A recent Caribbean cruise brought my daughter, Peyton, and I to the port of Mahogany Bay. It is 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.
Honduras, the Deciding Factor for our Cruise
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, and shopping, they own it all.
Peyton and I 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. There is even a chairlift ride that will take you to the pristine white sand private beaches for a mere $5 per person.
We browsed in the shops and then hired a private taxi for a three-hour tour of the island. The price was reasonable. Our driver/guide was friendly, plus he looked like the Latin version of country music star, Jason Aldean.
The 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 Offerings are Abundant
Isla Roatán is the perfect place for the outdoor enthusiast. 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.
This quaint little town is bursting with tourists and locals alike, all relaxing and enjoying the peaceful surroundings. The West End also has good shopping and restaurants, many offering free Wi-Fi. Try Salva Vida, the local beer.
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 Isla Roatán as it is part of the world’s second largest barrier reef system. The local waters attract 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. We also saw areas that are mostly off-limits for tourists because of the danger level.
Although Honduras is one of the most dangerous countries in the world, the cruise port is on an island. I did not feel threatened 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 before going ashore.
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 adventures, there are nature-related opportunities such as a visit to the Monkey and Sloth Reserve, Butterfly Farm, Iguana Reserve, and Mangrove tours. Look for the Jesus Lizard; it can literally walk on water.
Carnival: A Good Investment in Honduras
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 the 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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