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Return to Roatán

The West End. Pat Grubb photo

By Pat Grubb

In the last 18 months, I’ve had the good fortune to visit and scuba dive on three separate occasions in Roatán, located off the coast of Honduras. With crystal-clear waters, thriving coral reefs, and an abundance of marine life, Roatan is a magnet for divers and snorkelers.

Roatan possesses some of the most spectacular coral reefs in the world. It is located in the middle of the Mesoamerican Reef, second largest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef. The reefs are home to a diverse array of marine life, including colorful fish, whales, sea turtles, sharks, rays, and octopuses. Roatan’s reefs are also renowned for their vibrant colors and stunning formations. Divers can explore the reefs at various depths, ranging from shallow areas that are perfect for beginners to deeper areas are ideal for experienced divers.

The water temperature in Roatán remains warm throughout the year, ranging from 78 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit. While divers often wear thin shorties, I was totally comfortable in bathing shorts and a rash guard.

The cost of diving is remarkably affordable compared to the States or other Caribbean destinations. The vast majority of dive sites are just minutes away from the departure point so operators aren’t spending a fortune on fuel. Expect to pay around $40 per dive depending on how many dives you’re doing or gear that you’re renting.

Divers observe staghorn coral of the Roatan Barrier Reef. Gustavo Markiewicz

While some diveshops operate basic panga-like dive boats, others have boats that get you out diving at high speed. Roatan Divers, for example, has bought and reconditioned confiscated drug-running boats and man, those boats haul ass. We’ve gone diving with Roatan Divers on two separate vacations now and can’t recommend them enough. The staff is highly professional and friendly and know the reef like nobody’s business. They offer basic and advanced certification and are the go-to place for divers wanting to become dive master certified. Roatan Divers is located in the heart of West End. A great place to eat fresh fish is Ginger’s, located steps from the dive shop.

Nevertheless, depending on which part of the island you’re staying on (it’s about 30 miles long), there are numerous dive shops and schools that offer a range of courses and certifications.

There is a wide range of accommodation available on the island. We used Roatan Life Vacation Rentals (roatanlifevacationrentals.com) on our last trip and ended up perched on the rocks just feet away from some of the best snorkeling found anywhere.

If your budget has flexibility, Barefoot Cay Resort (barefootcay.com) on the east side of the island will blow you away. It operates its own dive operation that offers concierge-like service. Accommodations range from island-style rooms with kitchen and separate bedrooms to villas steps from the water. It is also home to Silversides Restaurant & Bar, which I have no problem saying it is the best restaurant on the island. Brittany Farrell runs the restaurant and is not known to compromise on quality. The resort offers a dining package which makes it real easy to decide not to cook in your villa.

Barefoot Cay villa. Louise Mugar photo

Breakfast at Silversides Restaurant & Bar. Louise Mugar photo

The island will also appeal to eco-conscious divers. The island is home to several marine conservation initiatives, including Roatan Marine Park. This park was established to protect the reefs and marine life and promote sustainable tourism practices. The reef is very healthy and critical to the island’s economy and the locals intend to keep it that way...

Roatán is quite possibly the easiest and most convenient dive destination in the world but even non-divers will enjoy the island vibe. Pack your bags and get ready to explore the underwater wonders of Roatán!

Getting to Roatán: Depending on the time of year, there are direct flights to Roatan from Denver, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Toronto and Minneapolis. From the west coast with one connection, expect to spend seven or so hours in the air.

Writer Pat Grubb relaxes on the pavilion. Louise Mugar photo

Travel requirements: While Americans or Canadians don’t need visas, they do need to fill out the Prechequeo application (prechequeo.inm.gob.hn) prior to checking in for their flight. This can be done no more than three days before the flight and is sometimes glitchy so don’t delay. There is an app available for both Apple and non-Apple devices.

Safety: There are areas in Honduras that the U.S. State Department warns travelers against visiting but Roatán is not one of them. Still, be aware of your surroundings and don’t flash money.

Currency: The U.S. dollar is pretty much accepted everywhere; the same cannot be said about credit cards. Ask beforehand to avoid problems.


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