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Roatan Basics

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Homes in Roatan

Roatan Island is the largest and most developed of Honduras' three Bay Islands. Roatan is cigar shaped, roughly 37 miles long and 5 miles wide. It is a beautiful place that is developing fast, because it is a beautiful place. Roatan has a population estimated at 60,000 people.

Roatan's economy is primarily based on tourism, as it has become a popular cruise ship destination and a mecca for divers. Commercial fishing also contributes to the Roatan economy; the city of French Harbour is home to one of the largest fishing fleets in the western Caribbean.

Roatan has a pleasant subtropical climate, with generally warm days moderated by cooling Caribbean breezes. The average daily temperature of 84° F (29° C) varies little throughout the year, and the humidity averages around 75%. Hurricanes are infrequent.

Roatan map


First Impressions


Roatan is a narrow coastal island 30 miles off the northern coast of Honduras. The island has a mountainous spine and is totally surrounded by coral reefs, offering superb diving as well as excellent fishing. A paved road will take you from the West Bay, where several of the island's higher-end hotels are located, to Punta Gorda, on the north side of the island. Cruise ships dock at one of the two cruise ship terminals that are located a short distance from the town of Coxen Hole. Coxen Hole is the largest settlement on the island, but is otherwise a place with little to no touristic interest.

Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and NCL ships dock at the Coxen Hole cruise ship dock and mall complex, opened in late 2008. Here you'll find a bank with an ATM, a large Diamonds International shop, a couple of restaurants and a smattering of other shops, including a pharmacy and a liquor store. (With the success of the initial development, the local authorities are now building a Phase II recreational complex adjacent to the current mall shops.)

Carnival, Princess, Costa, Holland America and Regent ships dock at the new Mahogany Bay Cruise Center, which is located in Dixon Cove east of Coxen Hole. This complex, which officially opened in February 2010, includes a Duty Free store, several jewelers (including a Diamonds International shop and a Tanzanite International shop), several restaurants and bars, snack bars, a pharmacy, and a number of souvenir and other tourist-related shops. Adjacent to the Cruise Center is the white sand 10-acre Mahogany Beach, which can be reached on foot or via the "Magic Flying Beach Chair" (unlimited rides for $5/ day).

At each cruise ship terminal, taxis are plentiful, and minivans and busses are positioned nearby to take shore excursion patrons to their destinations. Shore excursions depart from each of the two cruise ship terminals.

There are basically three things to do on your visit to Roatan. Scuba diving and snorkeling are what brings most folks to the island, owing to the large number of excellent reef sites that are situated around the island. You can also do some fishing in the waters surrounding Roatan, where the local catch includes marlin, tuna and wahoo. And lastly, the watersports on Roatan include kayaking and sailing. Then again, you can just hang out on the bucolic beaches.

Small towns dot the landscape as you make your way from west to east. The West Bay and West End areas are said to have Roatan's best beaches, good restaurants and varied watersports-related activities--but it is considered "touristy." Sandy Bay is where you'll find the Roatan Institute of Marine Sciences with its dolphin encounter shows, the Roatan Museum and Carambola Gardens. The area is known for world-class scuba diving.

Coxen Hole has some souvenir shops, while French Harbor is home to a new mega mall, some nearby high end resorts, as well as an iguana farm. French Harbor and points east are considered "not touristy." Oakridge is a small picturesque town connected to the villages of Jonesville and Calabash Cay by a series of canals through the mangroves. And Punta Gorda is home to the only Garifuna community on Roatan and the first Garifuna settlement in Central America.

Reef off of Roatan

Time Zone


Roatan is on Central Time, six hours earlier than Greenwich Mean Time during Standard Time. Roatan does not observe Daylight Savings Time.

 

Language


Although Spanish is the national language of Honduras, English is spoken by most people in Roatan.


Dealing with Money in Roatan


Currency

Lempira

The Lempira is the official currency of Honduras. The Lempira is subdivided into 100 centavos. Banknotes come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500 Lempiras. Coins come in denominations of 10, 20 and 50 centavos.

The current US Dollar/Honduran Lempira exchange rate is as follows:

Banks and ATMs

ATM machines are scarce in Roatan, but over the past several years more and more ATMs have been installed. Here's a list of ATMs that you're most likely to encounter:

  • West End: You can find an ATM in the small hotel next to the Coconut Tree, and at Woody's gas station on the main road into West End.

  • West Bay: You can find an ATM in Mayan Princess Resort, and at the West Bay Mall (operated by BAC Credomatic).

  • Coxen Hole Cruise Ship dock: There's an ATM in the Town Center Mall at the Coxen Hole Cruise Ship dock (operated by Banco Ficohsa).

  • Coxen Hole: You can find an ATM at the bank branches of HSBC and BAC Credomatic; they're located about 1km east of the Coxen Hole cruise dock.

  • French Harbour: You can find an ATM at Eldens Supermarket.

  • MegaPlaza Mall: There are four ATMs located at this mall, operated by Banco Continental, BAC Credomatic, Banpais and Banco Atlantida.

If you can't find an ATM, you can ask for a cash advance against your debit card or your Visa or MasterCard. The banks are generally open on weekdays from 8:00 am to 11:30 am, and from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. The following banks provide cash advances on your Visa or MasterCard, and can also cash travelers' checks:

  • Banco Ficohsa: A branch of this bank is located in the Town Center Mall, which is adjacent to the Coxen Hole Cruise Ship dock.

  • Banco BAC Credomatic: A branch is located in Coxen Hole.

  • Banco Lafise: Branch located in French Harbour.

To see the locations of Roatan's ATMs and banks, see our Roatan ATM map.

Using US Dollars in Roatan

US dollars are widely accepted in Roatan, so you don't have to change your dollars into Lempiras. If you're using dollars alone, make sure to bring smaller denominations to pay for incidentals and taxi rides. Change will be given to you in Lempiras.

Most of the hotels, gift shops and restaurants accept major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express and others).


Weather


Roatan has a pleasant subtropical climate, with generally warm days moderated by cooling Caribbean breezes. The average daily temperature of 84° F (29° C) varies little throughout the year, and the humidity averages around 75%.

Roatan has two seasons: the rainy season (or summer) and the dry season (or winter). The rainy season extends from July to January, with the rainiest months being October through early January. The remainder of the year is usually very dry.

The water temperature varies from 78° F (25° C) in winter to 84° F (29° C) in summer, and underwater visibility is typically 80 to 100 feet.

The Caribbean hurricane season runs from June through November. Roatan is located outside the typical Caribbean hurricane alley, and statistically is hit only once every 26 years, on average.

Roatan Average Temperatures

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg High - F 82 82 86 87 87 89 87 87 89 86 84 84
Avg High - C 28 28 30 31 31 32 31 31 32 30 29 29
Avg Low - F 77 77 78 80 80 82 80 82 82 80 78 77
Avg Low - C 25 25 26 27 27 28 27 28 28 27 26 25

Roatan Average Precipitation

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg, Inches 8.6 4.7 3.2 2.3 2.7 5.8 10.4 6.9 6.1 17.8 16.4 14
Avg, mm 218 119 81 58 69 147 264 175 155 452 417 356

Starfish

Keeping In Touch


Internet Access on Roatan

You can find several internet cafes in Roatan, with fairly reasonable rates and international telephone connections (Roatan has no pay phones). Here is a list of some of the Wi-Fi hotspots and Internet cafes on Roatan:

Wi-Fi Hotspots

  • Fonsie's Bar is a great little bar and restaurant just a short walk from the Coxen Hole cruise terminal; it offers free Wi-Fi. Stop by before and after your day in Roatan for some fun, a cold beverage and a snack. Located on the water, Fonsie's features a two story patio right on the Caribbean, so bring your camera for a great shot of your ship. Phone: (504) 9738-1965.

  • C Level Cafe & Bar, located in West End, where it shares a building with the Reef Gliders Dive shop. They're serving up excellent coffee, good food and icy beers with free Wi-Fi. Phone: (504) 8876-9313.

  • JavaVine Cafe and Wine Bar, located at the West Bay Mall. They offer a half hour of free Wi-Fi when you spend 100 Lempiras (around $5) on their coffee, wine, smoothies, beer, food or snacks. Phone: (504) 2445-5048.

Internet Cafes

  • Paradise Computers operate four internet cafes on Roatan: at the Coxen Hole Cruise Ship Dock, located in one of the first buildings you will see after you disembark, you'll find a small, funky hut offering 3 computer terminals; in Coxen Hole, located on the main road of the island, in the Mango Center; at the Roatan airport; and in the West End, located in the West End Divers building, with 8 computers terminals. Phone: (504) 2445-1611.

  • The Internet Cafe, located at the entrance of Coxen Hole on the right side of Thicket Mouth Road, in the blue building on the second floor. Open Monday through Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

  • Hondusoft Internet Cafe Roatan, located in the Foster's Cabins, in West End. Open daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.

  • Travelers' Internet Cafe, located in Coxen Hole at the Welcome Plaza.

To see the locations of Roatan's Internet Cafes, see our Map of Roatan Internet Cafes & Wi-Fi Hotspots.

Cellular Phone & Data Services

Travelers with American cell phone plans should be aware that their carriers will add a variety of international roaming and other charges when their phones are used in Honduras. Calls back home and data are really expensive in Roatan. Check with your carrier for the precise details.

The Country Code for Honduras is 504. To make a call from the US to Honduras, dial 011 504, then the local number.

Verizon

Cell service: Verizon users must use a quad-band GSM phone when calling from Roatan.
Data services: Through its partners, Verizon offers data coverage in Roatan when using a UMTS-capable device with an active SIM card and global plan.
See details on Verizon's cell and data services pricing and coverage maps.

ATT Wireless

Cell service: AT&T's GSM service in Roatan is provided by partners Claro, Digicel and Celtel.
Data services: AT&T offers 3G service on the island through its partners Claro, Digicel and Celtel.
See details on AT&T's cell and data services coverage maps.

Sprint

Cell service: Sprint's users must use a quad-band GSM phone when calling from Roatan.
Data services: Through partner Celtel, Sprint offers 2G coverage when using a UMTS-capable device with an active SIM card and global plan.
See details on Sprint's cell and data services pricing.

T Mobile

Cell service: T-Mobile's GSM service is available in Roatan through its partners Claro, Digicel and Celtel.
Data services: T-Mobile offers 2G service on the island through its partners Claro, Digicel and Celtel.
See details on T-Mobile's cell and data services pricing.

Kindle Connectivity

In Roatan, you can download your Kindle 3G data, through Claro's 3-G coverage on the island.

Internet Cafe


























Samsung Galaxy S III

Local Holidays & Festivals


Look for the following local festivals and events taking place in Roatan in 2014:

  • New Year's Day, January 1. Public holiday.

  • Carnival, April 12. A celebration of the arrival of the Garifuna in Punta Gorda.

  • Holy Week, April 13 to 20. Celebrating the week before Easter.

  • Maundy Thursday, April 17. Public holiday.

  • Good Friday, April 18. Public holiday.

  • Day of the Americas, April 14. Public Holiday.

  • Jonesville Pirates Fair, April 24 and 25. Fund raising event to pave the roads of Jonesville.

  • Labor Day, May 1. Public holiday.

  • Roatan International Shrimp Festival, June 17 and 18. A two day international event promoting the Bay Islands, Honduran music and culture to thousands of visitors.

  • Independence Day, September 15. Public holiday commemorating the declaration of independence of Central America from Spain in 1821.

  • Roatan International Fishing Tournament, September. Boat owners and crew meet in West End for food, drink and the spirit of friendly competition.

  • Teachers Day, September 17. Public holiday.

  • Soldier's Day, October 3. Public holiday.

  • Discovery of America Day (Columbus Day), October 12. Public holiday commemorating Columbus's discovery of America.

  • Honduran Armed Forces Day, October 21. Public holiday commemorating the 1956 overthrow of dictator Lozano Diaz.

  • Halloween, October 31. Ghosts and goblins invade Roatan.

  • All Saints Day, November 1. Christian holiday celebrated in Roatan.

  • Roatan Christmas Festival, December. A local festival celebrating the arrival of Christmas.

  • Christmas Day, December 25. Public holiday.
Restaurant in Roatan

Roatan Cruise Port Schedules


Roatan is the fifth most popular destination for Western Caribbean cruises embarking primarily from Miami, Tampa, Galveston and Ft. Lauderdale, and to a lesser extent from Port Canaveral, New York and New Orleans.

As a general rule, ships arrive at the island's cruise ship piers--Coxen Hole and Mahogany Bay--between 6:00 am and 10:00 am, and depart between 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm.

In 2014, Roatan is slated to host 841,000 passengers sailing on 305 ships, up 30% and 28%, respectively, from 2013. For further information, see our Roatan Cruise Ship Schedule - 2014.

In 2015, Roatan is slated to host 816,000 passengers sailing on 291 ships, down 3% and 5%, respectively, from 2014. For further information, see our Roatan Cruise Ship Schedule - 2015.

French Harbour

Cruise Lines Making Port in Roatan


The following cruise lines will make port in Roatan in 2014:

Carnival icon Carnival Royal Caribbean icon Royal Caribbean
Princess Cruises
Holland America
Norwegian
Costa
Regent icon
Regent Cruises
Oceania icon
Oceania Cruises
Crystal icon
Crystal Cruises
Cruise Ship


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