This tip could have been placed under restaurants but I thought "The Hole in the Wall" is just as much an attraction as a place to eat.
Almost 2 decades ago, Bob Lee & his wife Rhonda sailed into Roatan's waters and decided to make the island their home. They gravitated to Jonesville, a traditional sort of community populated mostly by "islanders" where the main occupation is fishing.
Looking alot like a rough & tumble shack built out over the water, The Hole in the Wall became a popular meeting place of locals and eventually for "outsiders" too. With its plastic or wooden tables & chairs and odd assortment of adornments, it looks like a place that was destined to be "earthy" and popular because there are no pretensions here.
On Sundays there is an "all-you-can-eat" buffet which usually features lobster, steak and/or shrimp, homemade cole slaw, mashed potatoes, baked beans, homemade breads and dessert all for around $15 or so. Can you beat that? To top it off, beer is cheap--maybe a buck a bottle, and of course other drinks are available too. The thing is, you have to arrive early (1pm??) or there is no room left as Sundays attract crowds from around the island.
Sadly Bob's wife, Rhonda, has passed on. To make matters worse, only a few months after our visit to Roatan, The Hole in the Wall burnt completely down July 3, 2005. But Bob has so many friends that they helped him rebuild his popular place. His parrot, Abogado did survive the fire--look for him on Bob's shoulder.
Open most days for lunch & dinner only. Great place to interact with locals.
One of the great activities to enjoy on Roatan is what I call ziplining but others often call "Canopy Tours." Beginning high up on a mountain amid towering trees, you are outfitted with harnesses, a helmet, and a pair of heavy gloves. The people who outfitted us were extremely professional and double-checked all harnesses, giving careful instructions before you were hooked to the cables and sent on your downhill journey! There were double cables, each person hooked for safety.
As you descend you don't really have much time for getting a look around or "touring the canopy" because you are always anticipating your next platform stop. There were at least 11 platforms, made of heavy-gauge steel mesh, where 1 to 2 persons helped to stop you, catch you, unhook you from one set of cables & rehook you up to the next set which took you further down the mountain. Those small platforms along with the horrid thought of either falling off or knocking someone off by accident really scared me. I was not scared of being on the cable itself.
You were instructed as to where you should put your hands to avoid serious injury--- One hand on the cable in front of you and in front of the sliding cable connections, and one hand on the cable in back of you behind those connections. Pulling down the cable with your back hand in combination with leaning back was supposed to be used to slow your descent, but this NEVER WORKED for ME!! As you got lower on the mountain, the platforms became closer to each other and the descent was not as steep. This is where you had a moment to look around. The descent ended very close to the beach. Some enterprising young men were selling cold beers at the end and I thought we had really earned one!! Believe me, you can use a cold drink at the end.
If you go with West Bay Zipline Canopy Tours you'll pay about $35 to $50 per person (depending on various factors) for about an hour of ziplining. Definitely check for space availability and price beforehand. Try to avoid days when cruise ships are in port.
Many people come to Roatan because of its fine beaches and the hotels or resorts located on them. Beaches on the "West End" are very popular and are only about 20 minutes by taxi from Coxen Hole, the capital of Roatan.
Tabyana Beach, basically run by the cruiselines for their passengers, is the beach where we spent what seemed like only minutes because our excursion was combined with a canopy tour and that took up most of our time. The beach itself has fine white sand, and beach chairs under beautiful shade palm trees. Unfortunately by the time we arrived, the place was a mess. We didn't find the water off the beach particularly good for snorkeling because we did not venture very far from shore, but I have seen other's photos which show great coral and sea fan formations and the reef. Tabyana also features a beach BBQ (if you are with an excursion), some lockers, snorkel equipment rental, and a small gift shop.
If this is not your cup of tea, try the beaches at some of the nicer resorts such as the Mayan Princess. Beaches on Roatan are supposed to be free and open to the public, but some resorts or hotels charge you to use their facilities if you are not staying on their property. At places such as these, it is probably well worth the money if you can enjoy the less crowded beach and have the use of their excellent facilities.
There are many outdoor activities you'll like on Roatan. Diving and snorkeling are a particularly popular activity in Roatan because of the natural reef. Because it is so popular, there are any number of private dive companies as well as hotels and resorts which offer diving, snorkeling and more. In West Bay and the West End you can find dive shops which offer dive instruction and most importantly, certification.
For example, the Mayan Princess Beach Resort proclaims to be within 20 minutes of at least 35 dive sites for the best viewing of tropical fish and coral. If you are not a diver, snorkeling equipment can be rented too. The Mayan Princess also offers "Swimming with the Dolphins" or Dolphin Encounters. For those who would rather stay above water, and for younger children, Glass Bottom boat tours let you glimpse the spectacular reef system without getting wet!
Anthony's Key Resort also concentrates on diving with 35 natural & shipwreck sites to be explored. Most sites are concentrated on the north shore, some on the West End and a scattered other few places. Check their website at: Anthonyskey.com. or call 800-227-3483.
This was a once in a lifetime opportunity when Karl Stanley invited me (for a modest fee) on a battery test run. His submersible Idabel is a 3 person sub weighing 3000 lbs. the two passengers have a forward view via a 30 inch diameter domed and 19 inch diameter flat view ports. The submersible is rated for a depth of 2500 feet, on our 4.5 hour test run Karl brought us down 700 feet where sunlight never reaches and the plants and animals make their own light awesome! This must be one the top ten things you have to do in your lifetime.
Take a walk on the wild side and watch the playful monkey lala scurry along the jungle trails as you enjoy flowering plants, orchids, exotic spices and fruit trees, including the very popular "Chocolate Tree" and of course, the world famous Honduran mahogany tree.
The gardens offer a perfect place for hiking, bird watching, wildlife and scenic photography, nature studies and, of course, relaxation. An interesting new area is reserved for the islands medicinal plants.
Be sure to bring your camera as you make your way to the summit of the Carambola Mountain. Along the way you will see an area where nature has provided almost a sheer cliff, thus protecting the iguana and parrot breeding grounds historically known as the "Iguana Wall".
Upon reaching the top, sit and relax on the summit deck and enjoy Roatan's most magnificent view with all the colors of the coral reef laid out before you.
Whether you spend 15 minutes or all day at Carambola gardens it will truly be an unforgettable experience. Carambola gardens are a MUST SEE for any visitor to the Bay Islands.
Carambola Botanical Gardens, in Sandy Bay is Open 7 days/week from 8am-5pm, the cost is $5 per person (ask about their special family rate).
Contact Bill or Irma Brady at 445-1117 for more information or email them at email@example.com
*Dive with the Dolphins at Anthony's Key
* Deep Sea Submersible in West End Village
* The Coral Reef Explorer, known as Roatan's best non-dive experience, allows our visitors to see the splendor of the reef without getting wet! Email for info.
* Kayak trips around the Island
* Visit Marine Science Museum at Anthony's Key Resort
* Watch Dolphin show at Anthony's Key Resort
* Tour exotic tropical Carambola Gardens
* Day trip to nearby islands and cays
* Horseback riding on the beach
* Go shopping at West End & Coxen Hole
* Charter a fishing boat - Bonefishing, too!
* Tour the Garifuna Village - Punta Gorda
* Tour the reef in a Glass Bottom Boat
* Shop at Woody's Grocery Store and have a cookout
* Check out the Cameo Factory in Coxen Hole
The Honduran Great Barrier Reef stretches from the bay Islands all the way to northern Belize. The barrier reef is home to brilliantly colored coral and teeming with marine life. Fish of all sizes and colors roam around, as well as sharks, eels, and even the remarkable (which I didn't see) great whale-shark; the largest 'fish' in the sea. The reef is easily accessible from Roatan's north coast and the diving and snorkeling is absolute fantastic! Words cannot even describe the diving from Roatan, you must see it for yourself.
No doubt the most memorable thing we did on Roatan Island was to take an eco-tour through the Mangrove Tunnels of Jonesville, aboard an authentic Caribbean dory.
The captain and pilot of our very picturesque boat was a young man named Emreal, native of the area. He did an excellent job of guiding Karen and me, his only two passengers. We saw other less colorful dories also touring the mangrove tunnels. These boats, chartered by the curise line, were packed with people and took a shorter route than we did. We were very glad that we decided to take our own tour using the recommendation of Enry, our island guide and driver.
Not only did we see the mangrove tunnels, but also Little Venice, commercial fishing boats at French Harbour, and much more.
Due to the fact that Roatan is only 36 miles long, and 4 miles wide, there are quite a few beautiful spots to view the ocean... but rarely do you find a place where you can view both sides of the ocean from one spot. Up the road between the ship's dock and Half Moon Bay is a mountain view with a great picture taking vista!
Zethro took our group of 4 to a butterfly garden (where they also have parrots and mackaws you can hold), a tropical jungle botanical garden (Carambola), an iguana preserve, and a couple local photo spots. We ate lunch at Barefeet restaurant on the beach and had conch soup (yum). You won't get a private tour like this from the cruise ship! Just our 4 people, all day, wherever we asked him to take us, for a great price.
Those who take a tour around the island of Roatan will no doubt stop at The View, approximately in the center of the island. This is the highest elevation on the road that crosses Roatan and from this point one can enjoy spectacular 360 degree views from one end of the island to the other.
There is a small parking area at The View, and also several local handcraft and souvenir vendors were set up in thatch-roofed stalls to offer their wares to visitors. Although we didn't purchase anything on this stop we still thought it worthwhile just to drink in the magnificent scenery.
The beach dive is especially easy for the beginner, , more relaxing for someone more experienced. BUT, this place was made with some of the best snorkeling imaginable. The water as warm, unbelievable visibility, and if you went out 50-75 yards, there were very few others that ventured near you.
The white sand beach was easy to walk in and where we were, Anthony's Key Resort, everything was right there. Swim til your arms and legs gave out, have some food at the snack bar and go back out.
The area was not heavy with marine life until you got to where the water turns deep blue. There was more once you got on the ocean side. There is the barrier reef, about 30-40 feet wide.
The Village of West End - yes, on the west end of the island - is the most touristy area of Roatan. Still, it is not nearly as well developed as other Caribbean destinations. After all, this island has only had electricity and paved roads since the mid-1990s.
Actually, there are still no paved roads in West End. The locals have voted them out, because they like to go barefoot on the sandy streets, only a few steps from the beach at Half Moon Bay. Along these streets you will find a handful of shops catering to tourists, along with a few restaurants and also a limited number of lodging accommodations.
A tropical rain squall moved in about the time we reached West End, the last stop on our tour of Roatan. Because of the rain we didn't go to the breach. West End has a special allure and is a part of Roatan we will definitely explore more thoroughly on our next trip.
Coxen Hole, also sometimes called Roatan Town, is a small village which serves as the capitol of Roatan. It lies just to the north of the cruise ship terminal. Most visitors who come by ship only visit the tourist shops nearest the docks and don't make it all the way into the small downtown area.
Those who do venture into the center of Coxen Hole find little to see and do. However, a stroll along the narrow streets of the downtowntown area will give you a much better idea of how the locals live. In the town you will find city hall, a handful of businesses and homes, and a very small park. You will also see lots of friendly people.
Coxen Hole is named for the infamous English priate, Captain John Coxen, who holed up here in the 17th century.