If you’re looking for a different place to go in Central America or the Caribbean, head to Roatan. It’s an island off the coast of mainland Honduras. Roatan is safe, has multiple non-stop flights from the United States, is a cruise ship stop, and filled with friendly people speaking English, Spanish and Creole. It is the safest place to visit in Honduras. It’s also very close to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, which is the second largest barrier reef in the world behind the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. It’s a diving mecca and great for snorkelers. You can swim out to the reef from the beach.
When one of my oldest childhood friends I’ve known since we were four asked if I wanted to join them in Roatan to ring in 2022, I immediately said yes. Then United started non-stop service to Roatan in mid-December on Saturdays, so I went in a couple of days early for some solo time on the island.
Where to Stay: I stayed in three different place so I could experience Roatan’s variety of accommodations. For two nights I stayed in a rustic villa at Bananarama Dive and Beach Resort. My favorite of the three spots was Puerta Azul. It’s a boutique bed and breakfast and the owner is from Boulder, Colorado. If you’re craving solitude on the beach, book one of their five bungalows. For the rest of trip I join Wendy and her husband Coach and son Phen in a condo at Infinity Bay, a traditional big resort. From all three places, I had easy swim access to amazing snorkeling in the reef.
Arrival Day (Saturday): I landed about 3pm. After breezing through immigration and customs, I headed to the taxi line and connected with Oscar. I ended up hiring him throughout my trip to take me to my different accommodations and airport. He’s super friendly, responsive and arrives early when you schedule a ride. I enjoyed getting to know him throughout my trip. If you’re going to Roatan, I’m happy to share his contact information. You can also rent a car fairly cheaply. On the way to Bananarama, Oscar suggested stopping at the grocery store. I was really glad he did because it was Christmas Day and I loved having a few snacks and drinks on hand. After quickly checking into Villa #25 at Bananarama Dive Shop and Resort in West Bay, one of the most popular tourist spots on the island, I went for a sunset walk on beach then crashed out in the hammock on the porch after my travel day. About 9pm, fireworks lit up the sky in celebration of Christmas Night.
Sunday: Eventful Boat Ride
The next morning, I relaxed with coffee in the hammock then went for a nice walk on the beach. While taking a picture of a small boat named “Island Girl,” the boat captain came up and asked if I wanted to go out on a 3-hour snorkeling trip, which turned into an all-day trip. Captain Brooks and I agreed upon $100 for the adventure after I had breakfast at Bananarama’s Thirty Turtle, which is included in the stay.
First stop on my snorkeling trip was West End. Not quite as big or lively as West Bay, West End is a cute village filled with waterfront restaurants, bars, hotels, and shops. I got my first Honduran beer here. SalvaVida is a local beer, along with Barena, which is known as the “ladies beer” because it’s a little lighter.
From there we cruised through some mangroves and Anthony’s Key Resort where you can swim with dolphins. Our first snorkeling spot was at Spooky Channel. Captain Brooks told me, “If you follow it all the way out it goes dark.” Since I was snorkeling solo I opted to stay in the reef in shallower water than going into the channel.
Next snorkeling stop was really cool because it was a shipwreck with some ancient ruins. My initial thought was that’s what the crew gets for stealing statues, figures, and other pieces. Captain Brooks asked if I wanted to continue on to Palmetto Bay Beach. It’s a locals beach and of course I said yes. It was fun to see how locals spend a beach day and to spot an old treehouse. We continued on to Palmetto Bay Plantation Resort, where I enjoyed a refreshing cocktail at the open-air bar. That was supposed to be our turnaround spot, but when we went to leave the boat wouldn’t start. After about an hour of trying to get the boat to run and with the sun quickly setting, the general manager and head chef at Palmetto Bay offered to drive me back to Bananarama. I was grateful for their kindness after a slightly stressful end to an otherwise great day.
Monday: One Night at Puerta Azul
The next morning I was up early and watched sunrise with a new bird friend. I thoroughly enjoyed another round of hammock coffee followed by a nice walk on the beach. I had a leisurely breakfast of scrambled eggs, beans, plantations, fruit, and Honduran cream (kind of like a sour cream) while watching a tropical downpour quickly move through. Late morning I packed up and Oscar drove me over to Sandy Bay for one night at Puerta Azul.
I had pre-arranged an early check-in at Puerta Azul. The lovely boutique bed and breakfast would end up being my favorite place to stay of my trip. As I walked into Bungalow #5, I instantly wished I had more than one night. The decor is dark wood, white linens, and a few pieces of art with blue and green hues. I loved the bright flowers next to the water pitcher too.
After checking in, Puerta Azul owner Talia suggested I walk to Lawson Rock Deli for lunch. There were a few other beachy restaurants in Sandy Bay, but all of those closed during the pandemic. Following the shoreline, I quickly realized this was an adventure walk as you have to scamper over several sections of rocks and wade through some tidal pools. I saw a set of stone stairs right before a more difficult rocky section and thought the stair were the right way. I was wrong. I ended up in someone’s backyard. Luckily a very kind woman came outside and asked me if I was lost. We chatted for a bit and I learned her husband had developed the area and she lives in Colorado Springs. She pointed me in the right direction to Lawson Rock Deli. I had a delightful lunch of a Greek salad and Barena beer while chatting with the staff at the deli. On my adventurous walk back, while I was watching a crab in a tidal pool, I accidentally watched as it devoured another crab for its lunch in a true National Geographic moment. I posted that on my TikTok.
When I got back, the allure of hammocks at the end of the dock enticed me. I thoroughly enjoyed the solo time swaying in the breeze as I dipped in and out of a salty air slumber.
I only retreated to my bungalow to take a quick shower before sunset. The sky turned shades of tangerine and fuchsia as I watched the sun go down from the dock. I had about an hour before dinner so I had my own happy hour sipping a glass of wine in one of the comfy beach chairs. For dinner Chef Rose fixed me coconut shrimp with rice and grilled vegetables. It was out of this world delicious.
Tuesday: My Friends Arrive
This was my transition day from solo adventure to fun with friends. I was up early and took a long walk on the beach and into the village of Sandy Bay. Early morning walks in a destination are explorations and I love them. Roatan is very safe and I felt completely comfortable taking a solo walk. I got back to Puerta Azul in time for breakfast, which is include with your stay. Chef Rose made quesadillas filled with eggs, beans and avocado. While eating breakfast I enjoyed chatting with other guests from the United States and Canada. Afterwards, I went for a quick snorkel off the end of the dock and a swing in a hammock. I had a little time between check-out and when my friends were flying in so I headed to one of the beach chairs in the shade for a fabulous outdoor office.
Around noon, Oscar drove me back to the airport to meet my friends. the afternoon was filled with getting rental car, stopping at grocery store, checking into Infinity Bay, and a late lunch at Thirsty Turtle at Bananarama. Their fish tacos are simple and fabulous. The rest of the afternoon was spent catching up over beers and cocktails and watching a fabulous sunset from the beach. For dinner, we walked down the beach and decided on Gula Gastropud and Winery. It’s a fun concept of Italian comfort food meets island cuisine. I started with shrimp ceviche and had the gnocchi as my entree. Both were delicious but my favorite was the ceviche. It’s wonderful and the only time I had ceviche on the island.
Wednesday: No Plans Beach Day
When going to a destination for 5 days or more, I always have what I call a “no plans day.” It will keep you from over scheduling during your vacation. I’m a Type A personality (no surprise!) and always go, go, go. A “no plans day” is giving myself permission to sleep in, go at a slower pace, and see where the day takes me. It’s a built in R&R day during a vacation. While Coach and Phen were diving, Wendy and I went for a walk on the beach in search of a great beachy spot for breakfast. We went to Trattoria da Piero at Las Rocas Resort partly because of the colorful swings at the bar. This places oozes island vibe. The breakfast was empanadas. You could get ham and cheese or just cheese. You also get fruit, pastries, juice, and coffee with the breakfast.
We hit the beach for the rest of the day with Wendy’s friend Michele and some of her friends. It was a fun in the sun afternoon in West Bay. Shortly after sunset, we retreated to the condo and ordered pizza. Wiped out from the sun and day drinking, it was early evening.
Thursday: Snorkeling and Sunset Cruise
While the divers were out, Wendy and I did our walk to breakfast at Las Rocas again. This morning’s breakfast was veggie burritos. They were our favorite.
For the afternoon we headed out with Amazing Roatan Tours for a snorkel and sunset cruise. Our crew of Nick, Kelsey, and Fernando were fantastic. Our first stop was Spooky Channel. It’s 12-40 feet with walls that are 110-130’ long and extend to Carmen Trench. I was braver this snorkel because of others around me. As we swam around the coral my favorite sighting was of a cuddle fish pod. They kind of look like squid and I had never seen them before. Following Nick closely I swam part of the Spooky Channel and it was….well, spooky. We stopped at Palmetto Bay Plantation Resort for a wonderful surf and turf mid-afternoon lunch. I don’t eat meat and they easily accommodated me. I was really glad I also got to thank the general manager again for helping me earlier in the week. We went to a spot known to have large starfish. The winds were starting to pick up making the water a little choppy so just Nick and Kelsey jumped in to find some starfish. They succeed finding a couple of big ones, which they showed us while keeping them in the water. Because of the choppy water, at our next snorkel stop only a few of us got in the water. There was an old shipwreck not far from where we anchored. Holding on to Nick, the two of us swam out to it and through it! It was a crazy snorkeling adventure and so cool since its scary and awesome at the same time. The rest of the ride was filled with music, singing, and constantly flowing rum punches as we watched a beautiful sunset. If you’re wanting to do a snorkeling or boat ride excursion I highly recommend Amazing Roatan Tours.
For dinner that night we headed over to Beacher’s Bar and Grill and sat out on the breezy deck. They’re known for having the best coconut shrimp in West Bay. They’re served with plantains along with rice and beans. The shrimp were delicious!
Friday: Sloths and Snorkeling
Loving our morning routine, Wendy and I walked the beach for breakfast at Trattoria da Piero at Las Rocas again. This morning we had quesadillas. Every morning is different depending on what the chef has available that morning.
At 10am, we headed out to Daniel Johnson Monkey and Sloth Hangout. We were supposed to go Wednesday, but Stephanie from the Hangout reached out to me and asked if we wanted to move to another day because they had three cruise ships in that day. I greatly appreciated the heads up and we were happy to switch to a day that would be less crowded. We were picked up at Infinity Bay and enjoyed a little tour of the island passing through Flowers Bay and Coxen Hole on the way to the wildlife sanctuary in French Key.
We had a wonderful guide at the Hangout. A highlight was holding “Granny,” a 10-year-old three-toed sloth. She was just the sweetest! While we were holding her, we learned monkeys and sloths are not native to the island. If it wasn’t for this sanctuary and a couple of other places, they wouldn’t survive. Next we got in the cage with Dena, a very active white faced monkey named Dena. She’s about seven years old. She is quick and mischievous. One of the neatest things with her was watching her with a lime. Apparently monkeys like to wipe citrus all over as a body cleansing product, antiseptic, and bug spray. We continued on through the sanctuary looking at birds and other monkeys.
As we got fins for snorkeling (both us have our own mask and snorkel) and waiting for the boat, we noticed a sloth in the tree near us. I went over and just watch the cuteness. We had been chatting with Luke, one of the employees/family members, when he pointed out the sloth on branch right above Wendy that none of us had noticed. Daniel arrived with the first snorkeling crew and we quickly boarded the boat. We were the only two for the afternoon snorkel so we felt extra special. Daniel took us over close to Little French Key and our snorkel guide Jayvian jumped in with us for a fun snorkel where we even saw a puffer fish. He also talus his us a fun snap trick that causes a coral flower to close when you snap near it. I thought it was the funniest thing! Before getting back in the boat, Jayvian found a sea urchin and let both of us hold it in the water before putting it back where he found it. After the snorkel and with Daniel with us, we went back over to the sloth in the tree and it just wanted to climb onto me for a hug. Highly recommend booking a tour at Daniel Johnson Money and Sloth Hangout during a trip to Roatan.
Instead of heading back to West Bay, we decided to get dropped off at West End for a snack. Our place of choice was Sundowners Bar, one of the more popular spots in West End. From there we took a water taxi back to Infinity Bay.
I was flying out the next morning and needed to do a covid test to return to United States. Wendy headed over to Bananarama to meet up with the ret of the crew. Both of home tests I had were expired and I had scramble at 4pm on New Years Eve. Luckily there’s an international medical clinic I walked to and got my test done quickly. BinaxNow replaced my 6-pack I bought in September when I returned home. With text done, I headed over to meet everyone at Thirsty Turtle for fish tacos and beverages. There was sorts of fun festivities for New Year’s Eve happening in West Bay, but we ended up falling asleep before midnight.
Saturday: Heading Home
Since I was asleep by 10pm, I was up for the first sunrise of 2022. I took a lovely long walk on the beach with very few people around. I got back to the condo about 8am and everyone else was awake. Keeping with our morning walk and breakfast routine, Wendy and I headed to Las Rocas with Coach joining us this time. Breakfast was rancheros and they were fabulous. Afterwards, Oscar picked me up about 11am for my early afternoon flight back to Denver. I left wishing I had another week in paradise. Roatan is a destination I’m definitely going back to!
For more on Jennifer’s adventures in Roatan, check out the blog on breakfast, fish tacos and coconut shrimp for the quick list on food spots.
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