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I spent 1 month living in an apartment on Utila Island.
It was time to move on to Roatan Island … to compare the two islands.
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).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.
The apartment did not include any servicing, but it had a free laundry with Washer & Dryer where we could wash our linen and clothes.
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).
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.
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$5 (about HNL120). I said HNL100. He said OK and I jumped in.
Roatan Island (Isla de Roatan) is the largest of the Honduras’ major Bay Islands in a region that marks the south end of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (the second-largest in the world).
It is approximately 77 kms (48 mi) long, and less than 8 kms (5.0 mi) across at its widest point.
The most populous town of the island is Coxen Hole located in the southwest.
Christopher Colombus discovered the island in 1502-1504 AD. Europeans brought disease. No indigenous people survived the consequent epidemics.
The Bay Islands were administered by Great Britain before being handed over to Honduras in the 1860s. English is still widely spoken on the island.
AROUND THE WEST END:
Roatan Island is known to be more expensive than Utila Island. To LIVE on Roatan was going to be a bit of a ‘challenge’ on a GRANDPAcking Budget.
West End is a small community that stretched about 1km along 2 (main) sandy beaches.
But, the waterfront offers a good stretch of beach about 10 meters wide where you can relax and sunbathe.
Here you find more Dive Shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars.
But, why would you want to be so far from the beach and action?
WHERE TO STAY :
Accommodation is expensive for GRANDPAckers … if you rely solely on the internet, it will be unaffordable.
Accommodation-wise, this is typical of what you find within GRANDPAcker price range … this is for 1 night in mid August 2017 … August, here, is the start of Low Season …
HOTELS & HOSTELS (Nightly Rates):
PLEASE NOTE: Hotel and Hostel search sites sometimes display prices EXCLUSIVE of TAXES. You may have to add up to 19% to the displayed price to get the final price.
VACATION RENTALS (Weekly Rates):
If you plan to stay a week or more, another good option is to use AirBnB or TRIPADVISOR.COM to book a Holiday Rental / Vacation Rental.
Holiday Rentals are usually rented by the week. A comparable search reveals the following … please note that these prices are in US$s …
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.
It was obvious that I needed to do further research before landing on Roatan Island.
I got a few replies and some were for US$400-450 … but they were in isolated locations away from the beach.
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.
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 …
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.
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.
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.
The bathroom had hot water.
The wifi was poor and variable … sometimes unusable.
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.
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.
I chose the second option at Palapa Papa’s.
They had a nice, modern Studio apartment available at the very front overlooking the water.
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.
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.
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.
Have a look yourself:
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).
A water ferry to West Bay costs HNL75 each way.
There are no banks in West End. You will need to go back to Coxen Hole.
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:
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.
As a ‘heads up’, Roatan may be too expensive for GRANDPAckers … if you come here, you will need to bend ‘GRANDPAcking Standards‘.
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