Global Mark : 13.88 Top Five : No5
Ratings by criteria :
Ratings by backpackers :
Comments : People who visited both islands usually enjoyed Roatan best, although it is more expensive and less fiesta oriented than Utila. See The Bay Islands for more info.
What to do ? Relax on a white sand beach and breath paradise ! / Learn how to dive (US$170-200 for PADI Open Water) / Snorkel toward colorful fishes / Explore the shores and mangrove with sea kayak / Spot Yellow-Naped Parrot at a wildlife reserve or lots of iguanas at another / Watch the fishing activities at busy ports / Bask in the afro-antillean atmosphere / Take a boat to a bar / Discover isolated beaches in the northern part of the island, following a dirt road (accessible by vehicle) / Clap at a dolphin show / Admire 95 birds from 17 species, incl the rare bufon's macaw / Walk in the lush vegetation among orchids and other flowers
What you may not like ? The lack of comedor / Some restaurants priced in US$ or adding taxes / The lack of accomodation's package with the diving course / The tourism orientation / The exclusive cost of some resorts / All those entrance fees / The limited transport options on Sunday
How long ? 4 days would obviously be a minimum with regards to the transport costs.
Where to stay ? There are several areas on big Roatan :
- Coxen Hole (SE) : the largest city, the capital of the Bay Islands, the main gateway to the island, this is a place to shop (souvenirs, groceries) and do business (banks, post office, etc). There are little reasons to stay however.
- French Harbour (E) : 10km to the North, one of the busiest port in the Western Caribbean, slightly more attractive than Coxen Hole and also offering lots of shops & banks. Two exclusive resorts are located Here. On French Key, 2800 iguanas of 4 different species can be counted (Iguana Reserve, $1)
- Oak Ridge (NE) : 14km to the North, a smaller fishing afro-antillean community with lots of authenticity & wooden houses. A few lovely beaches nearby plus the whole isolated northern part to explore (paradises plus the Port Royal and Wildlife Refuge). Two islands can be explored on the eastern tip of Roatan : tiny Morat surrounded by mangrove and big Barbareta, covered by virgin forest and an exclusive resort.
- Punta Gorda (NW) : 5km to the West, the oldest Garifuna community in Central America (1796). The Carnival on the 6-12 of April is a must seen if on the island. Los Cincos Hermanos was listed as a cheap place to stay.
- Sandy Bay (SW) : 7km West of Coxen Hole, on the way to West end, the cultural center of Roatan (Roatan Museum, $4) and a good place to snorkel toward fishes (Marine Reserve), admire dolphins (Institute of Marine Science, $4), listen to tropical birds (Bird Park, $5), walk jungle trails (Carambola Botanical Garden, $?) or spot more iguanas (Iguanas Wall). The cheapest place to stay was reported to be Beth's Place (4451266). On the other scale is the exclusive Anthony's Key Resort.
- West End (SW) : 14km from Coxen Hole, this is the most touristy area, thanks to its idyllic white sand beaches, tropical environment, friendly atmosphere and largest diving facilities & budget choices. There are some shops but no bank. The cheapest places reported were Sea Breeze Hotel (AC & shower for $10 ?), Chilie's, Valerie's and Jimmy's Lodge.
- West Bay (SW) : 4km South of the above (a nice 45mn walk away), at the extremity of the island, a beautiful beach fringed by coconut palms that offers great snorkeling at its southern extremity (area protected by the Sandy Bay and West End Marine Reserve).
Backpacker's Tips : Edward Campbell,
New Zealand (March 06)