Roatan – Honduras – A Beginner’s Guide & Where To Stay

Roatan - West End - Palapa Papas - Studio Hammock View

JULY 2017:

Why not read our Retirement Reviews.


OVERVIEW:

I spent 1 month living in an apartment on Utila Island.Utila Location Maap

Utila was a pleasant place to stay … with a nice, party, SCUBA diving, backpacker ‘vibe’.Utila Town Map

It was time to move on to Roatan Island … to compare the two islands.


UTILA:

I arrived in Utila by ferry on a Monday to avoid the busy (and booked) weekend.

I stayed for 2 nights in an hotel for US$20 / night (discounted down from US$26 / night).Utila - Main St West - 28 Utila - Margaritas - Room Entry This gave me enough time to find a nice apartment at Maggie’s Place for US$450 / month (excluding electric). Electric costs averaged HNL60 / day (fan only – no aircon). With electric costing another US$75 for the month, my total cost was US$525.Utila - Maggies Place - Rooms

It was a 1 bedroom apartment with cable tv, wifi, and a good sized living area.Utila - Maggies Place - Bedroom Utila - Maggies Place - Entry Utila - Maggies Place - Kitchenette Utila - Maggies Place - Ensuite ShowerUtila - Maggies Place - Ensuite Toilet

The apartment did not include any servicing, but it had a free laundry with Washer & Dryer where we could wash our linen and clothes.

It was nice and central, so I had easy access to all of the restaurants and bars.Utila - Main St East - 16

But, it was about 500 meters from the nearest beach.Utila - Public Beach 2

Utila is too expensive for GRANDPAckers living to GRANDPAcking Standard.

But, by getting an apartment, I was able to bring costs down to an affordable level.


UTILA ISLAND TO ROATAN ISLAND:

The ferry normally leaves at 10:15am and you are told to be at the port 30 minutes early. It only runs on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. On the other days, you will have to catch a ferry back to La Ceiba and, then, a ferry out to Roatan (which makes the trip very expensive).Utila - Direct Ferry to Roatan

I left on a Friday. It was Utila Carnival Weekend, so they re-scheduled the ferry to leave at 11:00am. It was late and we didn’t leave until 12:00 noon.

The direct trip to Roatan Island takes just over 1 hour.

The first view of Roatan is the western point.Roatan - Western Point

Then rugged coastline.Roatan - Approaching Habour

Before you enter the small harbour with a token shipwreck.Roatan - Wreck in Harbour

And a beautiful little island across the water.Roatan - Across from Harbour

The port, itself, is surprisingly rustic and small.Roatan - Harbour Dock

You disembark and run the normal ‘gauntlet’ of taxi touts.

I had already emailed my West End hotel in advance and asked them how to get to the West End by Colectivo. They said that it would cost HNL45 and that it would take some time (because of all of the stops on the way).

On exiting the ferry port, a taxi tout asked me where I was going. I replied to West End. He asked me how much I wanted to pay for a taxi … US$10? I said no and that I was going to catch a Colectivo. He offered me a private taxi for US$5 (about HNL120). I said HNL100. He said OK and I jumped in.


ABOUT ROATAN

Roatan Island (Isla de Roatan) is the largest of the Honduras’ major Bay Islands in a region that marks the south end of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (the second-largest in the world).

It is about 65 kms (40 mi) north of the Honduran coast.Bay Island Map

It is approximately 77 kms (48 mi) long, and less than 8 kms (5.0 mi) across at its widest point.

The most populous town of the island is Coxen Hole located in the southwest.

To the West of Coxen Hole are the settlements of Gravel Bay, Flowers Bay and Pensacola (on the south coast) … and Sandy Bay, West End and West Bay (on the north coast).Roatan Island Map

Christopher Colombus discovered the island in 1502-1504 AD. Europeans brought disease. No indigenous people survived the consequent epidemics.

The Bay Islands were administered by Great Britain before being handed over to Honduras in the 1860s. English is still widely spoken on the island.


AROUND THE WEST END:

Roatan Island is known to be more expensive than Utila Island. To LIVE on Roatan was going to be a bit of a ‘challenge’ on a GRANDPAcking Budget.

A search of internet information guided me to look in the West Bay, West End, and Sandy Bay area. West Bay is said to be very expensive. I ended up in West End.Roatan - West End Map

West End is a small community that stretched about 1km along 2 (main) sandy beaches.

From the national park boundary to the south you find a quiet stretch of beach heading back north to West End town.Roatan - West End 2

There are a couple of rustic beachfront resorts here including Ronny’s Barefoot Bar.Roatan - West End - 1

Before hitting the main West End waterfront road an main stretch of beach.Roatan - West End 3

West End town is, basically, all along the waterfront … there is very little of interest more than 50 meters inland from the coast.Roatan - West End 4

Along the waterfront you will find a selection of (largely over-priced) accommodation options amongst a plethora of (largely over-priced) restaurants, cafes, and bars. You are a ‘captured market’.Roatan - West End 5

But, the waterfront offers a good stretch of beach about 10 meters wide where you can relax and sunbathe.

Continue further and you hit Half Moon Bay (the most popular beach for sunbathers).Roatan - West End 6Roatan - West End 7

Before hitting the main road entry into town.Roatan - West End - Road Entry from North

From here, you can continue to hug the coastline going north into a quieter area of town.Roatan - West End - Lands End Road 1

Here you find more Dive Shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars.

Before reaching more accommodation and resort complexes.Roatan - West End - Lands End Road 2

This is where you will find places like the Lands End Resort.Roatan - West End - Lands End

The coastline here is rocky with no beaches.Roatan - West End - Lands End Waterfront

So, some of the resorts offer swimming pools.Roatan - West End - Lands End Resort Pool

And, some offer peers with water access.Roatan - West End - Lands End Resort Waters

If you double back and follow the north road inland about 400 meters, you will reach the Petrosun Station.Roatan - West End - North to Petrosun Station

You will find some more accommodation options in this area. Some ‘backpacker’.Roatan - West End - Backstreet Accommodation

But, why would you want to be so far from the beach and action?


WHERE TO STAY :

Accommodation is expensive for GRANDPAckers … if you rely solely on the internet, it will be unaffordable.

Accommodation-wise, this is typical of what you find within GRANDPAcker price range … this is for 1 night in mid August 2017 … August, here, is the start of Low Season …


HOTELS & HOSTELS (Nightly Rates):

BOOKING.COM:Roatan Booking 1 Roatan Booking 2
EXPEDIA.COM:Roatan Expedia 1
AGODA.COM:Roatan Agoda 1

PLEASE NOTE: Hotel and Hostel search sites sometimes display prices EXCLUSIVE of TAXES. You may have to add up to 19% to the displayed price to get the final price.


VACATION RENTALS (Weekly Rates):

If you plan to stay a week or more, another good option is to use AirBnB or TRIPADVISOR.COM to book a Holiday Rental / Vacation Rental.

Holiday Rentals are usually rented by the week. A comparable search reveals the following … please note that these prices are in US$s …

TRIPADVISOR:Roatan TripAdvisor 1
AIRBnB:Roatan AirBnB 1

Vacation Rentals are, usually, displayed INCLUSIVE of TAXES but EXCLUSIVE of any Security Deposit (if required). BUT, the displayed price may be EXCLUSIVE of the host site’s Service Fees (which can add as much as 16%).

In S.E. Asia, I wouldn’t touch AirBnB with a barge pole … in my opinion and experience the accommodation that you find is an absolute rip off. However, in Central America they are worth a look.


FURTHER RESEARCH:

It was obvious that I needed to do further research before landing on Roatan Island.

I got onto Facebook and found the Roatan Short & Long Term Rentals Group. I signed up and sent out a post asking for accommodation for 1 month in an ‘under US$600 / month’ price range.Roatan Facebook Rentals

I got a few replies and some were for US$400-450 … but they were in isolated locations away from the beach.

I made contact with other sites and made further enquiries.Roatan Long Term Lettings

After a few days of research, I had exhausted all options.

This is what I managed to get offered in advance:

  • Roatan Life Vacation Rentals: A new Studio in Sandy Bay for US$600 plus utilities and a US$1000 security deposit
  • Roatan Hostel: A Room with Shared Kitchen for US$750 plus 19% Taxes which had access to a pool
  • Roatan Vacation Rentals: A Studio Cabin for US$595 in Sandy Bay within 200m of the beach
  • Splash Inn: A Room for a nightly rate of US$60
  • Pinocchios: A Room with Shared Kitchen in West End for US$390
  • Hidden Garden Cabins: A Studio Cabin with no aircon away from the beach for US$550.

IN SUMMARY:

I suggest that GRANDPAckers look for an apartment on the West End waterfront. This offers the best access to everything that West End has to offer.

Alternatively, look in / around ‘Lands End’ … but only if you are happy to focus your day around a swimming pool … and have a bit of a walk in / out of town center.

Based on online accommodation prices, many GRANDPAckers would be put off coming to Roatan.

But, don’t be discouraged … read on …


MY ACCOMMODATION:

So, online search engines offered very few options within our GRANDPAcking budget.

Roatan is an English Speaking, mature holiday destination … There are very few accommodations options that are not already listed on the internet … so, it is not so easy to just ‘turn up’ and take a chance.Roatan - West End - Street Cafes

I arrived on a Friday and I decided to book an hotel for 3 nights. If I couldn’t find long term accommodation for under US$600 / month over the weekend, I was going to abandon Roatan and move on.


SHORT TERM:

I used BOOKING.COM to book into Georphie’s.Roatan - Georphis - Cabins

I broke GRANDPAcking Standard and just booked a Single Fan Room with Private Bathroom.

The rack rate was US$25 / night plus 19% taxes but I use BOOKING.COM a lot and I am a ‘Genius’ member. Geniuses were offered 10% off rack rate.

I got to Georphie’s reception and they were expecting me … but, they weren’t expecting the discounted rate of US$67.50 for the 3 nights. They converted this into HNL1,587 and forgot to add the 19% tax. Which was a nice ‘win’ for me. I paid cash up front.

Georphie’s has less than 10 cabins set across the waterfront road.Roatan - Georphis - Beach

My single cabin was small but adequate.Roatan - Georphis - Single Cabin

It came with a small fridge and a coffee maker.Roatan - Georphis - Room EntryRoatan - Georphis - Ensuite Entry Roatan - Georphis - Kitchenette Roatan - Georphis - Room

The bathroom had hot water.

The wifi was poor and variable … sometimes unusable.


LONG TERM:

My taxi driver from the Ferry Port in Coxen Hole took me to look at one of the apartments that I had talked to on Facebook. It was US$400 / month (including electric). It was in the middle of nowhere up a steep road at least 2kms from the beach. There was no way that I wanted to be stuck for 1 month in such a location. But, it gave me a ‘prod’ to let me know that I was going to have to pay more. I was 500 meters from the beach on Utila … this time, I wanted to get as close as possible … that meant getting into West End town … I set my target at US$600 / month.Roatan - West End - Waterfront View

I spent all day Saturday walking around West End looking for long term accommodation. Many places do NOT offer long term rates … not even in Low Season. With many listed at US$55+ / night, they have no need to discount to weekly or monthly rates. My search was complicated by the fact that West End was running a Free Diver competition on the first weekend of August … and, many places were already booked out.

Ronny’s Barefoot (south of town) offered me a very basic room with just a bed, no furniture and a ‘grubby’ bathroom for US$290 / month. Many Dive Instructors lived cheaply there. It was much too basic for me.

There were only 2 decent places that I could find for under $600 / month.

The first was an old, run-down duplex cabin at Lands End Resort. It had no TV, no WiFi, and no hot water. They would not discount any lower. But, it had a view of the sea from a back balcony and the resort offered free all-day coffee and they had a nice swimming pool. Many GRANDPAckers would have chosen this option because of the ‘lazing around a pool’ offering.Roatan - West End - Lands End Cabin US$600

I chose the second option at Palapa Papa’s.

Palapa Papas is not listed on the internet. It is situated at the south end of town on a quiet strip of the main beach road.Roatan - West End - Palapa Papas - Road North Roatan - West End - Palapa Papas - Road South

They have about 8 cabins in total.Roatan - West End - Palapa Papas - CabinsRoatan - West End - Palapa Papas - Back Cabins

They had a nice, modern Studio apartment available at the very front overlooking the water.

The normal rate was US$650 / month plus another US$20 for Cable TV. As it was entering Low Season, I got them down to US$600 including Cable TV. This works out to be just under US$20 / night.Roatan - West End - Palapa Papas - Studio Entry

The price included aircon, electric, and drink water (in 5 gallon bottles).Roatan - West End - Palapa Papas - Studio Furniture

Roatan - West End - Palapa Papas - Studio Kitchenette Roatan - West End - Palapa Papas - Studio Shower Roatan - West End - Palapa Papas - Studio VanityRoatan - West End - Palapa Papas - Studio RoomAlas, the hot water heater was broken so the shower was cold water. But, cold water here isn’t that cold.

The resort didn’t have wifi but, I was at the front and I could occasionally get a signal from their Restaurant across the road.Roatan - West End - Palapa Papas - View to Bar

I chose the front Cabin because I liked the big deck that had a hammock looking out over the beach. I could have chosen a bigger cabin at the back for the same price … but it didn’t have the view nor an hammock.Roatan - West End - Palapa Papas - Studio Deck Roatan - West End - Palapa Papas - Studio Hammock View

They said that I was free to use the restaurant when I wanted to use the internet. It was a pleasant place to sit and work in the mornings … looking out over clear blue waters.Roatan - West End - Palapa Papas - View from Restaurant

The Studio wasn’t perfect … for example, the kitchenette was a bit ‘clunky’ to use … but I knew that I was going to be comfortable and happy there.

The complex did not have washing & drying facilities but they agreed to change my bed linen weekly and to change towels and do a quick clean every 2 weeks.Roatan - West End - Mobile Laundry at HNL17 per Pound

For my personal laundry, they have a mobile laundry service that picks up and drops off your laundry from your apartment. The price is HNL17 / lb of washing.


ACCOMMODATION SEARCH:

Have a look yourself:


Booking.com



TRANSPORT:

You can walk everywhere around West Endn.

The 12km trip to Coxen Hole costs HNL45 each in a Colectivo. You can get it for as low as HNL100 in a taxi if you negotiate hard (and it is Low Season).

As a Rule Of Thumb for taxis, work on HNL20 for flag drop plus HNL7.5 per km.Roatan - West End - Water Taxi Dock - HNL75 to West Bay

A water ferry to West Bay costs HNL75 each way.


MONEY:

There are no banks in West End. You will need to go back to Coxen Hole.

ATMs:

There is 1 UniBank ATM in town near the Central Mall.

UniBank have a withdrawal limit of HNL5,000.

I advise you to get your HNL at a BanPais ATM in La Ceiba. You can withdraw up to HNL10,000 in a single transaction.


WHEN TO GO:

Utila Climate

As the rains hit the whole of Central America in June, the Bay Islands are one of the few places to take refuge.

Rain on the Bay Islands from June through September is, on average, half of what it is on other parts of the Caribbean Coast and a third (or more) of the rains inland.


CONCLUSION:

I will provide more Information about day-to-day costs in my next post.Roatan - West End - Over Water Restaurant

As a ‘heads up’, Roatan may be too expensive for GRANDPAckers … if you come here, you will need to bend ‘GRANDPAcking Standards‘.

TTFN


Why not FOLLOW US to stay up to date with our Postings and Retirement Reviews.