TRAVEL NOTES FOR ROATAN, HONDURAS (WEST END VILLAGE) -
JULY 2008 & JANUARY 2009
ABOUT ROATAN & THE WEST END:
What's so great about Roatan? Great diving and great value for starters. Couple that with friendly people and a relaxed atmosphere and you get a winning package. There are lots of great places to dive and stay in Roatan, and depending on your budget you you should easily be able to find a package that suits you needs.
We traveled to Roatan once in July and returned one more time in January. We chose to stay in the West End because of it's ideal location to the majority of the dive sites and also because the town has a lively and welcoming social scene. The village itself is very tropical and rustic with lots of small bars, shops, and restaurants packed in along the main road. It only takes about 15 minutes to walk the entire length of West End Village at a relaxed pace, so you don't have to be too concerned about where in the West End you plan to stay, and how you'll get around.
Both times we visited the restaurants were very good and there were lots of different types of cuisines. Below I have reviewed a few of my favorites, but all you have to do is walk out your front door and you will find lots of tasty choices.
The two major US airlines that fly into Roatan (RTB). One is Delta, and the other is Continental. Delta makes connections via Atlanta, and Continental connects in Houston. Coming from NY, I go with Delta. When I booked my trips, it seemed like Saturday was a popular day for the airlines to fly in and out of Roatan. Spirit Airlines fly's into San Pedro Sula (SAP) from the US but you will need to connect from there or take a boat.
Once on the island, there are many options for getting around. If you are staying at a resort they will probably arrange a transfer for you. Airport transfers to and from resorts run around US $20 but make sure to agree on a price before taking a regular cab. Taxis are very easily accessible from almost anywhere on the island. There are also plenty of boat taxis, car rentals, and bike rentals if needed.
My suggestion would be to not rent a car until you get there are then decide if you really need it. If you plan on doing an island tour or if you want to cross the island to check out some of the various restaurants and activities then you might find renting a car a good idea. But even then there are plenty of available taxis at your disposal. If you are planning on just diving, sleeping and eating in the West End a car is unnecessary. Captain Van's is located in the West end and they rent bikes and scooters. This place rents cars and does boat tours. If you rent a pedal bike, don't expect to ride across the island easily because there are lots of steep hills.
DIVING & SLEEPING @ THE SEAGRAPE PLANTATION RESORT
Both times we visited Roatan we stayed in the West End Village at the Seagrape Plantation Resort (pictured above) and both times we were very satisfied. If I am lucky enough go back I will stay with them again. The Seagrape offers ocean front cottages, full dive packages, and a very friendly staff. The prices were very reasonable for 2 of us to dive and stay for a full week. They don't have a restaurant on premises, but right down the street you have lots of great places to eat in the West End. The Seagrape does have mini-refrigerators in the cottages, as well as private bathrooms with hot and cold running water. They also deliver fresh pitchers of fresh water to the room every day as a courtesy since you can't drink the tap water in Roatan.
The dive operation at the Seagrape is friendly and professional. They have good boats and adequate facilities including bins for rinsing equipment, and a storage room. They frequent all the local dive locations including some on the other side of the island. The dive guides are knowledgeable and good at spotting interesting marine life.
The Seagrape is located directly on the water front, and although they don't have a sand beach, they do have a pool and easy access to the ocean where you can dive and snorkel on the resort "house" reef. They also have their own integrated dive shop and facilities right on premises, so you only have to walk a few meters in the morning to get on your dive boat.
Be sure to put in your request right away if you want to do one of their special trips because sometimes they only go if they get enough people to sign up. That includes Mary's Place, Prince Albert Wreck, Shark Dive, Barbaretta, Night Dives and Utila.
These 3 pictures are from our Barbaretta trip which was a whole day trip that included lunch on a beach and two tank dives on this remote deserted island. The diving was good, but I did not think it was as good as back near the resorts. It was a fun day in the sun, but a bit long if you are there just for the diving. Also the tiny island had a lot of garbage scattered around which was sad because it was such an otherwise isolated and pristine location. If you are interested only in the best diving, my advice is to skip Barbaretta. Lucky for us on the boat ride to Barbaretta we spotted a whale shark swimming near the surface.
WHEN TO TRAVEL:
As I mentioned above, I have visited Roatan twice. Once in July and once in January. Both times the weather was great and the diving was great but there are a few differences to note. Most importantly, the visibility is not quite as good in January as in July. Even so, the visibility was still very good in January and the water temps were comfortable in a 2-3mm wet suit. Also in January there are sometimes whaleshark sightings around Roatan and Utila. As I mentioned, we spotted a whale shark on the boat ride to our Barbaretta excursion in January.
Lobster Pot, Lighthouse Restaurant, Tongs, Fish & Chips Truck, Argentinean Grill, Mavis & Dixis, Eagle Ray's, Le Bistro, Cannibal Cafe, Pura Vida, Sundowners, Thirsty Turtle.
--> The Lobster Pot Restaurant located at the far end of West End was excellent. Tucked away right off the beach it serves lobster tails, steaks and fish mostly. This was by far our best meal we had and it was priced right. In my opinion this place has better steaks than Argentinean Grill and the best lobsters in town. We found that the bottles of wine were only priced a few dollars above market price (around $10 - $15 dollars total) . You have got to give this place a try. Get there early if you don't want them to run out of lobsters (it happened to someone we met during our trip).
--> Tongs Thai Restaurant is very good. If you like Pad Thai you will like Tongs. They have a nice variety on the menu and waterfront seating. We enjoyed everything we ate there. Make sure you get there with extra time since this place sometimes gets busy.
--> Lighthouse Restaurant is also very good. Right on the water, but you have to cut behind Mavis & Dixi to get there. Great seafood and good service. The menu varies from week to week.
--> Argentinean Grill is not the greatest in my opinion. The appearance and decor at this restaurant is inviting, but in my opinion the food is average. If you want good steaks and seafood try the Lobster Pot Restaurant at the far end of West End Village.
--> Cannibal Cafe is a great place for mexican cuisine. They serve big portions and the prices are reasonable. Great for lunch or dinner.
--> Eagle Ray's has one of the best locations in West End. Amazing sunsets and resident parrots make this place unique. The lemon daiquiris and beers are good. The food is average. Great place to enjoy the sunset.
--> Sundowners bar is a great little hut on the beach run by some resident Canadians. The kitchen never seems to be open, but that's not why you go there anyway. Beer and mixed drinks are the main deal and an occasional sports game on the TV. It's hard to pass by without stopping in for at least one drink. Great location and great crowd.
--> Fish & Chips Truck on the beach with the British Flag is great for lunch in between dives. On some nights they convert the truck into a wide screen and crank out Rolling Stones concerts on the beach. It's hard not to like this place.
--> Mavis & Dixies is a bar right next to the Lighthouse restaurant and right on the beach. LIke the Lighthouse it is a bit off the beaten path, but easy to get to. They serve bar food and seafood. From outside you get a great view of Half Moon Bay.
-->Mini Super Mart...it's name is an oxymoron but you'd have to be a moron to not go there to get some tasty bananas. Located past the church on your right before you get to the path leading to Lighthouse Restaurant. If you're lucky they will have the "mini" bananas. I don't know why those bananas taste so good, but they do. Can't find them anywhere in the states.
-->Tropical Mart is another mart located on the opposite side of the road from the water. This place had mini boxes of cereal (corn flakes etc) and also good prices on bottles of rum. When we visited both times, the rum was cheaper here than in the other stores, and the mini boxes of cereal were not available in other stores.
-->Coconut Tree Mart? ... I can't remember the name for sure, but it is right under the Creole restaurant next to Coconut tree divers across from Half Moon Bay Beach. They have good selections of soda, snacks and liquor. Also a good place to go if you need band-aids, or over the counter medicine.
DIVE SITES: Most are listed on the maps below. Must-do dives include: Spooky Channel, Bears Den, Odyssey Wreck, Green Outhouse wall, Blue Channel, and Hole in the Wall. Really there are too many good sites to list. You should do all of them! Also May's Place is a must-do if you can arrange a day trip.
MAPS OF ROATAN & WEST END VILLAGE: