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 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.
WEST BAY MALL
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 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 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.
INSTITUTE OF MARINE AND SCIENCES
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
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.
CARAMBOLA BOTANICAL GARDEN
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.
MEDICAL CLINICS IN SANDY BAY
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 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 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 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 ENERGY COMPANY (RECO)
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 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 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.
ROATAN WILDLIFE REFUGE
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 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.