The Bay of Honduras curls around a scattering of hideaway islands as if protecting secret jewels in the otherwise popular and well-established tourist destination of the West Indies.
Roatan Island, one of the biggest of the hidden gems, is carpeted in jungle, surrounded by crystal-clear coral seas and home to the local English-speaking Caracol people, who descend from European/English-African-Caribbean ancestry.
The island is delightful, surprising and under-visited, remaining one of the Caribbean’s best kept secrets. I love it.
Nicknamed ‘Big Island’ and shaped like a new moon, Roatan is 65kms from the Honduran mainland and stretches 50km in length and between 2-4km in breadth. Near the world’s second largest reef (the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef) and surrounded by diverse coral and marine life, it has gorgeous white-sand beaches which sit prettily below the high-hilled lush interior.
No doubt once one of the Caribbean Sea’s most popular pirate hideouts, the seclusion of the island’s small inlets and bays are now as alluring as the white-sand West Bay beaches. Which, as these photos show, still retain a slow-boat ambiance, with gentle convivial beach culture dominated by fishing, snorkelling, diving and beach chilling opportunities.
Indeed, Roatan is the perfect recharge beach hangout, particularly after a mainland trip through Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador or Nicaragua. Accessible by local prop plane, boat or large cruises, the island is ripe for gentle exploration, with a host of seductively named locations – including Pristine Bay, Parrot Tree, Camp Bay Beach, French Harbour, Sandy Bay, Mount Pleasant, Flowers Bay and Crawfish Rock.
The busy edginess of the Honduran mainland dissipates the moment you step foot on Roatan. Distinctly Caribbean in atmosphere, with less of the Central American Latino ambiance, the island’s daily beat is much more reggae than rumba. Similarly, your choice of a sundowner beverage is more than likely to be ‘rum’ based, rather than ‘refresco’.
The choice of where to stay ranges from larger and more mainstream hotels, to a smattering of exciting, smaller boutique hideaways.
So, whether looking to down tools after exploring the history, jungle and Latino cultures of Central America, or preferring to just spend the whole of your time surrendering to the charms of island life in the Caribbean – I highly recommend this most welcoming of Islands.