TTC Special: Roatán Island, an exceptional Caribbean tourist destination
By: José Luis Perelló
Roatán Island is one of the best kept tourist destinations in the Caribbean, with its blue waters on white sandy beaches and a luxuriant jungle, shares the seas of Bahía de Tela in Honduras. Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities such as snorkeling and diving, which will give them access to the colorful marine life in the second largest coral reef in the world in Cayos Cochinos.
It was in 1510, when a small contingent of French buccaneers arrived in Roatán, and they are the first known Europeans to have really established their foot on the island. Some time passed in what today is the French Harbor, giving name to the current place. Between 1638 to 1642, the first English settlers, members of the Company of Providence, established themselves there. The occupation of these places was a great advantage for the English because, being so close to the ports of the mainland, it allowed them to make attacks on them every time they wanted, or could, with the same ease, intercept trade between this kingdom and the Iberian Peninsula.
An encounter with wonderful beaches and a visit to the Santuario del Perezoso or the sloths in the Carambola Botanical Garden, are inserted with the luxury tourist complexes par excellence in West Bay and bars full of tourists in West End. But in Roatán the real atmosphere is in the street parties of the centenary town of Punta Gorda, where there are traditional music, dances and some of the best Caribbean gastronomic offers on the island.
Among the facilities and infrastructure for tourism, Roatán has the Juan Manuel Gálvez International Airport (RTB) that attends national and international flights. It has numerous restaurants and almost 200 accommodation establishments, including 22 four- and five-star hotels, 26 tourist complexes, 9 luxury hotels and 57 B&B accommodations, located on its ten beaches, especially Little French Key, West Bay Beach, Tabyana Beach, Maya Key, Grand Club Roatan Beach and Sandy Bay Beach.
Roatán is one of the most popular destination ports for the cruises in the Caribbean. From shopping to eating in local restaurants and exploring nearby attractions, such as Gumbalimba Park or tropical Blue Harbor arboret, to the beaches and aquatic activities are available for those looking for fun under the sun.
This Honduran tourist enclave is about 140 miles east of Belize; it has two cruise ports, the port of Roatán and Mahogany Bay. The Coxen Hole cruise dock in the port of Roatán is used by cruises by Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Virgin Voyages, MSC Cruises and others. Mahogany Bay is the impressive cruise port for Carnival Cruise Line ships. With its sparkling clean beaches of white sand and warm Caribbean waters, it is easy to see why so many travelers prefer Mahogany Bay.
Mahogany Bay is located at the west end of Roatán Island. It is about 5 miles from the capital of the island, Coxen Hole, which is also where the other cruise port is located. Roatán is one of the three islands located 31 miles from the coast of continental Honduras, being the largest and most populated of the three. Cruise passengers can take advantage of purchase opportunities available in the bustling markets of Mahogany Bay. There they can find souvenirs and local handicrafts made by hand or enjoy activities that include navigating in kayak through the mangroves or making excursions to the two neighboring islands.
Mahogany Bay Beach is only for cruise passengers and has free access by showing your cruise card at the entrance. The beach is about 10 minutes on foot from the cruise terminal. There are a wide variety of aquatic sports activities available. These include masks and snorkeling fins, Paddle Boards, Zayak, Fun Cat, Sea Hammock, Aqua Cycle, Aqua Cycle Boat, Paddle Boat, Hobie Kayak, Kayaks, many sun loungers and umbrellas among others.
You can also enjoy a walk in the heights through the “Flying Magic Playa Guest,” a cable car that extends from the beach to the store area on a route of about 500 meters inside the cruise port. This service is reserved only for the cruise members and there are few ports of the Caribbean who offer this adventure. All these offers have made Roatán an excellent international tourist destination, where tourists love to visit for the lush beauty of their beautiful beaches and an incomparable marine life.