Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Amanda Stancati
Roatan scuba diving is undoubtedly the area’s top attraction. Its incredible spot, just offshore from parts of the Meso American Reef, lends way to over 100 dive sites and diverse marine and coral species. Diving is good year round, with opportunities to spot vibrant coral, multi colour tropical fish, huge sponges, pelagic such as manta ray, sea turtles and whale sharks. This unspoiled Caribbean island is the largest, most developed, and most visited of the Honduras Bay Islands. Dive in and see for yourself what Roatan vacations are all about.
Who should go?
Roatan appeals to beginner and advanced divers and attracts those who want to experience snorkeling, night dives, unique ship wrecks, and renowned water clarity and calm waters. Sun-seekers looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination can relax and indulge in an all-inclusive vacation in this tropical paradise. With the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south, Honduras is a Central American country offering a unique alternative to the typical Caribbean vacation.
What to do
Roatan boasts many dive sites in addition to other exciting attractions for non-diving travellers. The main attraction, West Bay Beach, is a 1.5 km stretch of resort hotels and soft sand beaches. Most diving sites are right off the dock or within a five minute boat ride. The area’s reef is part of the second largest reef of the world, the Mesoamerican reef which touches the coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras – an attractive feature of diving in Roatan.
Diving points of interest include:
- West End Wall: One of Roatan’s best dive sites, this steep cliff is home to large barrel sponges, spectacular pillar coral, seahorses, and frequently, sea turtles, eagle rays, tarpons, and barracuda. Most often done as a drift dive over the reef edge, divers can also choose to drop off and get up close to the seahorses.
- El Aguila Wreck: This 200-foot cargo ship was sunk in 1997 by Anthony’s Key Resort and was later broken into three pieces by a hurricane, allowing divers to explore the interior compartments. Sitting 100 feet deep in Sandy Bay, the site is full of garden eels and moray as well as large grouper and blue parrotfish.
- Mary’s Place: One of the most popular dive sites in Roatan, Mary’s Place features deep cracks and tunnels created by volcanic activity. This dive is advanced because of the depth and buoyancy required, with drops as deep as 118 feet. You’ll spot black coral and grouper, glassfish, creole wrasse, bearded fireworms, and barrel sponges.
- Four Sponges: Great for beginner divers, the reefs range from less than 10 feet to 130 feet with opportunities to spot barracuda, toadfish, blue chromis, yellow jawfish, scorpionfish, and sponges.
- Prince Albert Wreck: The 165 foot tanker was intentionally sunk in 1985 and remains intact for people to encounter eagle rays, stingrays, squid, and soft coral about 85 feet deep.
- Calvin’s Crack: Atop a shallow reef, Calvin’s Crack starts at 20 feet deep and runs through the reef sloping down to 90 feet before exiting along the outer wall. Divers can encounter vase sponges, gorgonians, coral, barracuda, hunting jacks, and sometimes spot toad fish. Beginner divers can follow along the stop of the crack.
- Spooky Channel: Located on the northwest shore near Sandy Bay, this channel opens to a barrier reef at 100 feet. The deeper dive has limited natural light and walls of the channel rise up to almost touch, creating an eerie and narrower dive. You’ll spot sea whips, crabs, shrimp, and abundant coral before exiting through swim-throughs.
Other activities in Roatan include ziplining, submarine rides, dolphin encounters at Anthony’s Key Resort, fishing, glass bottom boat rides, kite surfing, and more. Attractions include the Roatan Butterfly Gardens, the botanical garden and nature trails of Carambola Gardens, the Gumbalimba Eco Park, and exploring Helene caves. The West End beaches are the nicest for those looking to spend their days basking in the sun. Nightlife in Roatan is fairly quiet, with a few bars and pubs along the waterfront and occasional performances by local bands. Shopping mostly consists of local crafts and souvenirs.
- Roatan Zip Dip, Beaches and Monkey Park: This tour includes ziplining across the jungle, a drive to amazing beaches, and a chance to visit the monkey park with port pick-up and drop-off included.
- West Bay Beach Round-Trip Transportation from Roatan: This tour includes free hotel or port pick-up and drop-off and a visit to the crystal clear waters of West Bay Beach for a day of swimming, relaxing, snorkeling, live music, and local artisans.
- Roatan Combo Tour: Jungle Horseback Riding and Beach Break: This four hour excursion brings you to the lush jungles for a horseback ride and then to one of Roatan’s best beaches for swimming, relaxing, snorkeling, and kayaking.
- Roatan Private Tour: Shopping, Sightseeing and Beach Tour: Choose where you want to spend your time on this private tour, whether it be stopping at the iguana farm, botanical gardens, monkey stop to hold a baby monkey, canopy zipline, butterfly gardens, glass bottom boat rides, visit a local school, or horseback riding.
View all Roatan shore excursions and island tours here.
How to get to the dive site
All divers must be PADI Certified before going out to sea. If you are not certified, you must complete a dive program at the resort. You can complete the online module from home in advance and bring your paperwork with you and just take the pool training in destination. You will get to practice first in the pool to get familiar with your gear before heading out to the open waters. The limit for recreational scuba diving is 130 feet. Beginners tend to stay at 60 feet. For more information, read these frequently asked questions on the PADI website.
Roatan has both boat and shore dives. In many cases, the reef starts close to the shore while shipwrecks are further out. Dives can be booked in advance, like the VIP 2-Tank Dive in Roatan which includes valet service and a two boat dives with a small group.
Where to stay
Roatan features all-inclusive resorts and small independent hotels and bed and breakfasts, with no mass market chains. Some hotels are quite rustic. Most hotels are located on the West end of the island.
Infinity Bay Spa and Beach Resort, 4 star: On the white sands of West Bay Beach, this adult-only hotel features an infinity pool, onsite restaurant and beach bar, relaxing beachside massages, fully furnished one, two, and three-bedroom condos and studio suites, and is home to a diving center.
Mayan Princess Beach Resort, 4 star: Featuring one and two bedroom villas, equipped with a living room and furnished terrace, four a la carte restaurants, and all-inclusive premium dive packages, Mayan Princess make for an exciting family vacation.
Media Luna Resort, 4 star: The Media Luna Resort is equipped with just over 120 guestrooms, a spa, two restaurants, and a location on the beach, in addition to providing exciting entertainment like dancing lessons, beach volleyball, and nightly shows.
Anthony Key Resort, 3.5 star: Fifty-six wooden bungalows offer beautiful views from the hillside, while the restaurant and bar, pristine beach, dolphin lagoon, and on-site dive shop create a relaxing tropical vibe.
Henry Morgan Resort, 3.5 star: Situated along West Bay Beach, the resort features 140 guest rooms and villas, two restaurants, a spa, and loads of activities for fun-filled beach days.
When to go and for how long?
The average temperature in Roatan is 29C. May to September are the hottest months with temperatures dropping to 25C from October to January. June and July and October-February see more rain. The best time to spot whale sharks is March, April, September, and December. Visitors typically visit Roatan for 7-14 days.
The most popular way to travel Roatan is on an all-inclusive vacation, where flights, hotel stays, airport transfers, meals, and resort activities are bundled together in one vacation package. Divers can book their dives in advance with the help of their travel agent or arrange excursions in destination.
Cruising is also a common way to visit Roatan with itineraries often paired with ports like Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize, and sometimes, even Florida or Texas.
Juan Manuel Galvez International Airport is located on the island of Roatan. In most cases on an all-inclusive vacation package, your transfers to and from the airport will be included and arranged by your tour operator.
Flights to Roatan from Canada are connecting. If purchased as a charter as part of a vacation package, non-stop flights are available seasonally. Roatan vacation packages are available from Toronto and Montreal during the winter months, when most visitors want to escape to warmer climates.
Getting around the city with taxi, water taxi, and scooter rentals is easy. Buses cost approximately $1-$2, depending on where you are going. For the most part, you will not need to leave your resort unless you are taking an excursion, in which case you get picked up from your hotel with pre-arranged, pre-paid transportation.
Price: $1000-$3000 for weeklong all-inclusive vacation package, approximately $40 per dive, $20 for night dive, $185 for 5-dive package
Language: Spanish, though English is widely spoken
Currency: Honduran lempira