A scuba diving and snorkelling paradise, the entire coastline of Roatán is fringed by white beaches and turquoise waters that teem with tropical fish. On land, find a mountainous interior of pine-forested hills.
Roatán is the largest and most developed of the Bay Islands, located in the Caribbean 30 miles off the north coast of Honduras, it is 50km in length and between 2 to 5 kilometres in width. Historically, Roatan was a pirates hangout due to its strategic position as a point of interception for treasure being transported from Honduras by Spanish ships. In the mid 17th century it is believed that as many as 5,000 pirates lived on Roatan Island, among them the legendary Henry Morgan, Blackbeard, John Coxen and Van Horn who ruled these waters.
The spectacular mangrove tunnels near the fishing coves of Jonesville and Oakridge were carved out by pirates centuries ago and used as safe havens from which they could attack passing ships. Roatan and the Bay Islands are part of the southernmost portion of the Mesoamerican Reef, which spans more than 600 spectacular miles.
With the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and the second-largest reef in the world, it attracts an abundance of marine life, including the majestic whale sharks. Roatan Marine Park is a grassroots, community-based organisation located on Roatán. Formed in January 2005 with the express purpose of protecting the reef, they now have numerous projects on the go from preventing overfishing, plastic reduction and invasive species containment in a bid to protect the precious water here.
One of the island’s most pristine beaches is Sandy Bay Beach, which offers a quiet escape with a scattering of restaurants and local taco shacks as well as excellent snorkelling only 200 yards offshore. Oak Ridge is a charming neighbourhood that lies on the southern end of the island just east of French Harbour and makes for a scenically appealing paradise to retreat to.
Appropriately, really good rum is produced on the island, and Honduran beer is an ideal refresher. If you’re looking for a takeaway memento, support the local economy by heading to the aptly named Made in Roatán cooperative artist’s shop near Coxen Hole.
The Garifuna are a mix of people of African and indigenous descent originally from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. Since 1797, they have found refuge in Roatan, after initially coming to Punta Gorda as they fled slavery under Spanish and British rule. Their most famous form of music is Punta, with charismatic dancers moving their hips in a circular motion while keeping their upper bodies still.
On my arrival to the island, a band at play awaited us with their reythmic sounds.
My Music will tell you more about me than I ever will. The Garifuna
I took an organised tour around Roatan Island that introduced me to its core attractions. Afterwards, I wanted to experience some of the more authentic aspects of the island and ventured away from the immediate area of Coxen Hole. Here is some of what I experienced. The oldest building standing on Roatan Island, despite hurricanes and history, is this Church. We entered the quiet haven and were warmly welcomed by the caretaker who prayed for us and offered up warm blessings. A surreal and very most experience.
I just loved this private home on the water’s edge of the main town.
On the water’s edge fishing boats lay abandoned, their colours depicting both the charm, colour and stagnation of this glorious Honduran Island. There were creatures great and small at the Carambola Gardens. Walking the streets I found a Grave Yard and went in for a look. I do often seek out Grave Yards as they do speak of history, loss and love in an area. At the charming port shopping centre, there was an excellent collection of stores for indulging in.
Above, the Carambola Gardens and below remnants of pirate days gone by.
One of the places that I visited was Stone Castle Cameo, a landmark on Roatan Island, where I watched as the owner taught his techniques of carving to local apprentices. Handcrafted Cameo, the largest production in Central American. ms and singing of the Garifuna awakened the Caribbean fever.
** This post forms part of my 100x Magical Places series which offers an introduction to my favourite destinations.
** Most pics are mined, complemented by a few from Pixabay.