Roatan is an increasingly popular cruise port, but Honduras has a bad reputation for safety. Is Roatan Safe to Visit?
Located off the northern coast of Honduras, Roatan is a beachy island filled with sights to explore. With its gorgeous beaches and epic scuba diving, Roatan has become a magnet for cruise ships in recent years.
While there are great things to see and do in Roatan, there’s no denying Honduras’ questionable reputation when it comes to safety, both for locals and tourists. Still, Honduras is a beautiful country, and the Caribbean island of Roatan is one of its safest places for international visitors.
The Best Things to Do in Roatan
1. Scuba Diving
Roatan is a part of the second largest barrier reef system in the world, and its scuba diving is world-class. The main reason that foreigners visit Roatan is for scuba diving. If scuba diving is too extreme for you, you might consider snorkeling instead!
There are countless dive sites off the coast of the island that you won’t want to miss if you are an avid diver. Diving outfitters are found all over the island, and they have the best information on the potential dive sites to check out.
2. Gumbalimba Park
Gumbalimba Park is one of the best places to visit on Roatan. This park offers visitors the opportunity to interact with tropical birds and capuchin monkeys. There are also zip lines here, which are a great activity for any thrill seekers in your group.
Gumbalimba Park is family-friendly, and it is very affordable by international standards. It is located near the West End, which is about 25 minutes from Coxen Hole.
Sandy Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches on Roatan. While the Bay Islands are all filled with stunning beaches, Sandy Bay is one of the best and most accessible ones. It is the perfect place for a beach walk, and it can be reached very quickly from Coxen Hole.
4. West Bay Beach
While Sandy Bay is Gorgeous, West Bay has a lot more going on. This area has its own pretty beach, as well as a slew of great restaurants, bars, and shops. This is one of the most popular places for cruise ship passengers to visit on the island, as it has a lot going on and a lot to do.
If you decide to visit, be sure to buy your tickets in advance and show up on time. The Louvre is one of the most prestigious museums in the world, and we definitely recommend checking out the only Louvre location outside of France if you have the time!
5. Daniel Johnson’s Monkey and Sloth Hang Out
One of the most unique things to do on Roatan is to visit Daniel Johnson’s Monkey and Sloth Hang Out. This venue allows visitors to see and interact with various species of sloths and monkeys in a safe and sustainable way. It is located just to the east of Coxen Hole, and is a place you won’t want to miss.
6. Little French Key
Little French Key is a private island off the coast of Roatan that offers snorkeling, paddle boarding, and other outdoor activities. It is relaxing, clean, and tranquil. There are several different packages available for visitors, ranging from just transportation and entrance to that plus access to the activities and necessary equipment.
Is Roatan a Good Cruise Stop?
Roatan is an increasingly popular cruise port thanks to its pretty beaches and coral reefs. Due to its relatively close proximity to Belize City and Cozumel, Roatan is often included on itineraries that stop in Mexico and Belize.
While Roatan is certainly a good cruise stop, I wouldn’t say it’s one of the best. I have visited the majority of major cruise ports in the Caribbean, and I wouldn’t rank Roatan near the top. There are some nice areas with good restaurants and activities, but that can be said about almost every cruise port.
Many cruise passengers visit Roatan because they see it as a safe window into Honduran culture, but this is a bit miscalibrated. Roatan is absolutely part of Honduras, but much like Hawaii is distinct from the continental United States, Roatan is distinct from the Honduran mainland. Roatan is a nice place to visit and can be thoroughly enjoyed, but I wouldn’t pick a cruise itinerary specifically because it stops in Roatan.
The one exception to this is if you enjoy scuba diving. Roatan is surrounded by the Belize Barrier Reef, which is the second largest barrier reef system in the world.
How to Get to Roatan
How to Get Around Roatan
TAXI | BUS | RENTAL CAR
Roatan is served mostly by taxis and public buses. There is no other form of public transportation. There are bus routes that run from Coxen Hole to each end of the island, and they are very affordable.
Renting a car is possible, but usually not recommended. Driving in Roatan can be difficult, and taxis are generally very affordable for foreigners. Unless you are staying in Honduras for an extended period of time, your best bet is usually to either hire a driver or rely on taxis for the duration of your trip.
Where Is Roatan?
Roatan is an island located 40 miles off of the northern coast of mainland Honduras. It is about 150 miles east of Belize. Honduras is one of the largest countries in Central America, and Roatan is its biggest island.
Roatan is located near the western end of the Caribbean Sea. Other popular nearby destinations include Cozumel, Belize City, Cancun, and Tulum. Because of its location, Roatan is often included as a stop on cruise ship itineraries from the United States that visit the western part of the Caribbean.
Is Roatan Safe to Visit?
To put it bluntly, Honduras has a terrible reputation for safety. It is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, and it has often earned a reputation as the murder capital of the world. Many areas of Honduras are known worldwide for violent crime, and the country is riddled with gang violence.
The capital city, Tegucigalpa, is one of the most dangerous cities in Latin America. Even coastal cities like San Pedro Sula are generally unsafe for tourists.
Some popular tourist destinations, like Roatan and La Ceiba, are safe enough to visit. However, it is important to remember that there is no perfectly safe place in Honduras, and you should always remain in tourist areas. Even if you are in a tourist destination, there is a high chance of petty theft if you don’t take the proper precautions.
Safety Tips for Roatan
There is no way to guarantee your safety anywhere in the world, but there are some things you can do to keep yourself as safe as possible. Most crime in Roatan is indiscriminate, and you’re more likely to fall victim if you’re an easy target. Staying safe requires a blend of preparation and common sense.
1. Only Carry What You Need for the Day
Even though violent crime toward tourists is very low in Roatan, you should still carry as little as necessary while you visit. Carry only the cash you need, leave valuables in your hotel room or on the cruise ship, and opt to carry credit cards instead of debit cards.
Credit card charges can always be disputed later, but money withdrawn from an ATM at gunpoint is gone forever. Armed robbery is not very common in Roatan, but that doesn’t make it impossible.
2. Don’t Appear Wealthy or Flash Valuables
Serious crime against tourists is relatively rare in Roatan, but it can still occur. One of the best things you can do to minimize the risk is to dress as humbly as possible. If you walk around wearing designer brands and fiddling with your brand-new iPhone, you’re much more likely to be targeted than someone wearing simple clothes and staying off of their phone.
3. Stay in After Dark
If you are visiting on a cruise, you will likely only be on the island during the daytime. However, if you visit Roatan on your own trip itinerary, you will likely have multiple days. If you are staying on the island overnight, it is imperative that you stay in after dark.
While there are nice bars and restaurants on the island, the risk of a crime occurring is much higher at night. While Roatan might be the safest place in Honduras, that isn’t saying much. After all, Honduras has been known for having the highest per capita murder rate in the world, and nowhere is fully immune.
4. Beware of Dishonest Taxi Drivers
We had great experiences with taxi drivers in Roatan, but that doesn’t mean that everyone does. It is always a good idea to map your ride on your phone and follow along throughout the drive to make sure that the driver goes in the right direction. Kidnapping occurs somewhat frequently in mainland Honduras, and while it isn’t likely in Roatan, it is surely possible. As long as you are traveling during the day and you keep your driver honest, you will likely be fine.
5. Avoid Visiting Remote Areas of the Island Without a Trustworthy Guide
Roatan is a beautiful place, and you’re bound to want to explore it. However, it is always best to explore with a trustworthy guide.
Most of Roatan’s biggest highlights are underwater, but the island also has its fair share of beautiful hiking opportunities. If you plan to explore any unfamiliar areas of the island, be sure to hire a local guide.
Is Roatan Worth Visiting?
Roatan is worth visiting if you enjoy outdoor adventures, like zip lines and scuba diving. The beautiful beaches are great places to relax, and the restaurants and bars in the main public areas are very nice. While it isn’t very unique from many other Caribbean islands, it is still a beautiful place with its own unique culture and plenty to offer.
Many travelers fear visiting Central America because of perceived safety concerns. The beautiful island of Roatan presents travelers with an opportunity to safely visit a Central American country and get a taste of its culture. The main towns on Roatan are all generally safe to visit, and the crystal clear waters are enjoyable for the majority of the year.
If you are visiting Honduras, you won’t want to skip Roatan. Much like Brazil’s Ilha Grande, it is a special place that is located just off the north coast of Honduras.
If you’re planning a trip to Roatan, let us know! We’d love to chat ahead of time and answer any questions you have. Otherwise, have a wonderful day and stay present!