Planning a trip to Roatan? Read my list of the best things to do in Roatan, Honduras, including paddle boarding, zip lining, mingling with sloths and swimming with dolphins.
I’ve always heard that the beaches in Roatan, Honduras were the most beautiful in the world. And for the sake of clarity – it’s totally true! They’re just as dreamy as everyone says.
Since Roatan is in the Caribbean (just like the in-cre-di-ble beaches in Mexico), you will get tropical white sand beaches with turquoise water teeming with sea turtles, vibrant fish and pods of squid. The beaches in Roatan are absolutely fantastic.
I’ll tell you more about them and share lots of pictures so you can see for yourself, but we’ll also take a look at all the other great things to do in Roatan. Because despite its small size, there’s actually loads to do here! Whether you’re visiting on a cruise or staying for several nights, here’s a list of the best Roatan activities and excursions.
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Things to do in Roatan
Roatan is different from mainland Honduras in more than one sense. We traveled overland from San Pedro Sula and found the contrast quite stark. Roatan has an amazing biodiversity, is much safer and the way of life here is more relaxed. No wonder it’s one of the most popular destinations around the world, both for solo travelers, families with kids, seniors and even backpackers.
There’s lots to do here for all ages. From snorkeling, diving and zip lining to meeting wildlife and taking a day excursion to nearby islands, you’ll find a plethora of great Roatan activities.
Read next: Roatan travel guide: All you need to know
Roatan Honduras map
Looking for a Roatan map?
Roatan is 77 kilometres (48 mi) long and less than 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) across at its widest point. It has one main road running through it, so it’s almost impossible to get lost.
You can pick up a map at various places around Roatan when you get there. Most maps are free, but you can also buy them for $1.
1. Roatan diving
Roatan is famous for its amazing offshore reefs and perfectly suited for both new and advanced divers.
It’s a well-known destination for coral gardens, shipwrecks such as the Odyssey and Aguila, sharks and all sorts of fish, but it’s also famous for encountering the largest fish in the sea: the majestic whale sharks. You’ll see them from February – April and from August – October, although they can appear anytime.
Travel tip: Roatan has great diving, such as Port Royal and Mary’s Place, but nearby island Utila has the advantage of being cheaper than Roatan (stand-out dives include The Canyons and Black Hills).
2. Try snorkeling
If you’d like to explore the tropical underwater in the Caribbean Sea but aren’t a fan of scuba diving, you can try snorkeling. It doesn’t take any practice and you’ll be closer to the surface.
The snorkeling is really great at West Bay and West End’s Half Moon Bay Beach. You can snorkel right offshore and see lots of fish, shellfish and maybe even an octopus.
You can also join a snorkeling tour, where they’ll take you to the best snorkeling places for a few hours of underwater exploration where snorkeling gear is included.
3. Glass-bottom boat tours
If you’d like to watch the coral reef and marine life, but without getting wet, you can take a glass-bottom boat tour. It’s kind of like a submarine where you sit 2 metres below the surface with windows on each side. You’ll be able to see the coral reef, sharks, eels, and a whole lot of different fish.
A tour usually takes 40-50 mins, and the boat is air-conditioned.
4. Swim with dolphins at Anthony’s Key
One of my favourite things to do in Roatan island was visiting Anthony’s Key. Here, you can snorkel, dive or swim with Bottlenose dolphins on their own terms, with no trained behavior. You can also dive with them in the open sea.
5. Zip lining
Another fun Roatan activity is zip lining. You can ride on a high cable through a tropical forest and see monkeys up close. One of the good places to try zip lining is at Monkey Trail Canopy in Gumbalimba Par or you can take this tour.
The price varies from US $45-65 and it’s great fun for the whole family.
6. Paddle boarding
The great bays and clear, calm water makes Roatan great for paddle boarding! There’s a wrecked sailboat with a giant rope swing that you can play on at Half Moon Bay (at West End). There’s also a steel skeleton shipwreck in Mahogany Bay, which is insane to explore as the hull towers over you while you paddle.
The boards are steady and it’s fun at any age.
7. Visit the indigenous Garifuna on Cayos Cochinos
The Cayos Cochinos are a group of two large island, Cayo Menor and Cayo Grande, and thirteen tiny coral cays between Roatan and the Honduran mainland. Tourists can visit Cayo Grande whereas Caya Menor is only permitted for scientists and people who work for the Honduras Coral Reef Fund.
Approximately one hundred people reside on these islands, and nearly all of the residents are members of the indigenous Garifuna community.
What to bring:
- Swim suit (wear it under your shorts)
- Beach towel
- Reef friendly sunscreen
- Reusable water bottle
- Snorkel gear. You can bring your own, but many of the companies can provide them for you as well.
Utila is one of the other Bay islands and another popular visit in Honduras. And – it’s super close to Roatan. You can do a day trip there, although I recommend spending a night or two because it’s more convenient.
We didn’t get to visit Utila on this trip, but I’ve found a few ways for you to get there from Roatan. Make sure to book in advance:
- By air (quickest and most expensive). It takes 15 mins, and you can contact Morgan’s Travel or World Wide Travel in Utila for details of latest schedules and prices.
- By charter boat (most flexible but can be expensive). Try this one for $75, one way or reach out to Capt. Vern. He does daily trips between Roatan and Utila (leaving at 1 p.m.). Try him at his phone: 9910-8040/3346-2600 or email: [email protected]
- By ferry (least expensive, but slowest). It takes 3.5 hours. Take the Galaxy Wave from Roatan to La Ceiba, then the Utila Dream Ferry to Utila.
9. Little French Key
One of the other great things to do in Roatan island is visiting Little French Key.
Little French Key is a private island paradise off the shore of Roatan. At this little piece of heaven, you can relax or do activities, such as paddle boarding, kayaking, zip lining, snorkeling or seeing wildlife.
The basic Little French Key day package costs $59 (in 2020) and includes transportation to the island, a beach chair and visit to the island’s tropical animal rescue center. I would suggest upgrading to the $88 package, which also includes a meal, two drinks, and access to snorkeling gear, kayaks and paddle boards.
10. Daniel Johnson’s Monkey and Sloth Hangout
Entrance fee: $12 (they also offer transportation, check out their website)
There’s lots of wildlife running around the island, but at the animal and botanical parks, you’ll be sure to get up close with them.
Daniel Johnson’s Monkey and Sloth Hangout is one of the most popular wildlife parks on Roatan. The animal park sanctuary is located in French Cay and houses rescued wildlife like sloths, capuchin monkeys, scarlet macaws, and parrots. You can also see the indigenous Agouti, also known as the Roatan Island rabbit and spider monkeys.
11. Gumbalimba Park
Entrance fee: $30 / plus canopy: $45 / plus zip lining: $55
Gumbalimba Park is located right outside West Bay Beach, and to us it was one of the best things to do in Roatan, Honduras.
Here, you can mingle with friendly capuchin monkeys, the largest population of black iguanas, and free-flying exotic birds like macaws, hummingbirds and peacocks. It’s also home to a few sloths although we didn’t see any there. Aside from the animals, the park includes a museum, pool, a suspension bridge, several waterfalls and more than 200 colourful plant and tree species.
Things to do at Gumbalimba:
- Nature Trails and botanical gardens
- Watch and pet the animals
- Zip lining
- Relax at the pool or the beach
12. Carambola Gardens
If you’re interested in nature and botanical gardens, you should head to Carambola Gardens in Sandy Bay. The park’s many jungle trails are the perfect place for hiking, scenic photography, bird watching and nature studies.
While you can also spot wildlife here, you’re more likely to see the very vibrant plants, and fruits, including a chocolate tree and the world-famous Honduran mahogany tree.
Best Roatan hotels
Roatan island has a decent selection of accommodation for all budgets. The three most popular places to stay are West Bay, West End and Sandy Bay.
West Bay is most popular among tourists. I personally loved staying at West Bay, which has the undeniably best beach on Roatan. It does get crowded twice a week when the cruise ships dock, but that clear, turquoise water makes it worth it. Grand Roatán Caribbean Resort is the best hotel in West Bay, no questions asked. Right at the beach, excellent rooms and beautiful location. Find the latest prices here.
West End is cheaper, more backpacker-friendly with more restaurants – good snorkeling. One of the best hotels here is Mr. Tucan Hotel; a beachfront hotel with free Wifi, fantastic rooms and a great location. Find the latest prices here.
Sandy Bay is relaxed and less crowded, but it doesn’t have the same beautiful beaches as West Bay or West End. The Puerta Azul is a laid-back, peaceful place in a quiet location. The snorkeling is great. Find the latest prices here.
Best restaurants in Roatan
After discovering all the fun things to do in Roatan, you’ll need something to eat. And luckily, the island is dotted with restaurants! Whether you’re looking for local Honduran food, International dishes, vegetarian, or a familiar flavour from back home, you’ll likely find it at a restaurant in Roatan.
Here are my favourite restaurants in Roatan, Honduras:
- Creole’s Rotisserie Chicken probably has the most flavourful rotisserie chicken on Roatan. It’s primarily Caribbean food and located at West End.
- Roatan Oasis. What can I say – fantastic food! Try the lobster nachos or the lamb, and make sure to call for a reservation because they are often full. They also have vegetarian food.
- La Palapa Beach Bar is an amazing bar with cocktails with a swim/walkup bar and great service!
- Cindy’s Place. This little street food place makes you feel at home. The owner Cindy is like a mom, calling you sweetheart and asking about your day. Try the baleada (traditional Honduran tortilla filled with mashed, fried red beans).