The best beaches
Roatán may be a small island, but that doesn’t mean it has limited attractions. In fact, the country has some of the best beaches in the Caribbean, if not the world, most of which have fantastic opportunities to snorkel and dive among the second biggest barrier reef in the world.
The Roatán shoreline is full of iron shore, which is a fossilised coral reef, where the water used to cover but now that part of the reef has been left exposed and consequently dried out. It’s also covered in mangroves, trees that grow in the water, filtering the water and providing protected areas for young marine life to grow and thrive. These natural formations are amazing to explore in a way that is almost completely unique to Roatán, under the cover of the Caribbean sunshine.
You don’t have to go exploring and be adventurous at the beaches though – which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, we get that. The pristine white sands and sparkling blue water are also the perfect habitats for relaxation and tranquillity, enough to calm even the most stressed-out bodies.
Read on for our round-up of the best beaches, all over the small little island.
Known as one of the best beaches in the world, it’s managed to stay relatively hidden and is usually pretty quiet. Located on the northern shore near Palmetto Plantation, the beach is stunningly pristine, located off the main road and away from the main touristy areas. Basically, this means you’ll find endless stretches of sand empty of people, perfect for that private beach day trip to enjoy the scenery and surrounding nature.
Bailey’s Key is, quite frankly, a little slice of paradise for any budding traveller. There’s plenty of opportunities for snorkelling along the west side of the key or visit the dolphin lagoon to spot native dolphins in their natural habitat. Here, you can interact with some of nature’s most incredible animals, or relax in the comfort of a lounge chair, knowing you won’t be disturbed.
Just across the water from Bailey’s Key is Sandy Bay, which is just as beautiful and magical. But Sandy Bay is also home to a snack shop, and Frangipani Bar, plus you get the chance to ride horseback through the town of Sandy Bay and along the golden sand.
A natural paradise on a sparkling tropical bay, Palmetto Bay was created by the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. There’s beautiful white sand, amazing snorkelling, scuba diving, and more. It’s the perfect place to come and relax or try your hand at some traditional handline fishing, one of the oldest forms of fishing. There’s also a fantastic beach-side pool, restaurants, bar, dive shop, water sports shop, dock, and plenty of walking trails to keep you entertained.
Camp Bay Beach
One of the best places in Roatán to experience the classic Caribbean beach, complete with calming warm waters. Pretty much right off the road at East End, Camp Bay Beach shows off the northern side of the country at its best: with gorgeous views and cool sea breeze. You’ll find the same soft sand and clear blue waters as with the western beaches, but with none of the crowds – except on a Monday, when locals will gather to enjoy their “Mondays Don’t Suck” celebrations.
Sure, there will always be a few local families enjoying the sunshine, with kids likely splashing in the water and dog running around, but there will always be a secluded spot or two to settle in and enjoy the calm. Perfect if you want to watch the lazy fishing boats trail past, and read a book in the shade of the almond and coconut trees. You can even make up a picnic from Eldon’s Supermarket nearby in the main town of Coxen Hole, or head to La Sirena de Camp Bay, one of Roatan’s most iconic over-the-water restaurants complete with a laid-back reggae vibe.
Paya Bay Beach
Paya Bay Beach is perfect for that rugged, Robinson Crusoe feel. Found by following one lonely road, the beach is practically deserted most of the time, and it’s here you can find some pretty impressive eastern island views. It’s lined with tall coconut trees all along the back of the beach, and the water is a great sapphire colour. Plus, the water’s pretty much always calm, thanks to the protective nature of the bay.
The likelihood is the only people you’ll see will consist of a local driving a motorbike down the beach, or someone trotting along on a horse, but apart from that, you’ll have the beach pretty much to yourself. Sit and watch the locals fishing or take a late lunch with a few cocktails at the Resort at Paya Bay, relaxing in the plunge pool while you wait.
Pigeon Cay Beach
A completely isolated atoll on the south side of the island, Pigeon Cay sots in the middle of a lagoon with a reef fringing around the shores. The varying water levels, thanks to the reefs, produces a stunning assortment of blue hues around the tiny patch of land, encircled by white sand and a narrow line of brush with three palm trees. Just three. That’s it.
Santa Helena Island Beach
The east end of Roatán is miles of mangrove forest, and the tiny island of Santa Helena, which is effectively just one big (read: small) beach. The two islands are connected by canals of mangroves that are situated in the sea. The highest point of the island is only 194 feet above sea level, and it has some of the most unspoiled countrysides in the archipelago. You go here if you want the “old Caribbean” culture and charm – very Pirates of the Caribbean.
Mahogany Bay Beach
Mahogany Bay is the cruise ship port owned by Carnival Corporation, and Mahogany Bay Beach is a manmade beach right by the port. One of the only beaches on Roatán that doesn’t offer snorkelling, it’s still full of great restaurants, and activities. Perfect if you’re coming into port on a Carnival, Costa, or Princess cruise, and it can make a great base while you’re docked for a few hours.
A small island in the Cayos Cochinos archipelago, the beach here is one of the best that can be found on a trip to Roatán. The traditionally Caribbean white sand and sparkling blue water, it requires a plane ride from Roatán’s mainland, or a boat ride, to get there. The best little day out to split up our holiday, it’s effectively just a traditional fishing village, and the best time to visit is between February and September.
West Bay Beach
Otherwise known as Tabyana Beach, West Bay Beach is the longest stretch of accessible beach that can be found in Roatán. As you might expect from the longest beach, it offers pretty much everything you could ask for exceptional snorkelling areas, great restaurants, hotels, resorts, bars, and more. It’s ridiculously popular but because it’s so big it doesn’t ever feel overly crowded, or chaotic, or busy – it’s even possible to actually relax here. Shock.
The best beach on the island, marine lovers with love the diving opportunities, and the chance to see an incredible coral wall. And don’t stress, as there are plenty of dive shops nearby to get certified, or you can just head out into the water if you’ve already got some experience. Plus, if you’re not so much of a water baby, there’s plenty of live music and volleyball to keep you entertained.
Gumbalimba Park Beach
Pretty much your one-stop for whatever you might want to do on a Caribbean holiday to a tiny island like Roatán. Gumbalimba Park Beach has some amazing white, powder-fine sand, and there are countless untouched and beautiful reefs just 100 feet into the water. You can snorkel out to the reefs, or rent a glass-bottom boat to get a clear view of the marine life without getting too wet.
Nearby, there’s a park for zip-lining, a pool, some caves to explore, and even a nature trail where you can spot monkeys, macaws, and parrots.
Half Moon Bay
Considering how busy West End is, it’s no wonder Half Moon Bay is an absolute hub of activity, considering its located right in the middle. And we’re not underestimating, either. From the scuba diving boats that come in and out of the docks all day, fishing charter and private charters leaving every few minutes, people splashing about in the sea, and a multitude of paddleboarders, snorkelers and divers sharing the ocean, there is literally always something going on.
Sure, it’s not a private beach escape, but not every beach needs to be uber private and quiet. Sometimes it’s good to enjoy in the company of other people, in a fun and vibing atmosphere. Plus, there are tonnes of bar and restaurants to keep you entertained if the beach is a little too hectic.
West End Beach
The West End is the busiest part of Roatán, so it’s no surprise the beach is pretty spectacular to match. Most of the action happens here, with bars lining the sand offering live music, and numerous restaurants serving up local and international cuisines. That’s not all; there’s also plenty of dive shops, grocery stores, supermarkets, souvenir markets, and even an internet café – so you can stay connected with the outside world if, for some reason, you’d want to. It’s a favourite for both tourists and locals alike, which means it’s got a really great variety of activities and cultures.
A little island off the west coast of Roatán, Water Cay at Utila is one of the most perfect beaches in the Caribbean to soak up the sunshine and float in the sea. As with any good Caribbean beach, there’s great scope for snorkelling and diving among the coral, witnessing the fantastic marine life, and you can even go swimming with whale sharks – if you’re feeling brave enough.
There are plenty of amazing beaches in Roatán to choose from, all offering a range of activities like snorkelling and diving, or more relaxed options like sunbathing (duh). All you have to do is take a beach towel.