Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Roatan, Honduras

(this map is actually on one of the resort websites but it is the most detailed map of Roatan that I could find).

Be aware that ship’s time vs Roatan time can become an issue so pay close attention to ensure that you get back to the ship in time. Leave your watch on ship’s time so there is no confusion.

There are two cruise ship piers on Roatan: Coxen Hole (the original pier) and the new cruise center, Mahogany Bay.

Mahogany Bay Cruise Centerhttp://www.mahoganybaycc.com/
Mahogany Bay is a new two-berth cruise terminal built by Carnival for Carnival-owned lines such as Carnival, Princess, Holland America, and Costa. One problem that has arisen with the new pier is that if the weather is windy and/or wavy, there can be difficulties docking so sometimes ships are redirected to the older pier at Coxen Hole. The cruise center has the usual offerings such as restaurants, snack bars and a wide variety of shops.

If you choose not to venture out and about on the island, you can take a chair lift from the welcome centre to Mahogany Beach for the day. The price started out at $5pp for an all-day lift pass, but it appears that the price has been increasing quickly and now stands at $10pp. The beach offers free beach loungers and also has eight private cabanas for rent. The cost is $200 for 4 people and the cabanas have loungers outside and the interior is air-conditioned. There are snorkel rentals available, but past visitors haven’t been very impressed with the caliber of snorkeling off the man-made beach area. There are much better snorkel sites elsewhere on the island. You can rent a kayak for $20 for ½ hour (pricey) but you are restricted as to where you can go.

Cab fares on Roatan tend to be quite pricey so be prepared for some sticker shock. You may be able to negotiate better rates, especially if you have more than 2 people, but it all depends on finding a driver who is willing to negotiate. Walk down the line of cabs until you find one who will give you a better price.

For more adventurous (and frugal) travelers, there is a great summary of the local mini-bus transportation system at:  http://www.roatanisland.net/cruiseship.htm

Santé Wellness Centrehttp://www.santewellnesscenter.com/ - Owners, Angela and Leon, consistently get rave reviews from their guests. Angela is skilled in a wide variety of treatments and also gives private yoga classes. They offer a $45 day pass for visitors who don’t take a spa treatment. The day pass allows you to enjoy their facilities (beach/pool/ocean-front hot tub/hammocks), snorkeling, kayaking, and breakfast or lunch. The 20-minute cab ride from the pier costs around $15pp or $40 per cab – round trip. Get your cab driver to call to let them know you are on your way and they will meet you with a boat to take you on a 5 minute boat ride to the spa. Spa prices are less than half the price of ship’s spa offerings so this should be an all-day experience!! Facials start at $55, massages at $65 for an hour and they offer several spa packages for $135. It is total pampering and relaxation…in the Caribbean. What more can you ask for???

Spa Baan Suertéhttp://www.spabaansuerte.com/ - this is another spa on the island but isn’t as frequently reviewed as Santé however any reviews I have read have been positive.

Maya Key - http://www.mayakeyroatan.com/en/index.html - is a private key located just a few minute’s ferry ride from the Coxen Hole pier area. It offers a beach, pool, snorkel center, gift shop, bar/restaurant, cultural exhibits, animal rescue/rehabilitation centre and shopping at Artisan’s Plaza. I believe the cost is $30pp for the day but I cannot get a response from them via their website. There are rumors that they have changed to only be accessible via ship’s tours when cruise ships are in town which means the price will likely be much higher.

Gumbalimba Parkhttp://www.gumbalimbapark.com/ - is an attraction where you can see monkeys, have birds sit on your shoulder, tour botanical gardens, learn about the island’s history and enjoy some food along with a beach and/or pool. It sounds like you can only book this excursion through the cruise lines when ships are in port but some people have toured the park with one of the island tour operations but there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of solid information on this option.

Carambola Gardens - http://www.carambolagardens.com/ - these botanical gardens are located in Sandy Bay. You can hike through the trails in the garden. Admission is $6pp. This stop is also able to be included in an island tour through one of the tour guides listed under “Tours”.

Sherman Arch's Iguana Farmhttp://www.roatanisland.net/iguana_farm.htm - Entrance fee $8pp. If you want to handle the iguanas, arrive in early afternoon, which is when they have their feeding time. This stop is also able to be included in an island tour through one of the tour guides listed under “Tours”.

Dolphin Encounterhttp://www.anthonyskey.com/en/index.html - Anthony’s Key Resort is contracted to cruise lines when they are in port so you should book your excursion through the ship to enjoy this special encounter.

Sea Plane Tours - http://roatancruiseexcursions.com/SeaPlaneIslandTour.html - $130US for up to 2 passengers for a 20 minute island tour by air. $200US for 35 minute tour. $380US for 2 hour Deserted Island Tour (includes lunch). Planes operate out of the Fantasy Island Resort.

Horseback Riding - http://www.barriodorcasranch.com/ - click on ‘Cruise Ship Excursion Packages’ for available options. There are packages that include a beach stop at West Bay Beach and also one that includes a sail with Salty Dog Sea Charters (see more info under “Sailing/Charters” below).

There are several ziplining outfits on Roatan. I have outlined the most popular (and best-reviewed) below. Remember that ziplining is an ‘extreme’ excursion and you zipline at your own risk! For any of these operations, get there early so you get ahead of the cruise line excursions and crowds.

Clip ‘n Ziphttp://www.clipnziproatan.com/en/index.html - is located within a 150-acre nature park just across the street from Mahogany Bay and a 10 minute ride from the Coxen Hole terminal. The cost is $45pp and they offer a $5 discount for cruise passengers arriving at Mahogany Bay. The cruise lines offer this excursion at almost twice the price. The course takes 45 minutes to an hour to complete, depending on crowd traffic. They have three zipline cables, instead of the usual two cables. You can make a reservation in advance or just show up on the day you dock, although you may have to wait for others who have reservations to go first. This outfit gets rave reviews from past visitors for their commitment to safety and the friendliness of their staff.

South Shore Canopy Tourshttp://www.southshorecanopy.com/ – located near West Bay Beach, this course has two cables (main and safety) and 13 ziplines across the 3km course. The longest zipline measures 860 ft and the course takes between 45- 90 minutes to complete, depending on how many groups are on the course that day. You get some gorgeous views on your way down the course. My husband and I did this course in 2005 and it was one of the highlights of our cruise! The cost is $45pp and a cab will cost you about $20pp round trip. They also have a booth at the pier in front of The Thirsty Turtle. Past visitors give excellent reviews of this operation.

Island Marketinghttp://roatancruiseexcursions.com/ - you can book many different tours and adventures through this well-known company. Their zipline tour costs $52US, which includes the zipline experience and then a stop at West Bay Beach (Foster’s) for some sun and fun.

Roatan is known as a great spot for scuba diving and snorkeling so there are many companies that offer dive and/or snorkel tours. Check out the websites below for pricing and additional information. This is not a comprehensive list, but they are the most commonly mentioned on the discussion boards and all get great reviews.

Subway Watersports - http://www.subwaywatersports.com/ - there are two locations: one at Turquoise Bay Resort and the other at Palmetto Bay Plantation.

Atlantic Sea Divershttp://atlanticseadivers.com/index.html - this is a new dive company located at Half Moon Resort. It is getting some great reviews for a new operation. They offer tank dives and snorkel tours.

Coconut Tree Divers - http://www.coconuttreedivers.com/ - based at Half Moon Bay, this outfit is a PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Centre as well as offering dive tours.

Bananaramahttp://www.bananaramadive.com/cruise-shippers/index.html - located on the popular West Bay Beach, this resort offers both dive and snorkel tours. The cab ride takes between 25-30 minutes and costs about $20pp round trip.

Sueno Del Mar Diving Resort - http://www.suenodelmar.com/cruise_packages.htm - located in West End Village, this resort has been around for many years and has a good reputation.

Upachaya Snorkel Tourhttp://www.upachaya.com/ - gets fantastic reviews from past visitors. There is a maximum of 10 people per tour so book your spot in advance!

Roatan Sailing & Catamaran Charters - https://sailroatan.com/ - $89pp for a 4 hour sail, including transportation to/from the pier.

Salty Dog Sea Charters - http://www.roatansailing.com/cruiseship-roatan.htm - sail with Captain Dusty - maximum of 8 people per sail. Pricing on website is not current so you will have to contact them for pricing.

Bodden Tourshttp://www.boddentours.com/ - owned by Victor Bodden, this tour operation gets great reviews from past visitors. Victor offers a wide variety of tours that include an island tour, zipline tour, snorkel and fishing tours. The basic island tour has various upgrade options that allows you to personally select the stops that you want to make. The more people you have, the cheaper the tour cost per person. One of the popular options is Victor’s Monkey Business ($5pp) which offers a unique and up-close encounter with white-faced capuchin monkeys and spider monkeys. The operation has several guides with Tex, Hanno and Ali getting top reviews. You can specifically request one of them for your tour. Victor also has a kiosk at Coxen Hole pier, if you make a last minute decision to do this tour.

Theris Dixon  - http://www.therisroatantours.com/ . Theris gets great reviews on the discussion boards for her friendliness and professionalism.

Island Marketinghttp://roatancruiseexcursions.com/index.html - this outfit operates on many Caribbean islands. It acts as a ‘one stop shop’ and offers a wide range of tours which they subcontract to other tour companies (such as those mentioned above).

Rony’s Tourshttp://ronystours.com/ - The cost for Rony’s island tour varies depending on how many people you have in your group. With four or more people, the price is $25pp. See the website for a detailed description of the tour.

NOTE - sand fleas can be an issue on the beaches in Roatan. Take bug spray and cover at least from feet to knees…more on your kids since they will likely be sitting in the sand. As long as you are protected, this should not cause any problems on your day in Roatan.

West Bay Beach – this beach is the most popular beach on the island and tends to be crowded when cruise ships are in town as there are many resorts along the stretch and a great reef for snorkeling about 40ft offshore. Tabyana Beach is an area on the beach that is private and for cruise tours only. Resorts charge a fee to rent loungers and to access their facilities. There is a great coral reef just a short swim offshore which makes this beach great for snorkeling. The best snorkel is said to be down the beach, past the Tabyana area (at Bananarama, face the ocean, then go to the left). There are a number of vendors that will rent snorkel gear. Cab fare from Mahogany Bay runs about $20pp round trip.

Celeste’s Island Cuisine is located just a few minute’s walk inland behind Bananarama Resort (look for signs) and gets high praise as a great place to have a fantastic lunch. Lunch offerings are a variety of baleadas which are small burritos with refried black beans and your choice of filling such as chicken, grouper, lobster, pork, etc. Lunch should run you between $7 and $9pp.

I have read about a water taxi that runs from West Bay Beach to West End Village for $3pp each way, but I haven’t found more details than that.

Half Moon Bay – located near West End Village, this is a much quieter and less crowded beach than West Bay. The beach is not as nice but the West End area includes lots of bars, restaurants and shops to explore. If you are a beach person, West Bay is probably more appealing but if you enjoy wandering through quaint shops and grabbing a quiet lunch, with a beach stop along the way, this spot is for you. FYI - The Argentinian Grill rents lounge chairs. Cab fare from Mahogany Bay runs around $20pp round trip as well. The cost would be less from Coxen Hole.

Sandy Bay Beach – is the longest beach on the island and is very quiet beach with not a lot of amenities. There are some bars/restaurants within walking distance.

FYI - If your ship gets in later in the day, and you aren’t the only ship in port, you may have some issues getting lounge chairs at the resorts.

Infinity Bay Spa and Beach Resort – http://www.infinitybay.com/en/index.html - located on West Bay Beach. Cab fare costs about $20pp round trip from Mahogany Bay, less from Coxen Hole. The ride takes around 30 minutes. $15pp for use of loungers, restrooms, outdoor showers and the pool.

Foster’s Resorthttp://www.fostersroatan.com/shoreexcursion.html – there are two Foster’s Resorts, one at West Bay Beach and the other at West End. Most visitors tend to go to West Bay. A day pass costs $5pp plus an additional $7 to rent a lounger. You can also select a package that includes transportation, if you have more than 8 people in your group (see website for details). Cab fare costs about $20pp round trip from Mahogany Bay, less from Coxen Hole. The ride takes around 30 minutes.

Bananaramahttp://www.bananaramadive.com/cruise-shippers/index.html - also located on West Bay Beach. $5 to rent a lounger. They also rent snorkel gear and kayaks (see website for details). Cab fare costs about $20pp round trip from Mahogany Bay, less from Coxen Hole. The ride takes around 30 minutes.

Mayan Princesshttp://www.mayanprincess.com/ - located on West Bay Beach. A day pass costs $10 to use beach loungers, pool and facilities. This is one of the cheapest day passes but they limit the amount of passes they issue on a first come, first served basis. If your ship arrives later in the morning or there are several ships in port, you may have problems getting a pass. The best snorkel area is about a 5 minute walk down past the Infinity Bay Resort.

Turquoise Bay Resort - http://www.turquoisebayresort.com/ - located near French Harbor, quiet area, not a good snorkel off the beach but you can take a boat out to the reef to snorkel, great spot for kayaking. A day pass costs $25pp, including transportation to/from the resort.

Make the most of your day on this beautiful island!!

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