Only about 65 km (40 miles) from end to end, ribbonlike Roatán is the most populous of the Bay Islands. Most villages are along the water's edge, with rows of modest homes looking directly out to the ocean. The west side of the island has recently seen much development, whereas the east side is still largely untouched by tourism. A drive onto the ridge will reward you with a panoramic view of the entire island.

The island is divided into seven principal neighborhoods, with dozens more bights and coves dotting the shoreline. Many visitors to Roatán opt to stay at a luxury or family-oriented resort in West Bay, or at a simpler hotel in the vibrant West End. Restaurants and bars are opening in both neighborhoods as the Bay Islands emerge as must-see Caribbean destinations. The airport and principal dock are in Coxen Hole, where cruise ships have converted this western borough into a retail district.

On the opposite side of the island is Sandy Bay, which offers a quiet atmosphere for lodging and an array of marine and ecological activities. French Harbour is Roatán's gritty economic center and houses many of the island's banks and fishing fleets. Further north are Punta Gorda, a traditional Garífuna community, and Oak Ridge, a town built on the water and connected by canals and mangrove forests. Additional resorts and dive shops are scattered along the coast and are easily accessed by the island's only paved road.

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