For $100, you can arrange a SCUBA dive shark encounter. This gets you a boat out to the site and 30 minute dive with about 15 5-6 foot black tip reef sharks. At the end you get to swim along side of the and watch a feeding as they get a bucke of fish at the end. A must do!!
The topography of Roatan's underwater world is like none I have ever seen. At times, I felt as though I was floating through space on some otherworldly planet. he wildlife is huge here, I saw some of the biggest versions of fish I have ever seen on a dive by Pablo's Place off of West Bay. They nicknamed this dive "Texas" because "everything is big in Texas.
Another notable dive was Spooky Channel in front of Anthony's Key Resort. This dive was all swim throughs, not a whole lot of life, but such cool formations!!!
Expect to see many turtles, groupers, rays and teeny tiny jellyfish just below the surface.
We dove with Bananarama and loved diving with Marco and Sophia. No group bigger than 6 and the longest boat ride we had was 10 minutes.
Honduras is perfectly safe in terms of the people on Roatan. You'll find the West End and West Bay area very friendly for tourist. The food is fine, but I would recommend avoiding the fried food. Sometimes the oil used doesn't agree with everyone.
Enjoy your trip and try some fly fishing while you are there. It can be pretty amazing during this time year. Be sure to book ahead.
Follow the beach road to the south end of West End. It turns away from the beach for a couple of hundred metres but then turns back to the beach and ends at the are Feet bar. Follow the beach for about 40 minutes to West Bay. Its a pleasant walk and has a few good snorkelling spots on the way.
We loved Gumbalimba Park. It was beautiful! It's an animal preserve and botanical garden. It also offers a beach. We took a tour of the park. You get to interact with parrots and monkeys (very cool), they give you a quick history of the island, point out local flora and fauna and it ended at the beach where you can get a bite or have a drink and do a little shopping. If inclided the park also offers snorkeling, SNUBA, kayaking and I think they even had a zipline. It really does have everything you could want in one place. It was great.
During our stay we did get to see the dive boats that were going out from other resorts. Some were actually no more than a boat with an outboard motor and a wooden ladder. Do yourself the favor of spending the extra few hundred bucks and getting taken out in proper equipment with all the ammenities.
During our stay at Anthony's Key we were frequently accompanied by a diver with a video camera and so if anything eventful happened we could buy the DVD for the memory books. We ended up with a DVD of both our dolphin and shark dives.
We went to a great wreck called the Aguilla. Only thing with wrecks, however, is that because they're ship wrecks they tend to be on the bottom. So that is generally a little deeper than 5 feet. We went down to 110 ft for the Aguilla. The other wreck in the area, The Odyssey is at a similar depth, so be prepared. Great experience though.
Since returning I've heard a number of similar stories regarding scuba diving. Namely that some people tried it and immediately quit or they got certified, but have not done anymore diving since because they really didn't enjoy the process that much.
We were no exception. There were many occasions when I was looking for "plausible deniability" as to why I didn't make it onto the dive boat and therefore why I was not able to complete my certification. When you first get going it's not easy, it's counter intuitive and you're not having that much fun.
However, as with many things you kind of need to just keep putting one foot ( or fin ) in front of the other. Then one day you start to realize that you just really enjoyed that last dive or you were able for the first time to just look around and relax when you were down there. That's when the effort up front starts paying off with great experiences.
AND AT THE END OF THE DAY - YOU CAN EITHER GIVE IT A GO IN THIS LIFE........OR IN YOUR NEXT LIFE! BUT THEN YOU'LL PROBABLY COME BACK AS A RABBIT AND THEN THERE'S NO WAY YOU'LL GET THE SCUBA TANK ON THAT LITTLE RABBIT BACK OF YOURS!
Whether you are staying at Anthony's Key Resort or not you can still arrange to visit with and dive with the resident dolphins there. First you are taken to their holding pens where you'll meet a couple of the dolphins in person. Then you'll head out to the ocean and descend to a sandy bottom about 60 ft down.
You swim around for a couple of minutes and then you'll start hearing the clicking and talking as the dolphins swim out to you. Pretty cool to be down there for 40 minutes, seeing them interact in their natural habitat and then actually lie down on the sea floor so that you can pet them. Not something you get to do everyday now is it?
Great experience and tests your metal when you voluntarily jump into shark infested waters with a bucket of chum. 70 ft down we were swimming along or hovering while 20 -30 sharks swam around us, often coming close enough to touch, not that we really felt the desire to out stretch a hand and arm that we were quite attached to and wanted to keep it that way.
On the same dive we had a resident moray eel hanging out under a rock about 10 ft away.
I promise, you will never get sick of the beautiful sunsets in West End. No matter where you are in town, the Carribbean sunsets are spectacular. Some top sunset-watching sunset destinations include Sundowners (drink a Monkey La La in a plastic sun chair while watching the sun set), Mavis & Dixies restaurant (in an A-frame house behind the white church) and Posada Arco Iris's guests-only beach chairs. Don't forget to spray on your DEET before you hit the sand after dark!
It's almost inevitable that you will take a trip into Coxen Hole at some time during your trip. With a population of just over 5,000 people, Coxen Hole is the best place to go when your food and money run out in West End, and all the ATMs are down. Coxen Hole is home to the island's biggest and best supermarket, HB Warren, as well as multiple banks with ATMs that work most of the time. Things like flipflops and sarongs are cheap at the roadside shops and stalls, as well. To get to Coxen Hole, take a taxi, a shared taxi, or a bus (which is really a minivan). All transportation to Coxen Hole leaves from the main intersection in West End.
I went to Roatan Butterfly Gardens at noon, as I'd read that the butterflies are most active in the heat of the day. Well, the butterflies certainly are active at noon. The Gardens are home to several different species of butterflies (in a large, walk-through enclosure), and in addition to getting up close and person with most of the varieties, I even had a huge Blue Morpho land right on my butt! I guess it thought my pink skirt was a big flower. By noon they had already put most of their birds into cages for the day, but there were some toucans that I could get quite close to. The staff offered to let the birds out of their cages for me, but I felt that was a bit unncessary. The Butterfly Gardens are essentially a zoo, so if you like zoos you will probably enjoy your $2 visit, and if you don't like zoos you probably won't enjoy your time at all. You can walk to the Gardens from West End- just take the main road out of town, keep going straight and follow the signs.
My Lonely Planet guidebook mentioned Carambola Gardens and used quotation marks when referrring to "the summit", thus suggesting that "the summit" was nothing more than a small hill just waiting to be frolicked upon by skirt-and-flip-flop-wearing lazy bums like myself. I think the quotation marks may have been a typographical error, as Carambola Gardens most definitely DO have "a summit", which is neither fit for frolicking nor fit for flip-flops.
Located about five minutes by taxi outside of West End, Carambola Gardens are a private, pay-for-use park, with a MOUNTAIN (make no mistake) at the center. In essence, the trails are nearly impossible to find because they are so poorly marked, and the climb up to "the summit" is longer and steeper than your guidebook lets on. Myself and four other people who I chanced upon at the entrance walked for nearly forty minutes just looking for the path to summit! We had to go back to the information center to find out where the path actually began, and from there it was another thirty minutes up a steep, poorly maintained path to reach the lookout point. Along the way we saw little lizards that "fly" from tree to tree, some fairly large rodents (see my Cannibal Cafe tip under Restaurants... no... really!) and lots of butterflies. At the top, the view of Anthony's Key Resort is fairly good, and if you bring binoculars you will be able to watch swimmers and snorkellers interacting with the resort's dolphins. There is supposedly an Iguana Wall somewhere in the park, but once you see the map you'll understand why we weren't able to find it!
Carambola Gardens aren't bad- just don't be fooled into thinking they're a good place for an easy stroll. Dress for hiking, bring a bottle of water and ask at the desk for clear directions before you set out.