Mahogany Bay is Carnival cruise line's Disneyesque cruise port, Princess is owned by Carnival and their ships also dock here. For cruise passengers who like to be insulated from the local population, they can spend all day here shopping, eating, drinking or sitting on the manufactured beach. I thought it was a little icky personally and was glad we chose to go outside the complex on an excursion. But I guess I understand the philosophy, there are a large number of cruise passengers who wouldn't get off the ship if they were to dock in Coxen Hole and then there's the almighty dollar, Carnival gets to have even more of your money if you eat drink or shop there.
One of the best places for information on what to do in various ports is
Cruise Critic. The Cruise Critic Roatan forum board was very useful in planning shore excursions, whether the ones offered by the ship or independent, and there is also Roatan port information with hints on where to go, what to do, where the ships dock, where to eat and how to get around.
To find out how many other cruise ships will be in town along with you, check
Cruisett.com. The more ships in town, the more competition for independent guides and tours and the more crowded the main attractions will be.
Ships dock at either Mahogany Bay or Coxen Hole. The experience is quite different, Mahogany Bay is an isolated fabricated port, Coxen Hole lands you right in the middle of the largest city on the island.
There are many stores at Mahogany Bay, the port where you usually dock when you go to Isla Roatan. The Mahogany Bay Mall is likely the place you will shop. There are several stores there where you can buy postcards but not sure where you can buy stamps. You can ask the Information Booth which is located at the Mahogany Mall.
There are also several stores in Coxen Hole, the main city in Isla Roatan. I went to Jaba Ding Ding and it was a nice place to shop. You will enjoy shopping there. They sell many potteries, Honduran purses and bags, bracelets, silver jewelries, etc. To get there is to hop a cab at Mahogany Bay (the cab drivers are usually waiting in line at the Mahogany Mall) and tell the driver to go to Jaba Ding Ding. You can request the store owner to mail you your postcard. She sells stamps over there.
Fondest memory: My daughter and I went ziplining and riding the Magic chair. We had the best time of our lives! We also shop at Coxen Hole, visited a small zoo there while my husband and other daughter went snorkelling at the Mahogany Bay.
I think the people in Isla Roatan are genuinely very friendly. Most of them are very helpful. They are very laid back.
My observation is that they are just getting used to tourists. The new dock at the Isla Roatan was just developed by the Carnival Cruise Line and it was just recent that they started bringing tourists to the island.
The cab driver I hired as a tour guide was very honest and very friendly. He didn't scheme on me. He patiently waited for me and my daughter when we went window shopping and he also patiently waited for us at the Mayan Jungle Canopy.
A lot of the people here don't speak English so knowing the language Spanish is a plus.
Favorite thing: There is a gentleman who runs a small tour shop in West end. His shop is across the road from the Beach House restaurant, a few metres north of the main intersection. To the best of my recollection, his name is Jimmy. He can arrange virtually any tour for you on Roatan, taxis into town, water ferry, or just about anything else you need. His commissions or fees are very minimal. More importantly he is honest and reliable. A good man to meet just to talk to and a great guy to know when you have a problem.
Another interesting tropical plant we saw growing in Roatan was Breadfruit. The breadfruit is a large tree, and the first specimens were brought to the Caribbean from the Tahiti by Captain Bligh of "Mutiny on the Bounty" fame.
Breadfruit, a member of the fig family, is often eaten, but it has never become as popular in the West Indies as in the South Pacific. Still, breadfruit trees, usually grown as an ornamental, can be found throughout the Caribbean region.
All About the Breadfruit Tree
Cashews have been my favorite nut since I was a kid, but until I visited Roatan I had never seen them growing on a tree. Most people, like myself, only know of cashews that come in bags, salted and roasted, from the store.
It was interesting to see green cashews, which grow only in the tropics, in the front yard of a home in the Roatan countryside.
All About Cashews - from the Nut Factory
One of the things that impressed me most favorably about Roatan was the courtesy and friendliness of the people we met there. From our experience, the people of Roatan treat tourists like honored guests.
I was amused by this sign in downtown Coxen Hole, and felt it was a perfect example of the Roatan spirit of hospitality. It reads:
THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT, REQUEST
FROM VISITORS AND RESIDENTS, THE
UNDERSTANDING FOR THE ACTUAL
CONDITION OF THE STREETS IN
COXEN HOLE: WHICH IS CAUSED BY
THE WORKS OF INSTALLATION OF THE
CITY SEWAGE SYSTEM, IN ORDER TO
PROCURE BETTER LIVING CONDITIONS.
WORKING FOR PROGRESS
Many tourists to Roatan now arrive by cruiseship for one day only. If you plan to stay a while longer, you'll either be arriving via the mainland of Honduras or flying in.
Roatan can be reached directly or with connections by Continental, Delta, American and TACA airlines. Flights from Atlanta, Houston, Miami and New Orleans may take as little as 2 hours which is great when you have a limited amount of vacation time.
Atlantic Airlines, Islena Regional and SOSA regional airlines also provide service to Roatan.
Visitors from the USA, Canada, Italy & Spain do not need a Visa. Although Honduras does not require Visas for all tourists, check the Honduran consulate (www.hn/embajadash.html) for specific details for your country. Always have your valid passport available on arrival.
The Roatan Tourist Information Center is a combination of a place to not only get information, but to book tours as well. They will be able to give you directions, suggestions on places to eat, and even such things as how much cab fares should cost.
They can book tours/sell tickets to almost anything you want to see or do on Roatan.
Like many islands the world over, there is an awful lot to see and do particulary when it comes to water sports. Here are some of the tours and activities the Information Center can help you with:
Dolphin Encounters; Glass Bottom Boat tours; Canopy tours; Kayak rentals; Snorkel tours and gear rental; SNUBA diving, Island tours, Fishing, sailing charters, scooter rentals, etc. There is a long list so ask about whatever you may be interested in---they probably have it!! The center probably gets a fee for everything they book so I think it doesn't hurt to bargain where possible such as asking for a discount if there are several people in your group, or when you are booking more than one tour or activity. If you are not happy with the price, check with your hotel to see if they offer better ticket prices. Don't forget to ask whether they have free pick-up/drop-off at your hotel or lodging spot.
Located on West Bay Beach in front of Foster's Resort
Fondest memory: Because we arrived by ship, we booked a "canopy tour"/beach day on board. The "canopy tour" was a great experience, but we wish we could have seen more of the local attractions. If I felt the price was right, I wouldn't hesitate to book online beforehand with a reputable outfit if the details could be worked out.
While visiting Maui a few years ago, we went to a "tourist information center" (such as this one in Roatan) to book a paragliding tour and were disappointed to find that they were already booked up for the rest of the week!! This may not happen to you on Roatan, but it's best to do research & plan a head especially in the high season. Diving, snorkeling, fishing and particularly canopy tours seem to be very popular on this island.
Favorite thing: The money they use in Honduras is lempiras. At the time of this post the exchange rate was 1 US Dollar to 19.6 Lempira. Dollars are widely accepted throughout the island. Do not worry about exchanging money before you arive.
Fondest memory: When we landed to the international airport of Coxen Hole, we felt the typical atmosphere of the Caribbean...its warm humid climate, its scented air, its colours all around...For us, runned away from the cold grey winter of Italy... not just a vacation, but a real escape!
When you first step foot onto the island you think...WOW.... and that feeling stays with you for a very long time.
There is much history on the island that many are not awaire of and most of it is right out in the open. You just need to open your eyes and look for it.
Down in Coxen Hole (the main city of Roatan) you will find a few bits of the history of some of Roatans past people and founders. look in court yards of the shipping area and around the banks.
Fondest memory: Get the book "JUDAS BIRD" by David Evans. This is such a great book about life in and around ROatan. The story is made up but it is still very close to real.
Favorite thing: We made it to Roatan from a cruise ship that charged $.75 per minute to use the internet, so we were delighted for find this little internet place right in front of the port of Roatan. It was only $.25 per minute for the internet. Phone calls were $2 per minute to anywhere! There were only 2 computers, but there wasn't a line when we were there. We were able to use a computer immediately and then hop back on the cruise ship!
There is nothing better in the world than a good sunset and good friends to share it with.
Roatan is the perfect place to meet and make new friends from all over the world.
Fondest memory: We found some of the best sunsets here on Roatan which always make for a perfect ending to a day in the sun.