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Destination Spotlight: Roatan, Honduras

Author: Maduro Dive Staff

As you know, we just love a good dive, no matter where it is. And nothing perks our fins up like hearing “the second largest barrier reef in the world.” But to make sure we’ve got your attention we’re also going to mention cage-free shark dives, open water dolphin dives, wrecks, and glorious marine life.


Knew you’d be, and we’ve only just breached the surface. So let’s get into it!

Diving Roatan

Diving in Roatan is something every diver must experience, at least once though we know a large percentage go back since it’s difficult to dive all the must-dos in a single trip. It’s home to the second largest barrier reef, how could you pass that up?

There’s so much to see from wrecks to walls to sloping canyons and beautiful corals, sponges and marine life. Divers who visit Roatan  return impressed by the relative health of the reef and the variety of soft coral. They also note that the diving was fairly relaxed with little in the way of currents or swells and the visibility was great, (perfect for spotting critters and sea life at a distance).

You can expect to find turtles, moray eels, stingrays, groupers, snappers, reef sharks, a large variety of reef fish (95% of all Caribbean species), invertebrates, colorful healthy reefs and, if you’re lucky, you might even spot a large pelagic or a giant whale shark! There are over 170 dive sites that exist all around the island so no matter where you stay, there is only a modest boat ride before you get wet.

The accommodations on Roatan will appeal to just about any dive travelers budget from the availability of upscale condos, resort style and clean modest rooms. Their are professional certified dive operators with newer rental equipment and customized dive boats at most resorts.

Roatan has a clinic with a hyperbaric chamber that originally was created to aid local lobster men with decompression sickness. the clinic has evolved and has helped hundreds of locals and tourists for over 25 years. As divers, we’re all over this since it’s nice to know we can dive worry-free and if anything does happen, we’re covered, right on the island.

But back to diving – we haven’t even gotten into two of our favorite dives yet: Shark and Dolphin dives.

Shark Dive

Although this might scare-off a normal tourist, we’re divers and we couldn’t wait to sign up for this. A shark dive is a must on most diver lists. So, when you’ve got a destination that offers that how can you say no?

Seventy feet below the sea you can find 5-8 foot Caribbean reef sharks circling the floor and waiting to be fed by specialized divers who hand-feed these magnificent creatures. And for the next 30 minutes you can free swim or kneel as the sharks do their thing and divers are treated to this awe-inspiring scene when man and shark share the ocean in harmony.

Dolphin Dive

Roatan is also known for its free swim Dolphin dives as well as its Shark dives.

The Roatan Institute of Marine Sciences offers dolphin dives and snorkeling. You will be taken to Bailey’s Key for a  topside orientation and Q&A session to learn about diving/snorkeling etiquette with the dolphins. Then, you’re just a short boat ride to a beautiful reef wall where two to three naturally curious dolphins arrive and are free to interact with you. And for the next 45 minutes you can observe, photograph and play with bottlenose dolphins in their natural environment.

Topside at Roatan

Roatan isn’t just a diver’s dream, but it’s also pretty great for land-lovers.

If you decide to take the day off from diving, you can hit up the beach and relax under a palm tree and soak up the rays or grab a kayak and paddle and explore (guess that’s not really for land-lovers, is it?) but you can go horseback riding, off-road in a 4-wheel sand/dune buggy and then some.

You can also check out the Roatan Museum and Roatan Institute of Marine Sciences, where guests can participate in educational programs and encounters with marine mammals. More inquisitive guests can join trained naturalists across the lagoon on Bailey’s Key to interact with playful dolphins and observe some of the island’s indigenous plants and animals along the key’s nature trail. If you love beaches, then visits to Tabyana,West Bay or Maya Key is a must.

One of the must-dos for Roatan is the zip line tour that’s combined with a visit to Gumbalimba Park, which boasts a botanical garden and small nature preserve complete with colorful parrots and a variety of monkeys. The zip line portion has about a dozen lines starting from the top of a mountain down to sea level and it’s quite a rush to zip through the scenery.

Photo Courtesy of Gumbalimba Park

Another thing you’ve got to try at Roatan, a is their Monkeylala; a local drink and visitors favorite that consists of Kahlua, Vodka, Coconut Cream and Cream.

Roatan is also known for it’s welcoming locals and their tempting visitors with delicious Honduran eats. For breakfast, you must have a typical Honduran breakfast at least once. The dish contains: eggs, ripe plantains, Honduran cheese, refried beans, tortillas and a variety of tropical fruits, definitely something you won’t find easily back home. Other favorites are Churrasco Steak, Island Stew Chicken, Conch Soup, Coconut Sea Bass and Habanero Shrimp Kebab.

Roatan is one of the Bay Islands of Honduras and can easily be explored at 36 miles long and a maximum of 5 miles wide. But wherever you go or dive, you will applaud your decision to travel to this dive destination and enjoy the memories of your experiences.


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