Where is Roatan?

Roatan is part of a cluster of island archipelagos situated ten to forty miles off the northern coast of Honduras. Roatan is located in between Utila and Guanaja Islands. These islands are a gem in the western Caribbean, and they are surrounded by the largest barrier reef system in the northern hemisphere. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is only second in size to Australia's Great Barrier Reef. 

Climate in Roatan

Roatan has a tropical climate. The tropical weather in and around Roatan is inclusive of sea breezes which keep the annual temperatures within a range of 70F to 80F. The annual humidity for Roatan is estimated to be 77%. Annual temperatures average out at 86F. 

Roatan has two main seasons. The Rainy Season and the Dry Season. Roatan manages to stay green year round, even though its dry season. If you're looking for a dramatic scene, be sure to visit Roatan during the rainy season, which starts in October and runs through January each year. 

Roatan receives rain, on the average, on 112 days of each year. But these rains are usually scattered showers. The bulk of the rainfall occurs during the rainy season where rainfall can be consistent and can last for days on end. 

Roatan is outside the hurricane corridor and only sees a hurricane at a rate of one every 26 years. The weather alone, and the fact that Roatan is seldom in harm's way of a hurricane make it ideal for home ownership.

Roatan's Geography

Roatan is 40 miles long and at its widest its only 5 miles wide. It's a long and narrow island. Roatan's highest point is 900 ft above sea level. Roatan has an east-west orientation, and its northern and southern coastlines are both visible from several points on the island. 

Hillside homes receive steady sea breezes while waterfront properties enjoy sandy shorelines, beaches, Mangrove Forrest, and or an iron shore. 

The Iron Shore is a fossilized coral reef rocky shoreline found on the water's edge at various points along Roatan's coastline. The iron shore can easily be confused with lava rock because of its dramatic texture and dark color. But the Bay Islands do not show any evidence of volcanic formation in its history. 

Roatan's call to fame is its coral reef. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is world-renowned. It is the largest of its kind in the northern hemisphere and second largest worldwide. Only the Great Barrier Reef is larger in scope and size that is the reef in the waters around Roatan Island. The Mesoamerican Reef System extends from the Yucatan Peninsula in southern Mexico, down past the Bay Islands of Honduras. The reef system around Roatan has all three types of coral reefs and in it live countless marine creatures as it is comprised of many marine ecosystems. The waters around Roatan are a combination of open water and sheltered water. This makes Roatan perfect for SCUBA and also many other water sports. 

Roatan's Economy 

As a Honduran municipality, the main currency used on Roatan is the Lempira. That said, the dollar is widely accepted. It is important to note that locals gain the upper hand when you pay in Dollars because they don't normally offer the official exchange rate. The national currency (The Lempira) gets its name from the Lenca warrior, Lempira, who lead the resistance against foreign colonization efforts in the 1530s. 

Fishing was the main industry for many years on Roatan. It fueled its economy almost exclusively in the early days. Over time, the SCUBA industry and tourism, in general, have taken the lead of the primary industries on Roatan. Today, Roatan has two cruise ship terminals which receive cruise ships on a weekly basis and often multiple times each week. Roatan also has an international airport which is responsible for incoming tourist on a daily basis. Incoming flights arrive from several international and local airports.

Mahogany Bay was built in 2009 and it is owned and operated by Carnival Cruise Lines. The Port of Roatan is located near downtown Coxen Hole. The Port of Roatan opened in 2007 and it partially owned by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines

The busy season for cruise arrivals on Roatan is between November and April. During these months, cruise ships come on five or six times each week. There are days in which Roatan experiences the arrival of four ships on the same day. The large influx of tourist makes for good business, and it keeps the island vibrant. Unfortunately, Roatan's infrastructure isn't able to sustain this many visitors sustainably. Roatan is under constant public and political pressure to invest and grow its infrastructure. Most of these travelers visit the West Bay and West End areas. Some also visit the area of French Harbour. Few venture to Roatan's East End. 

Local Government 

Roatan Island has two municipalities. The municipality of Santos Guardiola encompasses everything on the East End, which is understood to be everything east of First Bight, which is home to the Parrot Tree Plantation. The municipality of Roatan includes everything west of First Bight. The Santos Guardiola municipality offices are located in Oak Ridge. Coxen Hole is home of Roatan's municipality, and it is also considered the capital of the Bay Islands. 


Socioeconomic Characterization

Roatan's Culture 

Roatan is arguably the most diverse community in Honduras. The heritage of those living on Roatan ranges from expats from Italy, Europe, Canada, and the United States. There are also the mestizo Indians native to the island and the mainland. There is also a strong Black Carib community knowns as the Garifuna People. Still more, there are many residents from various Latin American countries like Guatemala, El Salvador, Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, and Nicaragua to mention just a few. 

Look no further than the common last names found on Roatan and the name of streets, buildings, and towns. They all reflect the Spanish, British, Carib, and mestizo heritage of the Roatan Community. Even the names of local flora and fauna reflect this heritage. You'll hear of names like, Jonesville, Oak Ridge, Port Royal, Los Fuertes, La Colonia, and Sandy Bay. All of which can trace their heritage to the early visitors to Roatan. Roatan offers an amazing international vide and its readily seen during large gatherings in places like West End, Punta Gorda, and West Bay. 


The population that inhabits the department of Bay Islands - because of its historical tradition is comprised of a variety of cultures, identities, and livelihoods which characterize these islands. These ethnic groups in the area are the Garifuna, the Afro-British, the Ladinos, the Mestizos, the British Whites, and others foreigners. "The Garífuna Community also known as the black Caribs and Garinagu, originated in San Vicente soon after the conquest of Central America, South America and the Lesser Antilles. Descendants of the Carib peoples, Arawakas and black Africans, who arrived on the island fleeing slavery. Traditionally, the Garífunas built their communities on resources provided by the sea. The Garifuna were also dedicated to agricultural activities. Women lead these types of economic activity and were mainly engaged in planting rice and cassava. Fishing is also a cultural-economic practice of the Garifuna in the Bay islands. 


The Department of Bay Islands is composed of three islands (Guanaja, Utila, & Roatan) and several cays and islets. The area is abundant in natural wealth and resources in regards to both its marine and terrestrial attributes. In addition to environmental wealth, these islands possess an abundant cultural wealth, thanks to the different populations that inhabit the islands. The Roatan Marine Park and the surrounding area known as the Bay Islands Marine Park (Parque National Marino de las Islas de la Bahia "PNMIB"), is comprised of 12 nautical miles around these islands. And although it is a marine park, the following chapter will include socioeconomic characteristics of the populations that inhabit the islands and that interact directly with this protected area. Historically, these islands have been inhabited by diverse ethnic groups with an identity and life that have a close link with the natural environment that surrounds them. In the pre-Columbian phase, according to the archaeological record, in the Bay Islands, there is evidence of material culture (sites, traits, and vestiges) which are manifestations of the Paya or Pech culture that resided in these sectors. After the Colonial period, the process of settlement and settlement in the Bay Islands is marked by the arrival of diverse cultures, that to date, make up a cultural mosaic that characterizes the towns as being multiethnic, multilingual and multicultural. 


The Afro-English ethnic group was established in the Bay Islands at the end of the colonial period. They are called creoles or blacks of English speaking. They call themselves this because of their origin and intercultural adaptation. The culture of the people of The Bay Islands (historically known as Bay people) can trace its origins to the English slaves. The speaking characteristics of their English dialect can be traced to the Western Caribbean. They practice a Christian-evangelical religion and self-identify with the Anglo-American culture of the Caribbean contemporary.

Ladino Natives

The Ladinos, are an important group within the life and history of The Bay Islands. The Ladinos arrived in the area because of their work in the fisheries and tourism sectors; the Ladinos dominate certain recent economic sectors such as transport by taxis, street vending, and garbage collection. Migration has been a constant factor all throughout the history of the peoples of The Bay Islands.  But in recent years, there has been a growing immigration of Europeans and Americans to the Islands because of the beautiful landscapes and summer homes. Tourism and business possibilities are also attractions for prospective expats from all over the world. 

English Speaking Whites

English-speaking whites are among the most influential group. Whites have the means of production, semi-industrial fishing vessels, investments in tourism, and they bring along a great deal of know-how to business practices. 

Language in Roatan 

Language is without a doubt an interesting cultural experience and component in Roatan. While Spanish is the official language, English is spoken universally. Roatan Islanders speak a Creole English. This broken English gets its roots in French, english, and Spanish as well as a few words unique to the Garifuna culture. But if spoken slow enough, English speakers can come to understand what is being said. 

You do not need to speak Spanish to live and get around Roatan. However, much of the local people (taxi drivers, household staff, and government officials) all are primarily Spanish speakers. By contrast, hotel employees, beach vendors, many taxi drivers, tour guides, restaurant personnel, and young middle or upper-class residents are bilingual. Most of the islanders are bilingual. But there are many residents who have moved from the mainland who do not speak English. 

History of Roatan 

Both the Spanish and the English fought for the colonization and control of Roatan with neither party every settling on Roatan permanently. Yet both the English and the Spanish influenced the culture, language, and heritage we see on Roatan today. 

The history of Roatan is filled with stories of colonizing, enslavement, liberating, and ultimately settlements. The historic record has the Paya Indian living on Roatan and trading with the mainland. The record is also clear that Europeans traveled to Roatan and enslaved many of the locals. Roatan evolved into a semi-nomadic culture which produced ceramic items known today as "yoba ding dings." The arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1502 marks the deterioration and almost extinction of the island natives. 

Roatan and the surrounding Bay Islands where contest grounds for battles between the British and the Spanish crowns. A mirage of buccaneers and pirates found refuge in Roatan natural and well-protected harbors. Over time, these harbor communities made for a perfect location from which to raid passing cargo ships filled with goods, supplies, and some even came with teasures. 

Reportedly, in 1638 the first British settlement was established by William Claiborne. This settlement was located in what is now Port Royal, on Roatan's southeastern coast. By the year 1642, the colony was settled by residents that dabbled in raiding and pirating Spanish vessels. Because of these raids, spanish ships retaliated in 1650 and destroyed most of the Port Royal settlement. The Spanish chose not to establish a permanent settlement on Roatan. 

Re-Building Port Royal

In 1742 another British settlement came about to rebuild the fort at Port Royal. The current towns of Oak Ridge and Coxen Hole were also settled early on and then went on to grow into what we see today. The Port Royal fort lies in ruins today with only a few residents living in the surrounding area. 

By the year 1788, it is reported that the English had completely left Roatan yet again. They were reported ousted by several Spanish attacks. 

One other important note in History, in 1797 the British defeated the Black Carib on St. Vincent Island. Soon after, the British removed approximately 5,000 of their now defeated enemies and sent them to Roatan. A small portion of these settled in what is now Punta Gorda and home of the Garifuna People. The rest of these settled on the mainland of Honduras, in Trujillo. 

Punta Gorda became the first permanent settlement on Roatan after the Paya Indian population became extinct. The Black Caribs are known as the Garifuna

Most of the established families and residents of today came later through a strong migration from the Cayman Islands. This migration occurred after the British abolished slavery in 1838. Many of the family names on Roatan are similar or the same as the last names of families living on the Cayman Islands. 

Over time, Caymanians became the largest demographic on Roatan, and they shaped the culture of the island. This group changed the cultural and economic course of Roatan as well. 

The British briefly claimed the Bay Islands as their own in 1850 but ultimately ceded the territory to Honduras in the 1860s. After the Bay Islands become part of Honduras, the population on Roatan continued to grow. The Honduras influence gave way to a Spanish speaking mestizo on Roatan. These groups settled firstly along the southern shores of Roatan, in Coxen Hole and Los Fuertes. Tourism has always been a part of Roatan. By the late 21st century, Roatan had become an economic interest for expatriates from all over the world. Expats moved to Roatan gradually and had contributed greatly to Roatan's organization, development, know-how, and industrial growth. 



The Republic of Honduras sits on a land area of 43,278 square miles, and it is located in Central America. Honduras has a long coastline along the Caribbean Sea. This geographical region is known as the Gulf of Honduras while the body of water on the Pacific coast is known as the Gulf of Fonseca. Nicaragua borders Honduras on its southeast border and Honduras borders El Salvador on its southwest. The Western border is shared with Guatemala.

Honduras is rich in its heritage, natural beauty exiting cultures. It is essential to gain a deeper understanding of Honduras ahead of deciding to move to Roatan. Life on Roatan is much different than life on the mainland of Honduras. But Honduras authority is still the law of the land. 

Undoubtedly, you'll get the most out of Honduras if you first learn more about its government, its economy, its culture, and its history. 

There are an estimated 8 million residents of Honduras. The entire country is about the size of the State of Virginia. Honduras has a variety of ecosystems and terrains which is a rare thing for a country this size. 

Average temperatures on Roatan hover around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. But the temperatures on the mainland are more varied. The mountain tops can see temperatures in the low 50s while the temperatures in the valleys can reach over 100F during the summer days. 

History of Honduras

The mainland of Honduras has long been inhabited by a variety of cultural groups. Among these are the Lenca, the Paya, and the better known Mayan. Honduras is home to one of the Mayan largest ruins. Paya Indians have been traced to Roatan. Today, the Latino ("mestizo") is the largest cultural group. On Roatan, the Paya Indians gave way to the Garifuna through a series of British and Spanish voyages. Christopher Columbus first came to Honduras in 1502, on his final voyage. 

Hernan Cortes came to Honduras in 1524 and brought with him Spanish armed forces. This brought about a period of Spanish colonization that went on for nearly 300 years. In 1821, Honduras claimed its independence from Spain and became a Republic in 1838. 

The Real Banana Republic

Honduras became known as the Banana Republic in 1904 when it became heavily invested in the production of Bananas by through companies like the United Fruit Company, Cuyamel Fruit Company, and the United Fruit Company. All through the 20th Century, labor forces from all over the world migrated to Honduras to work in its Banana Plantations. 

Government and Economy

The Honduran economy is mainly dependent on Agriculture, farming, textile productions, and tourism. Crops include coffee, sugar, and bananas. During the 1990's, the manufacturing industry grew exponentially. Textile factories grew in numbers primarily in the areas around San Pedro Sula. Honduras is a large exporter of sweatshirts, sneakers, and other garments consumed in the US and around the world. The "Made in Honduras" has become a common tag in clothing stores around the globe.

Political System

The Republic of Honduras has adopted a democratic economic system based on free capitalistic trade. However, rumors of corruptions and a new wave of socialistic tendencies have surfaced. The most recent elections saw a surprising number of voters pushing for a socialistic agenda. That said, it is not the first time politicians have angled to turn the Honduran political system into socialism. So far, Hondurans have managed to promote and maintain a democratic system. Like in the US, the Honduran government has the same three governmental branches (Executive, Legislative, & Judicial) but instead of two or three political parties, Honduras has five competing political parties. Two of these parties have been in office for much the countries recent history. Elections are held every four years in Honduras. In 2017, a sitting president won re-election for the first time. This caused turmoil on the streets as many claimed the re-election was not only illegal but also unconstitutional. By contrast, many are of the opinion, that reflection is needed to enable government continuance and to keep the more socialistic party out of public office.

Honduran Culture

An estimated 90% of Hondurans are mestizo. This group is a mix of European and American Indians. Hondurans speak Spanish as their first language. Spanish, Miskito, Garifuna, and the Bay Island Creole English are official languages to Honduras. But Spanish is by in large most commonly spoken of the languages. Street signs, official documents, and the press is all written in Spanish. 


Until the early 90's, most Hondurans identified as Roman Catholic. Today, there is a fairly even divide between Catholics and those practicing a Protestant faith. 


The citizens of every country have a nickname. Americans are commonly referred to as "Gringos." Hondurans are commonly referred to as "Catrachos." The name comes from General Florencio Xatruch. Those who supported the general were known as "Xatruchos" which later evolved to the more common spelling of "Catrucho" and later "Catracho." Using the word, Catracho is seen as a compliment and not a derogatory name. Honduras is like most other countries in that soccer of "futbol" is the most popular sport and a national pass time. It is customary for locals to wear their favorite futbol jersey around as casual attire. The most common jersey is that of the Honduran national team followed by jerseys from La Liga which include Real Madrid and Barcelona teams. 




Honduran Cities & Landmarks


The capital of Honduras is the city of Tegucigalpa. The word is pronounced "Tay-Goose-See-Gal-Pa." Tegucigalpa or "Tegus" is densely populated. The city is the political capital, and much of the official administrative and official work takes place in Tegus. The capital sits in a small valley, and its communities have grown up to include the base of many of the surrounding mountains. In years past, flying into Tegus was a nerve-racking experience. However, since the runway expansion, the airport landing has become safer. There is still a technical maneuver which pilots have to make which includes landing the aircraft shortly after coming out of a circular approach, but pilots flying into Tegus have the maneuver mastered, and the airport maintains a safe record since its expansion. 

There are an estimated 25 embassies Tegus. There are also 16 consulates. Foreigners seeking permanent residence in Honduras, or locals looking for a visa to travel abroad all must go to Tegucigalpa to process their paperwork. Tegus and other nearby villages have a clear colonial architecture in its oldest neighborhoods. There are a few coble stone roads, churches, museums, and parks which still carry an old Spanish charm. 

San Pedro Sula

San Pedro Sula ("San Pedro") is arguably the county's industrial capital. San Pedro is the second largest city in Honduras. The city gets its name from the Sula Valley, or "El Valle de Sula." San Pedro is also home to a popular international airport (SAP) which is often the airport of choice for backpackers or travelers looking to make a pit stop on the mainland of Honduras in route to the Bay Islands. Residency renewals can be done in San Pedro which makes for a shorter commute from the islands. 

San Pedro is a busy industrial and commercial center. Unlike Tegucigalpa, San Pedro was a well-thought-out urban development. The city layouts out nicely with parallel and perpendicular roads. The city also has two concentric boulevards which make getting around town easier. Traffic is also less congested than in Tegus. The roads in San Pedro are orderly and arranged by streets and avenues. Much of what is not readily available on Roatan can be easily found in San Pedro.

La Ceiba 

La Ceiba or "Ceiba" for short is the fourth largest city in Honduras. Many travelers to the Bay Islands get there via a ferry from the mainland. That ferry departs out of La Ceiba which is about 3 hours from San Pedro Sula. La Ceiba sits on the Caribbean coast, and it has a fantastic shoreline as the coast is met by large mountains which oversee the La Ceiba. La Ceiba does have an international airport (LCE), but it is less popular than the airports out of San Pedro and Tegus. The short ferry ride from La Ceiba to Coxen Hole Roatan and also to Utila (aboard the Utila Dream Ferry). There is a ferry which runs from La Ceiba to Roatan. This ferry runs twice each day. There are also transfers from Roatan to the other two islands, daily. 

La Ceiba offers added options for medical care, shopping, and touristic activity. Pico Bonito National Park is arguably the most popular attraction and the highest peak in Honduras. The base of the mountain ridge makes for a great location to experience zip line tours as well as whitewater rafting. 


The department of Copan is a popular Honduran destination as it is home to the Copan Ruins. These ruins are an ancient Mayan ruin which is rich in its history. The UNESCO has recognized the Mayan Ruins as a World Heritage site. The Copan ruins are a "must stop" location for visitors traveling through Central America. The Copan Ruins are also a popular weekend destination for locals and for visitors from Roatan who might be visiting the mainland for a short period. The downtown area of Copan is colonial. It is rich in its history and very charming. There are many small boutique hotels in the area as the tourist from all over come to visit the area. The temperature in Copan is lower than that of Roatan or other areas in Honduras. They average 68F/20C. Keep the weather in Copan in mind as you plan your weekend getaway. 


Fauna and Flora

Utila Whale Sharks


Sightings & Aggregations

Whale shark (Rhincodon typus) sightings and aggregations occur year after year in the waters surrounding the Island of Utila. These whale sightings have come to form the basis of an entire eco-tourism industry around the worlds biggest fish. The Whale Shark is the largest fish in the sea, reaching lengths of approximately 18 m - 20 m. It is thought that this species is circumglobal in tropical waters. Being of pelágicos habits, the fish is sighted near the surface. As an object of commercial fisheries, especially Asia, the Whale Shark finds itself in the Endangered Species List of Wild Fauna and Flora Wild (CITES), and has been declared a Vulnerable Species for Extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 



The first initiatives for the conservation of the Whale Sharks in Honduras were established in 1999 when the Government of Honduras declared it as a species "worthy of consideration" through the Presidential Agreement. Because of its ecological importance (Subsequently in 2008), SERNA and the ITH elaborated the Guidelines for the Protection of the Whale Shark (Tiburon Ballena). The guidelines are aimed at normalizing tourism activity and promoting those activities which benefit the stability of the species, as well as the people involved in their preservation. Utila Island operates the Whale Shark & ceanic Research Center (WSORC). The WSORC is also associated with efforts that generate a library for photo-identification from which it is possible to distinguish (by the patterns of spots) individuals, and also their navigation patterns and movement around the world.

Roatan Crocodiles


The only crocodile that inhabits the Bay Islands is the crocodile of the species Crocodylus Acutus. Their distribution is limited to the mangroves of Santa Elena, Old and New Port Royal, Camp Bay, as well as at Gibson Bight in Roatan. Female crocodiles construct and deposit their eggs in nests made from natural debris. Nest are built high above the high tide line. The female remains in association with the nest until the eggs hatch and with juveniles for a longer period of time. Reports on sightings of crocodiles are becoming less frequent in the Bay Islands, where existing crocodiles are hunted and they are losing habitat to local villages. 

Sea Turtle Species


Sea Turtle Nesting Sites have been reported for three species: loggerhead (Caretta caretta), green (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata). It is also known from other species (e.g., Lepidochelys kempii) that despite not nesting in the Bay Islands, they frequent the area and are subject to illegal hunting. 



Known nesting sites for these turtles have been observed in Flowers Bay, Marbella Beach, Punta Pimienta, Punta Gorda, Turquoise Bay, Paya Bay, Camp Bay, Oak Ridge, French Harbor and French Cay. Reports indicate that although there have been recent nesting activities on certain beaches, most sites have not reported. The season of Nesting on Roatan Island occurs between June and November, which coincides with the nesting in the Cayos Cochinos.

The most recent records on nesting events (all of Eretmochelys imbricata) in Utila and Roatan include:

  • Utila: Pumpkin Hill in July, August, September, and October
  • Utila: Sandy Cay in August
  • Roatan: Port Royal in March and June
  • Roatan: Lizzette's Beach in August
  • Roatán: West Bay in November 2011 



There are declining fish in traditional fishing areas. During reproductive cycles of some species of value the SPAGs represent specific sites where periodically and almost predictably, large aggregations occur. During this stage, the fish are more vulnerable and easy to capture. This means that for some time these sites have been overexploited without any control or oversight. A modest number of SPAGs are known around the Bay Islands. These active aggregations areas are named Banco Cordelia and Western Banks southwest of Roatan. Other SPAGs not yet validated include Western Banks (Nova Scotia / Anchor) and Southeast Bank (Black Hills) around Utila, Northeast Bank (Groupers Joy) around Roatan and Black Rock Point around Guanaja. Another known SPAG site is located north of Guanaja and its called "Caldera del Diablo," which is used by the grouper of Nassau (E. striatus), the mere tiger (Mycteroperca tigris), black grouper (M. bonaci) and other species. Although according to reports, this site was frequented very little by fishermen of Guanaja due to the difficulty of accessing this area. As suspected for the "devil's boiler," reports reflect collapses of SPAG's around Utila, which shows the unsustainability of the fishery in Honduras. These reports find that Nassau fishing has been declining in commercial importance and in the country, where its exports have declined from 7% by weight to only 0.7%. Although SPAG's of other species of commercial interest has recently been validated in the Archipelago Cayos Cochinos, it is no longer a protection effort, but an attempt for restoration for not only fishing but also for visiting tourist as the diving in these spectacular concentrations of fish can generate significant income. 

Roatan Seabirds


Seabirds often nest in colonies. The protection of individual nesting sites can have a significant impact on the stability of Seabirds populations in Roatan. The population of seagulls (Sternidae), in particular, represent an essential part of the marine avifauna that breeds in Roatan and its surrounding islands. The species that are known to reproduce in Roatan are the seagull (Onychoprion anaethetus), pink gull (Sterna dougalli), the small seagull (Sternula antillarum), and the yellow-tipped seagull (Thalasseus sandvicensis). The brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) is another species of which also maintains colonies in Roatan. 

  • In the Islands of Utila, populations of P. Occidentalis, O. Anaethetus, S. Dougalli, and S. Antillarum, are found in Raggedy Cay, Sandy Cay, and Artificial Key. 
  • In the Island of Roatan, the active colonies are reported in the east end, in Barbareta and Pigeon Cays. Among the species found in these areas are P. occidentalis, O. anaethetus, S. Dougallii, S. antillarum and S. Sandvicensis. 
  • In the Island of Guanaja, there are three of cays (Kiatran's Cay, Clark Cay, and Elmar Reef) known for being nesting areas for the species: S. Antillarum. 

The common denominator in all these sites is that they are mostly uninhabited keys, with extensive areas beaches and without or with little vegetation.

Nesting sites for flaccid gull (O. anaethetus) in Raggedy Cay, Cacho Zacate and Cayo Gallo are particularly important because the closest nesting sites documented for this species are in Mexico and Belize.

Queen Conch (Sea Snails)

BREEDING SITES (Strombus gigas)

The Queen Conch (also known as Pink Snail or Queen Snail), represents the main exploitation of the seagrass areas of Roatan and its surrounding islands. This species falls second in importance only to the spiny lobster Panulirus Argus. 

The Queen Conch, as a species, is the most abundant among the gastropods Strombidae of the Caribbean region and the one that reaches the largest size (30 cm). The species is characterized by very gregarious behavior in all phases of its benthic (occurring at the bottom of a body of water) life. Throughout this epibenthic phase, the snail is very susceptible to fishing and can easily be exploited and overfished throughout the Caribbean, due to its high commercial value. 

In Roatan, the daily observation of empty shells of mollusk (Conch & Snails), thrown away by fishermen after extracting the meat, tells us that fishing activity exerted on immature snail populations is high. It is a clear sign of the exploitation of this animal is real and occurring in plain view. This is especially unfortunate when you consider the slow growth rate of mollusk in general. Mollusk grows in seagrass areas and shallow sandy bottoms. 

The continental shelf near Roatan is limited, and waters quickly become too deep to support snail populations. For this reason, most snails grow and prosper in lagoons and shallow waters. But that also makes snails more susceptible to fisheries. Studies show that once the population of snails collapses, it can take years or decades to recover. Research points out that 50 individual/ha are needed for snail populations to reach the critical density required for reproduction. 

The data on the ecological evaluation collected around the Island of Barbareta reflect an average of 35.14 individuals/ha exist, while estimated of only 13.9 individuals/ha exist in the areas south of Roatan. 




Caribbean Lobster


Spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) exist across a wide geographical area. Populations extend from Brazil to the USA. Caribbean lobsters' main habitat extends from the coastline to about 50 m deep. 

That said, there have been sightings of lobsters hundreds of meters below the surface. Adult lobsters are frequently found on the rocky and coral bottoms, where they feed at night on mollusks, small crustaceans, and other living or dead organisms. Juveniles inhabit coastal waters with a predilection for seagrasses while migrating progressively to their adult habitat starting at the age of 2 or 3 years. Spiny lobster has been overfished in years past but Roatan has lead the way in their preservation, and population growth has been on an uprise in the waters of Roatan. 

Roatan's Fauna & Flora 

Roatan's abundant rain and warm temperatures make it ideal for tropical life. Plants and animals thrive on Roatan. There are a variety of ecosystems ranging from Mangroves to tropical pine forest. The lowland marshes are home to a variety of species on Roatan as well.

As is the case in many tropical habitats, fruit trees are found throughout the island of Roatan. You can find nut trees, Guanabana (Soursop), Avocado trees, Cashews, Hog Plum, Breadfruit, Star Fruit, Banana, and Papaya trees. Roatan also has a variety of Palm Trees. There are Fishtail palms, Areca, Fan Date, Veitchia, Chamaedorea, Majestic Norfolk, Pindo, Phoenix, and Royal palm trees. Perhaps the better-known trees are hardwoods. Honduras, and Roatan have many of the great hardwood trees including Spanish Cedar, Teak, Carreto, and Cordia, as well as Mahogany. The Gumbolimo tree is native to Roatan. This tree is also known as "Indio desnudo" (naked Indian) or "tourist tree" because of its reddish bark which is always pealing. Some see a brown skinned Indian removing his close and others see a sunburnt tourist with pealing skin. Whatever you see, you can be sure the trees are beautiful and abundant. Also native to Roatan is the Trumpet tree, Teta, and the Masica tree. Some of Roatan's common flowers include: Parrot Orchids, Jasmine, Exora, Ginger, Pentas, Heliconias, and Lantanas. 

There are think pine forest on Roatan and in particular on Guanaja island. This caused past explorers, like Christopher Columbus to dub Guanaja as "the Island of Pines" in 1502. 

Roatan is home to an expansive Mangrove population of trees. There are three main Mangrove species on Roatan, and these include Red Mangroves, Black Mangroves, and White or Buttonwood Mangroves. These trees and the forest they make protect the island, its coastline, and many species from storms and hurricane damage. Mangroves are a nursery for many marine and terrestrial species and it is now protected by the Roatan Marine Park

Roatan's Bird Species

There are over 120 bird species on Roatan. Of those, 40 or so are permanent residents of Roatan and the rest are migratory birds. Yellow-Naped Parrots are native and endangered. Roatan is also home to the Golden-Fronted Woodpecker. Warblers, Tanagers, Vireos, and other Caribbean Sea Birds are migratory. This includes the White Ibis, the Brown Pelican, the Roseate Tern and the Frigate Bird.

Mammals on Roatan

There are an estimated 12 mammal species on Roatan. This list includes four bat species. Also native to Roatan are Guatusas or "Island Rabbits" (agoutis), rats, opossums, and Roatan even has a population of white-tailed deer. 

Roatan Amphibians 

There are approximately 36 amphibian species on Roatan. This includes the Hawksbill sea turtle which is also endangered. There are crocodiles, about six species of frogs, and several lizard species on Roatan. There is also a snake species both venomous and nonvenomous. The Coral Snake is the only known venomous snake found on Roatan. This snake is seldom seen, and it lacks fangs, so they have a hard time getting through to humans. 

Gumbo-Limbo Tree

One of the most common sites on Roatan is the Gumbo-Limbo Tree (Bursera Simaruba), casually known as the Gumbalimba Tree. The tree is jokingly referred to as the "tourist" tree because the bark of the tree is comprised of red peeling skin, as in the pealing skin of tourist when they have taken on too much sun. 

Fast Growing

The Gumbalimo Tree is a medium-sized tree growing to 30 meters tall or approximately 100 feet. The bark is one of its differentiators as it is shiny dark red and peals of rather easily. 

Fruit Characteristics

The tree produces ripe fruit year-round. The main fruiting season is in March and in April. The fruit is a three-valved capsule which encases a single seed. The seed is covered in red fatty seedcoat (aril) of approx. 6 mm in diameter. The fruit is borne loosely on the stems and can spontaneously detach regardless of how ripe or green the fruit may be. Ripe capsules are cracked open by birds all around the island or Roatan because the fruit is rich in lipids. 


The Gumbo-limbo is a useful tree both economically and ecologically. The tree grows rapidly and adapts well to several habitats. For instance, the Gumbo-limbo adapts well well in salty and calcareous soils. The tree does not adapt well to boggy soils. Roatan provides an excellent habitat for the growth of the Gumbalimba Tree. 


The Gumbalimba is one of the most wind-tolerant trees, and it is often recommended as a tough, hurricane-resistant species throughout the Caribbean. The tree may be planted as wind protection for crops or as living fences along property lines. 

Gumbalimbo Wood

Gumbo-limbo wood is adequate for light construction as the wood is rather brittle, though the trunk is used throughout Honduras to make artifacts or as firewood. The tree's resin, called cachibou, chibou, or gomartis, is used as glue, incense, and varnish. 

The arils are the main food source for local birds. Many migrant birds will feed off of gumbo-limbo trees even if they are in human-modified habitats. This is seen in Roatan where exotic birds are often found nesting or feeding on these trees. 

The gumbo-limbo tree is often used as a starter tree in reforestation efforts because it is fast growing and it has a low cost of propagation. 


Residency and Visas

Obtaining Honduran residency is a relatively simple process. That said, individuals cannot represent themselves during the residency proceedings. All applicants must be represented by an attorney registered with the national bar association. The attorney you retain will see to it that all paperwork is submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

There are two residency options to consider. Neither option requires that American citizens denounce their citizenship to the US (or any other country), yet both alternatives allow for a path towards becoming a permanent resident of Honduras.


One option is for individuals to apply for a residency as a pensioner or a retiree. And under this option, there are two sub-alternatives. If you are a retiree with proof of income (approx. $1,500/month) from a verifiable source (i.e., Social Security benefits) you can apply for your residency. Alternatively, individuals can also apply for Honduran residency under what is known as a "Rentista" which requires proof of income (at least $2,500) from a return on investment, such as a rental property. Neither of these two options has an age limit associated with them. These applications can take between six and nine months to be finalized. If an individual obtains his or her Honduran residency as a retiree, he or she may also qualify for additional benefits. Two common tax dispensations ("dispensas") or benefits are related to vehicle importation and the importation of household items. Fees related to these two types of benefits are above and beyond the cost of obtaining a Honduran residency. 

Residency through Employment

The second path to obtaining a Honduran residency is through employment. Individuals can apply for this type of residency as an employee of a company ("key-employee") or as an entrepreneur or owner of a business. Entrepreneurs looking to become Honduran residents must first incorporate a business in Honduras and then use that business to obtain their residency. Key-Employees can apply for their residency through their employer and but show proof of their unique professional qualifications. Certification, licenses, and or diplomas can all be used to satisfy the claim of a Key-Employee. 

All applicants for a Honduran residency are required to keep in good standing with their Visas. That includes abiding by the limitation or restrictions of a tourists visa. For this reason, and while individuals wait for their residency to be finalized, they must leave Honduras within 90 of their arrival, and they must remain outside of Honduras for at least 72 hours. Most applicants find that they have to leave the country at least two or three times during their adjustment of status and while local authorities are finalizing the residency application. 

An Apostilled police report and other paperwork are required by all applicants for a Honduran residency. Retiree applicants must also provide an Apostilled or an authenticated proof of income. The Apostille process is a more simplified process, and often it is less expensive than authentication because Apostille can be done at the Secretary of State office, for US residents. Canadians and or residents from any other country which hasn't adopted the Hague Convention can obtain this type of document at the Honduran Consulate in their respective countries. This must be done before arriving in Honduras. 

Local Laws to Consider

Photo ID at all Times

Honduran Law mandates and requires that all individuals carry a photo ID at all times. Acceptable forms of ID include: Passports, driver licenses, or general government issues ID card. If an individual is stopped by the local authority and asked for an ID, he or she is subject to an arrest if they cannot provide a valid photo ID. 

Drugs & Sex

It is illegal to possess narcotics in Honduras. Drugs like marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy are all illegal. Prostitution and having sex with minors is illegal in Honduras. 

Fishing Restrictions

Visitors to Roatan should understand fishing laws and restrictions around fishing the waters around Roatan. There are specific seasons in place for the protection of marine species. It is always a good idea to be familiar with these restrictions and fishing seasons. At a minimum, understanding fishing restrictions and fishing seasons allow travelers to Roatan to become better consumers at local restaurants and eateries. 

  • The Shrimp season begins on August 1st, and it goes on until the last day in February. 
  • The lobster season begins on July 1st, and it goes on until the last day in February. 

There is no legal or defined season for fishing conch. That said, conch sales are regulated by Hybur, a national distributor in Roatan. It is illegal to sell or fish for any of these species outside of their seasons. 


Police roadblocks are common in Roatan. For this reason, drivers should always carry a valid driver's license and should also make sure that the vehicle registration (or "Matricula"). Be sure not to run roadblocks and be sure to treat all law respectfully. 

Drinking and driving are against the law in Roatan. Drivers and passengers alike must make sure not to drive or be driven by anyone under the influence. Keep in mind that it is illegal in Roatan to drive without a seatbelt and it is also illegal to use your mobile device while driving. In the event of an accident, motorist should not move their vehicles until local police have authorized the move. 


It is not legal to carry a firearm without a permit. The law allows for individuals to own a firearm and to keep it in their homes as home protection. But transporting and carrying a firearm without a permit is not legal and would likely result .in your arrest, a fine, or both. 

    Travel Visas

    Travelers to Roatan must travel with a valid passport with more than six months of eligibility. Travelers with passports expiring inside of six months will not be allowed to travel to Roatan. 

    Travelers will receive an automatic 90-day tourist visa when arriving at a Honduran international airport. The expectation is that travelers who visit Roatan as tourists will leave the country before the 90-day mark. Travelers can put in a request for an extension of 30 additional days. The extension can be obtained at the immigration office in Coxen Hole. This extension can be requested once unless you are applying for a Honduran residency, at which point you can make an extension request as needed during the adjustment of status. 

    Vaccination Guidelines for Roatan

    Travelers to Honduras are not required to get vaccinated ahead of their arrival. That said, there are a few vaccines which are recommended by the U.S Center for Disease Control (CDC): 

    • Measles | Mumps | Rubella (MMR)
    • Diphtheria | Tetanus | Pertussis
    • Varicella (chickenpox)
    • Polio
    • Annual Flu Shot
    • Hepatitis A & B
    • Typhoid
    • Rabies

    Roatan Communities

    Politcal Boundaries

    There are two municipalities on Roatan Island. The Roatan Municipality is the most populated. It is home to Coxen Hole, and it extends from First Bight to West Bay. The Santos Guardiola Municipality is home to Oak Ridge, and it stretches from First Bight to the East End of Roatan Island. The Santos Guardiola Municipality includes the islands of Helene and Barbareta.

    West Bay

    West Bay Beach is world-renowned. It repeated appears on travel magazines all over the world as a top beach destination. There are many characteristics about West Bay that make it so. For starters, the geography and orientation of the beach are perfect. West Bay faces directly west, so sunsets are as magical as they get. The Bay is also located on Roatan's leeward side, which means it is protected from the wind. This translates into calm, glass-like, waters which are transparent in the shallow waters and quickly turn turquoise as water level deepens. Further, the coral reef is only a few strokes away. The area is a marine reserve, so fish abound, and the coral is healthy. Snorkeling off of West Bay is second to none. The sands are powdery white and just of the shoreline is a palm-fringed lush green area which only adds to the allure of West Bay. These waters are perfect for water sports, safe for children, and amazing to experience. There are also several nice hotels along the coastline which only add to the experience. West Bay is a wonderful beach to visit for the day or year around. 

    Visitors walk to and from West End to West Bay. They can also drive. But most, take a water taxi to and from these two destinations. On West End, there is a Water Taxi Association dock which serves as a drop-off and picks up area. On the West Bay side of the trip, travelers can catch a water taxi either at the Infinity Bay dock or the dock just in front of Henry Morgans. The drive to and from West End and West Bay takes you right through a high outlook called El Farol, or lighthouse. The Roatan Rum Company is also located on this hilltop and puts out a nice bottled rum. 


    The West Bay Mall sits just off the main beach, behind the waterfront hotels. The mall area has apartment rentals and other restaurants which are usually less expensive than restaurants directly on West Bay. 

    The main road coming from Coxen Hole appears to end at Infinity Bay. But it doesn't. This road continues all the way through to the Grand Roatan Hotel and onward to the Lighthouse Estates. There is a large expat community in Turtle Crossing and the Lighthouse Estates. Homes in these two sub-divisions are located on Roatan's windward side and enjoy gorgeous sea breezes most of the year. The waters edge is formed by an Iron Shore of coral and rock protruding from the water. There are many keyholes along this shoreline as well. 

    West End

    West End is arguably Roatan's most visited town. It has a little bit of everything. During the day, West End is a great place to find a water taxi, a good place to find a top dive operator and a good place to eat and shop. At night, West End turns into Roatan's "live" district. Visitors walk up and down its main road bar hopping and socializing. It is a lively scene. There are restaurants and establishments on one side of the road and the waterfront on the other side. There are sections of West Bay road which do have commercial establishments on both sides of the road. 

    West End is a beach town. Its main road goes on for about a mile. This road extends from Lands End to a beach area which leads to West Bay. West End offers a concentration of restaurants, hotels, and shopping venues. You can rent scooters, kayaks, and other equipment to make the most of your time on the water or land. There is not a shortage of things to do or activities on West End. Because there are several parking areas in and around West End, visitors can leave their vehicles and enjoy a pedestrian experience as they get to explore West End by foot. 


    West End offers some of the best spots for souvenir shopping. As you walk along the main road on West End, you'll come across coffee shops, dive shops, restaurants, souvenir shops, and other stores selling hammocks, shirts, etc. 

    Half Moon Bay

    Half Moon Bay is also a central attraction, and it is adjacent to West End. This bay has a few inviting activities. For starters, there is the pier off of the Beach House. This pier offers an excellent photo opportunity. There is also a repurposed sailboat (iSoar) which has been rigged with rope swings and platforms for visitors to jump off of and to swing off of as well. 

    Real Estate in West End is eclectic, and it is in high demand. There are rooms to be had for cheap off of the main drag, but if you come anywhere near the main road, you can expect to pay a premium. 

    West End is home to a large expat community. Expats in Roatan live and work on West End. Many own businesses or run dive operations out of West End. Many expats are on the island to obtain a Divemasters certification and or a certification as a dive instructors. Both of these can be accomplished on West End. 

    Sandy Bay

    Sandy Bay is one of Roatan's most established towns. It stretches for some two miles along the northwest coast of Roatan just before West End. Sandy Bay is located west of Coxen Hole off the main road which takes you to West End and West Bay. Sandy Bay is home to several vacation rentals, Roatan's Backpacking Hostel, and a few hotels as well. It is also home to a large expat community in Roatan. The Blue Tropical Arboretum, the Mud Hole, and Palmetto Bay are all accessible through or near Sandy Bay. 

    The Colonia, which is also known as "Belfate" is located on a hillside facing north in Sandy Bay. The Colonia is primarily a residential community comprised primarily of locals who have moved here from the mainland. As in much of Roatan, The Colonia has low construction standards and oversight over land rights. This has been an issue in times past which have made it difficult to control sprawl and infrastructures. There are a few expat owned tracks of land just after The Colonia along a stretch of beachfront. 

    Mangrove Bight and Gibson Bight are located along this stretch of land just after Sandy Bay and before reaching West End along the northern shore of Roatan. Gibson Bight is a large marina which makes for a nice hangout away from the business of West End. 

    For those living or thinking about moving to Roatan, it is important to note that the town of Sandy Bay has many of the offerings found in West End. So it is not necessary to travel to West Bay for basic needs like car repair services, restaurants, or gift shops. 


    Sandy Bay is also home to the Institute of Marine and Sciences (IMS). More specifically, the IMS is located on the grounds of Anthony's Key Resort (AKR). This is where the island's only hyperbaric chamber resides. 


    Anthony's Key Resort is also home to Roatan's Dolphin Habitat. In years past, the dolphin habitat was located just off the main island of Roatan in between Roatan and Anthony's Key. But today, the habitat has been moved and is located on Bailey's Key. Bailey's Key is located just off the shores of Anthony's Key Resort, and it is available via a short water taxi boat ride from the AKR marina. Dolphin encounters are a favorite for visitors to Roatan. At AKR visitors can swim, pet, scuba, feed, and learn about dolphins. There are daily shows and tours available for those looking for a once in a lifetime experience. Dolphin encounters are family friendly experiences and very educational. While Anthony's key is primarily a diver's resort, it has many water activities and a nice restaurant which is open to the public. 


    Next, to the Institute for Marine and Science, there is a museum containing a variety of exhibits and beautiful artifacts. There is a rich offering of documents and presentations explaining the rich history of Roatan, its culture, and its people. 


    The Carambola Botanical Gardens are located just across from Anthony's Key Resort. This garden has many well-maintained trails with lush orchids which bloom throughout the year. 


    Sandy Bay is home to a few medical clinics. Clinica Esperanza which is also known by locals as "Nurse Peggy's Clinic" is arguably it's most popular. Anthony's Key Resort also has a clinic of its own. The two clinics are located only a few yards apart along the main Sandy Bay road. 


    Lawson Rock is located just after Sandy Bay as you travel west from Coxen Hole. Lawson Rock is located on both sides of the main road. Without a doubt, Lawson Rock is one of (or the) most luxurious communities on Roatan. Lawson Rock has hillside home on one side of the main road and several waterfront properties on the other side of the main paved road. 

    Flowers Bay

    Flowers Bay is an established settlement in Roatan. It is located on the southwestern coastline of the island of Roatan, and it is between Coxen Hole and West Bay. Flowers Bay is populated primarily by local islanders. There are few expats living in this community. The location for Flowers Bay is ideal in that it is a short distance away from both West Bay and Coxen Hole. Flowers Bay faces south and has a front-row view of large incoming Cruise ships as they near the Port of Roatan. 

    When the weather changes in Roatan winds subside on the southern shoreline. Waters on the northern become too rough for scuba and snorkeling. When this happens, many of the docks along the shore in Flowers Bay are used by dive centers in West Bay and West End to run their dive operations. 

    Many of the busloads transporting cruise ship passengers to the West End or West Bay areas use the road passing through Flowers Bay as it is slightly shorter than the road from Coxen Hole to West End. This road passes through the neighborhoods of Pensacola and Gravel Bay. There is also a Mangrove Bight next to Flowers Bay, not to be confused with the Mangrove Bight near Sandy Bay. During strong downpours, the road along the edge of Flowers bay can flood so it is best to avoid it during inclement weather. 

    Coxen Hole

    Coxen Hole is the capital of the Bay Islands. This small town is also the administrative center for Roatan proper. The Courthouse, Customs, Immigration, and Roatan Municipality's Office are all located in Coxen Hole. In addition to its official offerings, Coxen Hole offers many local eateries and souvenir shops.

    The Port of Roatan is located in Coxen Hole. This port is one of two main cruise ship ports on Roatan Island, and it is located along the southern coastline of Coxen Hole. 

    There are few Expats living in Coxen Hole. But, for those who do live on Roatan's West End, Coxen Hole is a frequented town for running errands and a place to shop for the essentials. Coxen Hole is a business district. It is home to law offices, postal services, banks, pharmacies, grocery stores, phone companies and hardware stores. 

    Despite its size, Coxen Hole is surprisingly congested. It even has a few one-way streets to help relieve or prevent traffic jams. Unfortunately, streets are poorly labeled so visitors or first time drivers should take caution. The streets on Coxen Hole are narrow. And if vehicles weren't enough, you'll find a fair share of pedestrians, bicycles, and motorbikes competing to get through. Slow zones are normally designated by speed bumps located in front of Hospitals and Schools. 

    The Coxen Hole police station is located just on the outskirts of Coxen Hole. This police station is manned 24 hours a day and seven days a week. The main phone number to Roatan's Police Station is +(504) 2445-3438, and they can also be reached by dialing *199. 

    The offices of the Chief Justice and the Municipal Police Office are located on the second level of a yellow building near the central park area of Coxen Hole. 

    The office of the Roatan Municipality is located in an orange building on the main road of Coxen Hole. This office is open Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm. Roatan's Immigration office is across the Judicial Building in Coxen Hole's central park. Coxen Hole is home to Roatan's Customs Office. This office is located in the town center park area. 

    • Chief Justice: +(504)2445-0416
    • Police Station: +(504)2445-3438
    • Municipality: +(504)2445-1299
    • Immigration: +(505)2445-1326
    • Customs Office: +(504)2445-1315


    Eldon's Supermarket is favorite destination preferred by many Expats living in Roatan. Eldon's is arguably Roatan's high-end grocery store. It is on par with many grocery stores found in the United States and in other developed countries. Plaza Mar, Super Isleño, and Eldon's are all located in Coxen Hole behind the PetroSun gas station. The PetroSun fueling station is across the main road from Coxen Hole. 

    Los Fuertes & Mount Pleasant

    Los Fuertes and Mount Pleasant are two smaller towns with their fair share of commercial establishments. Both are in route to French Harbor as you travel east from Coxen Hole. 

    French Harbour

    French Harbour is Roatan's second largest community. French Harbor is an industrial harbor for Roatan's fishing, shrimp, and shipping industries. French Harbor is located on Roatan's "central" area, east of Coxen Hole and along the southern coastline of Roatan. Both Dixon Cove and Brick Bay are between Coxen Hole and French Harbor. Dixon Cover and Brick Bay are where cruise ships might dock and where the local ferry port to the mainland is located. Brick is among or the oldest development on Roatan. Mahogany Bay is also in between Coxen Hole and French Harbor. Mahogany Bay is owned and managed by Carnival. With any luck, you'll see a cruise ship docked when the cruise liner is at the port. 


    Roatan's Electric Company (RECO) is located along the route from Coxen Hole to French Harbor. RECO is a large employer on Roatan and together with the towns of Los Fuertes and Mount Pleasant, have attracted several banks and commercial establishments like plazas, shopping centers, and banks. 

    French Harbour has a variety of service companies which supply Roatan with construction, design, and general goods. There are a marine and boating supply company as well, and Roatan's Yacht Club is located in French Harbor. The Buccaneer is a local favorite as well. It offers a nice tied pool and bar for guest. There is an old family business which is responsible for many of Roatan's wooden signs found at many of Roatan's hotels and restaurants. French Harbour has a Police Department and its own Eldon's supermarket. 

    Some of Roatan's most sought after neighborhoods, namely Turtling Bay, Palmetto Bay, and Hottest Sparrow can all be accessed from the main road near Los Fuertes. There are roads from French Harbour leading to Pristine Bay which is home to Roatan's only golf course. The Black Pearl Golf Course was designed by Pete Dye, and it is a full 18-hole course with beautiful sceneries which overlook the northern shore of Roatan. 




    Roatan's East End

    The East End of Roatan, which is considered by many to be the area of Roatan east of French Harbour is the least inhabited. Consequently, East End has fewer offerings in general. There are fewer restaurants, bars, hotels, and services. Depending on the individual taste of each traveler, this might be a good thing or a bad thing. 

    That said, Roatan's East End is just as stunning and in many ways more dramatic that Roatan's West End. The East End has a national reserve which is seldom visited. Mangroves forest are lusher, and the highest mountains on Roatan are found on Roatan's East End. While there are several small towns on the East End, there aren't any large commercial areas.

    East of French Harbour is First Bight & Second Bight, respectively. The Parrot Tree Plantation sits on the southern shores of these areas. The main divide between the two municipalities is found in this area. Opposite First Bight and Second Bight are Milton Bight and Politilly Bight, which are located along the northern coast of Roatan. There are Roatan Expats living in both these areas. 


    Jonesville is as unique as they come. This fishing village is quaint and charming in its own right. As you drive east, Jonesville located between French Harbour and Oak Ridge. 

    Oak Ridge

    Oak Ridge is Roatan's East End largest community. Oak Ridge is Roatan's most charming community. Many of the homes in Oak Ridge are built on stilts and sit on the water's edge. It is not uncommon for lobster and shrimp boats to be moored to the homes front porch. Residents of Oak Ridge get around on small panga boats or motorized canoes. Jonesville and Oak Ridge are connected via waters ways and tourist and residents alike commute back and forward between the two fishing villages. Further East, Calabash Bight and Port Royal are also accessible by a short boat ride. There are several Mangrove tunnels along this coastal area. 

    Punta Gorda

    Punta Gorda is located on the northern shore of Roatan, opposite Oak Ridge. Punta Gorda is home, and is owned, by the Garifuna people. Properties cannot be sold outside of this cultural group. 

    Roatan has one main road running through it. This paved road ends with a fork in the road at Punta Gorda. There, one exit takes you down to the town of Punta Gorda, and a second exist turns into a gravel road which leads to Roatan's East End and places like Camp Bay and Port Royal. There is a town by the name of Punta Blanca, which is home to an expat community and is located approximately a mile from Oak Ridge. 

    As you continue traveling east of the gravel road from Punta Gorda, you'll come across a few Moto-Taxi. moto-taxis are usually red. These three-wheeled covered motorcycles are perfect for navigating the bumpy gravel road and navigating around potholes. There are several resorts along the gravel road as you head east. Among these are Paya Bay Resort, which is located on a small private peninsula. Paya Bay is also Roatan's only nudist resort. The resort started out as a traditional resort offering a nudists week a few times a year. But in recent years, the resort has catered more and more to the nudist community. 

    La Sirena and Camp Bay Beach are located at Paya Bay Resort. Following Camp Bay is Port Royal. The area around Port Royal is isolated. Despite all this, there are many expats living in the Camp Bay and Port Royal areas. Many areas are accessible only by boat as you head further east and beyond Port Royal. 


    Much of Roatan's central and eastern end has been set aside to form the islands larges wildlife refuge. This refuge is removed from the main touristic centers and activities. For this reason, many come and go from Roatan and never set foot on Roatan's wildlife refuse. The refuge is amazing and makes for a wonderful hike. Within the refuge, you'll find tropical species including Yellow-Naped Parrot and White Crested Pigeons. There are also a few remains from the famed pirate fortress in Old Port Royal. 

    Helene Island

    Helene is only lightly populated. The island is separated from Roatan via water canals in the Mangrove forest. But from above, the small island gives off the illusion of being a continuous extension of Roatan. Further to the east, you'll come across Morat Island, Pigeon Cay, and the beautiful island of Barbareta. Barbareta is privately owned. These Cays and Islands are only accessible via boat rides and cannot be accessed via ground transportation. 


    Raising Children


    A common concern for potential expats pertains to raising children in Roatan. Your options are plentiful in Roatan whether you already have children or are considering starting a family in Roatan. Expats who live in Roatan have children of all ages and school grades. No need to worry, you will not be the only family on the island. 

    On the island, there's a mentality that "it takes a village to raise a child." The island is part of Latin America, and Roatan is tight-knit and family-centric. Many expats find that new friends quickly become part of their family. Children in Roatan and many Latin American cities the parent's friends are treated as the children's aunts and uncles. On Roatan island, you will also find that retired expats treat friends children as their grandchildren. 

    Four years ago Kirsty Doig gave birth to her daughter, Spencer Rose, in a hospital in La Ceiba. She moved to Roatan a little before her due date. Kristy found the Roatan community to be quite welcoming. She also praised the doctors for treating her like family and making her feel the most comfortable she had been through her entire pregnancy.

    Her daughter now attends a Montessori on the East of Coral Stone Center in Sandy Bay called Discovery Bay. Discover Bay starts enrollment for kids age 3 to 7th grade. The PreK class there is primarily in English and instruction includes music, reading, writing, computers, arts, crafts and Spanish. They also make time for outdoor play. The classes are similar to the North American school system. In the summer they offer various month-long summer camps. 


    Here are more options for Pre School and Primary School: 

    Island Academy (previously named Sandy Bay Alternative School): The school is located in Sandy Bay and offers U.S. homeschool program for students K-12. The program is aimed at preparing students who desire to enter the U.S. college or university after they graduate from Island Academy. The school incorporates art, music, language, and sports into their programming to offer students a well-rounded education. The school has partnered with Calvert Curriculum Program for PreK through 8th grade. The Bridge School is for grades 9th - 12th grade. Calvert Curriculum gives the school the ability to test and place all students based on the same standards as the U.S. The partnership with the Bridge School offers access to the students to take accredited courses, electives and AP classes in preparation for their college education. 

    Roatan Bilingual School (ESBIR): The school is in Coxen Hole. It's the oldest school on the island and offers a structured education style. The school is well established and has a large campus. The bilingual school follows a North American schedule.

    Bay Island International School is located on Sandy Bay and offers Kindergarten through 6th grade. The school implements common core and collaborates with U.S. schools to ensure best practices. 

    The listed schools are all private, but there are other schools in French Harbour and further east on the island. 

    In Roatan, the public schools are sub-par in comparison to the private schools on the island. In Honduras, public education is required only through the 6th grade. The Honduras school system has serious funding issues and lacks leadership. It's unlikely that expat families choose to send their children to a public school. 

    Another option that expats are taking is to homeschool their children. Many are doing it full-time or opting for a combination of homeschool and private school education. The cost of living in Roatan is typically lower than in North America allowing families to live off one income providing the opportunity for one parent to stay home and homeschool their children. 





    Kids in Roatan have many of the same experiences that children of North America have, such as play dates, birthday parties, homework, etc. Although they have many of the same experiences, they also benefit from the diversity of things to do on the island. 

    There are expats from all over the world and the children on the island are also exposed to an array of cultures. Kids spend time learning about marine life with real-life experiences on the beach and explore the world around them much more than children in urban cities. Kids in Roatan are not spending their time playing video games or watching endless amounts of television, but instead exploring the world around them. 


    If you are considering in starting a family in Roatan, you should know that all children born in Honduras are Honduran by birth. The child can have dual citizenship. After the child is born, the hospital will issue a birth statement that will allow you to get a Honduran Birth Certificate at the Registro Nacional de las Personas (National Person Registry) in Coxen Hole or the city where the child was born. If one or both of the parents is a foreign national once the Honduran Birth Certificate is received, you can apply for citizenship of your country of origin at the local embassy. Consult your embassy for the paperwork and process required to obtain citizenship.


    Clothing and toys for kids are readily available on the island. In Roatan, there are various stores with kids clothing and toys. The best shops on the island for children are J&J Kid's Store in French Harbour, Nichita in French Harbour, Kids Corner in Coxen Hole, Sasha's Children Castle in Coxen Hole, Tienda Fino in Coxen Hole, and both Carrion stores. A ferry trip away you can go to La Ceiba on the mainland for more options for kids clothing but also furniture and bulk items. There are also second-hand stores selling things like high-chairs, stroller, and other baby items.


    Children in Roatan get hurt just like in other parts of the world. The island does not have the best healthcare facilities, but some doctors can take care of injuries that kids typically get. For something more serious you would need to travel to a larger city to have access to better facilities. This approach would be the same if you lived in a remote town in another part of the world, you would need to travel to a more prominent city to gain better healthcare assistance. On the island, there are pediatricians at local clinics and specialists that go to the island from the mainland. 


    Roatan Life


    Moving to a new place can be scary, especially if that new place is to a new country. There are a few groups for Roatan on Facebook and there is also an online forum to help you meet new people as you transition to your life in Roatan. You can visit Roatan.Online to get more info on the island and a better sense for the community.  The Online Community Forum can answer many of the questions you might have ahead of your move. There are also Facebook groups, Expats Living in Roatan, Roatan Garage Sale, Roatan Schedule and Roatan Community. 

    In these groups, you will find quite a bit of information on activities and updates from Roatan residents. The groups are not a be all, end all, but they will allow you to get a better feel for the community. 


    The cost of living in Roatan is, for sure, lower than the cost of living in North America or Europe. Some expenses are the same or higher, such as groceries and electricity. But overall housing and transportation are much lower, so the result is you will be spending less in comparison to the U.S. and Europe. For example,  an average couple can live comfortably on a $2,000 a month, and that's including living expenses. You can spend more than that but that is based on factors you control like living in a larger home or spending more of your discretionary income.  


    You will find an array of brands in the local grocery stores. Most U.S. brands are available, and you may find some items from Canada and U.K. The larger grocery store on the island is Eldon's Grocery, which is quite similar to a Safeway in the U.S. They have two locations, one in Coxen Hole and French Harbour. There is also Plaza Mar located above Eldon’s in Coxen Hole.  Plaza Mar offers similar products, and you may find yourself shopping at both to get all the items you need. And lastly, there is Super Isleño which is located down the hill from Eldon’s in Coxen Hole. It offers more local products, including many Central American brand products. If you are looking for staple items at a reasonable price, this is the store for you.



    It's easy to call home thanks to technology. Many shops have Wifi, and most expats also have Wifi in their homes. The cost ranges from $60 up to $100 depending on the speed of the service in your area. The internet comes bundled with the cable service provider. 

    You can choose to use MagicJack to make international phone calls. It uses your internet connection to make phone calls to the U.S. and Canada via a phone. And of course, you can use services like Skype, Facetime, or WhatsApp to communicate home. 

    Cable and internet are often combined like in the U.S. There are many companies on the island providing cable & internet service. Some areas on the island are wired for certain cable companies allowing you to get internet service quickly. There are still some parts of the island (East End) that have not been wired, and you will need to call all the providers to see who services that part of the island. Costs for cable are affordable and include many American stations and movie channels like Starz, Showtime, and HBO.

    Wireless internet is the most accessible solution for your home, but if you cannot access any company for some reason, you can also purchase a USB Modem through either telephone company on the island (Tigo or Claro). You can pay for a set megabyte usage in a pay as you go system. This may be a cheaper solution if you only use the Internet for emails, but if you video chat with family and friends back home or subscribe to services like Netflix, you will quickly exceed the allotted usage amount. 


    Having your home cleaned or landscaping done is relatively inexpensive. Various companies provide this service, but also many individuals offer these services as well. 

    Finding a nanny on the island is not an issue. Some companies provide childcare at their facilities, but you can also choose to have someone come to your house part-time or full-time. Babysitters are not as readily available as they are in the U.S., but with a little networking, you're sure to find someone on the island that is able to provide you with babysitting services. Expat parents also rotate babysitting within other expat families to help each other out.  

    Housekeepers are readily available in the Bay Islands on a part-time, daily and live-­in basis. The pay rate varies depending on how often you plan to use the housekeeper. If you plan on having a long-term or live-in housekeeper you should consider having a contract outlining the relationship. 

    One of the quirks of Honduras and Central America is the Spanish word for watchman, which is taken directly from English and given a Spanish pronunciation as Wachiman or Guachimen. The pay for watchman varies and depends if you offer living quarters and how many hours you want them to work.  As with housekeepers its best to have a contract with the watchmen to avoid any misunderstandings. The pay ranges from $450 up to $1,000 per month. Most folks opt to have the person work a 12-hour shift. This service is for either a home or business. 





    Moving to a new country also requires you to adapt to a new banking system. Opening a new bank account on Roatan requires different information which can vary from bank to bank. The banks on the island are, Banco Lafise (only bank located on the West End), Davivienda, BAC Credomatic, Banco Atlantida, and HSBC. Each of these banks have an office in Coxen Hole. Some offices are located in French Harbour and Oak Ridge. 

    You can find ATM's throughout the island. Many are located on the main road in West End. You can also find ATM's in West Bay, Coxen Hole, French Harbour, airport, and ferry terminal. 

    You can have a credit card from back home but check on their fees for foreign transactions, some credit cards may waive this but others will not. Many small restaurants or shops may not accept credit cards or may have a minimum charge to use your credit card. But larger establishments do accept all major credit cards. But you would need to pay with your home bank account as you cannot pay a U.S. credit card bill with your Honduran bank account. And you can not transfer money to an international account from a Honduran bank account. 

    You can wire money back to your account at home using the service of Western Union, but you will pay fees for that wire transfer. You need to have all the information specific to your bank at home on how to process a transfer correctly via Western Union. 
    You should get this information directly from your bank at home. The customer service you are accustomed to is not in Roatan. You will have to be diligent in getting all the information and questions answered, so your banking transactions go smoothly. 


    There are many things that are cheaper on the island, but electricity is not one of them. The electric company in Roatan is called RECO (Roatan Electric Company) it operates in French Harbour. 

    Here is the pricing scale for residential units. (the exchange rate changes daily so the prices below are in Lempiras):

    • 0 KW to 10 KW = 4.47 Lps
    • 11 KW to 50 KW = 5.72 Lps
    • 51 KW to 100 KW = 7.38 Lps
    • 101 KW to 300 KW = 7.95 Lps
    • 301 KW to 500 KW = 8.25 Lps

    Commerical rates are 9.77 Lps/KW and 8.17 Lps/KW for industrial rates. You may consider following RECO on Facebook as they will post updates when they have power outages due to scheduled maintenance. 

    The rates for commercial and residential are subject to change monthly. 

    The taxes you pay through the Municipal that are added to your property taxes include services for your trash. Trash services are paid annually. Large community trash bins are located along the main road and are picked up when full. Trash bins that are closer to your home will not be serviced as often so you may choose to bring your garbage to the trash bins on the main road. 


    There are filling stations around the island to fill your butane or propane tanks. There is also a delivery truck that services certain neighborhoods on the island. The delivery trucks play a catchy song notifying you that they are in your area. But if you want a specific time frame you can call the company to set that up. It costs approximately $15 to fill up a household propane tank. 


    Overcoming Culture Shock


    Culture Shock is experienced by virtually every expat. But how it manifests itself is different from one individual to another. This is particularly useful, because sooner or later, the decision to relocate to a new country may be undermined by doubt. So know this, questioning your decision to relocate is perfectly normal. 


    It is very different to live on an island than it is to visit an island. During the discovery phase, new residents are entertained by the new places they see, the new people they meet, and the new norms which slowly reveal themselves over time. 


    It is important to embrace change. Roatan may be better than your home town in many ways. That much may be obvious since you chose to leave that home for Roatan in the first place. But Roatan Island can also be less desirable in a number of ways.


    • Roatan is part of the third world. 
    • Roatan is behind in its technological offering
    • Governmental and political foundations are different
    • There are many cultural and custom differences

    Knowing how to embrace change and not focusing on weather the change is better or worse than what you had before can be helpful. What is helpful is to simply know that change is guaranteed and it should be embraced. So maintain a flexible mind set and be willing to adapt and embrace change as it comes your way. 


    Building a new network and community on Roatan is paramount. And best of all, new expats won't have to give up your existing social network. Technology allows you to keep in touch with old friends from home but they wont get you through the acclamation process. You will undoubtedly have to grow and nourish a new set of friends.


    • Volunteering
    • Consuming local services
    • Attending local events

    Members of established expat communities in Roatan have been through the relocation process and know all too well what new exapts might be going trough. And this can be the basis for wonderful new friendships. 



    Island Time

    There is such a thing as "Island Time" and nowhere is this more clear than in Roatan. Not only does it observe island time because of the influence of its latin culture, but it also an island. Islanders also are known for a slow paced approach to work and life. Understanding and accepting the realities of island time can help you assimilate into Roatan's community more easily. 


    • Don't be in a rush
    • Be Flexible
    • Be understanding
    • Remove your watch


    Being in a rush or doing business at the same temp that you would conduct business elsewhere may do more to frustrate you than it will to get others straightened out. Life outside of Roatan can be managed by the clock, but on Roatan, few occurrences adhere to strict timelines. 


    Allow amble room for tardiness and time delays in your daily agenda. For example, if you need your landscaping guy to start working on your yard at 10 am, you may choose to schedule him for 9 am instead. And even then, its probably a good idea to have a fall back plan. Schedule the work to be done a few days before you need it to be done so that you can reschedule an appointment as needed. 


    On Roatan, we use watches for SCUBA and for knowing when the work day is over. Beyond that, the watch offers a round about time of when things may get done. So dump it, or stop looking at the minute hand. Many transactions and appointments on Roatan are set by approximate times instead of exact times. Few on Roatan will question you being five minutes late. 


    Doing Business in Roatan

    Legal Considerations


    Foreigners can incorporate in Honduras. Forming a legal corporation is a fairly straightforward process in Roatan. We advise you work with a local attorney so that the formation and registration of your corporation are properly recorded. Your attorney will ensure that your new corporation is registered and on record with the Chamber of Commerce. Your tax identifier is called an RTN which is the acronym for "Registro Tributario National." You can expect the process of incorporating a new organization to take anywhere from one to four weeks depending on your attorney and the type of business you are trying to incorporate. As soon as the new entity is chartered, you'll be able to apply for a business license. Formal inspections will follow after your corporation is formally established. A business license is required to legally operate a business. Once you complete this process, you'll be required to renew your business license each year. 

    As an employer, you'll be responsible for collecting income tax and in many cases, other forms of taxes. While the percentage of the tax amount might change, these are a few of the taxes Roatan businesses might be responsible for collecting: 

    • Income Tax
    • Cigarette or Alcohol Tax
    • Tourism Tax (levied on hotels and rental properties)

    Honduran Labor Laws

    One of the most important aspects of going into business in Roatan is understanding labor laws. Honduran labor laws are favorable to employees. For instance, the legal workweek in Honduras constitutes a 44 hour work week. This usually means working 8 hours a day for five days and then working an additional half day each week. All hours worked above and beyond the 44 work week are paid for overtime hours. 

    All newly hired employees go on an automatic 60 day trial period. After the trial period, employees are entitled by law to receive all benefits including severance pay. A small exception to this rule applies to employees you hire to work in your home, these are called "domestic" employees and their trial period is only 15 days. 

    Severance pay is accrued by each employee as they work. As an example, if an employee has worked for you for more than five years, and is fired, then that employee is entitled to five months worth of their average monthly income. A good business practice is to write up and execute a contract with each employee good for one year. At the end of each contract, pay off the severance and then enter into a new contract the following year. Employees who quit or leave the company through a formal resignation are entitled to their vacation and bonus pay which should be proportional to their time worked. Employees receive 14 months worth of pay over the course of a calendar year. Employers in Roatan are required (by law) to pay bonus twice each year. The first bonus is paid out in June and the other in December. Each bonus is equal to one month worth of wages. 

    Human Resources

    A pregnant woman has special protections under the law, and they can almost never be fired. 

    It is also illegal to hire foreigners who do not have proper permission to work in Honduras. 

    If you purchase an existing business, the employees you inherit have the right to demand the payment of outstanding benefits from the previous ownership. As the new owner, you'll be responsible for paying these wages so be sure to work that into your purchase agreement. 

    Honduran National Holidays

    What follows are national paid holidays which are observed on Roatan. If an employee works on any of these holidays, they will do so at double their regular pay. Conversely, employees are entitled to be off work during these holidays. 

    • New Year Day (January 1st)
    • Easter  (March/April) 
    • America's Day (April 14)
    • Bay Islands Annex Day (April 22)
    • Labor Day (May 1)
    • Morazan Day (October 3)
    • Columbus Day (October 12)
    • Armed Forces Day (October 21)
    • Christmas Day (December 25)

    *Employees do not get double the pay when working on the Bay Islands Annex day. However, the holidy is observed throughout the Bay Islands and businesses are usually closed. 


    What follows are observed national holidays which do not require employers to pay employees at double their rate:

    • National Women's Day (January 25)
    • Day of Our Lady of Suyapa (February 3)
    • International Women's Day (March 8)
    • Father's Day (April 19)
    • Mother's Day (2nd Sunday in May)
    • Student's Day (June 11)
    • Honduras Day (July 14)
    • Lempira Day (July 20)
    • National Flag Day (September 1)
    • Children's Day (September 10)
    • Teacher's Day (September 17)
    • National Youth Day (October 28)
    • Day of the Dead (November 1)


    Domestic Employees 

    Domestic employees are employees who, generally speaking, work inside a private residence. Domestic employees do get the same benefits are not entitled to the entire employment benefits which traditional employees are entitled to. Anyone you hire to work in your private residence is entitled to whatever pay you agree upon. These employees are not entitled to the bonus month pay. They are not entitled to any severance pay either. 


    Building on Roatan

    Roatan Architects

    Working with a local architect can prove to be a good move for many homeowners we are new to Roatan. Local Architects are familiar with local regulations, materials, vendors, and the topography around Roatan. Homeowners who decide to use a foreign architect go above and beyond normal standards to gather and provide information about the property to their architect. 

    Honduran law requires that all building plans are signed by an architect or engineer who is registered in Honduras before building permits in Roatan can be issued. For this reason, it is beneficial to establish a relationship with a local architect even if a foreign architect is taking the lead in the building design. Homeowners who elect a local architect have the added benefit of receiving building plans which already include the proper stamps and signatures from local authorities. By contrast, foreign architects must have all their plans and documents turned into local authorities for signatures and approvals. 

    Building Plans 

    Building requirements in Roatan include height restrictions and proximity restrictions to natural property markers. These may include setbacks from property boundary or setbacks from the waterfront if the property being developed has an oceanfront characteristic. There are also easements and right of ways for utilities and access roads. 

    Local architects are good about meeting with local planning officials on site to determine any restrictions and or any requirements that might be needed to obtain the proper permits. Roatan subdivision might also carry special requirements, such as codes, or covenants, and sometimes restrictions which might have been imposed by the developer of the subdivision. 

    Building permits in Roatan are required before breaking ground. Builders will apply for permits on or about 15 days ahead of any construction work. Obtaining permits is not cheap. Many reports indicate that as much as 5% of their total budget was paid in building permits. 

    Construction and Maintenance Costs

    On the average, building cost to build in Roatan is approximately $100 - $150 per square foot for wooden structures. Cement structures range from $150 - $200 per square foot. Outdoor decks and living spaces can amount to 40% of the cost spent on interior spaces. As in all projects, retaining walls, foundations, and roads can all have a direct impact on building cost. 

    Tropical Living Design

    Tropical home designs on Roatan should consider the relatively high cost of electricity and tropical conditions which are sure to develop. Developing outdoor spaces which blend with the natural environment will enhance the value and comfort of the property. For these and other reasons, cross ventilation designs which consider air flow and direction are common and essential on Roatan. Material selection, design orientation, proper shading, water collection, and ultimately storage capacity can all reduce the operating cost of a home designed for tropical Roatan weather.  


    Roatan Climate

    Weather & TRADE WINDS

    The climate in Roatan is strongly influenced by trade winds coming from the east and by cold fronts during the winter months in the northern hemisphere. Also, tropical weather waves cross directly over the island of Roatan, mainly between May and October. In recent years, the average annual precipitation has been 1343.68 mm (min: 396.40 mm, max: 2117.80 mm), with an average temperature of 28.14 ° C (min: 20.86 ° C, max: 32.70 ° C). Main months for precipitation are October, November, and December, respectively; while the driest months are April and May, respectively. The highest temperatures occur in September, August, and June, while the lowest temperatures occur in January, December, and February.


    The three main islands have been affected by hurricanes and coral bleaching episodes, most recently in 1998 and 2005 correspondingly. Following these degradations, which have been linked to natural phenomena, the skeletons of dead coral have been invaded by macro-algae. When dense, macro-algae enter into competition with surviving corals, they disturb the fixation of coral larvae. 

    LIONFISH (Pterois volitans and P. thousands)

    The first lionfish (Pterois spp.) Reported in Honduras was a specimen caught on Roatan Island in May of 2009. This fish is a native species of Indo-Pacific, which has spread
    extensively along the West Atlantic, producing a predatory invasion at a speed of unprecedented magnitude. There is a growing concern that the presence of this fish affects the structure and function of the invaded ecosystems. A study of the area in the Caribbean revealed that between 2004 and 2010 lionfish represented 40% of the biomass of predators in the ecosystem. This increase coincided with a 65% decrease in biomass of 42 species of fish on which the lionfish feed. 


    There have instances of a decrease in live coral cover and a loss of reef habitat. The living coral cover refers to the proportion of the surface of the reef covered by stony corals which form the three-dimensional framework of the Reef. McField and Kramer (2007) estimate that a "healthy reef" is the one that has a living coral cover of between 40% and 50%. Unfortunately, during this same period, the reefs around the Bay Islands had a coral coating rate of around 20%. Keeping within the scale of values observed today on other reefs in the Caribbean, this Coral cover is not very high. This is due in part because the reef around Roatan and the Bay Islands have undergone three episodes of "coral bleaching" in 1995, 1998 and 2005. During the first two coral bleaching (1995 and 1998) there was a coral mortality on the order of 50%. Likewise, the impact of cyclonic waves generated by Hurricane Mitch in November 1998, affected mainly the reefs of the southern coasts of the Guanaja and Roatan Islands; being the reefs of the Island of Guanaja more affected than those of Roatán. The coral communities of Utila Island have few traces of Mitch's passage while the old damages caused by Hurricane Fifi are still observed today. It is important to add the impact of the sediment feathers that reached the Islands during this atmospheric phenomenon. Other natural phenomena include a series of anthropic impacts, related to the pressures derived from the high sedimentation and contamination runoff that drain into the reefs around Roatan and the Bay Islands. These pressures lead to an increase in the frequency of diseases that affect coral species. Finally, the reef habitat, in general, is also impacted by the extraction of coral materials through dredging. This type of practice is quite destructive to the marine environment if extractions are wildly practiced and practiced without a prior impact study. Past visits to numerous extraction sites around Roatán and other more recent visits have also caused controversy as we saw with the dredging for the cruise ship pier at Mahogany Bay. However, the latter case has been carried out under an environmental license and with the National Interest of the Honduran Congress.


    Increased coverage of fleshy macro-algae and discharge of organic matter from domestic and industrial sources stimulated the development of calcareous green algae around the Bay Islands. In populated leeward areas, calcareous green algae have taken control of the background space previously covered by corals. These algae affect the quantitative distribution of many coral species which have a positive environmental impact on Roatan's reef system. These algae have not only shown a susceptibility to organic matter but also a resistance to toxic compounds (heavy metals, hydrocarbons, polyaromatic hydrocarbons and PVCs) mainly from shipyards and gas stations. These compounds, limit the development of many of the benthic organisms. The resistance of these algae to these compounds, coupled with their susceptibility to organic matter makes these algae the main competitor for the same space occupied by corals. The loss of the main reef herbivores because of the excessive fishing and the mortality of coral headband in 1983 is another cause (of a natural nature) that has caused dramatic increases in macro-alga, so much so that the macro-algae have invaded many reefs that previously dominated the corals.



    Decreased abundance of herbivorous organisms on the reef corals and fleshy macro-algae are engulfed in fierce competition for space on Roatan's coral reef. Further, the presence (or absence) of herbivores eating the macro-algae can tip the scale to one side or the other. Sea urchins and fish (parrot and surgeon) are the two most important groups of reef herbivores. These fish control the abundance and composition of both coral and algae species - especially the largest macro-algae that compete directly with corals for space. Sea urchins (Diadema antillarum) are perhaps the most important herbivores in Caribbean reefs, regarding their influence on the structure and composition of the coral reef. Their presence in a moderate amount contributes to low levels of large algae, relatively few algal blooms and high levels of coralline algae - conditions that encourage coral recruitment and more abundant living coral cover. The widespread mortality of marocurridae in 1983 throughout the Caribbean coincided with a dramatic and rapid increase in macrophyte coverage in many of the reefs. 



    Herbivorous fish such as parrotfish (Scaridae) and surgeon (Acanthuridae) are also important to maintain the health of the reef ecosystem as they reduce the macroalgae that invade the corals and help to create an appropriate substrate for the recruitment of new corals. However, these specimens are easy prey for fishermen. 


    Unsustainable fishing practices, such as over-fishing and illegal fishing are very serious threats. The greatest danger is the species that are the percoid fishes (Serranidae), snappers (Lutjianidae), the snail (Strombus gigas) and lobster (Panulirus argus). Overfishing directly affects fish stocks and larger individuals, thus reducing spawning capacity and recruitment of larvae. Box and Bonilla (2008) found that in the case of the Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus), the species has been decreasing in numbers due to commercial and artisanal fishing practices in Honduras. Likewise, there has been a historic decline in lobster populations (P. argus) as fishermen were harvesting and selling specimens with tails smaller than 14 cm. Throughout the region, there was a high catch rate of small lobsters. These practices have long been improved, but constant education and supervision are required to ensure lobster sales continue to meet international trade standards. 


    Roatan Ecosystems



    The area around Roatan and the Bay Islands is considered to be a Tropical Humid Forest. This area of life is restricted to narrow lowlands and covers coastal plains. The flora that integrates the vegetation of the area has characteristics and morphological features which include trees, shrubs, and grasses; as well as an evergreen, deciduous phenology.



    Mangroves estuaries, coastal lagoons, and Mangrove wetlands are found throughout Roatan and its surrounding islands. In Utila, this type of ecosystem occupies 37% of the island's surface area. In Roatan, this type of ecosystem occupies 7.2% of the islands surface area. In Guanaja figures for this type of ecosystem drop to 6%. Utila Island, which is home to a significant portion of mangrove swamps, has a large vegetal landscape and a high level of biodiversity. This gives Utila a strong patrimonial value. 



    For example, this habitat represents a limited shelter for the Chachalaca (a  tree-dwelling bird of the guan family "Ortalis vetula deschauenseei) of Utila Island. This bird subspecies is endemic to the mangroves of the island of Utila. The Chachalaca was believed to be extinct in years past but is now protected and growing. 



    The garrobo (Ctenosaura similis) is another example, of a native species on the Island of Utila which dependent on the local ecosystem of the mangroves and is considered Critically Endangered. 



    The mangroves in Roatán are distinguished by the sites they occupy, their size, and their anthropic impact. Apart from the large mangrove that stretches between its eastern extremity and Santa Elena (which is considered to be in good state of conservation) the mangrove on Roatan Island is heavily threatened by building and urban developments. This is particularly true on the western side of Roatan Island.  



    On the island of Guanaja, mangroves were almost destroyed by the passage of Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Evaluations of the damage three years later concluded that there are few (if any) signs of natural recovery. Reforestation efforts are critical in reinstating the mangrove population to their original levels. In the northern sector, however, known as Mangrove Bight there are significant remnants. Some mangroves, although covering small areas, occupy very strategic sites such as basins with strong slopes, a proximity of notable reefs, shore of sensitive lagoons, and neighborhoods with polluted urban areas, etc. In these areas, the mangroves have a very important function and value. The presence of Mangroves in these areas can reduce the vulnerability of these coastal landscapes and allow for robust ecosystems, particularly around coral reefs. 



    As for coastal lagoons, the island of Utila has a small lagoon and a mangrove area at the east-south-east end of the island. This area comes into contact with the main town. This intersection zone might be considered a potential conflict of interest because, on the one hand, the area offers a landscape and faunistic variety, while on the other hand, the area is a nursery for parasites (mosquitoes) at the center of this inhabited zone.

    Marine Ecosystems 


    Sea Grass Seagrasses develop mainly at shallow depths. Growth ranges from a few decimeters up to 2 or 3 meters in lagoons, in the depressions behind the reefs and the bottoms of bays. Seagrass grows in sectors near the coast or in areas bordered by mangroves with generally sandy-muddy to muddy bottoms. Seagrass pastures cover most of these plateaus. Tortoise Grass (Thalassia testudinum) and Manatee Pastures (Syringodium filiforme) are two of the main species of seagrass found in Roatan, Guanaja, & Utila. In most cases in mixed formation, which indicates an instability of the environment or ecosystem. This instability could be attributed to the narrowness of the continental plateau and the particularly abrupt nature of the slope of the external reefs. Little seagrass is found outside the coral reefs. This varied coastal position makes the seagrass vulnerable to anthropic attacks and makes the fragile ecosystem vulnerable in the face of the economic development of the island or Roatan



    Within the species of marine fauna which are strongly associated with the marine grasses, the Queen Snail (Strombus gigas) is among the most dependent on a healthy seagrass pasture and ecosystem. The size of the shells for this particular mollusk left behind by fishermen gives us insight into the pressures exerted on this species in the absence of a robust seagrass coverage. The reduction of pasture areas threatens the survival of this and other mollusk species. 



    The development of seagrass is more limited in Utila than in the other Bay Islands. This is due in part to the weak development of onboard reefs that do offer sufficiently wide sedimentary plateaus for the development of seagrass. The seagrasses in Utila are found on the sandy bottoms of Turtle Harbor, Rock Harbor, Carrie's Bay, Utila Town Bay and in large plateaus of barrier reefs to the southwest of the island of Utila. 



    Seagrass can also be found in front of the populated areas of Mangrove Bight and North East Bight on the Island of Guanaja. This area has sandy bottoms covered by marine phanerogams. Seagrass occupies a considerable area in the waters around Guanaja Island. In Guanaja, almost all of the island's onboard and barrier reefs
    are covered by pastures. 



    The coverage of coral reefs in Honduras amounts to at least 1120 km2. The concentration of coral reefs in Honduras is found mostly around the Bay Islands. These ecosystems are highly diverse and productive areas which bring socio-economical benefits to Honduras. Coral reefs constitute one of the most fragile and sensitive organisms which can be impacted by human activities.

    The Bay Islands have diversified coral reefs with almost all the known reef morphologies. The variety of these habitats made it possible for a rich and varied flora and fauna ecosystem to thrive in Honduras. 



    The maximum biodiversity of coral communities is found in the outer slopes at a depth of 10 to 20 m. The depth provides the optimal conditions of illumination and agitation (the two main ecological factors that control the settlement of corals). On the protected shores (southern coast of Roatan and Guanaja) fragile coral formations (Agaricia Tenuifolia, Acropara cervicornis) dominate the coral community of the outer slopes and Morphological structures. 



    Unique coral formations are found on the southern coast of Roatan Island. Coral reefs in this area have been protected from bleaching because of high currents which appear to favor a constant cleaning of excess nutrients and other contaminants coming from the largest developments on the Roatan Island. The three coral banks that make up the Bank area of Cordelia have large extensions of deer horn (Acropora cervicornis) coral. This species of coral has seen nearly three decades of massive mortality around the Caribbean. However, Cordelia Banks shows signs of being amongst the last large population site of A. Cervicornis. These banks are a source of propagules (coralline larvae) with the potential to repopulate the regional communities in the region.



    Banco Cordelia's coverage also shows high rates of living coral. These numbers are estimated to be at 70% above of the regional average. However, this area is a singularity and not reflective of the rest of the reef population in this area. Human activities directly threaten an estimated 34% of reefs in or around Honduras. This ecological sensitivity refers to the reflection of the intrinsic characteristics of the environment (e.g., biodiversity, an abundance of populations and the value of the surrounding landscape) and their ability to withstand alterations and resisting stress (resilience). For each of the islands, the following sectors are of particular interest in the preservation of coral reefs.


    • The barrier reef that extends to the west of the island
    • The coastal sector comprising Turtle Harbor and Rock Harbor


    • The reef of Cordelia Bank (submerged barrier in front of the airport)
    • The West End reef complex, including West End Point
    • Exterior slope and wall between Coco View and First Bight
    • The reefs from Milton Bight to Punta Blanca
    • The eastern part of Roatán: Santa Elena and Barbareta


    • The reefs along the West End and Blue Rock Point
    • Reefs around South West Cay
    • The reefs around Half Moon Cay and Kiatron's Cay
    • Reefs stretching from Black Rock Point to East End

    Each of these areas contains most of the geomorphological and ecological units which have been found in the Bay Islands. In fact, they possess a great diversity of biotopes (sandy bottoms, pastures, plateaus coral, external slopes) as well as fauna and flora leafy. 

    The dynamics of these ecosystems and their impact on Roatán Marine Reserve show that there is indeed an effect significant in the abundance of fish and that the protected area is more abundant in large fish (biomass> 700 g) than in other areas. 


    Roatan Marine Park

    Non-Government Organization (NGO)

    The Marine Park works as a Non-Government Organization (NGO). It operates primarily out of the fees it collects from its membership base. That money goes directly into Marine Park programs. Visitors to Roatan can help financially by becoming members of the Marine Park. Visitors can also help by not touching the reef when they go out on a dive, and by not standing on the reef when out snorkeling. 

    Learn more about the Marin Park Program: 

    • Protected Habitat
    • Management Scheme
    • Biodiversity Communities
    • Project Objectives
    • Conservation Zones

    Marine Park Overview

    Protection of the Reef

    Roatan is sheltered by the second largest living coral reef in the world; it’s called the Mesoamerican Reef System. Here on the island of Roatan, protection of this international treasure is entrusted to the Roatan Marine Park

    Location of the Reef

    The Mesoamerican Reef System starts from Quintana Roo in Mexico, and it comes all the way down past Belize, past the little nook of Guatemala and onto the northern coast of Honduras. It’s the second largest barrier reef in the world. The reef covers more than 1,000 kilometers of coastline and is home to endangered marine turtles, more than 500 fish species and over 60 different types of coral

    What grows on the Reef?

    Every single square inch of that reef has something going on. Everything there is alive. Not just little creatures like crabs and shrimp and lobster, but that piece of coral is a living organism that breathes and multiplies every year. Coral is both an animal and a plant. It has a stomach. It has a mouth. It has polyps that create a colony. Inside those polyps live micro-algae called zooxanthellae and they work just like a plant. They go through photosynthesis, they commute sugar, and they provide the coral with 80% of its nutrients. That’s the color that you see in coral. When you see this colorful rock, this colorful rock is not only an animal, but it’s also a plant. It’s the most amazing organism that’s in the ocean. The Biodiversity of the marine park is second to none. 

    Marine Life on the Reef

    Thousands of tourists visit Roatan each year, drawn by the opportunity to dive and snorkel on what is arguably the most outstanding reef formation in the world. Unfortunately, these activities threaten the very resources upon which they depend, particularly coral. If you look at something and you think, oh well, there’s nothing growing there, if you look closer, there’s something growing everywhere out there. It’s extraordinary. On occasion, snorkelers go out to the reef, and they stand on it maybe because they need to adjust their masks. But if someone were to say to them “Stay off the coral!” Some might respond: “Oh no, there’s nothing here, it just rocks.” But that is not the case. Everything out there is covered in life. It’s amazing. From enormous Whale sharks to tiny Sea Horses, the Mesoamerican reef system is home to a stunning variety of marine life. 

    Roatan has got a lot of fish. The clouds of Blue Tang that we get are so wonderful, and they all feed at the same time. It common to see them coming across the reef, and it seems like they communicate with each other, and suddenly all dive down and feed and then set off again all as one group. Eagle Rays are a local favorite; they’re fantastic and majestic in how they carry through the clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. Eagle Rays are magnificent, beautiful, and they’re serene creatures. These creatures pass peacefully over the reef wall, and they are always a favorite sighting to for divers. 

    Roatan Endangered Turtles

    Roatan has a healthy population of turtles, which are endangered. But they seem to be making a comeback in the waters around Roatan. In general, Roatan is not known for the big things, so you’re not going to see big sharks or mantas, but you are going to see lots of little things. Lots of nudibranchs, different types of coral, you’ll see all the sponges, bluebell tunicates. You need to have an eye, and you need to go slow to see. If you go quickly, you’ll miss most of the beauty on Roatan's reef. 

    • Types of Turtles
    • Printable Info-graph
    • Fun Factoid on Turtles

    Marine Park Purpose

    The Marine Park Function

    The dedicated men and women of the Roatan Marine Park work hard to protect this fragile island’s most precious natural resource. It’s a big job, and one they take very seriously. The Roatan Marine Park came about as a result of local people who have been around the reef for well over 30 years, saw reef when it was in really good conditions and then saw the reef begin to deteriorate. The Roatan Marin Park was formed to help combat the damage from a growing number of visitors to the island of Roatan. Today, the Roatan Marine Park organization has grown in its membership and presence around the island of Roatan. It’s pretty big; it’s pretty strong and more and more members are coming on. More and more of the diving communities are backing the efforts put forward by the marine park. The Marine Park is responsible for all of the marine infrastructure in the marine protected area. So, the mooring lines, the channel markers, the things that keep people safe going in and out of the reef day and night. 

    LOCAL OUTREACH and Support

    The Marine Park is gaining ground and earning widespread support from local businesses and government officials. Education is key to a lot of what needs to get done around the reef. For this reason, the Marine Park educates the community on an ongoing basis. And it's paying off. People are starting to pay attention, and the organization is finding more and more volunteers, local people who have stepped up and said, "yeah, let’s do this". In ten years from now; Roatan will be in a better place because more people will realize that they can reduce the negative impact they have on the reef.  The Roatan Marin Park has always requested that If you’re enjoying your visit to Roatan, then please do your part to protect the extraordinary reef around the Bay Islands. And of course, visitors can always stop by the Marine Park office in West End to pick up a few souvenirs for friends and family back home. 


    Physical Characteristics



    The Island of Roatán has a length of more than 45 km and 3.5 km of average width. Roatan extends east to the Island of Santa Elena through a mangrove forest. East of Santa Elena is the Islands of Morat and Barbareta. These series of small islands are surrounded by Roatan's barrier reefs. Coral reefs exist along the northern coast which can measure 1.0 km to 1.5 km in width, while coral reefs on the south side of Roatan Island are much narrower, 500 m on average. 


    Roatan Island has developed reef formations in the totality of its costs and shorelines. The same is true for the islands of Guanaja and Utila. These coral reefs belong to the main morphological type found in the Caribbean: barrier reef, onboard reef, cay reef, lagoons, and coral reefs.


    The reef formations around Roatan have very different morphologies  (shapes). There are three types of coral reefs around the island or Roatan. There are Barrier reefs, Atolls, & fringing reefs. These coral formations are quite different from each other. Sometimes, the reef forms a gradual slope away from the shoreline. This reef structure is referred to as a fringing reef. This is the case on the southern shore between West End and Coxen Hole. The coral slop in this area is composed of spurs and furrows. Furrows cover an assemblage of coralline, gorgonian, sponges, and seaweed. Underwater landscapes in Roatan are remarkable. 


    The plateau can be narrow in the area around Coxen Hole. Plateaus are wider (800 to 1,000 m) in the Northern band around West End, Sandy Bay or St. Helena. The Island of Roatán has unique characteristics in the reef along the coast between French Harbor and Calabash Bight, where bays go deep inland. These bays are fairly confined and their waters are often murky. This morphological characteristic in the coastline features is not common in Guanaja and Utila. 


    Numerous small canals have been excavated in the Roatan reef plateau, primarily in the south side of the island. Canals have been excavated to allow passage of small and large boats and cruises traveling to Roatan. 


    Coral residues have accumulated on the reef plateau after a
    Cyclonic swell, probably during Mitch's passage. The western extremity of the island is bordered by a fringing reef, submerged under 3 to 5 m of water, then a lagoon and finally a reef barrier whose plateau is covered by 3 m of water. In this sector, it appears that the reef complex has collapsed. Typically, plateaus with massifs
    scattered or dense corals are sub-fluorine. The reefs of the north coast are intersected by deep steps (from 25 m to 40 m) of abrupt slopes. The edges of the slopes are very abundant in constructions corals. 


    In Guanaja Islands, you can differentiate the south coast from the north coast by the presence of deep extended lagoons. These lagoons have a width of 500 m to 1500 m separating the barrier reef from the island of Guanaja. The lagoon has numerous pinnacles, and some of them are covered by very dense coral formations. 


    The town of Bonacca ("El Cayo") is settled on a pinnacle that was refilled. The southwest reef complex has the peculiarity of having reef barriers, parallel to the coast. It is an unusual provision that involves an external barrier reef and one or more internal barriers. Distinguishing two internal barriers in the lagoons near Guanaja is possible. However, the reefs are discontinuous and are more like an alignment of pinnacles than a reef barrier. Hence the classification that has been selected for these formations. Beyond the outer barrier, subfloor, once again two submerged barriers are found under 7 to 10 m of water. The South West Cay is located on the barrier reef offshore, about 2 km from the coast. On the southern side of Guanaja, you'll find accumulations of coral blocks on the outside of the barrier plateau reef. These "detrital walls" sometimes emerge at more than 2 m


    The following is a list of the geomorphological units that are identified in the Bay Islands and whose terminology is consistent with Battistini, which is considered as the international reference in the matter of geomorphology of coralline formations:

    • The sandy beaches
    • The reef plateau with detrital accumulations
    • The reef plateau with scattered coral massifs
    • The reef plateau with dense coral massifs
    • External reef slope
    • The pond with detrital accumulations
    • The lagoon with scattered coral massifs
    • The Pinnacles
    • The internal slope of the barrier reef
    • The barrier reef plateau with detrital accumulations
    • The barrier reef plateau with scattered coral massifs
    • The barrier reef plateau with dense coral massifs
    • The reef crest
    • External slope with scattered coral massifs
    • The external slope of ridges and furrows
    • The external slope of buttresses and valleys
    • The reef walls
    • Channels and channel slopes
    • The bays
    • Dredged areas

    Roatan Artisanal Fishing


    In Roatan, artisanal (non-mechanized) fishing is practiced and provides for local consumption on a daily basis. Industrial fishing also occurs, which serves the need for larger scale demand for fish. According to recent polling, 82% of fishermen prefer working individually, at a family level and do not participate in any community style fishing activities. The remaining 18% participate in community styles of fishing such as NGOs, Church Groups, and sports teams. 

    Non-mechanized fishing on motorboats is limited to fish populations in the immediate and surrounding areas of Roatan and the neighboring islands of Guanaja and Utila. This type of fishing is practiced and occurs just off the reef wall and is for local or family consumption. There are fishing territories around the Bay Islands. These areas are defined. The breadth of each fishing area is directly related to the size of the fishing boat and the power in its engine. Fishing areas are shared with fishermen from other communities. Almost all artisanal fishermen in the archipelago fish only with a handheld line or they free dive spearfish. One-third of fishermen will practice both forms of artisanal fishing. Line fishing represents 70% of the activity, followed by spearfishing (27%). The direct impact study of fishing gear on reefs indicates that fishing techniques do not cause significant damage. 


    Fishing communities are mainly located in the east end of Roatan, Guanaja, and Utila. The community of Los Cayitos (in Utila) is one of the fishing communities with the most socio-economic fishing activity. Artisanal fishermen are as old-fashioned as it gets and it is alive and well in Roatan. This traditional form of fishing is still practiced daily in Roatan, Guanaja, and in Utila. 


    Sports fishing has grown in recent years as more tournaments adopt "catch and release" practices to their rules. ROA ™ is quickly becoming an international destination for anglers of all countries. Reports indicate that the size of the fish reported year over for winning anglers has grown. Learn more about fishing tournaments and sports fishing here. 


    Roatan Public Services


    HEALTH Clinics

    There are Health Centers and private clinics in all three of the Bay Islands. Roatán has several medical centers. There is one near each Municipality, and there is the Coxen Hole Hospital. Cemesa Hospital also recently opened and is not the main provider of health services in the Bay Islands. Guanaja has two main clinics, one in Bonacca Key and another on Savannah Bight. Utila has a center in Utila Town, and there are three private clinics, also in Los Cayitos. 


    Diseases such as malaria, dengue, diarrhea and bronchopulmonary diseases can be treated on the islands. But more serious complications are treated on the mainland of Honduras, usually in La Ceiba. There is a local medical clinic that offers traditional local medicine, based on medicinal plants and home remedies. 

    Education & Economic Activity


    EDUCATION by island

    Utila Island has three pre-basic educational centers and two basic educational centers. According to the Ministry of Education of Honduras, Guanaja has two educational centers and six basic education centers and a middle school. Roatan has 35 pre-primary education centers, 18 basic education centers, and two middle education centers. 



    Among the main economic activities in the Bay Islands is tourism, fishing, and exploitation of marine resources such as shellfish. Also engaged in livestock activities such as livestock, extractive activities of the forest such as timber, and agricultural activities mainly sugar cane, tobacco, & ginger. Below we will describe in detail the two activities of greater importance in the Bay Islands, which are the fishing and tourism, as well as its implications in the social dynamic of its inhabitants and visitors.

    Transportation Services


    The Roatan Airport (RTB) is the main airport for all the Bay Islands. Utila and Guanaja have small airports able to handle local flights, but not able to accommodate international arrivals into Roatan. 



    Locals prefer to move about the island of Guanaja via water taxi. The rustic roads are not maintained and are used less frequently. Overland transportation is seldom used. There is no nautical transport from and to the mainland to Guanaja. Ferry boats do exist, but there don't travel to Guanaja on a set schedule. 



    Ground transportation in Roatan comes by way of taxi services and car rentals. Taxi services are provided mainly by the local Ladino (mestizo). Reputable car rentals include Toyota Rent-A-Car and Avis Rent-A-Car. There are a few low-cost alternatives, but the business transaction is less formal. 



    Utila's road situation is interesting on that road intended for vehicles are used almost exclusively by pedestrians. Village streets are narrow and for pedestrian use as streets do not have the proper width to withstand vehicular traffic on top of pedestrian traffic. There are several Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV's) on Utila, and they (along with four wheelers) are the preferred method of transportation.  



    The Bay Islands have interest groups with competing for interest. Nowhere is that more evident than on the Roatan Island. Although the relationship between economic development and conservation objectives is a controversial topic on all three islands, Roatan is perhaps the most problematic. 

    Planned socio-economic development is a clear priority on Roatan. It is a priority in Guanaja and Utila as well, but Roatan is the largest island with the most development and the largest number of interest groups. 



    There are also daily connections to the mainland via the Galaxy Ferry. La Ceiba is an important connection to Roatan as it is the route by which much of Roatan's goods and services are obtained. Private enterprise handles Roatan water-taxi services.  



    Backpackers to Utila and Roatan reach the island primarily via Ferry as this form of transportation is more economical. Maritime transport to Utila is carried out mainly by private enterprise. The Utila Dream Ferry is largely the largest carrier from La Ceiba to Utila.  


    Lionfish Invasion

    The Lionfish is a venomous marine fish. It is native to the Indo-Pacific. The Lionfish is an invasive species to the western Atlantic, the Mediterranean Sea, and to the Caribbean Sea.


    The Lionfish is also called firefish, zebrafish, tastyfish, turkeyfish, or butterfly-cod. The fish is categorized by striking coloration with white, red, creamy, back bands, and its showy pectoral fins. The lionfish is also known for its venomous spiky fin rays.

    LIONFISH, Pterois

    Two of the estimated 12 species of lionfish, Pterois (the common and the red lionfish) established themselves as an aggressive invasive species along the East Coast of the United States the Caribbean Sea. Many have described the lionfish as one of the most aggressive invasive species on the planet.


    The introduction of lionfish into the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea occurred in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew dismantled a local aquarium in southern Florida. There are other working theories as to how the lionfish was introduced to them, but the accidental release by Hurricane Andrew is the most accepted theory. Lionfish were detected in the Bahamas in 2004, and by June of 2013, lionfish were discovered in the far eastern Caribbean, in Barbados. Today, lionfish have been spotted as far south as Brazil.


    Why not add Lionfish to your diet?



    The lionfish is known for devouring other fish populations, and they have no natural predators. They also reproduce quickly. These three factors account for the rapid spread of lionfish throughout the Atlantic and Caribbean. The lionfish is an innate adaptor and as a species is successful at establishing populations in open marine systems. Many aquatic species are limited in their spread because they are susceptible to changing oceanic temperatures. But the lionfish show high tolerance as it has managed to spread across a variety of ocean temperatures.


    The lionfish invasion is the most severe threat to the Caribbean and Atlantic coral reef ecosystems.

    The long-term effect of the invasion can only be controlled by rigorous and repeated removal. Because lionfish can reproduce monthly, it is essential that a regular harvest is in place.

    On Roatan, several groups and dive operators have organized hunting expeditions for lionfish. The hunts are often referred to as "lionfish derby."

    While culling by our marine organizations and dive operators are essential, it is necessary that lionfish population be also controlled by a market-based harvest which creates commercial incentives for the removal of lionfish.


    Is Roatan Safe

    Roatan Safety Tips

    Is Roatan Safe? Yes. That said, Honduras is a third-world country which is still a developing country.  Many of the comforts and securities which many enjoy elsewhere are simply not available in Honduras. There are cultural differences which will enrich your overall experience but can also lead to frustrations and misunderstandings. 

    Income Disparities

    The income disparities between the majority of Hondurans and those visiting Roatan is noticeable. By in large, foreigners are viewed as belonging to the wealthy class when they visit Honduras. Even backpackers who normally travel on a budget are considered to be more well off than many hard workers in the local middle class. 

    Types of Crimes

    The most common type of crime on Roatan are burglaries. These sort of crimes can be avoided by dressing down, being careful about where expensive belongings are left, and keeping to safe areas. Avoid wandering around local villages after hours.

    Most areas around Roatan are safe. Roatan offers several residential living options as well, some safer than others. For instance, residents have an option of living in gated communities or stand-alone residences with a hired caretaker of "watchman." 

    In most cases, serious crime comes to those who have neglected their safety or have acted irresponsibly. In Roatan, like most of the world, if an individual gets involved with the wrong crowd, he/she stands a solid chance of getting in trouble. Hard drugs and prostitution are in general the two activities which lead to the most exposure to trouble. And to connect with individuals who dabble in either of these two activities, one must go out and look for them. It is not easy to find these individuals without a deliberate effort. Further, both the hard drugs and prostitution are illegal in Roatan. 

    But drugs and prostitution are not the only way to get in trouble. Others have gotten into trouble simply by showing off. A general lack of prudence or showing off large sums of cash can turn visitors into prime targets for a crime of opportunity.

    As a general rule, visitors to Roatan should abide by the same safety rules they abide by at home. There are many communities around Roatan which are void of crime. Some of these include the areas of Palmetto Bay, Pristine Bay, Turtle Crossing, & Lawson Rock. Crime in these neighborhoods is prevented through a combination of gated layouts and security patrols.  

    Conversely, there are areas or town around Roatan which should be avoided after dark or in which extra precaution is recommended. Coxen Hole, Los Fuertes, French Harbour, are some of the main places where tourist and residents alike should keep a watchful eye. 

    Transportation Safety

    Be careful when riding on scooters on the island. Scooter accidents are among the most common transportation accidents we see on Roatan. There is one main road which is poorly maintained, poorly lit, and often congested. Roatan is in a third world country, and as such, it is not unusual to find cattle, horses, erratic taxi drivers, large trucks, and other unsafe motorists. Law enforcement is also slow to respond, if at all. For this reason, we encourage travelers to refrain from taking long trips on scooters. If you rent a scooter, consider staying nearby and don't venture far.


    Cybercrime is part of most third world countries. ATMs are Roatan, for the most part, reliable. However, there have been reported instances of credit card information being stolen at ATMs. For this reason, a good idea to use ATMs that are located in banks instead of using an ATM which might be outside and accessible to street pedestrians.

    Roatan is a safe island. Crime can be easily avoided by taking basic safety precautions. What follows is a list of safety tips which you can adhere to when visiting our island. Stay safe and enjoy. 


    Safety Tips

    •    Secure valuable items in a security box or safe if one is provided by your hotel, a resort, or vacation home. If you are living on the island, purchase a safe and keep your valuables inside of it unless you are using them.

    It is a good idea to make a photocopy of your passport and credit cards so that you have a record in case the originals are lost or stolen. This is good for both tourists and residents.

    •    When at the beach, or in a public area, do not leave your bags unattended. This includes leaving handbags hanging on the back of chair backs or under a table. 

    •    Exploring of isolated areas of the island is best done through a guided tour or a car, rather than on scooters. Even if you rent or own a car if you are unfamiliar with areas of the island it is best to ask someone’s advice before venturing off on your own. Obviously, there is no GPS here, so once you head off the main road, you are on your own.

    •    The beach walk between West Bay and West End should not be attempted alone, as muggings have occurred in this isolated stretch of beach. That said, this has not occurred recently. Additionally, there are several areas along this walk where there is no sand, and you must walk over very slippery rocks. It is safer, faster, and much easier to take land or water taxi.

    •    Avoid displays of money and valuables such as expensive jewelry, watches, cell phones, iPods, cameras, etc. Roatan is very casual, and by dressing casually, you will not draw attention to yourself. If you move here and get more comfortable and familiar with the area and the people, of course, you can feel at ease walking down West End road with your normal gadgets. But until you no longer look like a tourist, it is best to leave all of your electronics at home. Take the time to look around you and enjoy the scenery instead.

    •    The tropical sun is stronger. For this reason, you should apply sunscreen before exposing yourself to an extended period outdoors. This is especially true for children. If you are snorkeling, don’t forget that you may feel cool in the water but your back is exposed to the bright sun. Also be aware of dehydration, as the heat can be extreme – even once you’ve lived here for a while.

    •    There are sand flies and mosquitos throughout all tropical areas, and the bites can affect visitors. Apply repellent before going out. For sensitive individuals, use anti-­‐ itch cream or coconut oil to alleviate itchiness.

    •    Be careful driving at after hours or at dusk as pedestrians do walk along the side of the road because there aren't sidewalks along most roads in Roatan. 

    •    Be careful driving, especially near schools and day care centers during the day as kids walk to and from school along the main roads. There are usually speed bumps near all school zones, so be aware and slow down.

    •    After a rainfall, local the roads can be very slippery, and you should reduce your speed and take extra caution when driving. Potholes may be harder to spot after heavy rain, so it is always best to drive slowly and take your time.

    •    Please be careful overtaking on corners and hills when passing other vehicles.

    •    While many people will hitchhike on Roatan, you should avoid giving rides to or accepting rides from people that you do not know.
    In the unlikely event that you need a medical evacuation from the island, the U.S. military base on the mainland provide those services. Here are the emergency contact phone numbers for all emergency services on-­‐island:


    •    Public Ambulance 9919-­‐8970, 2445-­‐0428

    •    Air Ambulance/Medevac 8983-­‐6822, 9535-­‐9908


    •    Dixon Cove Fire Department 2445-­‐0428, *198

    •    Oak Ridge Fire Department 2408-­‐3794


    •    Cornerstone Medical Service – AKR 9450-­‐3253

    •    Clinica Esperanza/Nurse Peggy’s Clinic 2445-­‐3234

    •    Roatan Public Hospital – Coxen Hole 2445-­‐1227

    •    Woods Medical Center – Coxen Hole 2445-­‐1080

    •    GARM Clinic – Parrot Tree Plantation 2408-­‐3544


    •    Municipal Police, Coxen Hole 2445-­‐0416

    •    National Police Station in Coxen Hole 2445-­‐3438, *199

    •    National Police Station in Oak Ridge 2408-­‐3792

    •    Tourist Police in West End 8882-­‐8325, 9795-­‐5553, 9849-­‐7737, 2445-­‐4223

    •    Naval Police in Oak Ridge 2408-­‐3793


    •    Dr. Santiago Soto 2445-­‐2806, 9909-­‐0595