Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

Roatan Shore Excursion Tips

Roatan cruise port
The Roatan cruise port is the starting point for many island attractions. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Visitors to Roatan will find a heavy dose of marine life and plenty of opportunities for both snorkeling and scuba diving among its various shore excursions.

1) Roatan Marine Park

The park is a protected area of western Roatan between West Bay and Sandy Bay, an area that contains many of the most popular diving and snorkeling spots and also some of the most popular beaches.

It is used by divers to explore the area’s coral reefs. They are an extension of the second largest reef system on the planet. The reefs reach from the shoreline to depths of as much as 70 feet. The park also has mangrove forests.

2) Beaches

Anyone not planning to dive or snorkel—or has extra time—is more likely to head to one of the nearby beaches.

Popular beaches include West End, West Bay and Half Moon Bay. More secluded beaches are common along this island that is 40 miles long and only 2.5 miles wide. Cruise visitors will dock at Coxen Hole and have to find transportation to reach some of the major beaches.

3) Coxen Hole

Coxen Hole is the island capital, largest town and the main cruise port. It has a population of about 5,000 people. Cruise visitors who dock at Coxen Hole won’t need an excursion operator to explore. Visitors who dock at Mahogany Bay will need a 15-minute taxi ride that will cost $20 total for one to four people going one way, according to a Mahogany Bay taxi manager.

Because of its size, it has a smaller number of restaurants and duty-free shops for visitors compared to larger ports in the Caribbean.

4) Gumbalimba Park

The park is an animal preserve with parrots, monkeys, iguanas and turkeys, among other creatures. It is about 25 minutes south of Coxen Hole in the West Bay area.

It also has botanical gardens and a sandy beach for swimming and other recreational activities. Activities include kayaking, snuba and scuba diving, a zipline canopy tour and the Jolly Roger Sail. This highly rated tour costs about $75 per person including transportation.

5) Carambola Botanical Gardens and Trails

This botanical park located across the road from Anthony’s Key Resort on the north side of Roatan has 40 acres of land for hiking, wildlife viewing (including monkeys and iguanas) and scenic tours. Garden hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

6) Roatan Dolphin Encounters

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.

It also offers six-day dolphin scuba camps for children. Phone number: 1-800-227-3483.

7) Roatan Iguana Farm

Because local residents eat iguanas, a family has created The Iguana Farm to protect and breed the dwindling population. The farm has several hundred iguanas on the property.

The best time to see the iguanas is early afternoon at feeding time. The farm is located in French Key, just past French Harbour.

8) Deep Sea Submarine

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.

9) Butterfly Garden

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. $$

10) Tours and Excursions

Tour companies offer more attractions including zipline, rainforest and mainland excursions. They emphasize snorkeling tours including visits to shipwrecks.

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.
October 05, 2020