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Roatan, Honduras....White Sand Beaches, Snorkeling and Scarlet Macaws...Amazing!!!!

Updated: Mar 6, 2022

Roatan was more than I expected...gorgeous white sand beaches, snorkeling, and amazing birds especially the Scarlet Macaw! The Macaw is the national bird of Honduras. I didn't realize that until we arrived but on our first morning here, we saw one in the trees! Of course my fascination with wildlife kicked in and I immediately knew I would love this trip!


The Scarlet Macaw at Gumbalimba Park

There are so many gorgeous white sand beaches, we didn't know which one to visit first. We chose West Bay Beach, since it is the most popular and well known beach on the island. We were also told it had the best snorkeling and was the best known beach on the island. While it is a busy beach, it is gorgeous. The beach is lined with palm trees, white sand and gorgeous turquoise water. It is a great place to snorkel and people watch. It ended up being our favorite beach on the island. If you have a car, you can park at Infinity Bay for free and walk to the beach or you can pay $1 per hour and park near the "mall". It is close to the beach and convenient.

Snorkeling was good at West Bay Beach. We have snorkeled on so many different vacations that we have high expectations. The reef in front of Infinity Bay is nice but is deteriorating and much of it is dead. Snorkeling in front of the Grand Roatan at the end of the beach is better heading out into the water near the rock wall and where snorkeling boats stop to drop off snorkelers. We saw several fish but were not lucky enough to see turtles or sting rays. On our last day we snorkeled straight out from the beach rental chairs where the cruise ships bring their tourists, and honestly, I felt like I was in an aquarium. It was gorgeous, clear, reef was in better shape, and we saw many fish. The water is warm and easy to get in and out of. There are beach chairs that can be rented for $5 each at this same location next to Infinity Bay. It is a busy beach with much to see and do so don't expect a quite secluded experience. There are many vendors on the beach selling their souvenirs but they are not aggressive but they can be bothersome. This beach is perfect for floating too. I had my blow up floaty with me as well as several other people, and it came in handy at West Bay!


“There are snorkeling opportunities and a beautiful beach around every corner in Roatan! We snorkeled at West Bay Beach, Half Moon Bay, Sandy Bay, and Turtle Alley. The list of snorkeling locations from the beach is endless. The water is calm, turquoise and warm! They say 82 degrees average all year round.

Photos below are from West Bay beach and snorkeling.


HIGHLIGHTS OF ROATAN

We decided to stay in the West End at CocoLobo Resort and Lodging. We wanted a quiet location with close access to the beach. It is an average place, nothing fancy, and probably not anywhere I would stay again. The Half Moon beach was about a 10 minute walk even though some of the units, including the one we strayed in have water views. I guess I just didn't love the vibe of the place or the location. Next time we will pay extra and stay in West Bay or a different location on the West End.


Half Moon Beach in West End is a great snorkeling spot and a lovely beach. They also have rental chairs for $3 for the day but make sure to park in the paid parking lot or you will get ticketed. Snorkel to left side of the beach near the brown building and head out along the rock wall. The reef is decent and there are numerous fish. Water is warm and fairly shallow.

The sunsets at Half Moon Beach are incredible so be sure to take one in! There is an Argentine restaurant on the beach that you can have dinner and watch the sunset. The food is incredible and the service is great. I highly recommend! We ate their twice.


Half Moon Bay photos are below.


Sandy Beach is located between Anthony's Key Resort and Dolphin swim and the West End. It took us a while to find it but again, a lovely beach and not at all crowded. Quiet and serene. We were told by a local person to enter the water before Anthony's Key near the

dolphin pen and head straight out. Be careful crossing the water taxi area. The reef is about 100 to 150 yards out. It was a good swim but we saw less fish at Sandy Bay than any of the locations we snorkeled plus there are no vendors renting chairs. We did see dolphins as we swam by their dolphin pen but we don't like to see dolphins penned up. I wanted to let them free!


Palmetto Bay is mid-island heading north from the West End. It is a residential community with a gorgeous bay and beach. It is open to the public. You have to stop at the gate and give them your name and you can enter to go to the beach. The water is not as clear as other beaches because of the sea weed. They have a few beach chairs that can be used for free. It is a very quiet beach with very few people. We enjoyed our time walking the beach and sunning ourselves and then visited the Brewery. One of the newest additions to the island. I am not a beer drinker but we met friends there that were on the island for a day while their cruise was in port. They have a small menu of food and several craft beers.


Pictured above is the beautiful beach of Palmetto Bay.


Starfish Alley between West Bay and West End was not as we had hoped. I had read online about starfish laying on the ocean floor between West Bay and West End near the Shark Bites restaurant that closed with COVID. It took us a while but we found it! But, unfortunately, not one star fish and we had to be careful snorkeling due to boat traffic. We ended up taking a 90 minute boat and snorkel trip with a local person that had docked in the bay. It was worth the trip. The boat had a glass bottom and we got to see a turtle and a Lemon Shark. The guide had just told us that sharks on this side of the island were very had to find the guide was surprised to see the shark. The reef was in above average shape but we didn't see different fish than we saw snorkeling at other locations on the island. I was still on my quest to find Starfish and we did find one after our snorkeling trip on the far side of West Bay...but only one. I suppose I cannot believe everything I read on the internet. The Starfish are not abundant like we saw in Boca Del Toro, Panama!


Gumbalimba Park is a privately owned eco-adventure park in West Bay. We decided to take a tour of the park because we heard they had monkeys and Scarlet McCaw birds. It was worth the trip to the park. They have a guide that takes you on a tour of the park and explains the history of the island and takes you deeper in the park to see the monkeys and birds. The monkeys are white-faced monkeys and they stick around the park because they are fed by the park staff. The birds eat from the Almond Trees but they are also fed. There are four trained McCaw birds that a trainer from the park will let you hold. The rest of the birds are wild and stay up in the trees. The monkeys are crazy and want attention. They will jump on you and want your attention. Be careful not to jump or act scared. They can also be jealous and nip at you. Unfortunately one bit my hand and drew blood. The park says all monkeys are vaccinated every six months so after cleaning out the bite, I was told not to worry. Easier said than done! But I love photographing monkeys so worrying does me no good! I would recommend going to the park but if you have children, be wary of the monkeys. Photos of the park are below.



Maya Eden was another eco-park on the island. Not near as nice as Gumbalimba Park. They also had white-faced monkeys and Scarlet McCaw birds. We were able to hold the monkey and one of the McCaw birds. They also have a few Sloth that the park brought to the island to introduce them to the island from the mainland. We only saw one sloth and it was trained to allow us to hold it. I was not sure I approved of this practice but I held the sloth anyway. I prefer seeing the sloth in the wild like we see in Costa Rica. I felt sorry for the poor sloth being held by so many tourists! Photos from Maya Eden are below.



The west side of the island is the tourist side and where found West Bay, West End, Half Moon Bay, etc. are located. Coxen Hole is the largest City and is on the East side of the island. This is the side where the local people live. The one negative of the island was dogs

running free throughout the island ripping through garbage and running the streets and

beaches. The Roatan sign is located at Flowers Bay and overlooks the cruise ships docked for the day. You have to drive through a local residential area to get to the Roatan sign. It is a pretty view and worth the drive.



The wildlife on the island is limited to the parks like Gumbalimba Park and Maya Eden. The monkeys, sloth, Scarlet Macaws are not native to Roatan island but are native to the Honduras mainland. The government has been working to introduce animals from the mainland to Roatan Island. While the animals in the parks roam free, they are fed by the park so they stick in the area where there food source is. Hopefully some day the island will be populated by birds, monkeys and sloth and they won't be found only the the parks.


Below are photos from the air as we departed Roatan



Traveling to Roatan can be a long day and a challenge. Flights are expensive and we couldn't find a direct flight from Chicago. There is a direct flight from Minneapolis on Sun Country Airlines but that is a five hour drive from our house. Milwaukee is also an option and some times more affordable than Chicago but the least expensive flight still flies to Chicago. The flight we took out of Chicago left early morning and went through Miami and into San Pedro, Honduras. We took a commuter flight to Roatan. We found that to be the most affordable option. It was a long day departing at 5:30 a.m. and finally arriving in Roatan at 4:30 p.m. with the stop in Miami and San Pedro. Fortuanately all flights were rigth on schedule! One other thing to note, we rented from Alamo rental car and when we got there, they didn't have a car since they were overbooked. Our reservation meant nothing. They did get us a rental car at Sixt for about $40 cheaper but it was a well used car with alot of miles. We thought it might have been one of the rental agents personal cars. I would recommend renting right from Sixt or having a back up plan for the rental car should one not be available.


TIPS TO TRAVEL ECONOMICALLY AND GET THE MOST FOR YOUR TIME AND MONEY

I also get asked many times, "How do you travel so often and keep it affordable?" A few tips are below:

  • For me, planning and researching is part of the excitement of the trip! Visioning is so much fun!!!

  • I plan all of my own trips and research, research, research on the internet. I utilize TripAdvisor, Frommer's, and blogs from other travelers to find the information I need for my trip. I do ALOT of reading and researching. It takes patience to plan a good affordable trip!

  • I have a budget in mind for each trip and challenge myself to stay in the budget. Depending on the location, I typically start planning and booking hotels, cars, etc., approximately 9 months out. Hotel prices usually get more expensive the closer to the trip unless you are willing to do a last minute internet deal. Car rental and airline prices also go up the closer it is to your trip. Occasionally you can get a last minute deal but something else may be more expensive and you are really not saving. I like to plan!

  • For hotels, I use Booking.com, or Priceline.com. I look for hotels with good reviews, pay when you stay, and free cancellation in advance.

  • We have done all-inclusive in a couple of tropical locations years and years ago but found that we do not eat and drink enough to make it worth the extra expense. We like to go off site from the hotel and experience the local cuisine and traditions. We have not done all-inclusive in the last 15 years. However, all-inclusive is wonderful if you want to stay at the resort for all meals, not rent a car, and have the hotel shuttle you to your destinations. That has worked for us in Jamaica and it was very relaxing! But I would not drive in Jamaica so all-inclusive was the smartest option! If you enjoy all-inclusive, the earlier you book the trip the lower the price. Unless you are game and are not a planner, and are willing to travel where the last minute deal is advertised. Then you could get a great all-inclusive deal!

  • If we are flying, I use the Skyscanner app to check airfare prices and I try not to buy until about 60 to 75 days out. There are times where I will by earlier if the price is super reasonable. I usually do not book on Skyscanner. It will tell me the site that is the most affordable to purchase the tickets and if it is a more well known trust site, I go directly to the site to purchase the tickets. Many times Skyscanner will take you right to the airline website. Skyscanner will search all airlines and will sort by price, times, shortest trip, etc.

  • Have a credit card that gives you miles or hotel points. We will use points for many of our trips. We are American Advantage members and have an Advantage credit card. We try to fly American as often as we can to earn points and then use those points for future airline tickets. Our credit card is tied to our Advantage numbers and awards points as well.

  • We exchange our money when traveling internationally in European countries but when traveling to islands, they typically like the American dollar. Costa Rica is no different. You can use the American dollar but they will give you their currency back in change. We try to use a debit or credit card so the exchange is automatic when we travel.

  • We drive if the location is in the United States and we can drive and sightsee along the way. If we need to rent a car, we reserve online using Booking.com, Orbitz.com, or Priceline.com. They are usually the most reasonable. I watch for specials and never book a luxury vehicle! We also have a credit card with a low limit that we use for vehicle rentals that provides insurance as a credit card benefit. We always decline the insurance when we are in the United States. If we are traveling out of the United States, we check with the credit card if the insurance is valid internationally. We have found it is valid in Europe, Canada, U.S. Virgin Islands, but in other locations, we are forced to purchase the liability insurance from the rental car company.

  • While there are free maps online for most destinations, I always go onto Amazon and buy a map of my destination, especially if it is international. I do not buy maps for tropical Caribbean islands. I just get one when we arrive. But for countries like Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, England, Canada, Germany, France, etc., I always purchase a good map. As you do you research, you can use the map to highlight the places you want to visit and the sites you want to see. I have it as a reference later for putting my memories and photos into a photobook!


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