My first visit to West End, Roatan was in January, 2008. Back then, the road through town wasn’t paved and the streetlights only worked along the busiest stretch of road. Since then, I’ve returned to this little Caribbean island town three more times and watched it transform into a true tropical paradise. Today, West End is a slightly-more-comfortable beachfront community that still retains its local charm while also better meeting the needs of locals and tourists alike. One look at the beach in West End and you should know that this is a very special place!
Although I could stay in the resorts of West Bay, Roatan, I always choose the calmer, more authentic atmosphere of West End when choosing my home base on Roatan. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that West End is also significantly cheaper, is easier to access, and offers a better selection of hotels, restaurants and dive shops than West Bay! I’ve prepared the ultimate West End, Roatan travel guide, featuring the best restaurants, hotels, dive shops and travel tips for the coolest town on Roatan.
This really is the ultimate travel guide to West End, Roatan, so if you’re looking for a specific section you can skip ahead to the good stuff!
- West End Roatan Hotels
- West End Roatan Restaurants
- West End Roatan Dive Shops
- The Vibe in West End Roatan
West End Roatan Hotels
I have stayed at four different West End, Roatan hotels, and have poked around a few more. Generally, accommodation options in West End are basic but adequate, with a few outliers in the dirt-cheap category and a few more in the almost-luxurious category. Taxi rates from the airport in Coxen Hole are standard for all hotels in West End, and as of March, 2018 the fare from the airport to any of the featured hotels should be a flat rate of $25 USD for up to four passengers and their luggage. Most Roatan hotels can also arrange private transportation for approximately the same price.
It’s no secret that Cocolobo is my favorite hotel on Roatan… in fact, I wrote a blog post all about it! Situated five minutes from the bustle of West End, Cocolobo has spacious rooms, sunset views from every room and a welcoming atmosphere.
Cocolobo’s hotel pool is a great place to cool off in the late afternoon sunshine, and the pool bar area transforms into a family-style breakfast service each morning. I stayed at Cocolobo during my 2017 trip to Roatan, and liked it so much that I made a point of returning again in 2018. With only eight rooms and a growing reputation, Cocolobo is one of the most popular Roatan hotels. It fills up quickly so book your rooms as soon as you know your Roatan travel dates.
If Cocolobo is full, I would consider booking into Land’s End, another West End, Roatan hotel with waterfront views of the iron shore. Like Cocolobo, Land’s End is about a five-minute walk from the main street and is blissfully quiet at night. However, it is a a little bit larger, featuring an on-site restaurant and bar (with fantastic daily drink specials for only $3!) and a much larger sun deck surrounding its pool. Interesting, Land’s End has built its own walkway across the rugged iron shore, allowing guests to swim or kayak in the water… but be careful, because it was also recently featured in a viral video when a guest got swept out to sea during a tropical storm!
Sea Breeze Inn
On a past visit to the island I stayed at the Sea Breeze Inn, a small, West End Roatan hotel located behind the Cannibal Cafe, right in the heart of the town. The Sea Breeze Inn is a good option for divers who are willing to trade a little bit of evening noise for proximity to the most popular dive shops, as it only takes a minute or two to walk from here to both West End Divers and Roatan Divers. All of the rooms here feature some kind of cooking facilities, ranging from a simple toaster and coffee maker to a standard kitchenette, so it can be a good Roatan hotel for travelers who want to keep costs down by preparing some of their own meals.
Posada Arco Iris
It’s been a few years since I stayed at Posada Arco Iris, the hotel attached to the popular Argentinian Grill restaurant. Posada Arco Iris is a family-run hotel with a good mix of rooms, including regular hotel rooms and apartment rentals, all set in a leafy garden atmosphere. I liked staying here because it was close to town but still felt secluded, although the lush foliage attracted more mosquitoes that I’d noticed at other West End hotels. Their sister hotel, Posada Las Orquideas, is a more recent development on the iron shore (near Cocolobo and Land’s End) where all eighteen rooms have picturesque ocean views.
Other West End Roatan Hotels
All of the West End Roatan hotels that I’ve noted are (in my opinion) solid mid-range options. However, if you’re looking for a more luxurious experience, consider booking your accommodation at The Beach House, a boutique hotel located right on the beach in West End’s Half Moon Bay. With direct beach access, an upscale rooftop restaurant, a sunset bar on their dock on weekends and proximity to all of West End’s dive shops, The Beach House is worth every penny.
If budget travel is more your thing, both Georphi’s and Hotel Chillies offer dorm-style accommodation in West End, although if you’re traveling with another person the savings are often negligible compared to rates at the Sea Breeze Inn.
West End Roatan Restaurants
West End has Roatan’s best selection of restaurants, with everything from street food to gourmet dining available within a two-kilometer stretch along the waterfront. The following West End Roatan restaurants are some of my favorites – they are all easy to find from the main street and offer an excellent variety of dishes (including many vegetarian and vegan options).
Gingers was located right beside my dive shop (Roatan Divers) on Half Moon Bay, but I didn’t initially visit because I wrongly assumed they didn’t have vegetarian options. I was totally wrong, however – Ginger’s actually has an expansive menu of meat- and fish-based dishes, along with three really cool vegetarian options. I opted to enjoy dinner on their beachfront patio and absolutely loved the beer-battered avocado tacos that were topped with pico de gallo salsa and cabbage slaw. The rum punch wasn’t too bad either! Gingers is closed on Friday and Saturday, so make sure to visit between Sunday and Thursday.
Located in a bright and breezy space above West End Divers, Cafe Escondido is open daily for breakfast and lunch. They’re known for their fresh and healthy menu that includes some local favorites, like a typical Honduran-style breakfast (which isn’t that different from a Nica breakfast), as well as fusion dishes such as zoodle salad and vegetable pita pockets. Cafe Escondido has a daily lunch special that is a great, inexpensive option for a quick meal during your surface interval.
The Thai Place
I actually credit Roatan’s Thai Place restaurant with my love of Thai food. I first sampled their massaman curry back in 2008, and ever since then I’ve been searching for a Thai restaurant whose massaman curry compares. Even in Thailand, the curries were often not as good as the curries here! I’ve also tried the Thai Place’s pad Thai, which is also delicious. The Thai Place is the ideal spot for a romantic dinner in West End Roatan, as they set up intimate, candle-lit tables on their back pier. However, the delicious food and intimate atmosphere come at a cost – entrees here average about $18 USD.
Por Que No
A few years ago I ate at Por Que No for the first time. Back then, it was a German restaurant serving up hearty sausages and fresh bread, along with a few bold, plant-based salads. Today, this West End Roatan restaurant has been bought by a Turkish chef who has converted the menu into a Middle Eastern extravaganza. You should definitely try the $12 mezze platter, which allows you to choose four different mezze (kind of like Turkish tapas) that are served with fresh bread. For my platter, I picked hummous, tzatziki, imam bayildi (garlic-stewed eggplant) and mucver (zucchini fritters). If your hotel doesn’t offer breakfast, or if you’re a “breakfast for lunch” kind of girl (like me!), come back again for their delicious menemen, which are soft-scrambled eggs in a mild tomato sauce.
Argentinian Grill, West End
The Argentinian Grill is a mainstay of Roatan’s beachfront dining scene, and they have expanded their operations to include a location in West Bay Roatan as well. I’ve only been to their location in West End Roatan, which is one of the largest restaurants in town and therefore quite popular with groups and families. As would be expected, the menu is meat-heavy and highlights dishes like steaks and lobster, but they do have a small selection of vegetarian options available at lunch and dinner. I thought the Hawaiian-style veggie burger served at lunch was a highlight, but I wasn’t impressed by the wok veggies from the dinner menu. Prices run high here, with dinner entrees costing up to $25 USD, though the happy hour drink specials are in line with other restaurants in the neighborhood.
The Drunken Sailor
A new addition to the West End Roatan dining scene, The Drunken Sailor is an Italian-owned “fry house and pizzeria” serving thick crust, Roman-style pizza by the yard. Fortunately for solo travelers, you can order as little as 1/8 of a yard (two slices) or have 1/4 yard for a full meal. Their daily special board also showcases fresh local seafood and other Italian favorites, like the fried polenta with gorgonzola and marinara sauce I devoured as an appetizer on one of my first nights on Roatan. Fingers crossed this little gem becomes a permanent fixture!
Splash Inn Restaurant
Attached to the Splash Inn Dive Resort, the Splash Inn Restaurant is particularly popular with divers. Their weekly special board draws large crowds, who come for deals like free beer with any fajita order (on Monday) and 25% off all pasta dishes (on Thursday). Their menu doesn’t have many vegetarian options, but I was able to get in on the fajita deal by asking for customized vegetarian fajitas, which turned out to be a sizzling platter of onions, green peppers and red peppers served with six wheat tortillas, guacamole, sour cream and pico de gallo salsa. The Splash Inn Restaurant is one of the more affordable sit-down options in West End Roatan, and it can easily accommodate both families and large groups.
Chestnut Gourmet Coffee
One of two new dedicated coffee shops in West End Roatan, Chestnut Gourmet Coffee Roasters was my preferred place to grab a morning latte before a day of diving… and then another afternoon latte after a day of diving! This is good coffee – beans are sourced from plantations on the Honduran mainland and roasted every day. The owner is happy to share his knowledge about coffee and direct you towards the perfect drink to suit your tastes.
Note: Recently, the owner of this shop rebranded under the name Bad Ass Java!
Bean Crazy is the second new coffee shop to have recently appeared in West End. The atmosphere here is more contemporary, with comfortable seats for lounging, a full breakfast and lunch menu, and (spotty) table service. The air conditioning and strong WiFi makes this a popular hangout with digital nomads on the island, although costs can get prohibitively high (for example, smoothies here cost $5 USD, compared to $3 or $3.50 at most other restaurants nearby).
You might have to say the name aloud to really understand it, but if you’re hungry, check out Yahongreh? at Hotel Chillies and Native Sons Dive Shop. This little, four-table kiosk is open daily for breakfast and lunch. I tried their banana pancakes and fresh lemonade, which were quite good, and I also considered ordering one of their baleadas (a typical Honduran dish of a tortilla stuffed with beans, cheese and other ingredients) but I think the star of the show is the daily special plate, which attracted a queue of hungry divers. Sadly, since it was chicken-based on the day of my visit, I had to skip the special.
Creole’s Rotisserie Chicken and Anthony’s Chicken
Since I know that most of you guys aren’t vegetarian, I did want to highlight West End’s popular rotisserie chicken scene. The two most popular chicken restaurants are Creole’s Rotisserie Chicken (shown above) and Anthony’s Chicken, both of which are popular with locals as much as tourists. At either restaurant you can enjoy a quarter chicken and two or three side dishes for less than $5. Side dishes typically include coconut rice, carrot salad, rice and beans, fried plantains or traditional coleslaw, and it’s best washed down with a local beer (I’m partial to Salva Vida).
Of course, no trip to the tropics is complete without indulging in a refreshing ice cream cone (or two, or three, or four…). In West End, the best ice cream comes from Costa Dulce, a beachfront ice cream parlor with homemade ice cream in a constantly rotating selection of flavors. I usually opt for two scoops – the first is always coffee, and the second could be dulce de leche, cookies and cream or traditional chocolate. Costa Dulce also embraces their Caribbean location with other flavors inspired by the fresh fruits on Roatan, like pineapple, coconut and mango.
West End Roatan Dive Shops
There are more than a dozen dive shops in West End, making it a haven for travelers looking for a cheap scuba diving trip. It would be impossible (and not very fun!) to dive with every shop in a single trip, so I’ve chosen to focus on the positive experience I’ve had at one Roatan dive shop, along with recommendations I’ve received from other travelers.
My most recent scuba diving trip with was Roatan Divers, a boutique dive shop on the little piece of land that divides Half Moon Bay and West End Bay. You can reach the dive shop from Half Moon Bay by walking around the back of Ginger’s Restaurant, or you can access it from the main road by following the signs beside the C-Level Restaurant, opposite the Cannibal Cafe.
There were a few things that I really liked about diving with Roatan Divers. First, as a boutique dive shop, they took care of setting up my rental equipment each day, leaving me more time to savor my latte in the morning. Second, they were smart in organizing the small groups for each dive, and I never felt like I was being held back by inexperienced divers or pushed out of my comfort zone by those with much more experience than me. Third, the staff seemed genuinely nice and interacted with their customers in a positive way, which is something I haven’t always experienced at other Roatan dive shops.
Roatan Divers also had excellent facilities. Not all of the West End Roatan dive shops have their own docks, meaning some places ask you wade into waist-deep water with your gear to board their boat. At Roatan Divers they have a private dock for their three boats, along with a clean washroom and hot water showers!
West End Divers
I considered scuba diving with West End Divers on my most recent trip, but ultimately decided to go with Roatan Divers instead. There were a few things about West End Divers that appealed to me, including their Black Water Dive, which gives experienced divers the opportunity to do a night dive two miles from shore, in water that is a mile deep (and full of all sorts of weird creatures!). West End Divers also works with a partner shop who organizes a baited shark dive, which is something I would need to research more to understand if it aligns with my beliefs about the ethical treatment of animals. Two other solo travelers at my hotel were diving with West End Divers during my visit, and they spoke highly of their experience.
Other Roatan Dive Shops
There are many other dive shops in West End Roatan, and they all have their own pros and cons. I actually obtained my Open Water scuba diving certification at Coconut Tree Divers more than ten years ago. I think it’s a great option for young people (say, 18-24) who are looking for a social dive shop that celebrates successful afternoon dives over a beer or two. If money is no object, look into diving with Quality Time Divers, who are known for organizing personalized and private dive trips to any spot that piques your interest.
The Vibe in West End Roatan
The waters surrounding Roatan have been designated as a protected marine park, and one of the first things you’ll notice in West End Roatan is that the town is committed to improving the sustainability of its tourism industry (an uphill battle for sure, as the cruise ports in nearby Coxen Hole attract hundreds of thousands of day trippers each year). A current area of focus for the community is plastic reduction – you’ll probably have to ask for a straw at the most popular restaurants, and even then you’ll be given a biodegradable paper straw (drink quickly, so it doesn’t get soggy!). They are also working on addressing invasive species such as lion fish, and encouraging both locals and tourists to select menu options like lion fish, rather than endangered species like conch.
You’ll also notice informative signs throughout West End Roatan, like this one that reminds visitors not to purchase souvenirs made from shells or coral.
If you are looking for a souvenir, I recommend stopping in at Waves of Art gallery and gift shop in West End, where you can buy ethically-sourced local artisan goods. I am addicted to Andrea’s Aegis, an all-natural insect repellent sold here (bonus – you can refill your empty bottle on your next visit!) and I also picked up an amazing locally-made tinted lip balm for only $2 USD that looks better than some of my $20 lipsticks! Across the street there is also a shop called The Rusty Fish, where local craftspeople sell home decor and souvenirs made from repurposed trash; if you like a little bit of kitsch then you’ll love some of their bold creations!
At the end of the day, though, West End is really just a laid-back beach town, centered mostly around the white-sand beach called Half Moon Bay. Many of the dive shops, hotels and restaurants in this guide face Half Moon Bay, and it’s the perfect place to relax under a palm tree as you forget your worries. The beach is usually pretty quiet, and save for a few dive boats there are few hazards in the water. Snorkel out a few meters and you’ll see fish, stingrays and eels, or swim out to the forgotten sailboat on the right side of the bay (jokingly named the iSoar) to climb aboard and swing off its public rope swing.
It’s also important to remember that Honduras is a developing country, and Roatan is a developing island without all of the luxuries of the mainland. Appreciate everything the islanders have done to make their home welcoming to visitors, treat their communities with respect, and try to avoid complaining when things don’t go exactly as planned. The occasional power outage isn’t an inconvenience… it’s part of Roatan’s charm.
Hopefully this guide has helped you plan your trip to West End Roatan, whether you’re coming for a week of scuba diving or for a day trip off your cruise ship. West End truly is a special place, and I feel honored to say that I’ve watched it transform over the past ten years.
How to Get to West End Roatan
You don’t have to be a sailor to arrive on the shores of West End, Roatan!
Most foreign visitors will arrive on Roatan by airplane. The island’s airport (Juan Manuel Gálvez International Airport, abbreviated as RTB) is located in Coxen Hole, which is about twelve kilometers (or eight miles) from West End.
Clearing customs and immigration at the Coxen Hole Airport is simple but painfully slow. Once you’re through, however, picking up your bags and exiting the secure area is easy.
There are three main ways to get from the Coxen Hole Airport to West End: taxi, public minibus and private shuttle.
Taxi fares from the airport in Coxen Hole to West End are fixed. At present the set fare is $25 USD (for the whole car, not per person… no matter what the cab driver says!) but it could go up or down in the future, so look for the signs by the doors. On my last two trips I have used a taxi to get to Cocolobo in West End and I’ve always been happy with the service.
If you’re on a tight budget, it’s also possible to travel from Coxen Hole to West End on the public minibus (called a collectivo). Buses on Roatan are slow, cramped and sorely lacking in air conditioning, and the driver might refuse to take you if you’ve got a lot of luggage. However, if you’ve packed light, the trip can cost as little as $1 or $2. Just walk out to the main road and flag down a passing van. If you’re lucky, a taxi carrying one or two other passengers might stop and offer you the same rate!
The larger hotels and resorts on Roatan have shuttle service, and even the smaller, independent locations can also send a trusted driver to meet you at the airport. If return transportation isn’t included in your room rate, expect shuttle service to cost about the same price as a taxi.
Personally, I typically choose a taxi over a shuttle because customs and immigration at the Coxen Hole airport is so slow and unreliable that you never know if you’ll be outside thirty minutes after your flight or three hours after your flight. I hate to think any driver would lose out on three hours of income while they waited for me at the airport.
Of course, Roatan is an island and it’s also possible to arrive by boat. The island’s main ferry terminal is also in Coxen Hole, within easy walking distance of the airport. The same transportation options apply: taxi, collectivo or shuttle.
Although I could spend a month in West End and never get bored of scuba diving and snorkeling, I know that some travelers like to spend a little bit of time out of the water. Check out my list of the best excursions and day trips on Roatan, which are perfect for cruisers visiting for one day from Coxen Hole or Mahogany Bay, but also great for travelers spending more time on the island.