Scuba Diving in Roatan, Honduras
After spending three weeks in Utila, a friend convinced me that I needed to visit Roatan to experience some of the best diving of the Caribbean sea. Since I had just gotten my PADI Advance Open water certification I wanted to put it to use and explore some deep diving on the biggest of the bay islands. Roatan is a very popular destinations amongst all-inclusive resorts goers, which I usually tend to avoid during my travels, but I made an exception since I was guaranteed some amazing diving.
The Caribbean island of Roatan in Honduras has the second largest coral reef in the world and is renowned for its spectacular scuba diving opportunities. Being the largest of the Bay Islands, there has been many resorts development in recent years and it has become an increasingly more popular cruise ship destination. Roatan is a scuba diver paradise, but there are also many other reasons to visit the island since it offers various types of activities.
One day I rented a car with other people from my hostel in order to be able to explore the island in-depth. Since some of it is still undeveloped going from West End to the other side takes at least two hours by car. So we left early in the morning to have all day to drive around the island.
Monkey & Sloth Hangout
The idea of diving with sharks was my main reason for visiting Roatan, but the idea of being able to hold a sloth was a close second. There is a monkey and sloth sanctuary on the island and I would say it is definitely worth the 10$ USD. Especially for me since I had never seen these animals up close. They have a sloth, monkeys, and different species of birds including parrots.
Close to the Monkey and Sloth hangout, there also is an iguana station where you can feed a bunch of iguanas. This activity is also 10$ USD, but you won’t want to spend as much time here. It is still worth it if you’ve never seen so many big iguanas up close.
A little bit further on the main road we reached Oak Ridge, which is a little town known for its house on stilts. From there, we hopped on a boat that took us on a mangrove tour. These were the most impressive mangroves that I had ever seen because the trees were literally closing up on top of us. At times I even wondered if the boat was going to go through the narrow passage, but it always passed perfectly.
Bar Hole in the Wall
Before our boat driver took us back to Oak Ridge, we asked to stop at the bar called Hole in the Wall. Once we arrived, we felt a really cool vibe there with good drinks and delicious food. I had a freshly squeezed lemonade, my drink of choice on a Caribbean island, and then we hopped back on the boat to continue our day.
The bar offered people to write whatever they wanted on the wooden planks. I choose to write the name of my blog next to this beautiful mermaid drawing that had apparently been done by another girl from Quebec.
After riding on a dirt road at 20km/h for almost an hour, we finally made it to Camp Bay. This more remote part of the island is still quite undeveloped. The stretch of beach is absolutely stunning and the constant high winds make it a prime location for windsurfing. Unfortunately those winds also made it impossible for me to fly my drone and film this gorgeous location. Also, by the time we made it there it was already late afternoon. I would probably recommend trying to make it there a little earlier in order to enjoy the sun and the heat of the afternoon.
Swimming with Dolphins
If you want to swim with dolphins, Anthony’s keys offers a dolphin encounter. This activity is quite expensive for me, so I couldn’t really fit it in my budget. At Anthony’s Keys, the dolphins are kept inside an enclosed area in the ocean, so they are actually swimming in the waters of the ocean. Just a little bit before sunset, right after the park’s closing, I swam to the enclosed area from the shore and that’s how I got to swim with the dolphins for free. We were separated by a cage, but they got so close to us that I got pet them. I had my arm inside the cage to touch them and get pictures of them, but at some point a dolphin almost bit my arm so I realized that maybe I shouldn’t do that. I’ve also had friends go there during the day and the worst that may happen is the guards will ask you to leave. Locals have told me that the best time to go is at sunrise or sunset, when the park is closed.
West Bay it the furthermost West point of the island and the place where most resorts are located. This is probably the most beautiful beach on the island, despite the fact that is also the most crowded.
Here you’ll find countless restaurants along the beach, stores and water sport activities. If you swim along the rock wall located at the westernmost point on the beach, you’ll have access to grade A snorkelling along this coral line. It’s definitely a must to spend an afternoon here during your stay. One evening we even participated in a crab race that ended with fire spinners. Yes, crab races is a real thing!
West End is very close to West Bay and accessible by boat or taxi from there. Here there are more places to go out at night, but it also has a beautiful beach which is more like a bay. If you visit during daytime don’t forget your bathing suit because there is an abandoned boat that you can swim to in order to use its rope swing. It’s free and sometimes you and your friends may be the only ones there.
The diving in Roatan is exquisite, but it is a little more expensive than on its sister island, Utila. Some dive shops do offer 30$ USD dives, but depending where you want to dive you may have to go with other dive shops that are a little more expensive. During my stay, my friends and I did only three dives, but they were all incredible.
My favorite dive on the island was the world-renowned Mary’s Place. This dive site is considered one of the world’s top 100 dive sites. It is a fissure in the reef created by volcanic activity with steep walls full of corals and sponge-filled labyrinth at more than 100 feet deep. We started by swimming along the rock formation and dove down to 100 meters to enter the crack. Once you enter the crack, there is no going back. Each diver has to remain behind one another since the passage is not very large. Light penetrates through the top of the crack, but you cannot escape by swimming upwards as the walls are too narrow for that. Needless to say, this is not a dive site for claustrophobic people. One of the reasons this dive is so impressive is that it gives you this feeling of diving in a cave, but you have corals and marine life all around you. The way the light reflects on the walls is the most memorable part.
Prince Albert Wreck
There are three wrecks along the island and this is the only one that I did. It was by far the best wreck that I had ever seen (okay, I haven’t seen many), but the fact that you can enter so many different parts of the wreck made the dive so much better. It was also the longest dive that I had ever done at 59 minutes. We were seven people including the dive master, all quite experienced divers, except for me. Given that fact, our dive master gave us a lot of liberty during the dive. He showed us the accessible parts of the wreck and let us explore on our own. We would separate from the group and go explore all around (as well as inside, despite not having a wreck diving certification). Since I’m still a new diver I tend to use my tank a lot faster than more experienced divers. I was lucky enough to start my dive with 3900 PSI – usually it’s 3000 – so I was able to last longer on the dive. The deepest point we went to was 36 meters, the deepest that I’ve ever been. All of that without wearing a wet suit! Diving is so much more enjoyable in the warm waters of the Caribbean sea.
The Shark dive was how my friend Charlene convinced me to go to Roatan. Sharks are my favorite underwater creature and there’s nothing like the feeling of swimming next to them. We had as many as 20 reef sharks around us and we were swimming with them. Many people may think this is scary, but I felt so free swimming around them and I never felt scared. I had never seen reef sharks and I was absolutely obsessed with the idea of diving with them. I couldn’t miss the opportunity and I decided to splurge on this activity. At 130$ USD, this is the most expensive dive in Roatan. If you’ve already done a shark dive in other renowned places around the world and you have a tight budget, I would not recommend Roatan’s shark dive. The island has so many other wonderful dive sites and for the same price you could easily do 3-4 dives.
Transport Around the Island
The best way to get around the island is by using the taxi collectivo. They run all along the main road of the island. The difference from a taxi collectivo and a regular taxi is that the taxi collectivo will stop and pick up other people with you. They are also way cheaper, but they look the same as regular taxi so make sure you ask and confirm the price before getting in the car. If you wish to travel all around and make it as far as Camp Bay, than your best option is to rent a car for one day.
There are not a lot of budget accommodations around the island. There are only a few hostels, but the majority of accommodation available are the expensive resorts. I stayed at Roatan’s Backpackers Hostel, which is located in Sandy Bay. It may not be the most lively area, but it’s a good hostel and transport to other parts of the island is easy from there. You’ll also find options of apartment rental online. If you are a scuba diver traveling with other people who do not scuba dive, Roatan is the perfect island for you! Not only is it a scuba diver paradise, it also has plenty of other activities available. Not to mention, it would be easy to spend the better part of a week just hanging out by the beach.