Roatan is one of those places I hadn’t heard of until I decided to visit. Does that make sense? It was December and I had just finished a semester at university. I was due to start a work/study program in Mexico in February, and was looking for a way to spend January that didn’t involve staying in my parents’ house in my childhood bedroom. Voila! Why not learn to scuba dive in Roatan, Honduras? It was affordable and by visiting in January I would just miss the end of the rainy season. Ticket booked!
My journey to Roatan was laborious. I flew from Canada to San Francisco to Guadalajara, Mexico, where I dropped off most of my possessions. Then I boarded an overnight bus to Mexico City and headed to the airport, where I flew to La Ceiba via San Salvador and San Pedro Sula. I spent a night in La Ceiba and headed out by ferry the next day, lucky to make it onto the first boat to depart after several days of rough, unnavigable water. Next time I would fly directly to Roatan!
I decided to stay at Posada Arco Iris, which was a little bit older than some of the other hotels on the island, but with a great central location and clean rooms. Every morning I would wake up early and walk a block or two to Coconut Tree Divers, stopping for a fresh fruit smoothie on the way (from a woman who didn’t smile at me ONCE the whole time I was there!). At Coconut Tree Divers the most patient dive instructors in the world would tolerate my inability to manage both my dive mask and my ponytail, as well as my total, complete, constant fear of dying due to lack of oxygen, and four days later I was PADI-certified. And I haven’t been for a dive since!
Besides hanging out in West End and learning to scuba dive, there were a few other things do to on the island that required little to no mental exertion. The main town on the island is Coxen Hole, and I enjoyed popping my head into the shops and supermarkets that serve the local community. From West End one could take a water taxi to West Bay, the “posher”, resort-oriented beach further down the island. While there was great snorkeling in West End, the water is bluer and the sand whiter in West Bay. For about $10 US you could buy access to any of the resorts’ facilities for the day, guaranteeing a sun lounger, umbrella, clean bathrooms and a swimming pool. I also visited the Carambola Gardens, a natural reserve with a rainforest path leading to the top of a mountain from which you can see most of the island (and the dolphin show at Anthony’s Key Resort, if you bring binoculars!).
Of course, there was also lots of great eating in Roatan. It’s an active community, with lots of people working up an appetite after diving. I ate one of the best meals of my life on Roatan, at Ooloonthoo Indian Restaurant. Their vegetable thali, a huge plate of different curried vegetables and sauces, made me re-think the way I planned my own vegetarian cooking (and was the first time I enjoyed eating yogurt!). I also indulged in some other great dining, including my morning smoothies (if you don’t mind your papaya with a side of frown), banana pancakes at Rudy’s (look at me being so studious!) and a few too many cocktails involving pineapple and coconut at Sundowners.
Airfare aside, a visit to Roatan can be affordable, adventurous and relaxing. I’m sure the island has changed since I visited a few years ago, but I also like to think that five years isn’t enough time to chip away at its quaint charm, clean beaches or lovely locals.