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Roatan Trip Report – Next Time We’re Taking the Kids!

In summer of 2013 I made another attempt to  book a surprise surprise trip for Bonnie – this one for our anniversary in February. This trip to the little island of Roatan is one of our favorite trips so far. Roatan has gone from from a random dot on the map to one of the places we can’t wait to go back to! This is one trip we took without our kids – since it was our anniversary I made arrangements to have the boys stay with friends for a 4-day weekend. Next time we’re not leaving them at home, though. More on that a little later on.


I planned to use ANA’s sweet spot to the Caribbean and let United do the rest. We had no flexibility on dates but anywhere warm with a beach and an itinerary under 4,000 miles was on the table.  Roatan was the only destination with 2 seats in both directions that weekend so I booked it for 22,000 miles and $25 per person. The transfer from AMEX to ANA took 2 days which made me a little nervous as seats had come and gone in the weeks prior, but nothing changed during those 2 days and I was able to book online, no problem.  But I had to spend a few dollars and those went missing from our finances. Don’t try to sneak around when you’re married to an accountant! Then it turned out that we had to renew her passport too, and I had to tell her about the trip. Bonnie was a little worried about safety after reading up on Honduras, but Roatan doesn’t have the crime problems of some of the large Honduran cities on the mainland. We felt perfectly safe the entire time.

Getting to and staying in Roatan

was straightforward and simple on United 737s all the way. An hour to Houston and about two and a half hours on to Roatan. Travelers we met along the way looked at us like we had three heads when we told them we were only there for a long weekend. But I would think the same if we had to pay for our tickets. Just to be clear we do only have two heads between the two of us not three. But we do only have three legs. As often happens, we were taken to the front of the line at customs and straight through (on account of the whole 3 legs thing) but that just meant we got to wait a few extra minutes afterwards as there were 10 or 12 of us on flights arriving at about the same time. They had an old van that they loaded up with bags and a couple of passengers and a newer van that we piled into. Next time, I think we’ll take a taxi so we get there 15 minutes earlier and don’t have to check in along with 8 other couples and families.

We stayed at a very down to earth place on West Bay beach alternatively called Bananarama and Roatan Pearl – I’d guess the rooms are sort of similar to the ‘garden’ rooms at Polynesian resorts talked about in trip reports as opposed to the sought-after overwater bungalows. Except there are only garden rooms, the gardens are nice and make for a great private setting in the hammock on each porch, and no one is more than about a hundred feet from this beach. For simple people like us, it was the perfect place for a relaxing weekend. By asking them to match the price I found on booking.com, it cost $319 total for 3 nights including welcome drinks,  transfers to and from the airport, breakfast and wi-fi. We stayed in the ‘studio’, the only room they have without a separate bedroom or two. The one hotel on Roatan that can be booked with points is a nice-looking Choice hotels property, but it’s away from any beach. I would definitely not make that trade-off.

Bananarama doesn’t have a pool, but with the beautiful warm calm Caribbean water steps away who needs one? We spent most of our time in and by the water.


View from out in front of our room with the beach beyond

Roatan, West Bay Beach

Valentine’s Day sunset from West Bay Beach.


Looking back at Bananarama from our kayak. There were always some sort of scuba boats around.

The guy who took us out snorkeling found out just before we left that someone had stolen his anchor. He just shrugged it off – no big deal. And we took off. Without an anchor. No silly rules, you make do with what you have. He then found a boat with a kid who looked to be somewhere between 8 and 10 years old just hanging out. His dad was out snorkeling and the boy was just waiting on him. Our driver asked him if we could tie off to his boat and he happily assisted. After our driver threw him his rope this little kid replied with, “Hey bro, your rope is way too long. You got a shorter rope?” He probably didn’t know an ipad from any other kind of pad, but he was totally at home out on the water. Eventually he gave up on using our rope, preferring one of his. He proceeded to expertly tie the rope onto his dad’s boat and that was our anchor. Just awesome. That was one of many moments we wished our kids had been able to share with us. They missed out on seeing kids in another culture who live in a totally different world than they do.

Roatan DSCF0107


After snorkeling for a while, we went on around the island to Antoneys Cay for a dolphin show in the bay.


Maybe it wasn’t quite Sea World, but what a great setting!


Morning moon set and too many signs.


A water taxi ride from West Bay to West End, the nearest little town, is $3 in a simple little boat.

The town of West End would be a really cheap place to stay. While the beach there isn’t much, there are plenty of SCUBA outfitters and good inexpensive food there, and the West Bay beach is just a $3 water taxi ride away. The boat might not be more than an upside-down bathtub, but you’re in water protected by the reef and it’s all part of the relaxed country charm!

One of the things that really stuck with us is how relaxed everyone seemed. These people didn’t have a fraction of the stuff the average American seems to own but they were never the least bit stressed. Everyone was calm and peaceful – well except for a couple of tourists. One American on a water taxi didn’t really like the fact that the driver was laid back and easy going and probably not the best boat driver out there and bumped into the docking bridge. It was funny but this tourist didn’t seem to think so. Some people just can’t let go and relax… We certainly did!


Fortunately it wasn’t the first Friday of the month, or our trip would have been ruined.


The view from our breakfast table!


It rained a few times, but only once for more than a few minutes. I had an hours’ worth of work to do anyways, and the colors with passing clouds and little storms were awesome! The water was always calm..


A short walk to the end of the beach for more snorkeling. We might need a better camera for underwater shots.


…and, until next time, one last look at West Bay beach!

We have booked our anniversary trip for next year, taking advantage of nonstop Southwest flights to Cancun. And while I don’t expect it to be nearly as authentic or relaxed as Roatan, we are definitely taking the kids. The whole traveling without them thing turned out to be less fun all the way around than having them along! Oh, and I WILL manage to pull off a complete surprise trip for Bonnie one of these days.

– Kenny

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Daniel G October 30, 2014, 11:05 pm

    We have an Olympus Stylus Tough series camera that we use for underwater shots and we LOVE it. We picked it up on one of our cruises where we left our Fuji and home and didn’t regret the investment

  • Robby October 31, 2014, 5:48 pm

    As a longtime scuba diver, Roatan has been on my list for a while. Haven’t been there myself.

    Just curious – did the sand flies/fleas on the beaches bother you much? Many people often knock Roatan because of that (most folks report the bites on their ankles were an annoyance). Note your photo of the beach with the sand “raked” – I’m told this is done every day to keep the sand flies down…

    • Kenny October 31, 2014, 6:08 pm

      Sorry, I forgot to mention that. I wouldn’t let some bugs keep you away! We were well warned about the sand fleas and they provided a water faucet and buckets at the beach as well as at the entrance to each room. We put Off bug spray on our legs before going out onto the beach, washed the sand off our feet each time before going inside, and got no bites.

  • DiffPaul November 1, 2014, 7:29 am

    The sand fleas seem to go hard on some folks, easier on others. More of a problem @dawn & @dusk too. The scuba is quite nice there, and some of the cheapest class costs anywhere (Utila, another Bay Island, is less, but not nearly as nice as Roatan). Cheaper at West End than at West Bay, but Bay is a much nicer place to stay. Some great swimthroughs. I can’t complain about either the scuba or snorkeling, but one drawback is a lack of any distinctive ‘culture’.

    Kenny, if either of you is interested, the easiest and coolest night dive I’ve done was off of West Bay Beach with Bananarama. Probably costs around $40-$50 a person and I think they’d figure something out for those that hadn’t Scuba before….

  • Andy Shuman November 6, 2014, 2:24 pm

    I seem to be one of those people they go hard on. I get flea bites everywhere in the Caribbean, so it’s not like they are confined to one place or another.

    Kenny, do a xenotes tour in Cancun. As a full disclosure, my press tour back in October was complementary, but I would and will NOT hesitate to pay for it when I’m in the area again. It’s really that good!


    • Kenny November 6, 2014, 2:36 pm

      I really liked that post and looked into it back when you wrote it, but they don’t operate on Sunday, our only full day there. Half day Saturday might be possible. Could it be done on crutches? Bonnie’s prosthetic leg can’t be submerged.

      • Andy Shuman November 6, 2014, 3:56 pm

        No, sorry, I had no idea. My guess is, it could be done on crutches, well, theoretically, but I don’t know if their security regulations would allow that. There is one xenote on the tour where you ride in a canoe, but we had to swim in order to get there, and I don’t know if you can get there from the ground. I would contact them and ask.

        If it fails, try Rio Secreto. I didn’t have time to get the tour, but I spent some time with the manager, and it seems like an amazing adventure to me. And they have a dry route to see the caverns, so she won’t have to go into the water.

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