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Roatan Cruise Port at Coxen Hole: Attractions, Beaches, Weather

Port of Roatan has a small but attractive cruise terminal. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
Port of Roatan has a small but attractive cruise terminal. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

The Roatan cruise port at Coxen Hole is small in size but growing in popularity with western Caribbean cruises. It is one of two ports on the island.

Coxen Hole is the capital of the Bay Island and the largest city with a population of about 5,000 people.

Cruise visitors will disembark at what locals call Port of Roatan, which has a small but attractive cruise terminal. The “Town Center” has retail shops, restaurants and of course the starting point for excursions around the island. The port can accommodate one ship at the docks. If any others arrive at the same time, they have to anchor offshore and “tender” their passengers onto the island (transfer them via small boats).

Roatan gets plenty of attention on travel and real estate cable channels in part because it is such an inviting island. It is inviting because of long white sand beaches and great snorkeling and diving spots. It also is a convenient cruise destination; cruises also often visit the nearby port of Belize City.

Besides Coxen Hole, the other cruise port on Roatan is Mahogany Bay. Anyone traveling with Carnival Cruise Lines and related brands will land there instead. It’s a Carnival-built complex on 20 acres to the west of Coxen Hole.

It opened in 2009 as part of a trend among cruise lines to build private, commerce-oriented docking facilities.

Quick Travel Tips

  • Coxen Hole is the main cruise port.
  • West End Beach and West End Village are among the most popular attractions.
  • The island is well-known for snorkeling and diving among its famous coral reefs.

Where is Coxen Hole and Roatan?

Coxen Hole on the southwest side of Roatan is only 137 miles southwest of Belize City, which makes it an easy island to reach in combination with the Belize port. Its small size makes the visit a quick one too because of the lack of major attractions other than the beaches.

Attractions and Shore Excursions

With a small population of about 5,000 people, Coxen Hole has few cultural or historical attractions. It also has a smaller number of restaurants and duty-free shops for visitors compared to larger ports in the Caribbean.

Roatan Marine Park is a protected area of western Roatan between West Bay and Sandy Bay. It has many of the most popular diving and snorkeling spots and also some of the most popular beaches.

Turquoise Bay Roatan
Turquoise Bay; credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Gumbalimba Park is an animal preserve with parrots, monkeys, iguanas and turkeys, among other creatures.

It also has botanical gardens, a beach for swimming and other recreational activities. Activities include kayaking, snuba and scuba diving, a zipline canopy tour and the Jolly Roger Sail.

Carambola Botanical Gardens and Trails is across the road from Anthony’s Key Resort on the north side of Roatan. It has 40 acres of land for hiking, wildlife viewing and scenic tours. Garden hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Roatan Institute of Marine Science at Anthony’s Key Resort is a marine research and educational facility. Visitors can swim, snorkel or dive with dolphins.

Because local residents eat iguanas, a resident created The Iguana Farm to protect and breed the dwindling population. The farm has several thousand iguanas on the property. The best time to see the iguanas is early afternoon at feeding time. The farm is in French Key, just past French Harbour, which is about seven miles northeast of the cruise port.

South Shore Canopy is a popular zipline facility with visitors. This shore excursion has prices starting at about $50. It is nine miles southwest of Coxen Hole and near West End.

Adventurous visitors can dive as much as 2,000 feet on the Idabel, which is called the world’s deepest passenger submarine, and view marine life through a Plexiglas bubble. The tour is chartered and can carry two passengers and a pilot at any one time. It is at the Roatan Institute of Deepsea Exploration.

The Butterfly Garden is a five-minute walk from the main entrance of West End Village. Other than butterflies, the garden has tropical plants and trees, many hummingbirds, and a small collection of parrots, macaws, and toucans that have been acquired as rescue birds.

Beaches Near the Cruise Port

Coxen Hole Cruise Port Map

Anyone not interested in snorkeling or diving may want to spend the day at the island’s famous beaches.

West Bay Beach on the southwestern tip of the island is the most famous and most popular because of its extensive white sands, resorts, restaurants and other facilities. Most cruise excursions go to a section called Tabyana Beach.

It is about a 15-minute drive from Coxen Hole, so cruise visitors need a taxi, bus, rental car or excursion bus to get there.

A five-hour shore excursion to the Sandy Bay beach will cost about $40. It’s less than 20 minutes from the port.

West End Beach is the closest beach to the Coxen Hole cruise port. Water taxis connect West End Beach with West End Village, which has an active nightlife, for about $2.60 U.S. at the time of this writing. It also is about 10 minutes by car.

Half Moon Bay is another popular beach. It’s a 20-minute drive from the cruise port.

Shopping / Restaurants

Roatan does not receive as many western Caribbean cruise visitors as Grand Cayman or Cozumel. As a result, the shopping opportunities are more limited.

Coxen Hole has an open air market, shopping plaza and supermarkets. West Bay Beach has stalls featuring local artists and retailers.

Roatan has more than 100 restaurants. They are concentrated around Coxen Hole, Mahogany Bay, West End Village, West End Beach and other popular tourist areas.

Restaurants around Coxen Hole include Frenchy’s 44, Bojangles, Haydee’s Diner, Nardo’s Bar and Grill, and Wood’s Place.

Local cuisine includes baleadas, pastilles, conch and other seafood specialities. Other local favorites include Honduran coffee, fresh local fruit smoothies and local gelato flavours.

Getting Around / Transportation

Roatan is only about 2.5 miles wide at its widest point but 40 miles long. So adventurous people with plenty of time will want to take advantage of available transportation options.

Many of the car rental agencies are located at the airport. None are located at the docks at the time of this writing, but many of them do provide pickup at both docks.

Taxi rates are fairly low. The rate from Coxen Hole to West End is about $2.20 U.S., according to Tourism Roatan. The rate from Coxen Hole to West End Beach is about $7.10.

It is important to note that rates are not fixed by a government agency or taxi association, so ask for the rates before getting into the taxi. Taxis sitting right by the docks are more likely to charge higher rates.

Two bus routes originate in Coxen Hole and go to the various popular points on the island including West End Bay. They cost about $2.60 one way to West End and Sandy Bay for a 10-minute ride.

Weather / Best Times to Go

The official dry season in Roatan runs from April through late July with an average high temperature of 86 degrees Fahrenheit and 30 degrees Celsius.

A rainy season tends to hit the island from late July to early September The peak rainy season goes from mid-January to the end of February.

As a result, western Caribbean cruises that visit the island are often quite popular during the spring and early summer.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
December 18, 2023

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