Roatan is part of the Bay Islands, which are located in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Honduras. This island quickly became one of our favorite places in the world to unwind. From Washington, D.C., it’s a quick flight to Miami (or Dallas) and then another quick flight directly to Roatan. A 25 minute and $25 dollar taxi ride takes you from the airport to either of the two most popular spots on the island for vacationers, divers and snorkelers: West Bay and West End. We’ll break down everything you need to know about both spots.
This is the beachiest vacationy spot on the island. You’ll find quite a few small resorts and boutiques on a white-sand stretch of beach with world-class snorkeling and diving right from the shore. A little further from the main beach, you’ll find more vacation rentals for families.
Snorkeling: the warm and calm bath-like water is lovely and the coral can be explored just a few yards from the beach. The best snorkeling on the main beach is by the wall at Grand Roatan resort. Update: We had our best snorkeling actually in front of Infinity Bay, if you swim out a bit. Phenomenal! Just be really careful not to get into the boat traffic.
Accommodations: Bananarama offers no-frills accommodations for a good price, as well as larger villas and bungalows. It also has a lively bar and a good breakfast.
Grand Roatán is supposed to be luxurious, but we found it to be unimpressive for the price. Infinity Bay has a nice pool and a range of accommodations from studios to full condos—we prefer this to Grand Roatan. We also like West Bay Lodge, which is just a three minute walk to the beach (across the road from Bananarama) and is like a little bohemian oasis with a pool and really comfortable bungalows.
There are some beautiful luxury resorts tucked away on the outskirts of West Bay, but we like to be in the heart of everything.
Dining: Argentinian Grill is our favorite spot for delicious seafood and steak dinners and a hearty breakfast, nice island ambiance and great service. The Vintage Pearl is hit or miss, but when it’s good it’s great—especially for the seafood and wine selection. The Thirsty Turtle at Bananarama and the beach bar at Infinity Bay have great lunch options. There’s also an excellent wood-fire pizza place at Bananarama.
The downside to West Bay:
It’s touristy and expensive. When the cruise ships come in, the beach gets super crowded with vendors and tourists. There are some cheaper bars, however, on the walk to Gumbalimba.
The bottom line: If you want to be right on the beach, steps away from amazing snorkeling, and have lots of stuff to do, this is a great option.
We love both spots but prefer West End. It has way less beach but is still on the water and has a happy little hippy vibe. There’s basically one main road that’s about a mile long with plenty of shops, bars, restaurants and dive shops. Your money will go way further here than at West Bay.
Snorkeling: Half Moon Bay at West End offers extraordinary snorkeling right from the shore. Some people like it better than West Bay and others don’t like it as much—either way though, it’s awesome. The water is deeper and there’s more swimming involved in Half Moon Bay than at West Bay. At first we thought there were less fish, but after exploring a bit, we found the place where they all hang out. The coral here is also outstanding.
Accommodations: There are several low-cost options here. Mr. Tucan’s has affordable rooms in a perfect location for snorkeling. Splash Inn is also close by and has excellent customer service. We rent a spacious condo at the Sunset Villas that was operated by Splash Inn. The condo was in a little community at the end of the main road. It had a community pool and includes daily breakfast and one snorkeling excursion in the price of the rental unit and costs way less than a basic unit at Infinity Bay or Grand Roatan at West Bay.
We also fell in love with Cocolobo on our last trip to Roatan, which is an adorable and quiet lodge near Half Moon Bay that’s still walking distance to everything West End has to offer.
Dining: One of our favorite spots is on the second floor of the Beach House (the yellow building). The place has gorgeous views and delicious food (the beet, feta, avocado salad is a must).
There’s also an Argentinian Grill that’s equally as good as the one on West Bay. The Sundowner is a great place for cheap happy hour drinks and amazing sunset views from the second floor. Also, the Thai Blue Elephant is really good and has lovely views of the water. You have to try one of the chicken places for budget-friendly local Caribbean/Honduran dishes. You cannot leave without trying baleadas!
The downside of West End: There’s not much beach and not as many accommodations have pools. So if you’re looking for an infinity pool overlooking the beach, you’ll probably prefer West Bay.
The bottom line: If you want a less crowded and touristy feel but still a laid-back vacation vibe with a bit of partying and great snorkeling and diving, West End is your spot.
The Good News
If you can’t decide between West Bay and West End, just pick one and take the $10 water taxi back and forth (it’s $3 per person or $10 for the whole boat). It’s about a 10 minute boat ride and the taxis run all day and night. If you stay at West End, you can go over to West Bay and rent lockers and have access to showers and beach chairs at Bananarama for cheap. We like to spend a few nights at West Bay and then make our way over to the West End. There are other parts of the island to explore (we’ve also stayed at Sandy Bay), but these are the most popular spots … for a reason.
If you’re into snorkeling, diving or just relaxing, you really can’t go wrong with either choice.