Ceiba left at 8:00 in the morning where we caught a bus to the city of San Pedro Sula. We then hopped on a cramped chicken bus to the bus station in Santa Rosa de Copan. Despite our best efforts we made it to our last bus ten minutes to late which was going to take us to Copan Ruinas. Instead we rode most of the way to Copan Entrada and stayed the night and caught an early bus to Copan Ruinas the next morning.