Recommended Safety En Route to Honduras
by Karen Leahy
Friday, October 5, 2018
I hadn’t planned on coming to Honduras, however looking back on it now it is a funny sequence of events. Many would think it’s due to Honduras’ reputation for danger. that didn’t bother me at the time and I can assure you safety is not any more of an issue here than anywhere else in the world. I went to Mexico after living with many Mexicans while at University in Scotland. My idea was to run away from my job working for a designer. Although learning in a fast-paced environment was great and this paid for my studies, fashion was never for me. I’ve always hated shoes and even flip flops hurt my feet. My plan was to wear shoes as little as possible while learning Spanish which would be funded by teaching English. While I was in Mexico taking an English teaching certificate course, I met a couple who worked as dive instructors in the Bay Islands. They told me I should come and check out the island and try scuba diving for my first time. Considering I was desperate to get off the beaten tourist track and away from English speakers and really immerse myself in a new culture, the holiday destination island didn’t appeal to me. Unfortunately, I realized that due to the tourism boom in Mexico I would have made more progress learning Spanish if I had stayed in my house share in Scotland so I swiftly moved on to Guatemala where I signed up for an intense and very effective course for cheap. A couple of months later after living in a house as a vegetarian with a Guatemalan family, I quite literally had my fill of rice, tortilla and not a vegetable in sight. I won’t go into too much detail here but you can imagine the lack of vegetarian options and my craving for a salad. Mix a salad with some parasites on a chicken bus and boom you find yourself on a new path you hadn’t planned, at a border with a doctor and suddenly that touristy English speaking – salad friendly island sounds like a treat. So please don’t fear your safety, fear your salads.
Best of the Bay Islands
The Bay Islands are situated on the Caribbean coast of Honduras. The main islands are Roatan (the biggest), Utila and slightly harder to reach but well worth a visit is Guanaja. Apart from that, there are a collection of small islands called Cayos Cochinos easily accessible on a day trip from Roatan as well as Pigeon Cay which is literally that small deserted island you have seen in the media, the typical picture of paradise. My shoestring salary tendency for hippy and misleading travel guide had me aching to on the ferry to Utila instead of the upper-class deck of the Roatan departure from La Ceiba, the closest small city on the mainland of Honduras.
Roatan v’s Utila
After arriving to Roatan I promptly realised, you can pretty much live on the same budget on either island. If your favorite past times are like mine; $1 beers or $ 5 (bottle) wine, sand in your toes, leaning against a palm tree under the stars with good friends made from a small caring community. Not to mention the immediate access to nature, white beaches, full moons, and sunrise swim then you know you have come to the right place. Like anywhere there is a preference for one place or another, my personal is Roatan, not because bigger is better but it certainly provides more space. Utila sounds great on paper, no cars, just tuck tucks and bicycles but with freedom comes a lack of order and small streets, less beach space feels more hectic to me that Roatan even though the tourism industry here is much larger. Maybe I just need to visit again and explore the day trips and quiet sides of the island, but for now, let me tell you about the ease of traveling to Roatan.
Arriving on Roatan by ferry or flight
It was night time when I arrived off the evening ferry and still I could see the beautiful nature on the island. Less stress than arriving at places on the mainland or any major city. An easy 30-minute taxi ride from the port meant I had time to appreciate the island. Though taxi’s directly from there are more expensive than average, at least there are systems in place to regulate the charges. Taxi “collectivo” stops for many people making it cheaper and when arriving at the port or the airport a short walk outside the gate cuts the price more than half. The airport Roatan Coxen Hole is a mere 25 minutes from our destination town West End.
Sunrise, swim, and snorkel
Life traveling to places where you know people or you have a pocket full of good advice is always best. We had arrived at the local beach bar where my friends had asked friends to look out for a new blonde girl and let her know her accommodation was booked right next door. A couple of nightcaps after check-in and I woke up the next morning just steps from the beach for my first sunrise swim and snorkel, a habit I kept up for the rest of my stay. After which it was a couple of steps back to a fresh Honduran coffee and smoothie and try one of the most traditional island foods. The baleada is a thick tortilla filled with fried beans, cheese or what they call butter but is more like cream. You can add chicken, beef, avocado, egg and all for just 25 lempiras (local currency) or $1 US dollar, just one of these will keep you full for the rest of the day no doubt.
Must see beaches
The slightly more expensive resort town consisting of various star hotels, restaurants and bars is called West Bay (not West End as above- be sure to remember that when you are looking for a taxi). Located on one of the most pristine beaches with flat clear turquoise water. It can be reached by taxi, car or the easiest is water taxi from West End for just $3 US in less than 15 minutes.
Camp Bay Beach
Another must-see beach is Camp Bay; a pristine and protected beach on the other side of the island, meaning the turquoise water is usually waving crashing against a soft white and deserted beach. The easiest thing to get here is to organize a tour or rent a car. It’s on the East End of the island and with only one main road around the island it is easy to find. It’s perfect for a day trip or overnight stay, you can stop in various restaurants, bars, and lookout points. Once you get to Oakridge take a tour to mangrove forests or local towns built on the water and only accessible by boat.
Must do: diving
The must do on the island is diving, not only for the once in a lifetime experience or because you are already addicted. Nor for the fact that it’s one of the cheapest and efficient places in the world to do it. In Roatan, the reef is literally on the islands doorsteps and you arrive at your dive destination in minutes. If not only for the love of diving, but at least you will be able to understand the passion in the eyes of all the divers while you have your sunset beer and discuss the underwater encounters of the day.