How to Best Explore the Remote Island of Roatan

How to Best Explore the Remote Island of Roatan

The largest of the Bay Islands, Roatan offers several sites for discovering the Caribbean’s final frontier By: Tim Johnson
<p>Travelers can spot moray eels while diving at the Blue Channel. // © 2016 iStock</p><p>Feature image (above): Roatan is the capital and largest...

Travelers can spot moray eels while diving at the Blue Channel. // © 2016 iStock

Feature image (above): Roatan is the capital and largest city of Honduras’ Bay Islands. // © 2016 iStock

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The Details

A tiny island just off the coast of mainland Honduras, Roatan is just 4 miles at its widest point and 33 miles in length — and it’s a relatively untouched paradise. International brands are few and far between, and many of the hot spots are still accessible only by boat. Visitors to the island have plenty to do, though, including taking a dive among some of the world’s best coral, dining on the freshest fruits of the sea and staying in their own private villa — with a view.

You can’t get closer to the water than Hole in the Wall, which floats on an inlet (when the tide rises, some of the water even bubbles up through the floorboards). Because the restaurant is only accessible by boat, clients can head to Jonesville to catch a water taxi for about $10 roundtrip or catch the boat that the restaurant sends back and forth. Hole in the Wall is often frequented by seafaring folk but serves up more than character — local fishermen supply the place with their freshest catch, and jam, hot sauce and honey are homemade. Try some lobster, conch, shrimp or the catch of the day, and pair it with fried plantains, rice and beans.

Set in a relatively untouched stretch of green, rolling land on the north side of the island, Pristine Bay is home to Roatan’s one and only golf course: The Black Pearl. Designed by Pete Dye, the par-72, 7,200-yard gem skirts the ocean and includes island greens. But it’s not all about golf here — the all-villa resort spans 405 acres and includes two restaurants, two infinity pools, a beach club, a dive shop, tennis courts and a croquet garden. But even with all this, guests may be tempted to stay home — each villa includes its own patio and plunge pool, with views of the green and blue. 

Although the island is beautiful on the surface, it’s what divers will find under the blue water that makes Roatan truly special. Straddling the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, Roatan’s coast is lined with amazing dive sites. Experts say that it’s both the variety of marine life and the health of the coral here that sets the destination apart, along with the fact that the island’s best spots are just a short boat ride from the shore. One popular dive shop, West Bay Divers, offers a safe and diverse range of dives for beginners and experts alike. Favorites include the shallow lagoons and tunnels of Mandy’s Eel Garden, where clients may find green and hawksbill turtles as well as the occasional seahorse; and the Blue Channel, where divers often spot moray eels and giant hermit crabs.