Roatan is the largest, most developed and most frequented of the Bay Islands. Essentially a long, forested ridge rising from the Caribbean, it retains much of the original landscape that the Buccaneers knew in the 17th and 18th Century. The dive industry has grown tremendously on Roatan based on the quality of its coral reefs. Both the northern reef and southern fringing reef boast around 40 dive sites each, characterized by plummeting walls, crevices and caverns, and excellent shore diving.
In past decades, Roatan was exclusively a diving destination, offering few organized activities for those whose interests lie elsewhere. But in recent years, and particularly with the arrival of cruise ships which 2 days a week drop off 800 or more passengers to tour the island, Roatan's menu of activities has expanded exponentially. Here are some of the activities from an ever-expanding list of things to do on Roatan:
Glass Bottom Boat - On Roatan, there are two air-conditioned, glass-bottom boats that will take you on an hour-long tour where you can peer out at the coral reef from seven feet under the water. The Underwater Paradise leaves from Half Moon Bay Cabins at Half Moon Bay, just east of West End. The Coral Reef Explorer operates out of West Point on West Bay Beach, to which you can catch a complimentary water taxi from the Coconut Tree Hotel.
C-BUG (Mini-sub) - For a unique experience, take a ride in the two-person submarine located at West End. The C-BUG mini-sub will take you down to 700 ft., where little light penetrates but visibility is unmatched. Plants don't grow at these depths, but a strange assortment of plant-like animals haunts this ecosystem that very few people have witnessed.
Tropical Treasures Bird Park - The brilliant tropical colours and charming personalities of Honduras' parrots, macaws and toucans are on display at this beach-side bird park in Sandy Bay. It's a relaxing afternoon activity, and informative guided tours are offered to acquaint visitors with these fascinating and endangered birds kept in spacious aviaries. Originally a private collection, the park now contains one of the most complete parrot inventories in Central America, including the Scarlet Macaws, Great Green Macaw, Blue and Gold Macaw, Hans Macaw, White-crowned Parrot, White-fronted Parrot, Mealy Parrot, Red-lored Parrot, Orange-chinned Parakeets, Green Conures, Keel-billed Toucans, and Collared Aracaris. A special attraction is a sub-species of the Yellow-Crowned Parrot, an endangered species endemic to the Bay Islands.
Iguana Farm - The owner of this quirky attraction has spent years protecting and raising the over-hunted green iguanas that laze about in the trees around his house in French Key, east of French Harbor. This out of the way site may not seem like much until the owners throw out a pile of vegetable leftovers on their driveway. Then suddenly dozens of iguanas descend from the trees to fight over the scraps. The farm has a number of the big, red males that are so rarely seen anymore.
Horseback Riding - There are a number of places that offer great horseback riding in West End and West Bay. You have the option of riding up into the hills behind these beach-side communities, or riding along the sand and into the azure water of some of the island's best beaches.
Island Tours - A couple of companies offer interesting island tours. Averyl's Adventures will take you by air-conditioned van out to the town of Jonesville, where you hop in a motorized dory for a 30-minute cruise along a narrow canal through the mangrove "tunnels", arriving finally at some small keys. After returning, you will drive to Marble Hill Farms in the community of Diamond Rock, where the owners make home-grown jams and jellies out of hibiscus flowers, mangoes, pineapples, guavas, mutton peppers and island plums. You can sit on the porch overlooking a beautiful tropical garden, sample the products, and watch the Fork-tailed Emerald and Green-breasted Mango hummingbirds fly into the feeders. The tour ends with a visit to the Distant View bar in Milton Bight, where you can enjoy an island vista and a performance by the Garifuna dancers from nearby Punta Gorda.
Sailing - The Belvedere Lodge is home to the beautifully maintained On-air IV sailing yacht, which offers sunset sailing tours. Another sailing yacht offers an exclusive Champagne tour called Champagne Away, which includes a gourmet meal and glass of the bubbly, as well as opportunities for swimming and snorkeling.
Sea Kayaking - Kayaking companies in West End offer many ways to experience the beautiful Roatan coastline. From half-day rentals to one, two or 6-day tours, sea kayaks offer the most adventurous way to get around to the island's best snorkeling spots.
Dolphins at Anthony's Key - Anthony's Key Resort, one of the Bay Island's most popular dive Meccas, has for years been developing a dolphin program through their Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences located on the property. Trained dolphins perform daily shows of acrobatic leaps and spins. In another beach-side enclosure on nearby Baily's Key, the Dolphin Encounter offers the chance for you to wade into the water and play with the dolphins. The Dolphin Swim is available for those who want a more intimate experience with these intelligent marine mammals. Anthony's Key Resort also offers divers the opportunity to dive with the dolphins.
Water Skiing, Jet Skiing, Para-sailing, Snorkeling - West End is a center for watersports on Roatan. You can sign up for an organized jet-ski safari, which will take you out beyond the reef and Marine Park, into open water. Water-skiing in the Bay is also available. Great snorkeling can be had right off the beach, or boats can be hired to take you out to the farther reefs. Snorkeling is often combined with sailing trips, kayak trips, or jet-ski trips. Para-sailing offers you a chance for a bird's-eye view of the island as you are harnessed into a parachute and pulled behind a boat like a human kite. You rise to above 100 ft., from which you can survey the beautiful colors of the reefs and the verdant island greens.
Rental Cars, Scooters, Mountain Bikes - It is easy to rent vehicles which give you the freedom to explore the island at your own pace. Open topped jeeps, motor scooters, and mountain bikes are all available to rent for the short or long term. The paved road that runs from West End to Oak Ridge offers spectacular views over both sides of the island.
Beaches - The many beaches from Sandy Bay west to West Bay are excellent, offering places to stop and relax or have a drink. Our longest and least frequented beaches are located at the east end of the island. The small village of scattered houses called Camp Bay, which is east of Diamond Rock, is the site of Camp Bay Beach, a two-mile long deserted stretch of white sand bordering azure Caribbean water. There is almost nothing to buy out there, so you might consider your trip to Camp Bay a picnic and bring food and drink with you.
Shopping - In souvenir shops throughout the island you will find a colorful and funky selection of handcrafts made in Honduras, other Central American countries, and even Mexico. You can fill an afternoon just going from one eccentric little shop to another.