Aug 28, 2010

Roatan is The Caribbean’s Best-Kept Secret

In the western part of the Caribbean there is an island that has long been the secret of the dive crowd. But things are changing and changing fast. Roatan Island, the largest of the Honduran Bay Islands in now a stop for Carnival and Norwegian Cruise lines. The original inhabitants along with the English, French, Spanish, and AfroCaribbeans, and pirates have left their fingerprint on this little island that is only 36 miles long and three miles at its widest point. Roatan has its own unique culture where the English language is as common as Spanish.

My husband, John and I, spent eight days in two different hotels. At Infinity Bay we had a beautiful condo that had everything including a washer and dryer. It was a lazy time. We wandered the beach and lounged around the pool, and dined in our “home” by requesting that meals be delivered to our room. It was the easy life.

Our stay on Roatan became more active when we moved to Anthony’s Key, the premier dive resort on Roatan. Scuba diving is not my forte but I love snorkeling. And snorkeling on Roatan, which is located on the second largest barrier reef, is excellent. For me, swimming with the parrot fish, barracuda, eels and other colorful denizens of the coral reef is a surreal experience.

Anthony’s Key is home to a small museum, the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences, and to 20 dolphins kept in an open-sea corral. When questioned about confining the dolphins, the guide explains, “They could easily jump out if they wanted to. Taking them out for a deep sea dive is more trouble than getting them to return to their home.”

One day John and I went to Gumbalinba Nature Park where there is a zip line, a cave where guides use displays to tell the history of Roatan, a tropical garden, and a mini-zoo. After the short history lesson in Coxen’s Cave that told of pirates and conquerors my husband, John, and I walked through the gardens where the guide pointed out a Monkey La La. Startled by our chatter the Monkey La La rose up on its hind feet and scurried off. A Monkey La La is a lizard with the unique ability to "walk" on water and, because of this, they have been dubbed "The Jesus Lizard." Due to webbing between their toes, they can run about 15 feet on water before sinking at which point they have to resort to swimming. We marveled at the brilliance of the scarlet macaw and kept an eye on playful Pedro, the free-roaming monkey, who tired to swipe something from the bag John was carrying.

One night the Anthony’s Key had a barbecue followed by a folkloric show. The fire dancers and the Garifuna dances mesmerized us. The Garifuna are an AfroCaribbean that live in the coastal areas of Central America. The dance enacted a story called El Yancunu. It was the same tale we heard in the cave at Gumbalimba. Masked warriors don masks and women’s clothing to avoid being murdered or captured during a 18th century battle that took place on Roatan.

We have visited Roatan many times in the last 15 years. There are now many lavish homes, more hotels, and plenty of new activities for visitors. For more information check: and