Where to stay in
Roatán isn’t a big island, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in opportunities, excitement, local authenticity, and more. Each area of Roatán is unique in itself, although each one comes with tropical weather, sparkling blue waters, pristine beaches, and more.
A veritable island fantasy, Roatán is a Caribbean paradise, just off the north coast of Honduras, sitting on an exposed coral reef. The second-largest in the world. The best places to stay are really spread across the whole island, although there is a lot happening in the west end in particular.
Read on for our recommendations for the best places to stay across the whole island.
Pristine Bay is otherwise known as the island’s only golf resort; a 450-acre luxury golf resort that offers 1, 2, 3 and 4-bedroom private villas. Surrounded by stunning Caribbean turquoise waters, and located on top of a beautiful hillside, Pristine Bay is pretty much the place to go if you’re a fan of golfing, stunning views, and amazing diving options.
Palmetto Bay Plantation
Basically, a natural paradise, situated in another natural paradise – Roatán itself. Palmetto Bay Plantation is set on a sparkling tropical bay that was created by the Mesoamerican Reef, with white-sand beaches, and pretty great snorkelling options (like everywhere else on the island, it seems).
The plantation is essential a private, eco-sensitive, residential community, located near French Harbour, off the beaten track in a secluded bay. The 29 Caribbean-style cabañas give travellers a sense of the traditional Caribbean way of life, although each cabaña is incredibly spacious and very well designed. There is a beach-side pool, restaurant, bar, on-site dive and water sports shop, dock, shaded palapa, numerous walking trails, and 24-hour security.
The oldest permanent settlement on the island, Punta Gorda was founded in 1797, after 3,000 Garifuna deportees landed from the Caribbean island of San Vicente. The Garifuna have a fascinating culture which is on full display here, preserving their African roots, beating African drums and many still speak in the original Garifuna language.
The anniversary marking their arrival is a great celebration every year, but for the rest of the year Punta Gorda is your typical, sleepy seaside town. The only visible evidence of the town’s history is a state of Satuyé, the revered Garifuna warrior on San Vicente.
The beaches here aren’t the best, but not far up the coast you’ll find Camp Bay Beach which is fabulous, and local boat owners will take you there for a reasonable price. Essentially, this is the place you go to learn about the culture, rather than relax on the beach for two weeks.
One of the oldest communities in Roatán, French Harbour still serves as a commercial hub – as it pretty much always has. This means the area is busy, with banks, grocery stores, hardware stores, shopping centres, multiple schools and more. It’s the second-largest community in Roatán and although there isn’t a public beach here, pretty much all of the resorts and hotels will have a beach or a swimming pool to enjoy. Plus, pretty much all of the accommodations will have amazing ocean views.
French Harbour is home to the island’s only golf course, or travellers can visit Sherman Arch’s Iguana Farm. The prehistoric creatures roam the island, but the sanctuary was created to protect them from over-hunting. If you visit at mid-day, you can feed them banana leaves.
One of the cheapest locations in Roatán, Coxen Hole is the main capital city of the country, and it’s the largest town overall. Home of government offices, the airports and the cruise ship dock, Coxen Hole is mainly home to locals – which is why the prices are so cheap.
It may not be the prettiest area in Roatán, but what it lacks in beauty it makes up for in character and atmosphere. The streets are narrow and always crowded with people, from street vendors offer freshly peeled oranges, to souvenir shops for the tourists that do end up stopping by. Basically, it’s the best place to see Roatán as a local sees Roatán.
If what you’re looking for is the ultimate island retreat, complete with the traditional island living, then East End is your best bet. Barely touched by tourism, East End is sparsely populated, with lush forests, cattle ranches, fishing villages, exquisite beaches, and some of the island’s most interesting and off the beaten track resorts and restaurants.
The turquoise blue waters, white sands, and cool breezes make for the perfect relaxing holiday, combined with a fantastic insight into Roatán’s traditional culture. Considered anything east of French Harbour, East End contains panoramic views of the whole island, as well as being home to some of the country’s oldest and most traditional villages. Oakridge and Jonesville offer a true glimpse into Caribbean daily life, with houses on stilts over the water. Further east, you’ll find Old Port Royal, where pirates once buried their treasure.
One of the more popular tourist destinations, West End is just a boat taxi away from West Bay. The newly paved road connects West End to the rest of the island, making it a great base as you go off and see what Roatán has to offer. Filled with local businesses, small hotels, bars, restaurants, gift shops and diving stores, it’s the perfect little set up for a 2-week holiday with all the family.
The area is littered with places to hire a scooter to go off and explore the island; head to nearby West Bay, Flower Bay, Coxen Hole, and Sandy Bay. Or, alternatively, you could try your hand at horse riding, and head off through the jungle trails that lead up to hilltops with amazing panoramic views of the whole island.
West End is located in the northwest of the island, near Half Moon Bay. Only a 20-minute drive from Roatán International Airport, it’s home to one of the best beaches on the islands: a long curve of sun-drenched golden sand, leading straight out into the crystal-clear blue waters and the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef and backed by lines of palm trees.
One of the best places for diving and snorkelling, the mesmerising coral reef will entice even the most anti-diving visitors out there. There’s the possibility of renting diving and snorkelling equipment from countless stores along the beachfront, before heading out into the reef in search of tropical fish, stingrays, and sea turtles. For the braver swimmers, there are even opportunities to swim and dive further out, where you can witness whale sharks, dolphins, and reef sharks.
Not only this, but Roatán is famous for its deep-sea fishing, which means you can try traditional Roatán cuisine such as baleadas, pastilles, conch, and other seafood specialities. Plus, you can enjoy all of this while looking out over the bay at some of the most beautiful and psychedelic sunsets in the Caribbean, before heading onto one of the many bars and live music venues, or head along to see some live music and DJ sets that will keep you dancing until the early hours.
Probably the most popular area in Roatán – and there’s a reason for that. West Bay has literally the nicest beach on the island, with soft white sands and calm blue water, and the famous coral reef just 50 feet away. It’s the perfect setting to relax, put your feet up with a good book, and dip your toes in the water every now and then. Or, if you’re more adventurous, it’s the perfect spot for snorkelling, dive boarding, parasailing, paddle boarding, zip-lining and more. Basically, whatever you fancy, you can find it at West Bay.
The shallow water along the beaches leads straight into the coral reef, where snorkelers and divers of all experiences can head down to spot tropical fish, stingrays, and even sea turtles – especially around Tabyana Beach. Plus, for those less experienced, there are plenty of companies that offer scuba diving, fishing charters, snorkelling and parasailing – and training for all of these.
West Bay is essentially the more easy-going sibling of West End. Just 30 minutes away from Roatán’s International Airport, West Bay is more family-friendly, inviting travellers to hang loose and enjoy a combination of beach time, snorkelling, swimming, and enjoying the culture in local bars and restaurants – even though it’s quieter than West End, there are still plenty of options. Plus, it’s only a 10-minute taxi journey to West End, if you want to get really stuck in with the local nightlife scene.
Known for its deep-sea fishing, the local restaurants offer plenty of traditional dishes made from freshly caught seafood, or the local cafes will serve up an adrenaline-inducing Honduran coffee if that’s what you prefer.
This is the spot to head to if you want to escape the noise and tourism of West Bay and West End. Conveniently nestled between West End and Coxen Hole, Sandy Bay is community-driven, home to both locals and expats. An incredibly relaxed place to stay, spanning part of the northwestern shore of Roatan and only a 20-minute drive from the airport.
The Bay is made of a series of long, honey-hued beaches lapped by sparkling blue water, dotted with resorts and lined with palm trees. Another great spot for snorkelling and diving, the beach is scattered with dive operators, and it’s only a short swim off the coast to the famous coral reef.
The area is also great for kayaking and windsurfing, or if the water isn’t the place for you then why not try hiking to the Carambola Garden, spotting wildlife in the jungle such as monkeys, medicinal plants, flowers, and exotic spices. Or, go on a sunset cruise for the ultimate romantic end to your day.
One of the oldest communities in Roatán, Flower Bay offers visitors a glimpse into the local life on the island. There are traditional houses built on stilts over the water, and local eateries offering traditional and freshly cooked foods.
Located on Roatán’s southwestern shore, with Cozen Hole to one side and West Bay and West End to the other, Flowers Bay is often overlooked, but in the winter months, it becomes a veritable hub of diving activity. Other than that, tourism is lacking in this area – what you’ll get instead is authentic, local friendliness.
At night, there are plenty of bars to choose from to experience the local nightlife scene, or during the day you can head to Steel Pan Alley to support the local music groups.
As you can see, Roatán is more than just one location. Each area in the country offers something different, and something unique – you’ll never really know the island until you visit each of them. If you want fun and a decent nightlife, West End is your best bet. Or something quieter but still in the thick of it, then head to West Bay. Or, if you want the authentic experience, make your way to East End and see the local communities and experience their traditions.