Everything you need to know about
Roatán is known for having some of the best diving spots in the Caribbean – and probably the world. Located 30 miles off the northern coast of Honduras, it’s home to a spectacular amount of marine life that’s found it’s home among the shallow reefs and sheer walls. Great for both experienced and novice divers, there are more than 100 dive sites around the country to keep you occupied for weeks on end – if you wanted to be underwater for that long.
The El Aguila dive site is a wreck, literally. On the west side of the island, it’s perhaps a bit too deep for beginner divers – but perfect for anyone looking for a challenge. It sits next to a coral wall, which means that divers can swim down, swim the length of the wreck, max out their bottom time, and then head for the wall where they can explore in about 33 feet of water.
It’s also one of the few sites around the island where you’ll be able to see some pretty impressive large sea creatures: black and goliath groupers, green moray eels, and barracuda.
Another wreck dive, the Odyssey is a freighter ship that was sunk in November 2002 in 33m of water. It’s home to a few big groupers and snappers, and the ship itself is still mostly intact – which means you really need to be a qualified diver to explore it properly.
Considered by a lot of divers as the best dive on the island, Mary’s Place is a series of deep coral canyons, sheer cliffs, absolutely full of marine life. Unfortunately, seeing as its reputation is that it’s the best of the best, there are a lot of divers waiting to splash their way in, but once you get into the maze it’s well worth the wait. Just think of the soft coral, huge blue fans, green and fold sea rods, feathery looking sea plumes.
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.
Mandy’s Eel Garden
This fairly shallow diving site can be found near West End Beach, known for its patches of garden eels located near the base of the wall. There’s also plenty of other marine life found floating among the coral: turtles, Caribbean squid, octopi, scorpionfish, lobsters, eagle rays, seahorses and more.
Hole in the Wall
Named after a sand chute tunnel that runs through a reef wall at 40 feet, there’s plenty of sea life to keep you company as you swim through – such as the Spotted Drum Fish, the File Fish, and the occasional nurse shark.
Daniel Gillaspia via Flickr – https://www.flickr.com/photos/bayareaag/27419634770/
Coco View Wall
Drift along the face of the wall that literally drops off into a black sea of nothingness – kind of like in Finding Nemo when Dory and Marlin suddenly dropped off the edge of the reef and found that scary fish with the light on its head – along the southern shore of Roatan. Open to all divers, it plunges down about 82 feet from the surface and is covered in soft and hard corals.
Found on the north side of the island, Dolphin’s Den is full of coral canyons – similar to Mary’s Place, but with a lot fewer people. It’s teeming with sea life, from tiny cleaner shrimp playing among the anemones to snapping shrimp, and even lobsters. The canyons are between 50 and 70 feet deep, and in one there’s even the skull of a dolphin for you to witness – hence the name. The story is that the poor creature must have swum in, become disorientated, and then drowned.
Surprise surprise, there is a lot of fish in Fish Den. Found on the west side of Roatán, most of the best stuff can be found at only about 20 feet – making it perfect for beginners. Full of schools of jacks and grunts, angelfish, parrotfish, and tony gobies and blennies are hidden among the coral growths. It’s also a prime feeding ground for the notoriously shy green sea turtle.
Found on the southeast of the island, the black Hills diving site is a seamount that starts at about 10 metres, before dropping to 50 metres on one side of the trench. Thousands of different types of fish are attracted to the area, such as barracuda, horse-eye jacks, and yellowtail snappers.
Mayan Princess Beach & Dive Resort
An all-inclusive beach and diving resort located in the middle of West Bay – right by a bunch of the best diving sites in Roatan. It’s right in front of the largest reef in the Western Hemisphere – the Mesoamerican Reef – and the resort is a PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Dive Resort, which essentially means you’re going to get the best diving experience possible. They’ll take you right out into the warm Caribbean waters, where you can explore the best the sea life has to offer.
Hotel Henry Morgan all inclusive
Another all-inclusive resort, again found on West Bay Beach, this resort features an outdoor swimming pool, terrace, and a fitness centre – although spend a few hours diving and you’ll definitely have hit your fitness level for the day.
Grand Roatán Caribbean Resort
One of the best resorts for snorkelling and diving, Grand Roatán is a fantastic 5-star resort offering anything from scuba diving and snorkelling with their onsite 5-star dive shop, to water and sand volleyball, and even snorkel gear and paddleboard rentals.
Bananarama Dive & Beach Resort
This PADI 5-Star Dive Centre offers all PADI courses from discover scuba diver all the way up to divemaster – perfect for getting your certification to tackle those really hard dives. It also has nightly entertainment like movie nights, music trivia, live music, karaoke, crab races and more – Roatán isn’t just about diving you know.
One of the best resorts for snorkelling and diving, Grand Roatan is a fantastic 5-star resort offering anything from scuba diving and snorkelling with their onsite 5-star dive shop, to water and sand volleyball, and even snorkel gear and paddleboard rentals.
Hammerhead Dive Centre
The centres’ motto is “where the ocean is everything” and they really do deliver on this. They offer dives for every type of diver, from day to night, dolphin to shark, and everything in between. They also offer dive courses, for divers of all levels to improve their skills – whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned pro looking to improve your skills a little bit.
Anthony’s Key Resort
At Anthony’s Key, travellers get the chance to explore Roatan’s underwater playground, experiencing the magical paradise that exists just below the water’s surface. They’re a PADI 5-Star Career Development Centre and ranked as one of the world’s top dive resorts for the last 50 years.
Technically, you can dive around Roatán and the Bay Islands at any point of the year, but as always there are prime times to go. The tropical, rainy season is from roughly October through until January, while hurricane season runs from June to the end of November – thanks to the island’s Caribbean location. The weather never really gets too bad, but during the rainy season, visibility can drop below the usual 30-45 metres.
The water temperature will only change marginally throughout the year; from January to March it’s about 78° Fahrenheit, jumping up to 82° from July to September.
Diving isn’t dangerous if you know what you’re doing and you’ve been properly trained, by someone who is already properly trained – and if you’re worried, make sure your guide goes with you. However, things can still go wrong – as they can with anything in life – and its no secret that dive locations are often remote, with limited access to medical care if it’s needed. Accidents can happen, so it’s important to be prepared and get yourself insurance that covers diving and snorkelling.
When to see whale sharks
Roatán is home to plenty of spectacular wildlife – especially marine life – but one of the most fascinating animals that inhabit its waters is the whale shark. Sure, the island is surrounded by the second biggest coral reef in the world, and the natural underwater world is truly spectacular, but Roatán also happens to be one of the only places in the world you can swim with whale sharks in their natural habitats.
Whale sharks typically spend their time in tropical and temperate waters around the world and can grow up to over 12 metres in length – making them the largest fish in the world. The least fearsome of the shark family, whale sharks aren’t aggressive, and they only swim at about 3mph – so a typical swimmer could easily out-swim them if needed.
Roatán is one of the lucky places where marine sharks can be spotted all year round – if you know where to look. However, the main season runs from the end of March until April, and then again from October to December. This is when you’re most likely to see them swimming around on their own – they’re typically solitary animals – but if you spot them between June and September they’ll likely be in small groups, during the annual migration season, unsurprisingly known as “whale shark season”.
Whether you’re a seasoned diving expert or new to the sport, Roatán is a spectacular location to take to the water and explore the marine world of wonders that lives just below the surface.