We just returned from our first trip to Roatan and wanted to share our thoughts and experiences.
Six of us. Two couples in our 50s with a recent high school grad and not quite as recent college grad.
After extensive research, we chose a house in the Turrets in West Bay called Gecko Loco. It seemed to offer the best of all worlds. The house had two master suites, both with king beds and a turret area with a single and a full/queen for the "guys." There was also a study area on the second floor that had additional sleeping, but we didn't need/use it. The house is located on the ridge above West Bay Beach and is beautiful. There are decks galore all around the house and you can see both sunrises and sunsets from this location. It is air conditioned, but we spent many hours on the outside decks with just the wonderful breezes to cool us. The owners seem to have thought of everything and I can't think of any amenity that was missing. The neighborhood pool provided the opportunity for a quick dip while waiting for the rest of the group to finish their afternoon siestas. I would happily return to Gecko Loco again.
We rented two cars from Joe at Caribbean Rentacar. The cars were reasonable and Joe was at the airport to greet us when we arrived. A few days into our trip, we had a dead battery and a phone call to Joe was all it took to get us fixed. During the process of getting the battery charged, DH mentioned that he was interested in doing some flats fishing from shore. After getting the car back in working order, Joe took DH and the "guys" to a beach where he knew bonefish were. Not only did he show them the beach, he also loaned them some fly rods. We brought our own spinning reels with light tackle, but it meant a lot that he was willing to loan us his equipment in case we needed it.
Probably our favorite experience was on Sunday morning at Entre Pisca y Nazca in Sandy Bay. Their Sunday brunch was the best I have ever experienced anywhere! We were the only patrons in the restaurant and I'm hoping we were just early. Hopefully it picked up after we left. Our waitress was delightful and we were trying so hard not to be obnoxious food gorging machines. See, the brunch is all you can eat. Not buffet style, but order off the menu style. Oh but what a menu they have. We were all trying to keep things moderate and our sweet waitress sensed our distress and just started bringing out "samplers" of just about everything. It suited us perfectly, so we could all have a little taste of everything. The fruit juices were fresh, the mimosas were wonderful, the service exceptional. The dinner menu looked great, but we never made it back to Sandy Bay at the right time to take advantage of that. If you're anywhere near Sandy Bay on Sunday, this is the place to start your day!
Another favorite of ours was having Blackie, a local lady, and her husband come cook for us. She provides several options, and we chose the coconut shrimp, breaded snapper, rice, beans, plantains, and lemon pie. The food was awesome and they were such sweethearts! We had a ton of leftovers so we were able to enjoy several meals.
The Thirsty Turtle at Banarama seemed to be our go to place when we couldn't figure anything else out. We had lunch the day we arrived, the hamburger special on Sunday night for the crab races and fire dancers, and the 2 for 1 pizza on Monday was great for carryout! Really good quality pizza.
We spent most of our time down by where the Grand Roatan is being built. The walk in beach access is easy and security was present, so we felt comfortable leaving our belongings for short periods of time. Through the week, we got to know the sales managers, bartenders, and security staff and they invited us to enjoy the use of their chairs while we were there. Of course, we bought a beer or two or twelve from them while we were there!
Typically, we would drive down from our rental (3 minute drive at most) and park at Infinity Bay. The parking was plentiful and access through the resort was easy. No one seemed to mind us cutting through and the security guards were friendly.
Sand Blasters Dune Duggy-As we mentioned earlier, we rented vehicles from Joe at Caribbean Rentacar. Joe is also the owner of the Sand Blaster Dune Buggy tours. We spent a fun filled afternoon with Joe and his guides on the Off Road excursion. We were blessed with rain early in the morning before our adventure, so the mud pit was a true muddy experience! The ride was good dirtily fun and the views were amazing. I highly recommend this!
Steel Pan Alley-Probably one of the most rewarding things I've ever done on vacation! In the space of 1.5/2 hours, the six of us managed to learn three songs on the steel pan drums and actually didn't sound too bad! The school is run by a retired music teacher who started the school with her retirement funds about eight years ago. Tuition is free for the students and the price for visitors to attend goes toward the school as well as to her student "teachers." Additional tips are split equally among the students teaching that day. My student teacher couldn't have been any more than 9 years old, yet he had a great understanding of the tempo and notes. We would definitely do this again!
Fishing-We went out for a half day with Ronny and Forrest of Ronny's Barefeet Bar in West End. They picked us up at 6 am (gasp) from the Infinity Bay dock. The winds had been strong the entire time we were there, and they didn't let off while we were fishing. This made for a rough trip, but we had a good time. Ronny had warned us ahead of time that is would be a little "wet." The fishing was not the greatest, but I blame the weather, not the guides for that. We still managed to catch tuna and Ronny prepared it for us back at his bar. There is nothing better than eating fresh caught grilled fish on a lovely beach in the Caribbean. Life just doesn't get much better!
A few of us experienced the sand fly/sand flea/no see'um bites, but none of us had any reactions and the bites seem to disappear within 24 hours. I used baby oil for the no see'ums when I thought I was getting bit, and deet wipes in the evening. I think I experienced one mosquito bite the entire trip. I'm not saying that this is the norm, but we were staying in a pretty high elevation with sustained winds and the bugs just were not a problem for us. That being said, I would still bring and utilize whatever was necessary on future trips.
We took some 100s, and 20s along with credit cards. The 100s were accepted at places where our totals exceeded 100, but we didn't try to use them to pay for smaller purchases/activities. The 20s seemed to work well. We didn't have any trouble getting change back even if it was broken into dollars and lempiras. Credit cards were accepted at more places than expected and even American Express and Discover were accepted at the larger resort/restaurants. The only potential problem we encountered was with our newer Chase Sapphire card that didn't have the larger raised numbers. For items that required an imprint with the older manual machines, the Chase card would not imprint so we had to use another type of card. Not a problem, just not anticipated.
Into every perfectly planned vacation a little misadventure will fall. For me, it was the failure of two underwater cameras. My Canon D10 starting leaking around the cable input seal. I was able to get four underwater pictures and then capoot. Fortunately, the battery and disk area still maintained a good seal, so the few pics I had were salvageable. My Olympus SW 720 was my back up and on the last day, everything I shot was blurry. Once I got home, it seemed to correct itself.
While I would like to have a photo journal of my experiences, I have to realize that the true experiences are already in my heart and my head and I'm really not a good enough photographer to truly capture the moments. So, I'll keep the pictures in my head, the feelings in my heart, and use the pictures I do have to remind me of how blessed I was to have the experiences.
Not a pleasant topic to discuss, but the warnings still need to be heeded. On a quiet beach with no one apparently around, members of our group had an iPhone, flip flops, a video camera, and water shoes taken from a beach bag. As previously discussed on this forum, the crimes are generally those of opportunity. We were on a deserted beach, away from the tourist areas and we were not vigilant because we thought we were the only people around. We walked the beach and only realized upon our return that the items were missing.
But, with that being said, we never felt unsafe in our travels around the island. The people of Roatan are friendly and helpful. The theft was disappointing, but did not change our overall opinion of Roatan.
I would hop a plane tomorrow to get back to Roatan if I could. Till then, I will have to be content trying to plan our next vacation there. We have experienced many destinations in the Caribbean and so far Roatan is our favorite!