Roatan Scuba Diving and Snorkeling Guide

Roatan island in Honduras was our favorite place for scuba diving and snorkeling around Central America. This favorite stop for cruise ships and resorts in Honduras surprised us with nice diving, excellent snorkeling and a fantastic island vibe that was not too crazy touristy. We picked Roatan over Utila and Cayos Cochinos for diving in Honduras.

Alya walking on the beautiful beaches around Roatan. We walked from Moonlight Bay to go and snorkel at West End Beach everyday.
Alya walking on the beautiful beaches around Roatan. We walked from Moonlight Bay to go and snorkel at West End Beach everyday.

‘DIVING and CRIME would be a brief summary of the reputation of Honduras. Loving to travel anywhere cheap and with your average Central American being shorter than me or Alya, we decided we will take our chances with the criminals around here and try to travel a bit more than just the famous bay islands. A bad case of diarrhea, unfortunate weather and Roatan being a much nicer island than we expected, resulted in us sticking mostly to the backpacker’s trail and spending most of our time around the Caribbean.

ROATAN HONDURAS DIVING

We had three main options for diving in Honduras; Utila, Roatan and Cayos Cochinos.

  • Utila is famous for very cheap dive courses, free accommodation with your dive centre and being a crazy party island.
  • Roatan is known for beautiful Caribbean beaches and is a very popular cruise ship destination.
  • Cayos Cochinos is a small little island with little infrastructure, healthy reefs since it is visited by few divers and is mostly done as a day trip from either of the Bay Islands or the main land.

We spoke to many travelers, did some research and decided on Roatan; Utila seemed to have the cheapest diving packages but sounded like a big party spot lacking nice beaches and good snorkeling spots that are accessible from the shore.

The snorkeling from the beach around Roatan was amazing!  diving Roatan
The snorkeling from the beach around Roatan was amazing!

Cayos Cochinos sounded like a great Robinson Crusoe adventure, but logistics, transport, accommodation, cooking and prices were too much and complicated if you were planning to stay for a couple of days.

ROATAN HONDURAS RESORTS

It didn’t sound great that a couple of cruise ships were disgorged every week on Roatan. Each flooding the island with thousands of tourists. We were however hoping to have the island to ourselves between when these floating hotels were docked in the harbour. This ended up to be a great decision.

  • A good spot for backpackers accommodation. We initially stayed in a dormitory in Chillies Hostel in Moonlight Bay. This is the backpacker’s area where all the dive centers are located.  Our dives were with Native Sons dive center on the same premises as Chillies Hostel. Nice vibe, easy to meet other backpackers, dive school on site. We only stayed in Chillies for two nights, it is on the beach and diving was cheap, but the dormitory is small and the beds uncomfortable.
  • We moved to a double room in Georphi’s Hostel just down the road, we had a great little cabin across the road from the beach, kind of in a tree, with many hummingbirds and other creatures moving around in the garden. Awesome island vibe, like staying in a jungle across the road from a nice beach. Run by friendly owners. Only negative was the club next door sometimes played loud music.
  • For bit higher budget Hotel Los Corales is brilliant, friendly staff, excellent location, very close to the beach, a shuttle to West Bay couple of times a day and a bit more luxury like aircon and flatscreen tv in your room.

SCUBA DIVING ROATAN

Diving in the clean, warm water with big fish in the beautiful underwater environment surrounding Roatan was awesome. Although not as varied as diving in Asia, I loved diving this part of the Carribean. The diving on the wreck of El Aguila was fantastic. This wreck lies at about 35m and was scuttled to form an artificial reef for diving. Big holes were cut in the wreck making it safe and easy for penetration. The turquoise Caribbean was crystal clear with the wreck visible from the surface while we were floating in the 27C water.  There was a lot of life around the wreck and the close by reef. I enjoyed looking at many big groupers and snappers swimming in this area. These massive fish swam up to greet us while we were descending towards the wreck.

The site called Texas offered some good diving, seeing plenty of fish such as groupers, wrasse, angels, hogfish and large barracuda swimming on the healthy reef.

If you are lucky you can see many barracudas on the beautiful reef of West End Wall.

Deep Seequest is nice site not too deep, a sandy bottom and a good chance to spot rays and turtles.

There were some big groupers swimming around the wreck of The El Aguila! diving ROATAN
There were some big groupers swimming around the wreck of The El Aguila!

ROATAN SNORKELING

The snorkeling of west end beach is awesome. Our favorite snorkeling spot is about a 5km walk on the sand from Moonlight Bay. Walk to the end of West End Beach, brilliant coral reef starts close to the beach and makes a steep drop that was great for freediving. Diving deeper was easy in the crystal clear warm water. We were snorkeling between 5 and 25 meters which was challenging with the small plastic rental fins we were using. There was a huge variety of fish including some massive snappers, eagle rays and small hawksbill turtles.

Alya freediving around West End Beach. We did dives down to 25m from the shore and saw some amazing marine life, snappers, eagle rays and small hawksbill turtles being some of the highlights.
Alya freediving around West End Beach. We did dives down to 25m from the shore and saw some amazing marine life, snappers, eagle rays and small hawksbill turtles being some of the highlights.

It was great to have some beautiful beaches and we ran about 8kms from Moonlight Bay to West End and back every night.

Roatan Backpacking Budget:

$22 per day including accommodation, food and transport, excluding diving.

Likes: Honduras has the sweetest fruit in Central America (maybe the world), amazing snorkeling, nice diving, the national dish baleadas, small towns

Dislikes: reputation for having the most dangerous cities in the world, transport to the bay islands and to Nicaragua is expensive

FOOD

Eating was cheap since we bought groceries e.g. coffee, pasta, noodles, tuna, cereal etc. on the mainland. We had access to a kitchen at both hostels. The price of most groceries was about double on the island compared to the mainland. The main street food in Honduras is Baleadas, a thick flour tortilla folded over filled with refried beans, cheese, eggs and a choice of other fillings e.g. avocado, chicken, pork etc. for about a dollar (L20). When we did not feel like cooking we lived of these. We fortified our diet with a daily pineapple or watermelon and some mangos. Roatan surpassed our expectations with long uncrowded beaches, great snorkeling, good diving all within our budget of not more than $20 per day.

Very warm (29C) crystal clear water, exactly what you hope for when coming to a Caribbean island. diving Roatan
Very warm (29C) crystal clear water, exactly what you hope for when coming to a Caribbean island.

TRANSPORT

Copan to Roatan: We took a Diana Express bus at 05:00 in Copan to the bus station in San Pedro Sula were we transferred to a second bus to La Ceiba, the bus trip cost $10 and took about 9 hours. We had to get a taxi in La Ceiba to the Roatan Ferry Terminal for L280 ($12).  The Galaxy Wave Ferry, leaves at 16:00 for $31 one way, unfortunately there is no cheap option. Tip, coffee on the ferry is free and there is good wi fi in the ferry terminal.

FRUIT AND DRINKS

We only drank bottled water in Honduras (especially after my war with diarrhoea). At Chillies hostel we bought a 19L water bottle for L50 ($2.20, R27) and paid L200 deposit for the bottle. As always we stayed in places with a kitchen, we saved a lot of money by doing grocery shopping on the mainland. Fruit in Honduras is delicious, I did not know a watermelon or a pineapple can be so sweet. The price on the island was about double e.g. pineapple went from L30 (R16) to L60 (R32) and watermelon from L30 (R16) to L80 (R45). We still ate a pineapple almost every day.

Some big groupers on the reef close to the wreck of the El Aguila. diving Roatan
Some big groupers on the reef close to the wreck of the El Aguila.

DIVING: Diving with Native Sons Dive Center is $35 (R424) per dive. This price is however reduced to $30 (R364) per dive if you stay at Chillies Hostel. They allowed us their diving fins for snorkeling on diving days.

 The Submarine

Unfortunately this one was way beyond our budget. At the Roatan Institute for Deep sea exploration you can do a dive in the Submarine Idabel designed to dive to 915 meters with captain Karl Stanley. He built two submarines himself, the submarines have been featured in National Geographic. Dives start at $500 (R7700) for 1.5 hours down to about 300m and a 5 to 9 hour dive to 470m to try and spot prehistoric 6 gill sharks cost $1500 (R23 500) per person. Maybe next time!

Captain Stan's baby Idabel at the Roatan Institute for Deep sea Exploration. For R23 500 ($1500) each you can go deeper than even technical divers dare, leave the sunlight and try and spot the rare six gill shark 450m below. diving Roatan
Captain Stan’s baby Idabel at the Roatan Institute for Deep sea Exploration. For R23 500 ($1500) each you can go deeper than even technical divers dare, leave the sunlight and try and spot the rare six gill shark 450m below.
After a long day in the water chilling at our bungalow in Georphi's hostel.
After a long day in the water chilling at our bungalow in Georphi’s hostel.
The fruit in Honduras was the best we had in all of Latin America!
The fruit in Honduras was the best we had in all of Latin America!

 

Freediving at West End Beach.
Freediving at West End Beach.

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