Sitting atop one of the most extensive and most vibrant coral reefs in the Caribbean and the second largest reef system in the world, the island of Roatan is a premier snorkeling destination. Whether you
Because snorkeling is an essential part of any trip to the island, there are many day trips to choose from. For those without much time or who feel more comfortable remaining closer to dry land, stop by one of the dozens of snorkel gear rental shops in the villages and on public beaches and waddle down to the beach in your flippers.
The quality of the reef means you’ll even see fish in the shallow waters at tourist beaches.
Alternatively, choose a catamaran-snorkel excursion and set sail for the best snorkeling spots
Visit West Bay Beach
Roatan is home to several public beaches. While they are all exquisite, West Bay Beach is the jewel in the island’s crown. White sand, calm water, and plenty of amenities mean pitching up here for the day places you in the lap of luxury.
West Bay Beach is also perfect for families. Those who want to spend a day becoming one with a lounge chair have plenty of options while the more active family members may choose from water activities that leave and return directly from the beach.
The beach itself is half an hour from the airport and the Port of Roatan terminal, but it’s 45 minutes away from the port hosting Carnival Cruise Ship passengers.
Escape the Crowds at Bando Beach
Most of Roatan’s stunning beaches are firmly open to the public, but a few private beaches have popped up for those willing to part with their money in exchange for exclusivity.
Bando Beach is one of the few private beaches in Honduras. It’s also not in Roatan but on a quieter, neighboring island called Utila, which is accessible by ferry. The beach is a basic one. It features a small strip of sand with seating, shade, and drinks.
The beach is best for those who are looking for a quiet place to even out their tan or hide from the crowds of day trippers arriving from the ports. The water here isn’t ideal for swimming. There’s also too much vegetation for any decent snorkeling.
Bask in the Carambola Botanical Gardens
Spending a whole day at this quiet sanctuary is easy. The gardens offer a wide range of activities including:
Along the way, you’ll spot some familiar faces because the gardens are also home to natural breeding grounds for both parrots and iguanas.
Visit the Local Fauna at Arch’s Iguana and Marine Park
Roatan is home to an important ecosystem for marine life, and Arch’s Iguana and Marine Park is just one of the local tourist organizations trying to protect it through education and conservation.
Arch’s encourages you to get up close and personal with the island’s most charming residents with its daily activity schedule that includes:
Your tourist dollars directly benefit the island because they help fund Arch’s student and teacher program for local schools. Local elementary, middle, and high school students are taught conservation and agroforestry through hands-on projects free of charge.
Trek to a Local Farm
Get off the beaten path without leaving the beach and visit Marble Hill Farms, located on the eastern side of the island.
The farm is a private enterprise that boasts some of the most stunning scenery on the island as well as serving as a haven for local flora and fauna.
While the farm also serves as accommodation—including a Treehouse suite—the resort also boasts a fantastic restaurant and plenty of activities that you might struggle to find in other spots on the island.
Guests and visitors may enjoy:
Get Panoramic Views at East End
The west end of the island is home to the nightlife, beaches, and tourist hubs like West Bay where you’ll see everything you ever imagined a Caribbean beach might be for better or worse.
At the east end of the cay, the island offers a closer look at the island and Honduran culture as well as panoramic views that you can’t beat.
For the best views, head east and hike some of the trails that lead up to the lighthouses on the edge of Cayos Cochinos.
Visit the Dolphins at the Marine Research Institute
Skip the dolphin swimming offered by your cruise company and pay a visit to the island’s Marine Research Institute instead.
A group of local and international scientists use this space as a hub for marine and coral research programs on the island and beyond. They also open up their laboratories for education at the secondary and higher education levels.
Visitors to the institute get more than a few minutes of face time with a dolphin. Some of the programs offered to day visitors include:
The center also provides dolphin specialty courses over four sessions including two classrooms and two water-based sessions.
Combine your trip to the Institute for Marine Science with a visit to Carambola Gardens, which is just down the road.
Fly through the Jungle on a Zipline
See Roatan from the sky with a zip line tour of the island.
The island boasts several zip line companies to choose from including:
Each offers a different experience geared toward different types of tourists. South Shore Zip Line’s course features 16 platforms spaced across two miles of the jungle. Daring visitors reach heights of up to 100 feet.
A slightly shorter experience at Clip N Zip sends you soaring up to 65 feet in the air.
At Pirates of the Caribbean Canopy Tour, you’ll choose from two tours with a maximum height of 328 feet on the Extremely Extreme trip or 145 feet in height at the Pirates Extreme Zip Line, which is for tourists who are both fit and comfortable with heights.
Don’t want to traverse the rainforests or the high seas? Pick up forgotten necessities or souvenirs at one of Roatan’s many shopping plazas. The West Bay Mall or the Mega Plaza is the go-to destination for many visitors who need to pick up clothes, accessories, or visit the bank.
For handicrafts and other souvenirs, visit the West end for plenty of local shops featuring Honduran crafts, jewelry, and art. You’ll also find a selection at Coxen Hole where pottery and baskets are on display. Don’t forget to check into the fishmonger to see the catch of the day.
Visit Gumbalimba Park
Get up close and personal with the island’s smallest residents at Gumbalina Park near West Bay. The park boasts a beachfront location across 20 acres of land including plenty of sand and sun.
The park boasts a botanical garden and animal preserve featuring monkeys, birds, and other animals. It’s also down from Coxen’s Cave, an abandoned pirate cave and visitor attraction.
The admission fee is steep, but you can spend the whole day here enjoying the freshwater pool, poolside café, and water activities at the beach.
See the Ocean on a Glass-Bottom Kayak
Snorkeling is just one way to experience the beautiful reefs around the island. A kayak tour shows off the sites—and you don’t even need to get wet.
You’ll find kayak outfits dotted around the island. Some offer paddling excursions around Half Moon Bay or the Marine Park. Others make a day of it and combine kayaking and snorkeling for those who have the stamina for a day on the water.
Where Will Your Journey Take You?
Whether you spend your time on the beach or schedule an action-packed day of adventure, there’s no better time to visit Roatan.
These are just twelve of the best things to do in Roatan, but there are so many more places to explore. Have you visited the island? Share your must-do activities in the comments below.