A few days on the lovely Caribbean island of Roatán – Honduras. Beautiful beaches, sensational sunsets, delightful diving and lots of Baledas
If you end up backpacking in Honduras, you will invariably end up at the Bay Islands at some point. Utila and Roatán the two most popular traveller options. We had read and heard so many differing opinions about which was better, so we had a hard decision to make. Utila, Roatán or both? Being on a fairly tight timeframe we decided to spend our four days on one island and enjoy the beaches, diving and actually relax a little. In the end, we chose to spend our time on Roatán, which lies 65km off the northern coast.
If you’ve followed our previous Central American blogs, you would know we had planned to travel up from northern Nicaragua through mainland Honduras to visit Roatán, before making our way down to Copán Ruinas and into Guatemala. But as they say ‘the best–laid plans often go awry‘ as we explained in our Granada and Laguna de Apoyo blogs due to political protests occurring in Nicaragua.
With our original route disrupted, we ended up travelling to Honduras from El Salvador through Guatemala and via Copan Ruinas. There were almost no other tourists following the same route, meaning there weren’t regular tourist shuttles running in and out of Copán Ruinas. Ordinarily, we would have just taken a local bus to get to our next destination, as we had done throughout the rest of Central America. But the San Pedro Sula area of Honduras which we were heading through, was the one part of the country, that for safety reasons, we had been advised not to take local buses through.
As luck would have it, there was one other traveller wanting to take the La Ceiba shuttle the same day as us. He’d been stranded for several days waiting for other travellers to share a shuttle with. So the following day we were up early for our 5am shuttle to San Pedro Sula, where we were dropped at a Hedman Alas bus station, where after a brief wait we travelled onto La Ceiba.
The penultimate part of this journey was a free taxi ride (part of the Copan -la Ceiba ticket) to the ferry port. From there we bought our return ferry tickets to Roatán and at 16:30, we were off. Almost immediately, we were handed a plastic bag. At first, we were a little unclear as to why, but it quickly became very apparent. It’s not unfair to say that the locals (who filled the vast majority of the seats) aren’t lovers of a rocking vessel. We’ll spare you the graphic details, but will say they were prone to a technicolour yawn and never have we seen so many multicoloured organic fountains!
Choosing which part of Roatán to stay on had required a bit of research. After considering all options, we had decided to stay in the West End as it sounded more like our kind of vibe. We splurged a bit and stayed at the lovely Blue Waters Hotel and Apartment, a short walk from the West Bay Beach area. But the main reason we’d selected this property was its relatively secluded location away from the noisier main strip, which was loaded with noisy clubs and bars. As the local buses ceased operation at 18.00pm, we had to pay $25 for a taxi to our hotel, which finally ended our two-day commute.
At the end of two long travel days, it was great to finally be able to sit still and enjoy some cold beer and the first of many beautiful Roatán sunsets.
Over the next few days, we alternated between diving and lounging on the beaches in the West End part of the Island.
The diving with the very professionally run Sun Divers didn’t disappoint. With pretty good visibility (around 20m), we really enjoyed the beautiful corals and abundant marine life. There were Eagle Rays, Stingrays, Barracuda, Jacks, Green Moray Eels, Porcupinefish, Flamingo Tongue Snails colourful Sharpnose Puffers and Smooth Trunkfish to name a few.
On one of the dives (Pablo’s Place) we were playing hide and seek with this Grouper. It literally tagged along for over half the dive!
Our favourite dive was Dixies, not only because of its beautiful corals and Smooth Trunkfish, but because of the turtles. We were lucky enough to find both the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtle, as well as the far more common Green Turtle there.
We had a few beaches to pick from down in the West End. Half Moon Bay had beautiful clear water and we spent lots of time chilling there.
It was worth getting up early to make the most of the beach as it slowly filled up throughout the day. The only problem we encountered there were sandflies. It was definitely nicer sitting in the water to avoid being ravaged. Anyone who’s been nibbled on by sandflies will know how itchy and inflamed their bites can become!
There were some smaller quieter beaches to the west, but they were not quite as alluring as Half Moon Bay. They were though our favourite spots to enjoy the awesome Roatán sunsets.
Having splashed out on accommodation, we were particularly thrifty when it came to meals. Having self-catering facilities at Blue Waters was ideal for preparing cheap, healthy breakfast and lunches. But for dinners, we were happy when we stumbled across Calelu’s. This friendly low-cost restaurant had the most amazing Baledas. These popular traditional Honduran snacks comprise of folded thick white flour tortilla and are filled with refried beans, cheese and a range of additional fillings. We first tried Baledas in Copan and they quickly became our staple throughout our time in Honduras.
After four lovely days in Roatán we were on the move again. With a 2pm ferry, we didn’t have to pay for another exuberantly priced taxi. We instead took the cheaper local minibus to Petrosun in Coxen Hole, from where we took a Colectivo taxi to the ferry for a combined 140HNL (about $5.70.)
We had a night in La Ceiba at the nearby Hotel Casa Marina and our last delicious Honduran Baledas for breakfast before our pre-arranged shuttle service to Rio Dulce, Guatemala.
It was really nice having a local driver with perfect English (he had lived in the US for a number of years) tell us about the area we were driving through. Choloma was one of those ‘no go’ areas for tourists with its very high levels of violent crime. It was interesting hearing a locals view. He explained how literally on one side of the freeway it was ‘gangland’ and not even the police would enter, but on the other side was high-end real estate.
We loved our time in Roatán, with its hot weather, lovely beaches and beautiful diving. Our one regret, was that we didn’t have enough time to explore Copán Ruinas on mainland Honduras. Next time!
Getting to/from and around
- Shuttles from Copan to La Ceiba can be arranged through hostels/hotels and will most likely consist of bus change in SPS.
- We took a 5am shuttle which stopped at the Hedman Alas Bus station in SPS at 9.30am (included a breakfast stop en route)
- From SPS, we were put on the 10.30am Hedman Alas bus arriving at La Ceiba at 14.20pm. (The driver got our ticket for us at the station)
- From La Ceiba bus station, we were given a free taxi to the Roatán ferry terminal which took 10min. (The Utila ferry terminal is near the Roatán ferry, but is a seperate terminal).
- Total cost of the shuttle (hotel to the ferry terminal) was HNL 960 p/p – Approx US$40p/p.
- Once inside the ferry terminal, we had to show our passport to buy our tickets and get our boarding pass. A return ticket is open for 1 year, so worth buying in advance to save the hassle later. It’s not any cheaper, just easy to return.
- We then had to check our bags in, before going through to waiting room.
- Check in was one hour before departure. Boarding commenced at 16.20pm and the ferry departed at 16.30pm sharp, arriving at Roatán at 18.00pm
- Local buses ceased at 18.00. Both private and shared taxi’s were available from the ferry. Make sure you know the going rate before you agree to a price. The drivers will try to rip you off! Check with your hotel what you should be paying. US$25 was the set rate for a private taxi when we visited in 2018.
- To get to the ferry, we took Routa 2 bus from the West End to Petrosun Coxen hotel – (not the market).
- From there, we took a collectivo taxi to the ferry. The journey took 40mins total.
- Allow an hour or more, depending on time, season. Total 70L P/P (approx US$3 p/p).
- At the ferry, we showed our tickets, got our boarding passed and checked our bags in. The ferry departed at 2pm sharp and arrived at La Ceiba at 3.20pm.
- Hotel & Hostel Berakah (Copan) was lovely and very budget friendly. Dorms and private rooms available with free tea, coffee and water. Nice staff, offered shuttle bus services and great location.
- Blue Water Hotel and Apartments (Roatan) was a great self catering option with nice clean rooms with A/C, free tea, coffee and water. Staff were super friendly and was a short walk to the main strip. Nice and quiet 🙂
- Hotel Casa Marina (La Ceiba) was the best value place we could find with decent reviews. Rooms were clean but basic and it was a bit loud with locals partying. It’s located right next to the supermarket, had a pool, A/C and offered free ferry transfers which was really useful. Fine for a nights stay.
- If you’re travelling through Honduras and thinking about skipping Copán, we’d recommend you re-think. When we reached Copán Ruinas we really loved the feel of the town. We would have loved to have stayed for at least a full a day to explore it and the Mayan archeological site of Copán. Bus timings just didn’t permit time for us, which was really frustrating. We’d recommend staying for one full day if you have the time.
- There weren’t many budget friendly options to get from La Ceiba to Rio Dulce in Guatemala. We used Roneey Shuttle (office in Utila) which cost a whopping $60p/p. They picked up from the ferry or hotel, stopped at place for breakfast, took paperwork, payment etc and departed around 9.30am. We had a smooth journey, with great driver and easy border crossings. Although expensive, it was the safest option for us at the time, which worked with our timings. Also stopped en route for lunch.
- In the off season, the shuttles only operated on certain days, so plan and book ahead.
- If you get really seasick, it might be worth flying to Roatán. Although more expensive, the flights were still reasonably priced and would be a smoother option.
- There isn’t really any food available at the ferry. Coffee was available, along with overpriced snacks. We recommend taking snacks with you for the journey.
- Roatán accepts both Honduran Lempira and USD. In fact, most things were priced in USD.
- Be really careful using ATM’s on the island as ATM fraud is rife. We would recommend taking cash with you to avoid using a cash machine.