A recent Caribbean cruise brought my daughter, Peyton, and I to the port of Mahogany Bay, on Isla Roatán, located 30 miles north of Honduras. This was a new destination for us so we wanted to explore this island on our own rather than book an excursion through the cruise line.
We Decided to Add Isla Roatán to our Cruise Itinerary
Honduras is one of the most recently developed cruise destinations in the Caribbean sailing range. In 2009, Carnival Cruise Lines invested a whopping $62 million on a 20-acre tourism platform. That means that the entire complex built around the Mahogany Bay dock is owned and operated by Carnival, from the cabs and buses, zip lining, shopping, and the chairlift ride that will take you to the pristine white sand private beaches for a mere $5 per person.
We walked down a very long scenic stretch of road from the cruise ship to the cruise port of Isla Roatán, which instantly became familiar as it was much like other Caribbean cruise ports. After browsing through the shops a bit, Peyton and I hired a private taxi for a 3-hour tour of the island. The price was reasonable and our tour guide was friendly, efficient, plus looked like the Latin version of country music star, Jason Aldean.
Our tour made a loop that took us through the lesser known areas, as well as those surrounded in tropical foliage and the most gorgeous unspoiled beaches. Our guide took us to some local craft markets for browsing. We also stopped at Gumbalimba Park, which is famous for getting you up close and personal to local wildlife, including a bunch of capuchin monkeys. A couple of noteworthy things are that the island does not use traffic lights, there are brothels in disguise throughout the island, and guidebooks suggest that locals beg for money and pickpocket. As with anywhere you are unfamiliar with, exercise caution.
Outdoor Recreation Options are Abundant
Roatán is the perfect place for the outdoor enthusiast as it has nearly any water or outdoor adventure you could dream of. Fishing is the top industry and its warm waters are overflowing with marlin, wahoo, and tuna. The most popular destination is the West End, a quaint little town littered with tourists and locals alike, all relaxing and enjoying the vibe from the peaceful surroundings. This is my most ideal beach setting in all of the Caribbean. The West End also has good shopping and restaurants, many offering free WIFI. Try the local beer, Salva Vida.
While the beaches were not packed, they did have a good deal of families. There were also dog owners with their pets frolicking off-leash on the beach. Snorkeling and diving are two great things to experience in Roatán as it is part of the world’s second largest barrier reef system. Their waters offer colorful fish and coral.
Sandy Bay was another one of our favorite stops, with its sparkling water and sheer beauty. Although the beaches are enjoyable and attractive, they are still in need of some attention from the overloads of seaweed and trash. Still, the natural beauty of this island was shocking to me as I never expected it.
But Isn’t It Dangerous?
Latino Jason Aldean (aka the tour guide) also took us to more remote parts of the island and to areas that are mostly off limits for tourists because of the danger level, but he just wanted us to see them. Although Honduras is one of the most dangerous countries in the world, the cruise port is on an island and I did not feel in danger during any of my time there. One area in particular to be cautious in is Coxen Hole. Make sure to leave any valuables in your safe on the cruise ship.
Honduras is known for hand-painted ceramics and beautiful hardwoods. Many of the nicer houses we passed had mahogany doors and porch floors. A large percentage of Caribbean corals are found in Honduras. If you are looking for unique finds, there are many interesting nature-related opportunities such as a visit to the Monkey Reserve, Butterfly Farm, Iguana Reserve, and Mangrove tours. Look for the Jesus Lizard; it can literally walk on water.
Chalk It Up To Carnival For Making A Good Investment
My overall impression of Isla Roatán, Honduras is one that Carnival needs a big high five on their decision to build here and invest in this country. All of the people we encountered were very receptive to tourists and were not aggressive or pushy, as they are in most Caribbean islands. Some of the resorts around both West End and Sandy Bay were upscale and I would be interested in visiting Roatán again on a land trip. With such a horrific hurricane that left the country devastated in 1998, it is wonderful to now see the great natural resources of this country are restored and recognized.
My Isla Roatán Photo Gallery:
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