Famous explorers such as Christopher Columbus, buccaneer Henry Morgan and pirate John Coxen have fallen under the spell of the Bay Islands, just 30 miles from the northern coast of Honduras. But Roatan, the largest of the three Bay Islands, is where most modern day explorers go to discover the labyrinth of coral reef beneath the dazzling aquamarine colored water and enjoy a relaxing Caribbean style vacation.
Anthropologically rich, Roatan natives are like Jacob’s coat of many colors. Ninety percent are Mestizo (a mix of Indian, African and European) and the rest are an African-Caribbean people named the Garifunas. Since it was home to more than 5,000 English pirates and buccaneers in the 16th and 17th century, English is the predominant language unlike the Spanish-speaking mainland of Honduras.
For the inner pirate in you, we’ve given you the map to a few of the most extraordinary treasures of Roatan:
Diving or Snorkeling in the World’s Second Largest Coral Reef:
Surrounded by the Great Western Barrier Reef, Roatan’s waters are full of spires and towers of star, starlet, and lettuce corals, as well as the best selection of sponges found anywhere in the Caribbean. You’ll be awestruck with the seascape of overhangs, canyons, fissures, and mazes of tunnels along the walls of continuous reef. Check out http://www.nativesonsroatan.com/ for an eco-friendly dive shop.
Stanley’s Submarine Explorations:
If scuba diving isn’t your cup of ocean water, you can keep dry and still have the mysteries of the deep ocean blue revealed to you. Karl Stanley, an inventor extraordinaire, has hand-built a tiny submarine to plunge you to depths of 2000 feet below the ocean surface. Through the large Plexiglas viewing bubble you will see underwater life few humans have rarely encountered. For the ultimate thrill-seeking adventure, Stanley offers encounters with the elusive six-gill shark, one of the ocean’s largest predators. You watch them safely from the comfort of the submarine as they feed on pig organs he conveniently provides for your viewing pleasure. http://www.stanleysubmarines.com/
Paya Bay Resort:
On the east side of the island, requiring a four-wheel drive on muddy dirt roads to reach, Roatan’s ultimate escape awaits you. Paya Bay Resort’s owner, Lurline McNabb, welcomes everyone with a warm smile and a loving island embrace. The rooms are charmingly rustic with jaw-dropping views of the silken sands, sea forest palms and glittering shorelines. Celebrate the Garifuna culture on Thursday nights when the locals perform traditional dance and music on the beach lit by torches. If the island spirit calls you, one of their two private beaches is clothing optional.
Arch’s Iguana Farm:
Ever experienced up to 3,000 iguanas running towards you from all directions? Here’s your chance. Arch’s Iguana Farm has been an iguana safe haven for eighteen years and around noon they come to pay an exuberant visit and feed. Pay attention to where you step, it could just as easily be an iguana as a branch under your foot. www.roatanisland.net/iguana_farm.htm
Hole in the Wall Restaurant:
Get in your ship, mate, to discover the best kept resident hangout. In the legendary pirate community of Jonesville, Hole in the Wall Restaurant is only accessible by boat. Ask one of the locals to radio owner Bob and his son Jorge will pick you up and escort you happily to enjoy a cold beer and colorful stories. Come on Sundays where Bob gets his grill skills on and puts out an all-you-can-eat feast of fresh lobster, steak and all the fixings. www.roatanonline.com/moreroatan/images_east/hole.htm
To get to this tiny 28 mile long strip of paradise, fly to San Pedro Sula airport and then take domestic flights to La Ceiba, then Roatan or if you’re on a budget and have more time, you can take a two and a half hour bus ride from the San Pedro Sula airport to La Ceiba and then a half hour ferry. If you’ve got more money than time, take direct flights on Continental from Houston on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays or from Newark on Saturdays; Delta from Atlanta on Saturdays; Taca from Houston on Saturdays or from Miami on Sundays.