|Azure water, white beaches, and green forests attract visitors to Roatan.|
is one of our favorite ports when cruising in
the Western Caribbean
. Docks built by major cruise lines are only about seven
years old, which means the tourist shopping area is also relatively new. Best
of all, it is clean, attractive, and spacious—with locally-made items
Located about 36 miles off the northern coast of mainland
Honduras, Roatan’s appeal comes from its turquoise waters, emerald green hills,
and sparkling white beaches. It is 37 miles long and less than five miles wide
at its broadest point. Houses are clustered along the shore; inland the
landscape is hilly and forested. Transportation is easy--Roatan has a small
airport, and a highway goes around the island.
|Lush green countryside makes a beautiful landscape in Roatan.|
A colorful history full of pirates, Indians, English
settlers, descendants of African slaves, and Spanish conquerors makes for a
very diverse population. Treasure hunters still come to modern seaside villages
and look for bounty stashed on the island by more than 5,000 pirates during the
16th and 17th centuries.
English is the main language, perhaps one reason why 25 percent of the
75,000 population is retired Americans (only 45 percent are natives).
Snorkeling with Jolly
|Many varieties of coral are easily seen when snorkeling.|
: Roatan is surrounded by a barrier reef that lies approximately 300
feet from the shoreline. More than 130 accessible dive sites make the island a
diver’s or snorkeler’s paradise. An underwater museum of sunken treasures,
shipwrecks, and Mayan artifacts offers additional spots to scout for fish.
|A fun ride on the Jolly Roger catamaran.|
In many places the reef crest is very shallow, just a foot
underwater, but boat excursions travel to deeper water allowing for extended
exploration around a variety of coral species. The opportunity to see beautiful
coral enticed us to the Jolly Roger Marina, a short distance from where the
Emerald Princess ship docked on our recent cruise. From there we took an
hour-long catamaran ride to the west side of the island for enhanced reef snorkeling.
It was the perfect Caribbean shore excursion—a sunny day and a pleasant boat
ride with the wind behind us.
Because beaches are generally more attractive on the western
end of the island (Tabyana Beach
is considered one of the finest in the
Caribbean), that’s where most hotels and resorts are located.
It’s also convenient for scuba divers or avid
|Stunning coral species along the reef off the coast of Roatan.|
When the boat docked, we swam in water that was often 15 to
20 feet deep and could see beyond the reef where drop-offs approached double
that depth. In order not to touch potentially dangerous coral species, we
followed the channels and had no trouble viewing dozens of stunning coral species
and interesting formations in the crystal clear water.
Although we saw a few colorful fish and a sea turtle
swimming, this experience was really about the coral. Indeed, it was one of our
better reef snorkeling experiences. After an hour in the water, we climbed back
on board and enjoyed a delicious lunch of chicken, rice, slaw, pasta salad, and
watermelon. Oh, there was plenty of rum punch, too. Following lunch, a bus ride
back to the ship gave us an opportunity to see more of the lush and verdant countryside of
|Ride the Magic Flying Beach Chair to Mahogany Beach,|
walking distance from the cruise ship dock.
snorkeling? Near the dock, the Magic Flying Beach Chair
takes visitors on a
cable car ride 1,200 feet above the canopy of trees to Mahogany Beach
10-acre private island featuring 825-foot long pristine white-sand beach. If you chose
to keep your feet on land, it’s an easy walk to the beach.
|Cruise passengers walk from the dock|
to the shopping area in Roatan.
If water activities are not your thing, you can see monkeys,
exotic birds, pirate caves, and colorful gardens at Gumbalimba Preservation Park
on the west end of Roatan. Tropical oak and evergreen palms grow in abundance,
and you can observe many types of indigenous flora and fauna (iguanas are the
unofficial mascot of Roatan) while walking jungle trails at Carambola Botanical Gardens
. Or watch an ancestral dance performed by costumed natives who are
descendents of the Back Carib Indians.
There's so much to do that you'll probably want to schedule a future cruise to further explore this beautiful island.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier. Copyright protected.