Looking for a tropical getaway, but want to steer clear of the tourist masses that flock to more popular islands? Consider a trip to Roatan, the largest of Honduras’ Bay Islands. The quiet, Eden-like quality of the island beckons you the minute your toes touch the sand. Whether it’s underwater exploration or zooming high over the luxuriant canopy, Mother Nature’s best-kept secret has much to share.
Roatan is situated near the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef in the Western Hemisphere and second largest in the world. Hugging most of Roatan’s shoreline, the reef creates placid beaches perfect for snorkeling or diving.
Prime diving spots are quite extensive, boasting everything from 1,000-foot walls and wrecks, to caves and crevices. The waters teem with coral gardens, dolphins, whale sharks, hawksbill turtles, spotted scorpion fish, lobster, and other creatures of the deep. This undersea wonderland is crazy accessible. In some areas you can begin your dive by walking straight into the ocean from the shore. How’s that for convenience?
Want to get up close and personal with marine life? Check out Anthony’s Key Resort and the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences for a more intimate dolphin experience. Unique recreational and educational dolphin programs like the Snorkel & Swim allow participants to swim uninhibited while dolphins interact with you as they choose.
Deep-sea exploration isn’t just for divers in Roatan. A submarine tour with Captain Karl Stanley, of Stanley Submarines, is a unique and mesmerizing opportunity. Their three-man sub, Idabel, carries you 3,000 feet below into parts of the Cayman Trench, the base of Roatan’s fringing reef system, for a rare glimpse of fossilized coral and unique creatures of the deep (many of which probably existed before dinosaurs).
Excursions above ground include a bird’s eye view of Roatan as you zip line through the jungle. There are varied zip line canopy tours to choose from. Some reach heights of 328 feet, and distances of over 1,800 feet. Gliding through the lush, unspoiled jungle is such a rush, stifling a giddy scream may be difficult. Roatan Guided Tours (which has been around for 20 years), and Theris Dixon’s Isla Roatan Tours (great TripAdvisor reviews) are good choices.
There’s nothing quite like traversing the idyllic terrain of a tropical island on horseback – day or night. El Rancho Barrio Dorcas provides a day ride that begins at the ironshore, a coral reef that emerged from the ocean centuries ago. Weave through banana, coconut, and mango trees; then continue along a secluded shoreline. You may also spy albatross, pelicans, iguanas and woodpeckers along the way. The night tour offers an almost magical perspective, as frogs and crickets serenade you, and the moon glow provides your only light. In addition, the absence of excessive streetlights creates a vivid night sky.
Where To Stay
Accommodations on Roatan are as varied as the above-mentioned excursions. In addition to their dolphin programs, Anthony’s Key Resort is known as a premier diving destination resort. The Caribbean-style bungalows are perched at the water’s edge or tucked within lush foliage. Tranquility is easily attained here. You can’t escape the laid-back atmosphere (nor would you want to!), as the rooms are sans TV, Internet or a phone.
Nestled on the protected south shore of Roatan is CoCo View Resort. The cabanas and bungalows, built over the water, exude respite and romance. Rooms by the ocean’s edge are equally paradisiacal. For on-site dining, guests can sample local cuisine at one of the buffet-style restaurants.
Following the same island theme of privacy and maximum relaxation, cabins and rooms at the Henry Morgan Resort are semi-detached and separate from the lobby and entertainment area. Rooms include AC, cable TVs, hairdryers, and other modern conveniences. Henry Morgan also boasts two buffet-style restaurants, a PADI 5-star dive center, and a spa.
For now, Roatan may be under the radar of many vacationers. However, the entrancing beauty of the island and genuine hospitality of the people who call it home may not be a secret much longer.
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