I recently returned from my fourth trip to Roatan, Honduras. I’ve been visiting this Caribbean island for the past eleven years, ever since I first learned that it was a great place to learn to scuba dive… and long before the island opened two world-class cruise ship terminals at Coxen Hole and Mahogany Bay.
Although I do spend most of my time on Roatan under the sea, I’ve also spent several days exploring the rest of the island by taking different Roatan excursions and Roatan day trips. These have taken me across the island from north to south and east to west… and even to other islands! From sharks and sloths to palapas and piña coladas, these seven Roatan excursions will leave you with memories that will last a lifetime whether you’re arriving on a cruise ship or staying on the Bay Islands for a full week.
#1 – Scuba Dive on the Mesoamerican Reef
Roatan is at the south end of the Mesoamerican Reef, which runs all the way from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula to the shores of Nicaragua. As you fly over the island to land at the Coxen Hole airport, you’ll get your first glimpses of the beautiful reefs below.
The island’s best scuba dive shops are in West End, which is only 10 miles from the cruise ship ports in Coxen Hole and Mahogany Bay. For day-trippers and cruisers, most West End dive shops offer packages with return transportation, gear rental, and a one- or two-tank dive. If you’re a certified scuba diver, I recommend starting your search with reputable West End dive shops like Roatan Divers and West End Divers. Both of these shops can also accommodate first-time scuba divers with a PADI-approved Discover Scuba Diving program.
Pristine dive sites near West End include the Half Moon Bay Wall and El Aquario (“the aquarium”), where you can expect to see sea turtles, eagle rays, and countless tropical fish. If you get lucky, you might even see a hammerhead shark! Package prices usually start at $100.
Want more information about West End, Roatan? Read my complete West End, Roatan Travel Guide!
#2 – Travel Like a Movie Star on Little French Key
Possibly the only attraction on the island to say it has hosted Hollywood celebrities including Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Little French Key is a private island paradise situated off the shore of French Harbor on Roatan’s south side. After experiencing a major fire in 2018 (which fortunately spared most of its waterfront and beach-side facilities), Little French Key is currently undergoing major changes and restructuring, which has driven admission prices for this Roatan excursion lower than ever before.
The basic Little French Key day package costs $59 (at press time) and includes transportation to the island from the cruise port, West End hotels or West Bay hotels, a visit to the island’s exotic animal rescue center, and use of the beach facilities like sun loungers and umbrellas. I suggest upgrading to the $88 package, which includes lunch, two alcoholic drinks and unlimited use of snorkeling gear throughout your visit. Unlike some other private island excursions, Little French Key feels intimate and spacious, and it’s easy to duck away from the crowds in a secluded hammock or on a sliver of sand.
#3 – Relax at an All-Inclusive Resort in West Bay
West Bay is the stunning, picture-perfect white sand beach shown on many postcards from Roatan, and one of the most popular Roatan excursions. The island’s best offshore snorkeling is at the south end of the beach, near the large rock jutting out of the water. Here, the coral kisses the shore, and you can see a colorful variety of sea life by merely wading in up to your knees… in fact, when I recommended this excursion to one of my friends who has cruised all over the world, she said it was the best snorkeling she has ever experienced!
Several of the hotels and resorts along this stretch of sand have introduced day passes that allow cruisers and day trippers from other towns on the island to take advantage of their amenities (including swimming pools, palapas, beach chairs, and towels; food and drink are optional) for a fixed price. Typically, Fosters Resort tends to be one of the less-expensive options, while Infinity Bay Resort and Mayan Princess Resort are a bit pricier. No matter which package you buy, don’t leave Roatan without trying the island’s signature cocktail, the Monkey Lala!
Resort day passes are not just for cruisers. When I’m staying in West End, Roatan, I love to spend at least one day relaxing and snorkeling at West Bay’s beautiful beach. Since I’m usually traveling solo, I feel more comfortable leaving my (few) valuables on a beach chair inside a secure resort, rather than just in a pile in the sand!
#4 – Visit Indigenous Garifuna Communities on the Cayos Cochinos
This is definitely the most memorable day trip that I’ve ever taken on Roatan, Honduras. Unfortunately, though, this Roatan excursion is only available to travelers staying at least two nights on the island, as it requires an early morning departure and an evening return. Cruisers, you can skip ahead to #5!
The Cayos Cochinos are a group of two large island and thirteen tiny coral cays between Roatan and the Honduran mainland. Together, they form a protected marine park with vibrant coral and lots of aquatic life. Approximately one hundred people reside on these islands, and nearly all of the residents are members of the indigenous Garifuna community. Chartered sailboats depart from Roatan’s West End and travel to the Garifuna fishing villages, stopping for some deep sea fishing and snorkeling before heading to Chachahuate Island for a traditional Garifuna lunch.
There are several companies operating tours to the Cayos Cochinos. I did took a day trip with Ruthless Roatan, who use comfortable “vintage” fishing yachts with indoor seating (great to escape the shade), onboard toilets and a kitchen where they serve baked goods, fruit and drinks while you sail. I appreciated their commitment to eco-friendly tours (there was no single-use plastic on board, and the fish that we caught were given to a local restaurant to serve for dinner!).
#5 – Monkey Around at Daniel Johnson’s Monkey and Sloth Hangout
One of the island’s newest attractions, Daniel Johnson’s Monkey and Sloth Hangout is on the shore of French Harbor, close to Little French Key. I haven’t actually visited this Roatan attraction myself, as I prefer to see animals in the wild rather than in captivity. However, I’ve read that the staff here is particularly adept at encouraging youngsters to interact with animals safely and respectfully.
Visitors can expect to get up close and personal with many animal species native to Central America, including sloths, monkeys, agoutis, and tropical birds. Although there is no restaurant on site, most excursions to Daniel Johnson’s Monkey and Sloth Hangout include a stop at a favorite local restaurant for a seafood lunch. Admission, usually included as part of a package, begins at about $45 per person.
If you’re like me and would rather see animals in their natural habitat, you can pop over to the mainland for an overnight stay in Pico Bonito National Park. Alternately, you can schedule your flight home out of La Ceiba and spend the last two days of your trip to Honduras in this natural paradise.
#6 – Encounter a Wild Dolphin at Anthony’s Key Resort
Located in Sandy Bay, just a few miles away from Roatan’s cruise ship terminals, Anthony’s Key Resort is a world-class scuba diving resort that also offers a unique dolphin-encounter program.
While other such experiences hold their dolphins in captivity, the animals at Anthony’s Key Resort are technically wild, as they are a resident pod that lives in the warm, shallow waters around one of the resort’s small islands and regularly follow the resort’s dive boats out into the open sea. If you’re looking for an ethical dolphin encounter, this is as good as it gets.
Prices range from $69 (to see and touch a dolphin) to $109 (to freely swim around a 2-acre area with a pod of dolphins). If you’re a certified scuba diver, you can also try one of their dolphin scuba dive packages, and they even have a comprehensive “dolphin trainer for a day” package.
#7 – Hike a Hill at Carambola Gardens
Want to stretch your legs, explore the Caribbean jungle and take in panoramic views of Roatan and the Meso-American Reef? Head straight to Carambola Gardens, a forty-acre protected natural area less than fifteen minutes by car from Coxen Hole and Mahogany Bay cruise ship terminals in Sandy Bay.
Open daily from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Carambola Gardens features a large garden with orchids, fruit trees, nut trees, herbs and other local flora. The gardens also contain Carambola Mountain, a natural jungle where you’re likely to spot parrots and iguanas as you (gently) hike the wide, well-marked trails to the panoramic viewing point atop the mountain. It should only take about half an hour to reach the peak, and from there you’ll have views of the island, the sea and even the dolphins that live nearby at Anthony’s Key Resort (bring a pair of binoculars for great views of the dolphins!).
If you’re particularly interested in plants and gardens, contact Carambola Gardens in advance to arrange a private, informative tour of the gardens and/or jungle.
All seven of these Roatan excursions are highly rated by foreign visitors because they are safe, affordably-priced and completely memorable. In fact, they are so popular that they often reach capacity, so you should book your Roatan excursion well in advance to ensure your visit to this Caribbean island is memorable for all the right reasons. Booking in advance is especially important if you’re coming on a cruise ship and will be competing for other passengers for limited spaces on the most popular excursions.
On the other hand, if you’re staying on Roatan, you’ll still want to book ahead, but you might want to intentionally book these Roatan excursions for a day when there isn’t a cruise ship in town. This way, you’ll face shorter queues, fewer crowds and less and waiting around for other people. I use this website to check the Coxen Hole and Mahogany Bay port schedules, and then to book my own excursions accordingly (just change the month at the top of the page).
By the way, this is not a sponsored post and I don’t make any money if you book any of the excursions noted above. I paid full price for all of the Roatan day trips and excursions that I took, and no companies knew that I was a blogger.