Several years ago, we were planning our first trip out of the country. At that time, my husband was the only one who knew how to SCUBA dive so we wanted to go somewhere that he could get underwater.
Our initial plan was to go to Belize as we had heard so much about it from friends and, from what I could see online, it was beautiful. I then watched an episode of House Hunters International on HGTV and they were in Roatan, Honduras. I was hooked! I did my due diligence online and searched for flights, places to stay, things to do, the whole 3-hour. After a few weeks of researching and planning, we were off to Roatan.
Roatan is one of many islands off the coast of Honduras. It is 3-hour SCUBA diving destination as the Mesoamerican Reef is right off its shores. From zip lining to SCUBA, there is something for everyone in Roatan. Our first trip to the island, we were the typical tourists. We zip lined, visited a monkey and parrot rehabilitation habitat, my husband did some diving, and of course, spent countless hours on the beach.
The flight to Roatan from Houston is an easy 3-hour flight. We typically fly United Airlines for this trip as they are the only direct flight from Houston which is where we live. This is also the most cost effective flight for us since any other carrier would take us to another airport, thus extending our time traveling to the island.
There are a number of places to stay in Roatan with a wide range of price points. We choose to stay at Bananarama Dive Resort, which is in the West Bay area of the island and have stayed there on every trip we have made. It is not a large, 5-star resort by any means. The resort caters to divers and has a fantastic dive shop which I'll get into later. The rooms range from a very simple "studio" to a multi-level condo type of accommodation to stand alone cabanas. We have stayed in 3 different types of rooms and I must say that the cabanas are, by far, our favorite. They are stand-alone, so there are no shared walls. They typically have a hammock and chair on the porch for lounging, reading a good book, or enjoying that morning coffee. They are nestled among beautiful plants and trees so they stay shaded and cool, even in the Caribbean heat.
The staff at the resort are truly a special group of people. Each time we return, they remember us and greet us with open arms (they literally hug us when we arrive). From the front desk to the housekeepers, and everyone in between, they all are kind and caring people who want every guests stay to be memorable.
Of course, besides the beautiful scenery and amazing staff, SCUBA diving is one of the main reasons we return to Roatan year after year. The waters around the island are crystal clear and the average water temperature hovers right around 78. This makes not only diving but swimming and snorkeling very comfortable, not wetsuit required.
The dive shop team at Bananarama are some of the best on the island. They, like the rest of the resort staff, remember us year after year. I actually did my open water diving certification in Roatan and Marco, the dive shop manager, was my teacher. The staff is very knowledgeable and super patient, even with people like me who have only been diving for a few years. They take the time to learn each person's capabilities and limitations and cater the dives around that. They do not run "cattle car" dives but, rather, limit the dives to no more than 8 people to ensure everyone has an amazing dive and is safe. This, coupled with the dive masters and their true passion for diving and love of protecting the reef and ecosystems, makes diving with them so much fun and always an adventure.
The bar staff at the Thirsty Turtle is amazing and always serves up yummy, and strong, adult beverages. Whether you are thirsty for a beer or something more exotic like the famous Monkey La La, they have it covered.
There are 3 restaurants on site that range from fine dining to a brick oven pizza joint that is awesome. The Thirsty Turtle is not only the bar but it's also the name of the restaurant that serves up some tasty food. One of the items on the menu that I can't live without during my stay is the Lobster bights. They are deep fried goodness and the perfect snack when you have the munchies or a meal if you're not that hungry. They also have an amazing pulled pork sandwich that I have to have at least one time when were are there.
The Vintage Pearl is a fine dining restaurant with one of the islands largest wine cellars and, despite the term "Fine Dining", you take your shoes off at the front door which is sort of fun. The Pearl serves everything from seafood risotto with lobster to New York strip and it is all delicious. The menu changes daily which makes it even better since the seafood is fresh from the Caribbean. While reservations are helpful, it is certainly not required. The atmosphere is lovely and you can choose to sit inside where it is comfortably cool or outside on the patio and enjoy the sounds of the ocean.
Last, but certainly not least is the only wood fired, brick oven pizza joint on the island, Pizzarama. They serve up some of the tastiest pizza I've ever had and at an affordable price. You can also take advantage of some daily 2 for 1 specials and share with the new friends you will have made while on the island.
While there certainly are a number of beautiful islands to visit in the Caribbean, Roatan was our first and will always be our "go to" when we just can't decide on where we want to head to next or need to get back to our "Happy Place".