Trip Report Roatan

Old Jul 28th, 2003, 10:50 PM
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Trip Report Roatan

Roatan, Honduras

We left for Roatan on a Sunday using Taca Airlines leaving from New Orleans. They had a wonderful rate of $199.00 per person. We had never flown with Taca so we were not sure what to expect. I went to check in and knowing my luggage weight limit was way over I thought for sure I would get hit with the $100.00 over limit fee. I explained to the agent that the bags contained large amounts of baby formula, baby clothing and medicines for the children?s clinic in Roatan. With a sigh of relief the ticket agent passed the luggage through No Charge. The agents there were very friendly and helpful. I arrived there early thinking I would have a long wait at the ticket line but it was only a matter of minutes and I was ready to board my flight. When I boarded the flight I was surprised at the nice new plane and friendly staff. After flying many local airlines this was a very pleasant surprise. This was a bilingual flight with the primary language being Spanish. All the flight information was given 1st in Spanish then English. I had fun trying to interpret the Spanish before the English translation. I sat in business class, which was very comfortable. We were served drinks and a light lunch. Which was very tasty for airplane food. The pilots were also wonderful dodging the thunderheads and keeping the flight very smooth. This was the smoothest flight I had taken in years.

We then landed in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. It was a rather small airport but efficient. There was a language barrier; very few airport employees spoke English. I had bought my son's ticket knowing I would have to try and get him on standby in San Pedro Sula. I had to explain to airport security in very broken Spanish what I needed to do. They were very pleasant and showed me who I needed to talk too. I had my son?s ticket for our flight within 5 minutes and $10. Even the guards with their machine guns were pleasant. I felt very safe having them there in the airport. I had listened to many trip reports telling me how frightening the airport there was so I was a bit cautious. But I only found very pleasant helpful people who were very patient. Our stop over was a very short hour and we were ready to board the small plane with no Air conditioning. I believe it was a 15-20-seat plane. We sat right up front behind the pilots where we would have extra leg room and be by the large windows that were left open until the flight took off. There was a nice breeze and we could see the mountains of San Pedro Sula, which were very green and beautiful. It was rainy and I was a little anxious flying in a small plane while it was raining but it was only a short flight and was sure I could handle it. I am a little scared of flying especially when it feels like you are on a roller coaster that I had anticipated during this flight. Much to my surprise this was a very smooth flight. I used to fly small planes in the states for my job 2 times a week many of which I thought I would never survive. But these pilots were amazing smooth flying all the way despite the storm. I wanted to compliment the pilot but wasn?t sure how to say it in Spanish so I just thanked them when I exited the plane. Each flight was on time no delays or lost luggage.

When we arrived in Roatan we entered the airport and waited for our luggage. There was an airport employee that assisted us with our luggage to the customs area, which was greatly appreciated especially because 2 of our bags were over 100 lbs. Customs was fairly simple I was asked what was in the large bags and I explained and passed on through.

The cabins we were staying in were sending someone to pick us up. My husband went out to try and find Carlos from Lost Paradise. It was quit amusing watching my husband walk back and forth through the halls with several men following him. They were all taxi drivers hoping to take us to our hotel. My husband explained to them that he was looking for Carlos and thanked them and they went looking for other customers. Carlos arrived with a smile and a nice van to drive us to the hotel. We tipped the baggage carrier and were on our way.

It was about 7pm and it was getting dark outside. As we headed in to West End the roads were narrow with many strong curves, many cab drivers would stop in the middle of the road to talk to their friends or pick up a passenger. I would suggest taking a cab or getting your hotel to pick you up if it is your 1st visit and not trying this on your own especially at night. We only had one causality during our drive to the West End.... a small iguana that was trying to cross the road. It was one of those things that you either hit the iguana or run off the road and possibly into a ditch so our driver chose the iguana (smiles).

When we arrived in the West End there were many people walking on the streets of the bumpy dirt road. Many of the bars and restaurants were still open on a Sunday night. That was ideal because the sandwich that I ate on the plane had been long since digested and I was hungry. When we arrived at our destination we were taken to our little bungalow in Lost Paradise. The owners told us to get settled in and come to the office tomorrow to settle the bill. They knew we were tired, hungry and needed to settle in tonight. That was very appreciated; it was already beginning to be a relaxing vacation. Without unpacking we left our room and headed down the main road actually the only road hoping to find a good meal and a drink or two. We stopped at one of the closest restaurants we saw on the water called Eagle Ray's. They had many specials on their board by the road that caught our eye. We walked into the restaurant and decided to sit outside on the covered patio. The rain had just stopped and there was a nice breeze over the water. Thomas was our waiter and was at our table within a minute or less. I told him he wasn't living up to the reputation of the island. I had heard from many other trip reports to expect to wait because they were on "island time". Thomas was very prompt and friendly. The food was excellent the conch chowder was the best I'd ever eaten and I believe to be the best on the island. We each ordered lobster and few drinks for the three of us and the total bill was roughly $60.00. I thought it was a bargain for 3 lobster tails a piece, vegetables, rice or potatoes and drinks. The lobster would melt in your mouth seasoned with the right amount of garlic butter and other seasonings. We then headed back to our room to unpack and settle in. The room was spacious with 2 double beds, a small refrigerator, a couple of chairs, a spacious vanity areas and a bathroom with a shower. The linens were clean and the beds were nicely made. This was going to be our home for a week and it was quiet comfortable. We slept very well with no annoying roosters or dogs waking us up as many other reports had mentioned. It was a nice quiet area on the Western End of the West End.

The next morning we woke up and decided to snorkel out behind our room. We couldn't wait to see the beautiful fish and coral we had read about in other reviews. The water was very clear and there were abundant amounts of colorful fish. After our morning swim we headed to the office and settled our bill for the week. I met the rest of the family who ran Lost Paradise who were all very friendly. They had CNN playing on the TV and were all very knowledgeable about the current events of the United States. We had a very nice discussion that morning about various political and news stories.

We decided to go have breakfast at Rudy's. We were told he had the world?s best banana pancakes. The breakfast was very good. It was an open-air restaurant with a lot of tropical plants and birds. Rudy just comes down sits at your table and takes your order and within a few minutes your eating breakfast. The Honduran coffee was also very good. This place became our first stop in the morning before going anywhere else. The people at Rudy's were very friendly and were wonderful storytellers. We learned a lot of interesting facts about Roatan from them and enjoyed this part of our day very much. My husband was always the 1st one in Rudy's in the morning just to drink his cup of coffee and enjoy the company. We usually joined him 30 minutes later after we dragged out of bed.

We decided we would use our first day to snorkel, check out the island and find a good place to dive with. We decided to walk on the beach to West Bay. We had heard so many good things about the snorkeling there. It was an interesting walk; there were wooden walkways along the rocky areas and then beautiful sandy white beaches. It was a nice walk it took us about 20-30 minutes to get to the furthest point of West Bay. The snorkeling was wonderful the coral formations were in very shallow water. There were many colorful fish and interesting coral. There were signs posted to warn people not to touch the coral. What many tourists don?t understand is that the coral is alive and if it is touched or stood on it destroys the coral and the natural reef's beauty. As we were snorkeling we noticed a few pieces of large coral that had been destroyed due to walking and standing on them. I had never seen so much coral in my life and it was truly a natural beauty. The water is very salty and swimming was very easy, the salt made it very easy to float and swim without becoming too tired. We swam pretty far out before we realized how far we had gone. After our swim we stopped at a little open-air beach bar called Mayan Princess and had a couple of drinks. We had thought about taking the water taxi back to the West End but we were enjoying ourselves so much we decided to spend our money at the beach bar and walk back. We went back to our cabin and sat our on our deck had a soda and enjoyed the beauty of the island.

It was then time to start looking for a place to dive with and walk around the West End. We stopped at several dive shops asking about rates and trips. I am very picky about who I want to dive with. It is very important to me to have a knowledgeable staff who knows the area, dive masters who will challenge me and make me a better diver, not pack divers on a boat like sardines and have a friendly staff. After all if you are going to be diving with someone 3-4 times a day it is a lot more fun if you enjoy their company. I had read many reviews about various dive shops and had actually narrowed it down to 2 or 3. So I found the shops and "interviewed" the shop to find out if we would enjoy diving with them. As far as pricing I wouldn't really worry too much about that most of the dive shops are all about the same price give or take a dollar. Some of the shops made me feel like I'd be joining the military and other have small boats packing too many people on board. I enjoy diving and it is a very relaxing sport to me. The idea of sitting in the middle of a boat trying to find your gear and not kick someone in the process seemed too stressful to me. Well, later that afternoon we made a choice! Tyll's Dive Shop the oldest dive shop and 1st dive shop on the island opening in the 60?s. regardless of what many travel books state. And after diving with them all week I know we made the right choice. They had small boats with a very knowledgeable staff. The most divers we ever had on a boat were 4 plus the dive master. The attention we received was very personal. The dive masters tested my buoyancy diving through tunnels and cave like structures, up and down the stairs of wrecks I am defiantly a better diver after spending a week at Tyll's Dive Shop. The majority of our vacation we spent at the dive shop or diving with them. We would dive 3-4 times a day and have a few beers with the staff after diving. We would take turns buying rounds and a few nights we sat there well into the night socializing. The staff there is internationally diverse. They come from all parts of the world and are all wonderful people as well as terrific divers. We also met Tyll who no longer owns the dive shop but who lives near by. He is a wonderful storyteller and has many funny and interesting stories to tell. I could have listened to him for hours. He could make you laugh so hard your ribs would hurt. Tyll?s stories are very interesting and detailed so make sure and buy yourself as well as Tyll a beer before he begins his story. He also plays in a band on the island my only regret is that we didn't get to see him perform. I will make sure to see him next time. My husband & I took our Advanced Open Water Class with Tyll's and my son took his Open Water Class. The classes were organized and very informative often adding to the information given in the manuals. This is a top-notch dive shop and I would not dive with any other shop in Roatan. We will be returning in February and we can't wait to see all of the friends we made at Tyll's Dive shop. Thank you! (Uwe, Dorte, Michael, Jas, Jenny & Joel)

There are many good restaurants like Diane's Garden of Eaten we ate there 3 or 4 times. Diane cooks the food and often serves it, all of the food is tasty and fresh I don't think you could go wrong with anything on the menu. The prices are very reasonable about $40. for 3 eating lobster, drinks and dessert. The Key lime pie was excellent. The Urguayan Grill was also wonderful for steak. We had a steak stuffed with olives and a white cheese that was wonderful I guess it is similar to a Greek steak. The seasoning was superb and the beef was very tender grilled on an open flame. The steak was served with your choice of 2 salads and the drinks were mixed very well. Very reasonable pricing. Another place was a roadside grill next to the Twisted Toucan we stopped at with beef or chicken mixed with peppers and onions wrapped in a flour tortilla this was a great quick lunch between dives. Very reasonable less than $1 each. Brush up on your Spanish because she knows no English. But it is well worth it. Belvedere?s is also a nice little place. The meal there was one of the best on the island. We had a Parmesan lobster and pasta dish and several drinks. I could have been very happy just eating the pasta it was seasoned perfectly and very tasty. The fajitas were also very good. Jenny was our waitress and was the best! We also sat at the bar after dinner and socialized with some of the people that had moved here from the states. We talked about what it was like to live on the island different homebuilders where to purchase the best produce and other products on the island. It was a very enjoyable evening. The Argentinean Grill was also a good choice. The filet there was excellent as well as the conch chowder. One evening I had dinner with some medical people on the island all of which are Angels in my book. One of the nurses is Peggy who runs a free clinic out of her home in the mornings. Valerie works with a children?s clinic. This was a good evening with nice food. This was the only night the electricity went out on the island. Evidently this happens often but it was no problem just light a couple of candles and you have a nice relaxed dinner. Her home was in Sandy Bay and it took $2. to take a cab from the West End. Most of the island was dark except a few resorts with their own generators. Lost Paradise did have a generator so that Air conditioning kept running. That evening my family went back to Eagle Ray's to order a couple of hamburger's to go. The wait for a to go order was 2 hrs. The service was a lot quicker when you dine with them. We also ate lunch at Chili?s, which was very good they have a TV. there and this was the only time we watched any TV. during our vacation. It was nice not having to worry about world affairs for a week very relaxing. There is also a place I'd like to mention, I cannot recall the name but they are directly across the street from Tyll's dive shop. They have great sandwiches and lunch specials. I went there often for a banana smoothie great for reducing cramps while diving and very tasty. After diving I would often get one with a little Honduran rum mixed with it.

There are many party spots on Roatan. And drinks are very reasonable. Local Beer is about a dollar a bottle and mixed drinks usually run about $2-3. for a fairly strong drink. Ladies night at Loafers is a party spot especially on Friday night. Free drinks for ladies. Michael is one of the bartender's there and makes some very good drinks. There is top 40-type music and we also saw the fire twirlers performing on the dance floor. Many business owners go there and also many Americans and Europeans. Twisted Toucan is a favorite local spot I would suggest getting there early and if you like to party late night make sure you are with a group the same goes for Foster's on Friday nights. The other nights Foster's is called Mono Loco's which is a very relaxed fun bar. Billy is one of the bartender's there and is a lot of fun, full of personality and worth sitting at the bar for. Luna Beach has a beach party on Saturday nights in West Bay that is suppose to be a lot of fun unfortunately we missed it because we had to wake up for an early flight Sunday morning.

My next trip I think I would bring lempiras instead of Dollars and travelers checks. When using dollars the exchange rate is different in every restaurant and bar you go to. If you drive into Coxen Hole you can go to a bank and get the bank rate but I think it would be better to order from American Express before your trip. I think we made the right choice by staying in the West End. Everything you need is within walking distance and if you want to go to West Bay you can take a water taxi or walk. We did rent a moped for 1 day to see the rest of the island and play tourist visiting the iguana farm and visiting French Harbor. The Yacht Club has a very nice lunch with many specials and a beautiful view overlooking the water and boats. While driving our moped we had a flat tire we coasted into a gas station and a man named Lionel ran out of nowhere with a tool box asking if we had a problem. He proceeded to fix our tire with good humor and a few laughs. An hour later we were on our way exploring the island. Lost Paradise is in a quiet location of the West End and is close to the water taxi and easy to walk to West Bay. If you see someone walking down the road with a machete don't be alarmed it is most likely a guard. That is the weapon of choice for guards in Roatan. The crafts are also some of the best I've seen compared to other islands with mahogany carvings, pottery and jewelry.

This is a beautiful Island with beautiful people. I would not hesitate to visit again. 98% of the people there are very friendly and helpful. This little piece of paradise is very affordable and not ruined by commercialization. The culture of the people is warm and alive. If you visit Roatan you will return home very relaxed and refreshed.

zanna is offline  
Old Nov 14th, 2003, 06:28 AM
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Great trip report. TTT
Kath is offline  
Old Nov 14th, 2003, 07:51 AM
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Thanks so much for a wonderful and informative report. Planning a trip in Feb. and would also like to take some infant supplies for Peggy's clinic. Did you have any concerns about getting sick from the food. I'll be taking the names of those eateries with me cause that's an important part of our vacation!
Ari is offline  
Old Nov 14th, 2003, 08:41 AM
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wow, that was some report!! It felt like I was there myself (almost). Thanks for taking the time to share!!
niskyboss is offline  
Old Nov 17th, 2003, 04:24 PM
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Sounds like a great trip - now I have another place I want to visit! Thanks.
SusanInToronto is offline  
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