HOA LogoDestinationsTravel MallTravel Links


Story and photos by Larry Turner (www.larryturnerphotography.com)

HighOnAdventure.com   June 1, 2011


            In the world of modern day travel, it is amazing the transition that one can go through in the period of hours…a far cry from the ‘old days’ when traveling by foot and horseback, when time would stand still and last forever…and miles were literally ‘a full mile’.  Our world has been compressed and we can air travel from one time zone to another in short periods of time.  One moment we can be at a Giants-Braves baseball game dressed in winter clothes and hours later snorkeling the reefs of a tropical zone with nothing on but a bathing suit.


Such is what happened last month as Lynette Shirley and I ventured to Roatan Island, Honduras, catching the TECA red-eye from San Francisco after the Giants lost to the Braves 4-1.  Dawn broke somewhere over Central America and I had the visual pleasure from my window seat of viewing a brilliant evening/dawn star alone in the awakening sky.  It was a reprieve, appeasing a sleepless night listening to a complaining passenger in the seat behind me.  Once I heard her say to her husband, “I’ll never lower myself to fly coach again.  This is beneath me.” Her husband, embarrassed, said, “Would you please shut up!” (which she didn’t).  All of us ‘other lower class’ coach passengers wanted to give him a standing ovation and a singular parachute for his wife…as did the stewardess.  Landing in San Salvador was a blessing as she departed, heading to Belize, and we took a small hopper plane to Roatan.

  Roatan Infinity Pool  
Infinity Pool

Roatan is an island 30 miles north of the Honduras mainland…the largest of the three Bay Islands and situated in the middle of the other two: Utila and Guanaja (which Columbus visited on his fourth voyage in 1502-1504).  It is 37 miles long and five miles wide with a population of 50,000…a verdant land surrounded by the emerald and azure blue, pristine Caribbean and home of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the world’s second largest after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.  It is this reef that has provided Roatan with its greatest fame as one of the world’s première diving and snorkeling locations.  There is no stoplight on the island.  Whoopee!  It is Spanish speaking but English is known throughout.  The Garifuna language is spoken, too, especially in the Roatan community of Punta Gorda.  The Black Caribs were the first permanent post-Columbian Bay Island settlers.  Lempira is the currency but U.S. dollars worked everywhere for us.


A small airport serves Roatan, located right beside the sea. Because of slash and burn agricultural practices on the mainland—and some on Roatan--, our visibility flying in (late April this year) was not as clear as it usually is throughout the year.  November through February is the best months for air clarity and temperatures.  During our 10-day stay though, the winds shifted, creating greater visibility, allowing us to see the mountainous Honduras mainland.  Embarking from the plane, the warm, humid Caribbean weather was a welcome to the moody, chilly weather which we had been experiencing in the Northwest.

  Roatan first bight   Roatan the kitchen living room  
First Bight
The kitchen living room
  Roatan infinity stillife   Roatan fly fishing   Roatan dive time  
Infinity stillife
Fly fishing
Dive time


  Roatan view of house   Roatan first bight lagoon  
View of house
First Bight Lagoon


  Roatan morning cleaning   Roatan breakfast  
Morning cleaning


  Roatan dive boat   Roatan hummer and view  
Dive boat
Hummer and view


  Roatan infinity shell      
Infinity shell


Kevin and Clare, in all of their Plymouth British exuberance, met us at the airport and drove us to the VBRO property (http://www.vrbo.com/130789) which they manage.  Kevin gave us a quick scoop on the do and don'ts and the where-to-gos on the island. He’s a walking, talking, tourist brochure and seems to know everyone. Immediately upon seeing and entering the house—located mid-island south, on a point and abut to the Caribbean--, we knew that paradise had been gained.  First Bight is on Jonesville Point near Isla de la Bahia…beautifully isolated and accessed by dirt road, better maintained than I had imagined.  You can dive or snorkel from the reef by the house or walk a short distance to the lagoon and then fin-it to the nearby reef.  I was advised not to snorkel deep into the warmer water of the lagoon as it has some resident crocodiles.  During our first lagoon snorkel to the reef, I saw the largest barracuda ever, hanging out on the edge of the warmer lagoon water where it meets the cooler Caribbean (which to us is like a tepid bathtub).  I later tried fly fishing for it—or anything—but to no avail.


This VRBO rental is to die for—actually, to live for.  It is large and spacious, a great kitchen/living room layout, three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a wrap-around deck, two large outside cabana like structures (one has two hammocks in it), a perfect sized infinity pool and large windows offering views which your eyes will never tire from.  There is also kayaks and snorkeling gear for use though it is best to bring ones own for proper fitting or to rent from one of the islands dive shops.  The place is so perfect that you could easily spend your entire vacation just hanging out on the property.  But we’re adventurers, and adventure we did.

Roatan sherry and butch  
Sherry and Butch


  Roatan water play   Roatan beaches restaurant  
Water play
Beachers Restaurant


  Roatan west bay   Roatan west bay play  
West Bay
West Bay play


  Roatan oak ridge   Roatan oak ridge waterway  
Oak Ridge
Oak Ridge Waterway
  Roatan crazy lady of caroline street bj   roatan  
Crazy Lady of Caroline Street BJ
Roatan fence
  Roatan west bay view   Roatan west bay tourist boat  
West Bay view
West Bay tourist boat
  Roatan six degrees   Roatan sherry and cigar  
Six degrees
Sherry and cigar
  Roatan cocolobo bar   Roatan west end  
Cocolobo Bar
West End
  Roatan west end beach   Roatan west end local  
West End beach
West End local
  Roatan west end relaxing     
West End relaxing
  Up the road First Bight neighbors Butch and Sherry Wade, owners of www.thebulkgourmet.com (the place to go in nearby French Harbor for groceries and libations; affordably priced, too…and as Butch says, “All of the vices on the island are cheap.”), became instant friends.  These ex-patriot North Carolinians were a hoot to be with.  We buddied up with them and made several island trips, including a day at West End (West End and West Bay are the most popular tourist areas on Roatan; “West End reminds me of the old days in Key West and the Florida Keys,” says Butch) and another day in slower paced Oak Ridge, spoken by many as the Venice of the Caribbean because of the numerous locals homes built on the water  

 At Oak Ridge—a land of mangroves, lagoons and the sweet song of the Caribbean--, Butch and Sherry introduced us to BJ, the lady made famous in Jimmy Buffet’s song ‘The Crazy Lady on Caroline Street’.  BJ has a charming, funky café and bar built over the water in Oak Ridge.  We drank cold Port Royal Honduras beer at BJs and walked some of the streets of this ‘turn the clock back to a slower paced time and existence’ town.  Long, open boats are a means of transportation in Oak Ridge.  Instead of walking to see a neighbor, the locals use boats.  Boats are also used to access other parts of the island.  Basically, Roatan has but one paved road which runs west to east.  It eventually turns to dirt roads toward the wilder and less inhabited east end.


Returning from Oak Ridge, Butch drove us through Punta Gorda, located on the island’s north side.  It was a lazy Sunday afternoon and the Garafuna children were swimming and playing at the beach in this picturesque village.  Several restaurant and bar palapas exist here: luring my eyes away, making me wish that it was earlier in the day and that we had more time to explore and to relax on one of the water palapa decks.

  WEST END, Roatan  

The day at West End was great fun.  We ate (I tried the local grouper; superb!), drank (I had a Sex at Sunset martini at Besos--‘always wanted to try a drink with ‘one’ of those ‘names’--, explored, shopped, swam, and the ladies and Butch even smoked a cigar (they make good ones in this part of the world; stop at the West End Cigar Bar for the best selection).  Oh yes, we were merry, too!  One of our stops was at the Cocolobo (www.cocolobo.com), good friends of Butch and Sherry.  Owner’s Ron and Bonnie’s business card says ‘the perfect place to dive and relax’.  I placed a ‘must stay’ at their place immediately on my bucket list.


The beaches and sea at West End were utterly still and the water clarity as clear as I’ve ever seen.  I loved the dirt streets, the colorful, unpretentious structures, and the relaxed dress of the people and the sweet warmth of the air.  Another plus, compared to the beaches of places like Mexico, you are not constantly hounded by vendors selling trinkets and such. 


One day, Lynette and I drove ourselves to West Bay which is near West End.  A cruise ship was in so the place was hoppin’. At Beachers Restaurant we had a delicious seafood combo lunch and some rollicking fun with a group of 40 ladies that get together every year for an adventure somewhere in the world.  They call themselves Six Degrees because they come from all directions, gathering as one for one to two weeks.

  Roatan garafuna girl,   Roatan roadside vendor  
Garafuna girl
Roadside vendor
Roatan sirena entry
  Roatan jimmys  
Sirena entry
  Roatan turtle at jimmys   Roatan selena  
Turtle at Jimmy's
  Roatan jimmy   Roatan inside jimmys  
Afternoon at Jimmy's
    Roatan west end  
West End
  JIMMY’S and the EAST END  

My favorite Roatan drive was to la Sirena, known to the locals as Jimmy’s, on the island’s east side.  Jimmy’s (www.AsylumRoatan.com) is a simple thatched hut palapa restaurant/bar, built on a water pole foundation on a two-mile long beach—Roatan’s largest and most secluded, with no resorts in sight.  A person can camp on the beach or stay at the nearby Camp Bay Hostel.   Travel east on Roatan’s paved road until you see a sign that says Asylum and Camp Bay, and you’re on your way to an adventure over dirt and windy roads to this treasure.  The owners—a Colombian named Jimmy and his local wife Selena—is known by the locals for having the island’s best fresh seafood.  En route, we purchased some fresh mangos from a roadside fruit vendor. 


It was Lynette’s birthday.  We dined in the simple setting at the last table, in the outside open area, embraced by a lingering sunset and a magical Caribbean night sky.  The food, drink and service were perfect.  If you go, make sure you try their lobster and ceviche.  Bon appetite!


Jimmy and Selena and their young child take special interest in preserving the lifestyle, plant and wildlife of the island.  They have an entry sign that says: Keep Our Island Clean.  At the entry of their restaurant, they have a turtle sanctuary.

  Roatan hummingbirds at the house   Roatabn evening toast  
Hummingbirds at the house
Evening toast
  Roatan relaxing in pool   Roatan iguana  
Morning soak
  Roatan vacation tools   Roatan walking to the lagoon  
Vacation tools
Walking to the lagoon
  Roatan reef fish   Roatan reef plant  
Reef fish
West End
  Roatan yours truly   Roatan brain coral  
Yours truly
Brain coral
  Roatan lynette snorkeling   Roatan reef school  
Lynette snorkeling
Reef school
  Roatan reef enchantment   Roatan lagoon kayak entry  
Reef enchantment
Lagoon kayak entry
  Roatan leisure time   Roatan morning stretch  
Leisure time
Morning stretch
  departing roatan  
Departing Roatan

As exciting as the excursions around the island were, I enjoyed the property the most.  Mornings were leisurely.  My wakeup call would be a dip in the infinity pool as coffee brewed.  Then another dip to drink the coffee and to watch the soothing Caribbean waves being released on the hard coral shore.  Resident iguanas sunned themselves on the coral, no more than 20 feet away.  Twice during the day—once in the morning and in mid-afternoon—a dive boat would anchor a quarter mile off shore and one by one, the divers would jump into a kaleidoscope of undersea life.  Lynette would take her coffee and often go to the hammock.  Our breakfast of fresh island fruit, nuts and yogurt would always be at the patio table beside the infinity pool.  Sometimes there would be some reading but more often than not, I would just watch this beautiful world go by as slowly as I could.


Every day we snorkeled…generally from the pier. Oftentimes, too, we used the kayaks in the lagoon and in the open sea, close to shore though.  The Roatan currents can be tricky and some kayakers have become lost and a few lost at sea forever.  The underwater world here is entrancing, enthralling, mesmerizing, hypnotic, captivating.  Need I say more?  I’ll let the photos talk.  The emerald shore gives way quickly to the deep blue depths of the reef.  I gave up tank diving a long time ago but the next time I go to Roatan, I’ll get recertified and probe deeper into this deep blue enticing world.


With great reluctance, we left Roatan, the view from the plane window as I saw the island fading away, making me wish that I had a parachute…but for good reasons, not connected to the red-eye flight from SF.


VRBO: http://www.vrbo.com/130789

Bulk Gourmet: www.thebulkgourmet.com


Safety: Like any place there is some crime in Roatan, mainly thefts, so travel minimally, don’t flaunt your possessions and keep possessions covered in your vehicle.  The VRBO property where we stayed has 24 hour security.


Books: www. roatanonline.com/books.htm and www.amazonbooks.com 

Insects: Roatan is a land of no-see-ums.  Take strong and adequate protection with you. While on the island, we purchased No See Um Soap from Roatan Natural (www.roatannaturalsoapworks.com) , showering with it.

Return to home page

HOA LogoDestinationsTravel MallTravel Links