Roatan – Honduras – Information

Roatan - West End 7

JULY / AUGUST 2017:

Why not read our Retirement Reviews.


OVERVIEW:

Roatan Island MapIn my “Beginner’s Guide” to Roatan, I provided information about:

  • How to get from Utila Island to Roatan Island
  • Why I chose West End
  • What West End looks like
  • Where to stay
  • What ‘short term’ accommodation I found
  • What ‘long term’ accommodation I found
  • Transport
  • Banks and ATMs
  • When to go

Roatan - West End - MermaidIn this post, I will tell you more about what it is like to actually live on Roatan and a lot more about everyday costs.


MY ACCOMMODATION:

I couldn’t afford to live in hotel rooms on Roatan … the cheapest rooms start at US$35 / night. I needed to break GRANDPAcking Standards and find an apartment … this helped me keep my costs down in other ways too.

The detail is in the Beginner’s Guide but, in summary, I ended up staying in a Studio Apartment opposite Palapa Papa’s at the south end of town.Roatan - West End - Palapa Papas - Cabins

These apartments are not listed on the normal online search engines.Roatan - West End - Palapa Papas - View to Bar

It was one of only 2 places that I could find for under US$700 / month including aircon and electric. It had a large deck with an hammock and views out over the water.Roatan - West End - Palapa Papas - Studio Deck

The kitchenette was simple and a bit ‘clunky’ to use … e.g. I had to wash up in the bathroom sink.Roatan - West End - Palapa Papas - Studio Entry

The bed was comfortable with a ceiling fan over. There was a wardrobe for storage.Roatan - West End - Palapa Papas - Studio Room

The bathroom was a reasonable size with plenty of hot water (once they go the hot water supply fixed).Roatan - West End - Palapa Papas - Studio Kitchenette

It came with Cable TV (with many English speaking channels) but no wifi.Roatan - West End - Palapa Papas - Studio Vanity

I had to pay a US$200 security deposit. This, with the month’s rent, was all paid up-front in cash. I chose to pay in HNL and they convered it all at the bank rate of US$1 = HNL23.5.


ABOUT WEST END:

I won’t repeat what I have already said in my Beginner’s Guide.

The first thing that you notice about Roatan is that almost everyone quotes their prices in US$s. Some of the locals convert US$1 to HNL20, others to HNL25. The official exchange rate was HNL23.50.

If you pay in US$s you will pay more than you should. Ask to pay in HNL.Roatan - West End - Palapa Papas - Sunday BBQ Band

West End has a Noise Ordnance that requires most places to close at 10pm on weekdays and midnight at weekends. Some places with entertainment can extend this to midnight on weekdays and 2am on weekends.

West End is a ‘fun’ town … not a ‘party’ town.


THE BEACHES:

I do a detailed ‘walk through’ of the beaches in my Beginner’s Guide.

In summary …

The beach stretches from the main road entry into town in the north …Roatan - West End 6

… all the way south past Ronny’s Barefeet Restaurant to the south.Roatan - West End 2

It averages about 15-20 meters wide.

You can find shade under Palm Trees and you can rent loungers for the day if you want to … loungers usually cost US$10 for the day. In the quieter locations you can pay US$3-US$5.Roatan - West End - 1

The swimming is OK but you will find seaweed underfoot. You will find coral to snorkel on within 200 meters off the beach.


EAT:

GRANDPAckers are going to be shocked at some of the prices.

On my first night, I went down to the Sunset Grill. The cheapest thing on their menu was Pupusas for US$5. Pupusas are just flour and water pancakes filled with small bits of meat and vegetables – they are one of the cheapest things that you can eat in Central America.Roatan - West End - Sunset Grill

I like Pupusas but what I got for my money was a bit of a shock. They were the smallest Pupusas that I have ever seen. Poor value for money. But, you soon learn that food is poor value for money almost everywhere in West End (and Roatan) …Roatan - West End - Sunset Grill Bar - Pupusas HNL120

The next night, I went down to the street stalls that set up on Half Moon Beach. They wanted US$5 for 3 Pork Tacos! I was only paying US$2 for Tacos in Mahahual on the Riviera Maya in Mexico!Roatan - West End - Street Tacos HNL110

A Fried Chicken meal is HNL110-115.

These are typical prices in a cheap eatery:Roatan - West End - Typical Cheap Cafe Menu

Elsewhere, almost everyone seems to want US$10 for their cheapest main meal.

Somehow, I had to find a way to LIVE on Roatan on a ‘balanced diet’ … tacos and fried chicken were not going to ‘cut the mustard’.

I got onto the internet and went to the normal websites to knock up a list of all of the ‘cheap’ eateries in town. I decided to try them all to see what sort of value for money I was going to get …


BREAKFAST:

Expect to see Breakfasts starting at US$5 / HNL115. Expect to see coffee starting at US$1.50 / HNL40.


EATING AT HOME:

At these prices, I decided to eat most of our Breakfasts at home (one of the main benefits of living in an apartment with a full kitchenette over an hotel).

More detail on prices can be found in the ‘Money & Shopping’ section, below.

In summary, I bought groceries. Some mornings I would have Bacon, Eggs, and Toast. Other mornings I would have Cereal and Fruit. I bought local Honduran coffee for my coffee maker. A decent Breakfast at home cost me an average of HNL40 each day.


LUNCH:

I don’t really eat Lunches anymore. When I did, they tended to be snacks back at my apartment … like a Cheese Sandwich or something.

However, a good way to keep costs down is to change your lifestyle: eat big Lunches rather than big Dinners. Lunches tend to be better value for money than Dinners.

Keep an eye out for Lunchtime ‘specials’.


DINNER:

Don’t be surprised to see most mains displayed on menus in the US$10-20 (HNL235-470) price range. The ‘art’ is to know where to go on which days to take advantage of the ‘specials’.


SPLASH INN:

All day each Tuesday they have 50% off Pizzas (US$s).Roatan - West End - Splash Inn - Pizza Menu

They have a Happy Hour between 4pm and 6pm where you can get 50% off Beers and Cocktails (US$s).Roatan - West End - Splash Inn - Drinks Menu

I usually arrived just before 6pm so that I could get half priced drinks. Whilst you wait for your Pizza they give you free breads and dip.Roatan - West End - Splash Inn - Free Breads

I tried their 14 inch Deep Blue Pizza (US$14 down to US$7) and a Margarita (US$6 down to US$3). Pizza connoiseurs may not like these pizzas … the dough can be a bit ‘bready’. But, the Margarita was a good size and good quality.Roatan - West End - Splash Inn - Margarita

My final bill was HNL296 (US$12.60). You are best to ask for the bill in HNL. They calculate the bill in US$s, add tax, add a 10% tip, and then convert to HNL.Roatan - West End - Splash Inn - 14in Deep Blue Pizza

I could only eat half the Pizza. It is big enough for 2 GRANDPAckers to share. This means that you each get a good Pizza meal for under HNL105 each. At full price it would be beyond GRANDPAcker price range (even on a “let’s treat ourselves night’).


DOS HERMANOS:

Dos Hermanos is a Minimart that does BBQ-type meals and local cuisine at the front. They are located opposite the night stalls in Half Moon Bay.Roatan - West End - Dos Hermanos

Their cheapest meals start at US$5 / HNL125 and rise to US$20. I tried their Chicken Quesadilla for US$6 / HNL140.Roatan - West End - Dos Hermanos - Chicken Quesadilla HNL140

OK if you want something quick and cheap.


ANTHONY’S:

Anthony’s is a popular ‘local’ cafe with a reasonably priced menu that attracts many a budget traveller. It is rustic and not much to look at.Roatan - West End - Anthonys

But, it has reasonable quality food … and their US$4-US$6 meals are, probably, one of (if not the) best value in town.Roatan - West End - Anthonys Menu in US$s

Their Chicken Special of fried bananas topped with fried chicken, shredded salad, and sauce is HNL80 and good value for money.Roatan - West End - Anthonys - Chicken & Banana HNL80

Their Jerky Chicken is US$5 / HNL115.Roatan - West End - Anthonys Jerky Chicken HNL115

But, they wanted HNL50 for a SalvaVida beer!


CALELU’S:

Calelu’s is located next to the Booty Bar. It has a couple of tables downstairs but a bigger restaurant area upstairs.Roatan - West End - Calelus Upstairs Restaurant

With a view out over the water.Roatan - West End - Calelus Upstairs View

They have a couple of US$5 meals on the menu.Roatan - West End - Calelus Pork Chop Meal HNL115

The Pork Chop was reasonable value for money.


RONNY’S BAREFEET:

Ronny’s is found at the south end of town on the southern beach. It is a rustic little place with a Tiki Bar.

The menu is averagely priced but, occasionally, they bring in fresh fish and offer good fried fish meals for US$10.Roatan - West End - Ronnys Barefeet - Menu

They also have a Sunday BBQ on the beach for US$6 that starts at noon.Roatan - West End - Ronnys Barefeet - Specials

Note that their menu prices do not include 13% tax (nor tips). I tried their Sunday BBQ Pork meal (US$6+Tax) which was good value (for Roatan).Roatan - West End - Ronnys - Sunday Pork BBQ US$6+Tax

It was a pleasant and quiet spot to Dine at sunset and the staff are very friendly.Roatan - West End - Ronnys - Sunset View

Alas, I was harassed by flies and got a few sandfly and mosquito bites – so, come well protected.


OTHER:

C LEVEL / REEF GLIDERS:

C Level do an ‘all you can eat’ chicken wing night on Monday Night for US$10 but they don’t have an Happy Hour. You can order your wings in 1/2lb plates (about 8 wings) and try different flavours. You can also add french fries or potato salad free of charge. I couldn’t eat enough to justify the US$10 price tag and US$2 / HNL50 beers.

The C Level Bar also sells eCigarettes … for those trying to give up smoking.

BOOTY BAR:

The Booty Bar do 10 wings for US$5 all day. One of these in their HNL30 beer Happy Hour suited me a lot better than C Level.


IN SUMMARY:

Don’t fool yourself. Even if you are careful and try and stick to all of the ‘specials’, you are going to struggle to stay within budget.

Yes, you can eat more cheaply but you are not here to EXIST … you are here to LIVE … and that means being able to eat a balanced diet.

Expect to pay an average of US$7.00 / HNL175 for a cheap Breakfast (HNL135) with coffee (HNL40).

Expect to pay an average of US$6.00 / HNL150 for a cheap Lunch (HNL125) with fruit drink from a Minimart (HNL25).

Expect to pay an average of US$11.50 / HNL290 for a cheap Dinner (HNL250) with fruit juice from a Minimart (HNL40).


DRINK:

Expect to pay HNL50 for a 330ml bottle of the cheapest local beer (e.g. SalvaVida). In some bars, the standard price drops to HNL45.Roatan - West End - Bar Arena

There are a couple of Tiki Bars (like Bar Arena) on the beach where you get them for HNL35 (all day and all night).


HAPPY HOURS:

There is plenty of competition between the bars. This is good because it usually means ‘Happy Hours’. Several bars do Happy Hours (but not all). Happy Hours are usually between 5pm and 8pm. Some finish early. None finish later.

Typical Happy Hour prices:Roatan - West End - Typical Cheap Bar Happy Hour Menu

Again, ask for their price in HNL … some convert at US$1 = HNL25!


POOL TABLE:

There aren’t that many around town. You will find one upstairs at Palapa Papa’s. I had many a fun night there.

Alas, I didn’t find anyone that had (what I would call) a ‘Pool Table based Pub scene’. One of my favourite nights out. 🙂


MUSIC NIGHTS:

You can find live music somewhere in town almost every night.


PALAPA PAPAS:

Palapa Papas attracts an older crowd … many of them expats living in the West End.Roatan - West End - Palapa Papas Bar

They don’t have an Happy Hour as such but permanently offer a bucket of 6 local beers for US$10. The usual price is US$2 each, so this is effectively ‘buy 5 and get 1 free’. They also offer US$1 Tequila shots. For many GRANDPAckers, this means that Papas is a place to go after 8pm (when the Happy Hours elsewhere finish).Roatan - West End - Palapa Papas Wednesday Music

They have a Wednesday Live Music Night starting at 6:30pm. An 80s Friday Live Music Night starting at 8pm (which may turn to Karaoke at 10pm). And, another Live Music Night on Saturday starting at 8pm. On Sunday afternoons, they have a beach BBQ with a live band.

Due to its location (south end of town), Palapa Papa’s never really seems to get crowded – which, I think, is a bit of a shame because it has a nice, friendly ‘vibe’.Roatan - West End - Palapa Papas Trish and Tim

It was my favourite bar … you could chat easily with everyone without being ‘over-powered’ by the music.

Palapa Papa’s attracts people on daily trips from West Bay.Roatan - Palapa Papa - Bouncy 1 Roatan - Palapa Papa - Bouncy 2

Many of whom come to have a go on the Bouncy … that sends the adventurous flying out over the water.


SUNDOWNERS BAR:

Sundowners is located north of the main road roundabout. They attract a young crowd as well as many expats. Wednesday nights seem to be popular with the expat crowd.Roatan - West End - Sundowners Bar

They had a good band playing there on a Monday Night but they have music several nights each week. Happy hour SalvaVidas are HNL40. The normal price is HNL50.Roatan - West End - Sundowners Band

They have a Taco Tuesday with Tacos going for HNL30 each.


BLUE MARLIN:

The Blue Marlin is a medium-priced bar with average Happy Hour prices. The normal price for a SalvaVida is HNL50 (US$2).Roatan - West End - Blue Marlin - Bar

Thursday night is Karaoke Night. It starts at 8pm and ends at midnight.Roatan - West End - Blue Marlin - Karaoke

It attracts a big crowd and it’s a fun night.


BOOTY BAR:

The Booty Bar is, probably, the most popular bar in town. It turns into a busy nightclub late in the evening. It is such a good priced Happy Hour that it attracts people of all ages.Roatan - West End - Booty Bar

They offer US$1 Beers and US$1 Tequilla Shots all day. The US$1 beers are imported cheap Dutch lager.

Between 5pm and 8pm they have their Happy Hour where you can get a SalvaVida beer for HNL30. It is, usually, very busy during Happy Hour.

It is also a bit of a ‘pick up joint’. On my first night I was approached by a ‘working girl’ whilst I was still sitting on my first beer. When I left to find Dinner, a tout attached himself to me and it took me over half an hour to get rid of him.


MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:

You pay 50%+ more for goods on Roatan than you do back on the mainland. You are advised to pre-buy high value items and bring them with you … e.g. DEET, filter coffee, cigarettes, etc.

There are 5 or 6 Minimarts around town. Prices differ, so shop around.

Grocery price examples:

  • 1L bottle of local rum: HNL110
  • 3L bottle of coke: HNL55
  • 1L cooking oil: HNL110
  • 50g bag of black pepper: HNL28
  • 1 onion: HNL8
  • 400g Bacon: HNL135
  • 250g Cheddar Chees: HNL125
  • 450g Sausages: HNL70
  • 500g Honduran Coffee: HNL80
  • 4x 1000 Leaf Toilet Rolls: HNL75
  • 450g box of Cereal: HNL85
  • 500ml Bag of Milk: HNL30
  • 1 Egg: HNL4
  • Large Loaf of Multigrain Bread: HNL85

TELECOMMUNICATIONS / WIFI:

Internet in West End is poor and variable. The internet signal drops in and out with frustrating regularity. Signal quality is, also, affected a lot by the weather.

Even the better restaurants / bars have trouble offering a stable connection. It reminded me of Gili Air, Indonesia and Koh Phayam, Thailand.Roatan - West End - Main Beach from North

My apartment had no internet but, occasionally, I could connect to the signal from their restaurant across the road. This was vaguely usable early in the morning but became unusable / unreliable as time approached noon. This lasted for the rest of the day until late evening when it became vaguely usable again. At no time could I rely on a good enough signal to stream videos … not even when sitting in the actual restaurant.Roatan - West End - Calelus Upstairs View

I need good internet (for my GRANDPAcking Blog work), so I bought a 1 month 5.5GB Data Plan for HNL565. I could have bought 1GB for HNL400 or 2.5GB for HNL450 … but, I wanted to make sure that I had enough. You top up in a local shop. The shop charges HNL5 for each top up.

This gave me a more stable ‘H’ strength signal in my apartment that improved to ‘4G’ at various places around town. Inside buildings / restaurants, the signal tended to be ‘H+’.


HEALTH & SAFETY:

There is no reason to feel unsafe here. This is NOT mainland Honduras. But, as always, exercise normal levels of caution … don’t make yourself an obvious target.

The main problem is Petty Theft … which is a ‘typical’ problem in Central America.

Choose accommodation that is secure. Break-ins are fairly common (especially with un-secured apartments / houses).

Also, you are advised not to walk in remote areas at night – even on Roatan. Roatan is not as safe as Utila.

The Bay Islands have a Sandfly problem: come prepared with repellents (DEET) and ointments. The sandflies here aren’t anywhere near as bad as those found in South East Asia … you don’t come up in 2cm diameter swellings … but you do come up in lots of small red, itchy spots with little whiteheads. The whiteheads can be easily knocked off leaving you open to infection.

The mosquitoes can be a problem too.


WEST BAY:

You can walk along the beach from West End to West Bay.

Starting at Ronny’s Barefeet you head south and scramble around an easy set of rocks.Roatan - West End - Walk to West Bay 1

This opens up into a quiet bay with one or two more up-market beachfront resorts.Roatan - West End - Walk to West Bay 2

You, then, need to negotiate a foot bridge.Roatan - West End - Walk to West Bay 4

Before walking another quiet bay with a few more up-market beachfront resorts.Roatan - West End - Walk to West Bay 5

Alas, all along these beaches you do not get good swimming. The waters have a lot of seaweed underfoot.Roatan - West End - Walk to West Bay 9

After about 30 minutes, you reach the start of West Bay.Roatan - West End - Walk to West Bay 6

West Bay has a better beach than West End. They have cleared big areas of seaweed, so you get big patches with sand underfoot.Roatan - West End - Walk to West Bay 7

This is a busy beach fronted by a continuous stream of up-market beachfront resorts.

West Bay is more expensive than West End for both accommodation and restaurants. However, they do have beachfront Happy Hours where you can still get drinks at a reasonable price (for Roatan).Roatan - West End - Walk to West Bay 8

At the very south end of the beach you will find a restaurant that has an all-day Happy Hour … this means that you can walk to West Bay, stop for refreshments and relax a while before making your way back home to West End. But, make sure that you get home to West End before dark.

If you allow 3-4 hours (total) you will have a pleasant day out in West Bay.


GETTING AWAY:

I need to do a Visa Run before I head south to El Salvador. I will need to be out of the C-4 countries for 3 days so that I can come back in and get a new 3 month Tourist Visa.

I will tell you more about my Visa Run to Belize in a future post.


CONCLUSION:

It is not possible to LIVE on Roatan on a GRANDPAcking Budget to GRANDPAcking Standards … It is more expensive in Roatan than it is in Utila. I will provide a detailed cost breakdown in my next post.

HOWEVER, just like on Boracay Island in the Philippines and Utila, it is possible to LIVE on Roatan Island if you bend the rules a little bit. Read my future post on ‘Roatan – Honduras – LIVING on a GRANDPAcking Budget’ for more details.

Roatan has a different ‘vibe’ from Utila. Utila is dominated by wanna-be SCUBA Diving backpackers. Roatan attracts an older and more affluent crowd.

Roatan is, also, a much bigger island than Utila with more places to go and more things to do.

Alas, Roatan DOES NOT make it into my RETIREMENT REVIEWS.

TTFN


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