The Island of Roatan
Roatan is the largest of the Bay Islands of Honduras, a tropical paradise located off the Central American coast in the Western Caribbean. In addition to it’s obvious physical charm, the island has a long, colorful history culminating with it’s current position as a reasonably priced, laid-back Caribbean tourist destination.
The first human inhabitants of Roatan were Paya Indians, who left behind an abundance of pottery shards and other archaeological evidence of their simple existence. During the 17th century, pirates shared the island with the Indians. Port Royal Harbour, on the East end of the island, provided a safe shelter for their ships, and a convenient place to lure unsuspecting larger vessels which became easy prey for the shallow reefs, rocky shoreline and looting pirates.
Descendants of the pirates and the Indians have been joined over the centuries by Caribbean people, known as the Garifuna, by Spanish-speaking natives of mainland Honduras, and by a growing community of residents representing many different countries. The result is quite an interesting mixture of people, language and culture. Diversity is the norm, but the common thread shared by all the island inhabitants is their pride in the natural beauty of Roatan and their friendly willingness to share that beauty with visitors from around the world.
After centuries of changing cultures and industry – from subsistence fishing and piracy to commercial fishing and tourism – Roatan seems to have found it’s place, both within the borders of Honduras and in the world as a Caribbean tourism destination. Roatan has the world’s second largest barrier reef, making our scuba diving and snorkeling some of the best in the Caribbean. New tourist attractions, like canopy tours, parasailing and catamaran cruises, are coming aboard all the time. The views are stunning. The beaches are brilliant. The resorts are small-scale and friendly. Come and discover for yourself the island paradise of Roatan.
Essentially a long, forested ridge rising from the Caribbean, Roatan retains much of the original landscape that the Buccaneers knew in the 17th and 18th Century. There are several towns around the island, each offering their own unique character to visitors. Following is a list of some recommended destinations and their culinary offerings:
Coxen Hole and West
Supermarket: Eldens in Coxen Hole behind the gas station where Bojangles is located.
Coxen Hole – Largest city on Roatan and the capital of the Bay Islands. Coxen Hole is the gateway to Roatan, as the airport is located here. Lots of hustle and bustle here, not a tourist town but lots of shops. Public parking lot is right in the center.
Sandy Bay – Visit the famous Anthonys Key Resort. It is here that the institute of marine science is located. Dolphin encounter shows are scheduled regularly, two shows per day excluding Wednesdays, and three shows per day on weekends. For a fee you may swim with the dolphins. Reservations are required. Dining in Sandy Bay includes:
- The Beach Grill at Blue Bahia is open to the public for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and specializes in seafood and smoked meats..other restaurants to mention a few: Tranquil Seas, Salty Mango, Hostel, Bamboo and many more.West End/West Bay – West End and West Bay offer breathtaking beaches in a tropical setting. Great scuba diving, kayaking, horseback riding and glass-bottom boating are all available. No banks are located in West End. Take a boat taxi to West Bay and find one of the most beautiful stretches of beach anywhere. Snorkeling here is superb. There are many small restaurants from which to choose: keep in mind that restaurants open and close all the time here.
- Sundowners at the water’s edge is always fun and serves a great hamburger; it is a popular sunset meeting spot for islanders and tourists. Sip on a Monkey La-La around the beach bonfire – true island experience.
- Calelu Grocery. (next to Tiki Cup). Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. Inexpensive local fare.
- Roatan Oasis, dinner only, call for reservations. Very good, variety.
- Monkey Island Beach Cafe. The name says it all.
- Buena Vista. Home cooked meals, Cubano sandwiches, pot pie.
- Creole Rotisserie Chicken. Best on the island, bar none.
- Bananorama in West Bay has a lively bar scene and a typical beach bar menu at the Thirsty Turtle. The Vintage Pearl, also located at Bananorama, is a more upscale restaurant with a great wine cellar and cusine featuring local seafood and great steaks.Las Rocas, Bite on the Beach, Beachers and many other choices on West Bay Beach.
- Fosters – party every Friday with live music.
- Half Moon Bay – great coconut shrimp! Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nice view of West End from their waterside deck. International and continental cuisine.
- The Argentinian – located at the Posada Arco Iris hotel. Offers grilled specialties including charcoal-grilled tenderloin, beef and shrimp brochettes, and a variety of seafood dishes. Their homemade chimichurri sauce is delicious!
- Tong’s Thai Island Cuisine offers cuisine from Thailand that is described as “simply amazing”. Try the Pad Thai with shrimp…
- Oolanthoo, just outside West End, serves up Indian dishes and even offers Indian cooking classes!
On the East End of the Island
French Harbour – Located approximately 30 minutes from the airport. A bustling community, with many banks. A well-stocked market, a clinic, pharmacy. Just East of town is Arch’s Iguana Farm, where a local has set up his own iguana reserve. Stop by around noon to view mealtime for the inhabitants. Also at the same location is the entrance to Little French Key. There are also several restaurants located in French Harbour.
- Supermarket: In French Harbor, turn right at the junction and go about 100 yards, Eldon’s supermarket is on the right.
- Just passing the town intersection of French Harbour on the left hand side is Pineapple Villas. Herby”s Sports Bar is open for Lunch & Dinner. The Pineapple Grill is open for Breakfast and Dinner. American and Tipico breakfast, omlettes, etc. Dinner, steak, seafood, full bar. Outside or inside dining.
- As you head east passing French Harbour you will pass Parrot Tree on your right, a short distance more (on the right) is Cal’s Cantina, great place for lunch or dinner and watching the Sunset. open Tues thru Friday only.
Oak Ridge – Traveling east on the main road, scenic Oak Ridge is on the southern shore. It boasts a strong Afro-Antillean heritage. Most homes are right on the water, and locals operate water taxis, offering highly recommended tours through the mangroves. B.J.’s is a very rustic local bar that’s great for light lunch and a beer. Take the right fork at the entrance to Oak Ridge and follow it down and around. B.J.’s is in front of Bodden’s Supermarket on the water.
Punta Gorda: There are two roads down into Punta Gorda – The first Garifuna settlement, established in 1797. This event is celebrated annually on November 12th with a celebratory carnival that should be high on your list should you be visiting during that time. Socrifice Restaurant is on the waterfront in Punta Gorda. Very local food like deep fried lobster. A good lunch suggestion.
- Continue East past Oak Ridge to the sign to East End Beaches and follow the dirt road to The Crow’s Nest, at Marble Hills Farms. They have a lovely sunset view and are open for dinner and drinks Wednesday – Saturday.
- Paya Bay, clothing optional: Look for the sign to Paya Bay about 10 minutes after Marble Hills Farms- Paya Bay resort sits on a bluff in the center of two beautiful white sand beaches. Their restaurant is on a deck overlooking the beaches and the sea. Take your swim suits and take a dip on one of the scenic, uncrowded beaches. Paya Bay also has clothing optional areas. There is also another great place to eat called La Serena which is very close to Pay Bay Resort.
- Camp Bay – Check out the Camp Bay Beach Adventure Lodge restaurant and their variety of island tours and activities. Beautiful public beach.