Discover the best family-friendly dive shops, hotspots for adventure, hotels + eateries on the tropical oasis of Roatan, Honduras.
Unbelievable underwater visibility, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (the world’s second largest), a safe environment, easy transportation, plush accommodations and good food combine to make Roatan, Honduras a prime destination for families wanting adventure, without a side of stress.
This tropical rock, off the coast of mainland Honduras, was my home for three years and is still the most epic place I've ever scuba dived or snorkeled, as this patch of the Caribbean is pulsating with life so colorful, playful and exotic my curiosity and lust for discovery would hold me in the water for hours. Although I was husband-and-child-free during this time, I would see families of tourists lazily exploring the warm, wave-free sea and beachside shops, and think “I’m totally going to do that when I have my own brood.”
There were likely so many families because the island has accomplished the rare feat of appealing to both travelers seeking a luxury experience, and those wanting a more simple, beachy-vibes ambiance. This environmental juxtaposition is achieved through the two primary communities on the island, West End (resort central) and West Bay (barefoot bars and sandy cottages) that are an easy boat or taxi ride, or long-ish but lovely coastal walk, from one another.
Whatever brand of traveling you subscribe to, Roatan is sure to win over your wanderlusting heart, especially if you know where to go for the best diving, sleeping, eating and above-water exploring.
Best Places to Dive + Sleep on Roatan
As the golden child of dive destinations, Roatan has as many dive shops as bars selling $1 beer. Many of the following establishments also offer accommodations for those going all in with the diving.
For families with children under 10 (minimum age for diving), grab snorkel gear and swim around West Bay’s stunning reef, located right off the shore. West End also offers snorkeling, but it’s not as extensive or critter-filled as West Bay.
Tip: While these shops all offer certification courses, you can maximize your time in the water by becoming certified before you arrive.
West End Divers – West End
As the tried-and-true West End dive shop, this joint has been a popular watering hole for locals, and the go-to dive center for tourists in the know, for over 25 years. This popularity is likely due to their kind and knowledgeable dive masters, well-maintained equipment and boats, and competitive prices. The vibe is relaxed, yet safe and professional, so you can be sure to enjoy your excursions whether you’re an experienced diver wanting the freedom to explore, or a novice yearning for hand holding (literally, if you need it.)
While you can’t sleep here (unless you fall asleep on their deck after a long night…) there are comfortable and affordable West End accommodations nearby.
Bananarama – West Bay
Perched on the shore of West Bay, this dive shop offers a lively outdoor bar and restaurant that occasionally hosts live music, and the obligatory hammocks for rejuvenating between dives. Rounding out their offerings, Bananarama rents clean and comfortable beachfront accommodations and “Dive and Stay” specials.
These specials, combined with the world class snorkeling right off the shore, make it a great choice for budget-conscious families with all ages of kiddos. If you prefer more resort-y accommodations, Bananarama is a short beach walk to West Bay’s most popular mega-hotels, like Infinity Bay and Mayan Princess.
Anthony’s Key Resort – Just outside of West End
If you’re keener on posting up in one serene spot than immersing yourself in the more touristy hubs, this exquisite all-inclusive resort will be your jam. Offering excellent diving, dolphin swims (a must), pretty much every other water activity you can think of, plush accommodations, fine dining, airport transport and more, Anthony’s Key Resort is the place where that living-in-the-lap-of-luxury, fantasy-vacation comes to life. This experience doesn’t come cheap, but it’s worth it if you don’t want to hassle with planning itineraries, and other travel tasks you might find tedious.
Barefoot Divers – Mid-Island
"Pristine" and "private" are the first words that come to mind when I think of Barefoot Divers, which operates out of the premier Barefoot Cay Resort. I completed my Rescue Diver training here and sometimes wonder if it was my desire to advance my dive skills or a passion for spending afternoons on the resort’s private beach and hammock-clad gazebo that kept me coming back.
As this site is about 30-minutes from West End and 45 from West Bay, I recommend shacking up at the resort if you plan to dive here. And if you want an opulent getaway filled with spa treatments and serenity, and free of raucous partying.
Best Things To Do on Roatan
While diving is the primo activity on Roatan, the island offers a slew of other adventures that please a range of interests. From options for those looking for thrills, to a place for the folks who just want to pet a monkey, Roatan has a little something for everyone.
Tip: Ask the clerk at your hotel, or anyone working in a souvenir shop, for a cruise ship schedule so you know when not to do the following activities, as they’re often overrun when the ships come to town. But fret not, they’re not there every day, and are often gone by late-afternoon.
Ziplining with King Kong Extreme Ziplines
An understandably obligatory activity on jungle isles, Roatan Ziplines features one of the longest ziplines in Central America, and entertains thrill-seekers with 23 platforms and 7,000 feet of line. This abundance of zippy options ensures they have plenty of mellow lines, making them an accommodating choice for those traveling with the young or old, or folks nervous about soaring above trees... hundreds of feet in the air... at high speeds.
Catamaran Sailing and Snorkel Cruise with Jolly Roger
If you’re not into diving, I highly recommend taking advantage of a cruise and snorkel with the Jolly Roger crew, as being out on the Caribbean waters surrounding Roatan is stunning. Beyond the awe-factor of the water, this is a fun crew to hang with and utilize for island gossip… or historical facts - whatever you prefer they’ll serve. And yes, there’s complimentary booze.
Dolphin Swim at Anthony Key’s Resort
This unforgettable experience is a 100% must. While almost all “swim with dolphins” facilities are giant, kinda depressing, man-made pools, this resort has a gorgeous expanse of netted-off ocean where the dolphins (who also get to swim in the wild) are housed.
During this enchanting dolphin encounter, trainers teach you about these graceful animals as they give you playful kisses and splashes (the dolphins, not the guides.) Then, when you’re trained in how to interact with them, you’re able to swim with them. While people who came to visit me on Roatan enjoyed the diving and snorkeling, they couldn’t stop talking about this activity.
Little French Key
An excellent way to spend a day, this mini-oasis (on a key founded by a French pirate!) is a wonderland of animals, culture, beach life, swimming, spa stuff and other ultra-vacation-y features that make you feel like you’ve fully arrived on holiday.
Before you Zen-out at the beach or spa, visit the interactive wildlife rescue center that is home to everything from jaguars to monkeys, and is a destination in and of itself. From there, check out the Mayan nature center and underwater museum. When you’re ready for adventure, sign up for horseback swimming, or rent a jet ski or kayak.
If you want to take a picture with an adorable-yet-thieving monkey, go here. This 20-acre animal preserve and botanical garden offers an immersion in the flora and fauna of the island and is a sanctuary for monkeys, free-flying colorful birds and other animals native to the island. For those with monkey nerves, fear not; guides will help you remember to not bring any valuables into the monkey area (as they will steal your stuff), and know how to safely hold these hilarious and hopelessly adorable critters.
As you explore the grounds you’ll find waterfalls, fountains, and an impressive hanging bridge over a large pond, in addition to a freshwater pool, hammock-filled beach, a café and a gift shop with treasures that weren’t made in China (at least most of them.)
Check out Part Two of this guide to discover the best places to eat + sleep on Roatan, Honduras.