Frequently Asked Questions About Roatan
You ask, we answer! Here are the most frequently asked questions about Roatan for to give you a better idea of our island and what you can expect from your visit to Roatan. If you have any other questions that we haven’t covered here, feel free to e-mail us!
Where is Roatan, and how do we get there?
Roatan is part of the Bay Islands, located 40 miles off the coast of Honduras. It is 37 miles long and 5 miles wide at its widest point, and is very hilly and green. American Indians first populated these islands until Christopher Columbus stumbled upon them when the Spanish were mining for silver and gold on the mainland. After that first discovery, Roatan became home to pirates (Blackbeard, John Coxen and Henry Morgan all spent time here), Spanish, British and Black Caribs in the several hundred years that followed. So while we are part of Honduras, our history is steeped in several other cultures and our first language is English, although the locals all speak English and Spanish. Our population is somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 people, but there are no accurate census so we have no clue!
We are accessible by direct international flights from San Salvador, Belize, Houston, Atlanta, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Toronto and Quebec, as well as domestic flights from La Ceiba, San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa. You can also get to us by ferry from La Ceiba with the Galaxy Wave.
When is the best time to visit Roatan?
Any time is great! October through March is rainy season, although the rain is generally restricted to nighttime, except for a few weeks in November and February. December through March is the busiest time of year on the island, with the largest influx of long-term visitors and cruise ships guests. April through June is hot and humid and just asking for you to get in the water! The island is much quieter during this time, so it’s a great time to visit. July through August sees summer vacation come to an end, so the island picks up a little before slowly back down substantially in September, when the weather is hot and very still.
The water temperature varies by around 5 degrees throughout the year, with the coldest time dropping to around 78 degrees from December through February, and our hottest waters meeting us at 84 degrees in September.
Where should I stay?
Roatan is made up of several different areas, with the highest concentration of people in the west end and middle of the island.
The west end is made up of West Bay, West End and Sandy Bay. West End is great if you’re looking for that beachy, Caribbean town vibe, West Bay is amazing for the beach but is more developed as a tourist area, and Sandy Bay is a great place if you’d like to be near West End while being a little more secluded.
The east end is a fantastic place to get away from it all and have a secluded, private island experience. You can go with bigger resorts that are all-inclusive, or there are small boutique resorts dotted through the mangroves of East End as well. If you're looking to be out and about in the evenings, the East End isn't as convenient because it's not as concentrated, but it's lovely for a weekend getaway or if you'd like to go off the grid and get away from the madness.
What is there to do on Roatan?
Scuba diving, of course!
Oh, you want to know what else to do when you’re not blowing bubbles? The island is full of activities for the whole family, both on the water and on land.
The fishing on Roatan is so great that we even have an annual international fishing tournament each year, with great chance of catching tuna, wahoo, barracuda and mahi mahi. You can also do fishing and snorkeling charters to our neighboring islands, or snorkel right off the beach as well. Paddleboarding, kayaking, and parasailing are great ways to spend your mornings before relaxing on the beach in the afternoon. Roatan is also home to Black Pearl, a world class golf course located at Pristine Bay Resort in French Harbor.
If you’d like to learn more about our island and culture, there are plenty of island tours, where you can visit the mangroves of the east end, the Iguana Farm in French Cay, the garifuna culture of Punta Gorda and the Blue Harbor Arboretum near Coxen Hole. The list of things to experience here is endless!
What kind of food is there to eat on Roatan?
The benefit of Roatan's international community is that there are tons of different foods to cover every appetite! In West End alone, we have local food (baleadas, pastelitos and almuerzos), hamburgers, Thai, sushi, Indian, Italian, tapas, Asian fusion and Western food (and then some). We definitely recommend taking advantage of the great street food available in West End at least once, and we are not ashamed to admit that we eat from the gas station more often than not. Roatan has a variety of foods to match a variety of budgets, so you can eat for as cheap or as expensive as you'd like.
How do I get around the island?
There are several different ways to travel around Roatan. Since Roatan is 37 miles long, you're definitely going to need some wheels! Scooter and car rentals are very reasonable on the island, and if you're doing long distance hauls, I would recommend cars over scooters since our driving can be a little crazy and the roads aren't always paved or well-maintained. You can also take private taxis or "collectivo" taxis and buses, which are public transports that pick people up and drop people off as they go along. A "collectivo" taxi will cost 45 lempiras from West End to Coxen Hole.
The only place that you can really catch a boat to travel is between West End and West Bay. Because of the island's hilly topography, water taxis are quicker than cars, and will cost you $3 per person each way. They normally need minimum three people to go, so if it's just two of you and you don't want to wait, it will be $5 per person, or $10 in total.
I'm coming in on the Galaxy Wave ferry. How can I get to town?
You can catch a "collectivo" taxi from the ferry port for $5 per person (make sure to haggle down to that price) or a private taxi for $25 to West End. You might balk at the price, but it's 18 miles from the ferry port to West End, so it's not exactly a short trip. Remember, transport will not be as cheap on the island as it is on the mainland because our distances are longer and it's an island.
How do I get from the airport to West End?
All private taxis that leave from the airport are $25 to West End, slightly more if you're going to West Bay. If you leave the airport and catch a taxi from across the street, you can get "collectivo" pricing for about $5 per person to take you into town, but that requires you to know what to ask, what taxi to find, etc, so if it's your first time on the island it's better to just take the private taxi so that you can start your vacation on a smooth, easy note.
I’m visiting from a cruise ship. Do I have time to experience Roatan?
Roatan is a great place to visit on a cruise ship! Our island isn’t very big and our reefs are close, so it’s easy to get in a dive or two, or go kayaking, or spend the day at West Bay beach, or tour the island. How much you get to experience will depend on your docking times, because you need to account for disembarkation time, time to get to your activity center, and your departure time (you need to be back on the ship at least 30 minutes before departure) but there are plenty of things to do and you’ll have the opportunity to meet some great people and see some of what makes Roatan so amazing!
Where are the cruise ship ports on the island?
Roatan is home to two cruise ship ports – Port of Roatan in Coxen Hole and Mahogany Bay. If you’re coming in on Carnival, Princess or Oceania, you will be docking at Mahogany Bay, which is located about a 35 minute drive by car from West End, while Royal Caribbean and Norwegian docks at Port of Roatan, located 20 minutes away from West End. We can help arrange transportation for you, or you can find transportation on arrival as well.
I think the standard round trip transportation is too high. Can I catch a "collectivo" taxi to town instead?
You can try, but you'll probably be waiting for a long time. Standard round trip transportation between Port of Roatan and West End is $20 per person, minimum two people (for a 20 minute drive each way, or 40 minutes total), and standard round trip transportation between Mahogany Bay and West End is $25 per person (for a 35 minute drive each way, or 70 minutes total), minimum two people. Remember, this is for roundtrip transportation, and the driver is waiting to pick you up from port and then is waiting to take you back to port again at the end of the day. It's a very fair rate if you think about the waiting and driving these guys do.
"Collectivo" taxis tend to convert to private taxis on cruise ship days, so the likelihood of finding a "collectivo", and the likelihood of them picking up a tourist coming out of a cruise ship port is pretty much zero to none. If you miss your designated activity because you were waiting for a "collectivo" taxi, the activity will probably not give you a refund because you chose to take that transport option. You're better off paying more, but actually enjoying your day on Roatan, than missing all the fun because you wanted to save $20.
For more information about visiting Roatan from cruise ships, check out our dedicated Top Five Tips post!
What is the accepted currency?
We accept Honduran lempiras and US dollars on Roatan. You can pay in one currency and get another back in change and even pay a bill with both currencies! As a general recommendation, you should carry small denominations of US dollars as many places will not have the capability to handle larger bills, like $100 bills. $1 and $5 bills will make you every business' best friend here.
If you are paying in US dollar bills, please be advised that the bills must be clean and without any rips.
Can I use credit cards on Roatan?
Credit cards may have taken over the world, but Roatan is still a cash-friendly island. A lot of places will not accept credit card or can attach up to a 22% fee. Remember, most local businesses pay their staff and all expenses in cash, and a lot of small, local businesses won’t have bank accounts, so they really can’t take credit cards.
What is the tipping policy on Roatan?
Whenever you travel somewhere, regardless of what your tipping practices are back home, it's important to know your destination's tipping policies. Tipping practices on Roatan are similar to the United States, not just for restaurants, but for tourism related activities as well. We've given an easy guideline breakdown to make things easier for you once you arrive!
RESTAURANTS: Some restaurants will have gratuity included on their tabs while others do not, so make sure to check your receipt prior to settling. In general, tips are 10% - 20% of the pre-tax meal (even if you're taking food to go without table service, drop a dollar or two to the tip jar).
SCUBA DIVING: For diving and other tourism activities, tipping is not required, but encouraged. There's no set standard for tips in diving, but the generally accepted practice is $5 per person per dive, or 10-20% of your final bill. Some centers pool their tips and some do not, so please keep your dive center's tipping practices in mind when you're designating the tips. If the tips are not pooled, please make sure not to forget about the captains. They work hard to make your diving easy!
ISLAND TOURS: If you're on a guided tour of the island and you feel the guide went above and beyond, then tipping $5 or $10 extra is a great bonus for them. If the guide and the driver are separate, then please also make sure to remember the driver.
SUPERMARKETS: If you're shopping at Eldon's Supermarket or Plaza Mar, the youth that help bag groceries and carry your bags don't work for salary, only for tips, so please make sure to give them at least 20 lempiras (roughly $1) if they help you out and carry your bags to your car. For larger hauls, you should give 20 to 40 lempiras extra. It's not a lot to you, but it does make a big difference for them.
TAXIS AND WATER TAXIS: For taxis and water taxis, the price you agree on is the final price, so you do not need to tip them for a journey alone. Of course, if you're coming from the airport and have two 90 pound bags that your driver hauls up to the third floor for you, then you can give them a little extra for the effort.
Prices should be negotiated before you get in. If a driver tries to charge you an exorbitant fee, walk away. There will be other drivers that will offer a fair price.
These are all guidelines, not requirements, and as with everywhere else, tipping should be a reward for good service. If you feel you received poor service, you are not obligated to tip. If someone tries to pressure or force you into tipping, please notify their management.
Are there ATMs on the island?
If you’re not comfortable bringing a lot of cash to the island, then there are ATMs around the island that you can use. The ATM at the airport is easy because you can take out cash on arrival, up to $500 in US dollars or 5,000 lempiras. Only one of the ATMs at the airport gives US dollars and is the only one on the island to do so, so make sure you get the right one! You can also use the ATM at the PetroSun in West End or the ATM at Banco Atlantida in Coxen Hole. Since none of the ATMs have a very high withdrawal amount and can often be out of service or cash, another great option is cash advance from Banco Atlantida in Coxen Hole, where you can take out up to 20,000 lempiras with a bank teller by just showing your card and ID, and there’s no fees on this end.
And the good news is, US dollars are widely accepted here on Roatan, so you don't have to stress about changing over currencies!
For more information about currency on Roatan, check out our dedicated Top Five Tips post!