I had the pleasure of visiting the tiny bay island of Roatan for the first time on August 23, 2014 and figured that I would start a blog as I do intend to be back. My stay lasted for a week and the wealth of information I learned about the third-world country travel destination hot spot was incredulous. Before I visited Roatan, I spent a few hours googling and never really found what I was looking for. Call me a modern day traveler, but I love to research where I travel and get an idea of what I would like to do or see so I don’t waste any time on my precious vacation days. With the airport being what it is, I consider two days devoted to traveling. I always assume that the Internet and phone service won’t be an option and even if it was, I want to perform my due diligence googling before I arrive – not after!
So this blog is devoted to those like me who want to have the best trip in Roatan possible and don’t want to waste a precious second upon arrival or book the wrong hotel in the wrong place that can make any vacation an automatic bust. I will provide a brief general outline of the topics I plan to cover and hyperlink for the readers who want to know more about a particular subject.
So, let’s get the nitty gritty – what is there to do in Roatan? Is Roatan worth visiting? How long should I stay? Is Roatan dangerous? Where is the best place to stay? What should I bring? What should I expect? How are the Roatan locals? These are just a few of the topics I will discuss more in depth, but I wanted to provide a small explanation in general.
First all, I stayed at Land’s End located in West End and it was dreamy :).
For first time Roatan visitors, there are only two places that you would want to stay: West End and West Bay. Both are side by side of each other, but not walking distance (around fifteen minutes apart) depending on how you travel. I will go more in depth about the differences in a separate post, but essentially if you traveling to Roatan, you are going to go one or two areas. Outside of the two areas, you begin to travel to the unknown. Which brings about the question: Is Roatan safe?
In my opinion: the answer is yes, Roatan is a safe BUT it is still a third world country. I don’t care where you live, there are always “those areas” that should be avoided. In Roatan, it is no different except for the fact that you don’t have the typical order of a first world country (although the same rules still apply). You have to remember you are in a third world country. And just to clarify, there are only two first world countries: the USA and the UK plus allies. Second world countries include large countries such as Russia. As a third world country, Roatan has not had major investor contributions which has kept the country at what it truly is. The possibilities of freedom echo the entire island depths. Although this may come as surprising, the freedom of the country radiates a very peaceful aura that attracts many visitors and small business owners alike.
Picking the right location to stay when visiting Roatan is essential. But this is no different when traveling anywhere – how many times have I booked a hotel that looked awesome but wasn’t in the right area? Too many to tell. But alas, if I did not have a fun experience – I rarely ever visited the same country or place for that matter again. Heck, going on a vacation costs – you want to enjoy it before you go back or go somewhere new (my motto anyways)! My hope is that this blog can help prevent hit or misses in that regard. As we have already established, you are only going to stay in West End or West Bay – picking between the two locations all boils down to what you want out of your experience in Roatan.
In short, if you are looking for the typical luxury amenities and don’t plan on leaving the resort that you book, West Bay is better. Most all of the West Bay resorts have beach access and at least one restaurant where you can enjoy meals. If you want to travel or go outside the resort, you will have to venture down to West End – West End has the shops, restaurants, and bars, and fun Roatan night life. In truth, West End is a boardwalk like Ocean City, Maryland. In West End, there is over fifty establishments on one main street where you can find anything from a new dress to Argentina cuisine or a fun pub. It would take you over a month to visit all the unique spectacles on the West End, Roatan Boardwalk Street (FYI – there are no street addresses in Roatan – so this street is not named, but I am going to call it West End, Roatan Boardwalk Street). So on West End, Roatan Boardwalk Street- the restaurants and entertainment are somewhat endless. West Bay is more of your Parkplace in Monopoly terms. The amenities in West Bay vary per resort but the major difference between the two areas is entertainment: West Bay = Limited to the Resorts whereas West End = everything.
If you were asking me whether West End, Roatan was better than West Bay, Roatan – I would tell you that you must evaluate what you want out of your experience. Roatan became marked on the tourist map because of its great diving locations – I can honestly say that there are fifty dive shops between West End and West Bay so you won’t have a problem finding one. With the high supply, no matter where you decide you want to dive, there is enough demand to where you can get the best deal. Sandy Bay has the best diving spots and would be worth staying at if your sole purpose was diving. If you choose that route, hands down, I would recommend Tranquil Seas. Tranquil Seas is an eco lodge with amenities that surpass the entire island (in my opinion) from the founder’s dedication to the eco-system. But in truth, these little things matter greatly when it pertains to things that can be taken for granted (like hot water) – located in Sandy Bay – it is a diver’s paradise. If your sole purpose is to dive and maybe go out one or two nights of your stay, go there. Nothing will compare. If you come to the island and want to do more than just diving, stay at Land’s End. Period. But as stated, it all depends on you. If you were on a honeymoon and just wanted romantic time with you and your newly-wed, I would recommend perhaps different. I created a little survey that if you would like to fill out, I would be more than happy to give you my recommendations because just as Roatan is unique – the right place for you would have to be catered around you. I did visit multiple resorts and do feel that I have a somewhat good feel for people who are interested. Plus, I can send it along to some of the friends on the island who are always more than willing to offer suggestions and find the right place – everyone is just so chill and cool!
Well, I am going to stop for now. Being the dork I am, I brought a notebook with me of great topics and want to cover them all. I hope for the first post this has been informative enough for scratching the surface – much more to come!