I FINALLY got through editing my photos, so its high time I posted a trip report!
My husband and I went to Roatan from June 30th to July 8th 2012. Just the two of us, late 30's, only our 3rd or 4th trip to a location in the Caribbean.
Here is a link to my flickr Roatan set: flickr.com/photos/…
We stayed in Gibson Bight at the Parie house. In short, we really liked our location and were happy with our rental. We prefer quiet and privacy and this place fit the bill, but just a couple minutes drive to West End. I don't think they have a listing on Trip Advisor, if you would like details just PM me.
We rented a pick-up through Avis. I don't have experience with any other rentals there but I think I might try something else next time. There were some odd rules about visa vs m/c and insurance, a very high deposit (which I understand is pretty normal, but I think avis is one of the higher ones), etc. I am not saying it was bad, just would need to rent from someone else to compare.
Driving on the island wasn't bad but you need to be on your toes with the narrow roads (especially at night), and pothole avoidance is like a video game. Like others have said, check your spare at the time you pick up a rental. If you plan on being in just West bay and West end, taxis and water taxis are fine.
Activities wise, we snorkeled quite a bit. We kayaked out to the reef in Gibson bight a couple of times, it was really nice (especially if you go in the morning before the tide goes out). Clarity was pretty good, better earlier in the day. We snorkeled Sandy Bay a bit, more shallow areas and really enjoyed this. It offered a different variety of fish then we saw in other places, plus it was BUSTING with lobsters(no catching these guys, its a marine park). We snorkeled West Bay down at the farthest end the most. It was so big, you could snorkel in close, or go out to the edge, it was great. Plus the beach was fabulous so you could come in and just relax in the shade before heading out for another round.
The two things I wish we would have done, snorkel and stop up at Smugglers, and maybe a night snorkel like in half moon bay.
We were going to snorkel up by Camp Bay, but it ended up being really stormy and looked to be a lost cause. SO, we enjoyed some rum punches instead at La Sirena. Not a bad alternative!
The only tourist type places we visited were the Iguana park and the Blue Harbor Tropical Arboretum. The iguana park was okay, maybe something to stop by if you are driving in that area but I wouldn't make a long trip just for that. The iguanas were fun to watch, the turkeys stepping on the iguanas amusing, but that was about it. The monkeys were more concerned about food and water when we were there, and the fish in the water while big were meh. Go for the iguanas alone and you will be happy.
The Arboretum was nice and quiet, great place to hang out for photography with no other tourists around. I would pay for both tours if you can (Gardens and hydroponics). Being the off season and no one else there, I think we sort of got an abbreviated tour. We did walk away with a bit of fruit to take back to our rental though. Oh, and the funniest thing, they had the nicest bathrooms on our whole trip.
Food wise, it was really hit or miss. I did post reviews of most of the places we visited on Trip Advisor. Our absolute fav bar was Sundowners, hands down. Headed there a few times for an afternoon cocktail and to cool off in the water.
Food wise, Rotisserie chicken ended up being our fav on a flavor/value perspective. Many places we went one of our dishes would be great the other just so so. I think if we go to Roatan again, we would focus on the location/ambiance most of the time, food second. For example, the Thirsty Turtle with the sun setting, couple of rum punches and a really good live band playing was much better then just as a random lunch stop another day. I think we would also cook more at our rental next time.
The famous bugs. Well, they are there.
My husband who doesn't seem to react to mosquitos didn't have much of a problem. The no see-ums or sand fleas did bite him, but he did not itch too much. ME, I felt like I was ALWAYS coated in some sort of bug spray. If I missed a spot, it got hammered.
The mosquitos were more of an evening/night concern, and the others just depended on where you were. On west bay we didn't seem to have as bad of issues. We kayaked over to Sandy bay one day to eat at Blue Bahia. The 60 seconds it took to drag the kayaks up on shore and get our stuff out was enough to drive me batty. The no see ums went nuts. I am one of those really sensitive folks, I can actually feel them on me right away (and see them if I look real close). There is definitely a difference between a no see um and a sand flea.
Be careful with your shoes, beach towels and bags when you bring them in the house. We kept a lot of stuff on our porch after learning the hard way.
That being said, as long as I put something, anything, they were usually fine (I used 3m ultrathon or skin so soft with bug guard plus). And the normal over the counter anti itch spray worked wonders! Don't scratch them and break the skin and they will heal up fine.
Safety wise we did not run into any problems. We tried to be smart, but not obsessed. We did not leave anything in our vehicle, our only jewelry was our wedding rings (mine is subtle), I got the hubby a cheap wallet so he just carried around a small amount of cash and one credit card. We did not need our ID or passports anywhere we went. We don't stay out late in general, so we did not feel unsafe, but again, we tried to not put ourselves in any bad situation.
Lastly, the weather. It rained a few times while we were there, but I think all but once or twice it happened in the middle of the night. The day rains were usually short lived. If there was a nice breeze the heat wasn't bad at all. We had A/C in our rental but we did not use it. A fan and open windows was all we needed (our house sat up a bit so we got decent airflow). It did get pretty warm in the afternoons, best option is to just hang out in the water. The sun is intense, but as long as we wore sunscreen we had no problems. We used long sleeve UV shirts for snorkeling usually and that was nice (just REI polyester shirts rather then buy special rash guards).
All in all, we REALLY enjoyed our trip. It was probably more tropical jungle then I expected, but thats probably more because I haven't been to any islands with that feel before. It almost felt like we were camping with all the lizards in the house, bats in the deck rafters, interesting bathrooms at some of the restaurants, and of course the bugs. But for us, this was perfect. We are NOT the all inclusive type tourists. If we returned or had stayed longer we would spend more time diving and taking boat trips out other islands, but the relaxed snorkel beach time worked out great for this trip.
PHEW, sorry, long winded but I wanted to cover all the things that I spent a lot of time researching before I went.
Any questions feel free to ask!