Help With Planning Roatan Snorkeling Trip

by Debbieo
(Atlanta, GA)

I need some help with planning my Roatan snorkeling trip. We will be there from April 6 through part of May; plenty of time to explore. Ohhh-- how I wish there was a guide to put in my truck to show me exactly where to go in and what I would see. The reef is within swimming distance of the shore.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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Jan 21, 2013
Snorkeling in Roatan
by: snorkelfun

We went in February 2010. We stayed on north side of the island. It was a little windy to shore snorkel but the reef follows the whole island. A tour guide will know good spots and there are lots of buoys to tie a boat to. We went on a tour to Pigeon Cay. It was fun for a diversion. But on the way back we stopped at Jade Beach where there was awesome shore snorkeling with old coral and lots of fish. The west end of the island has lagoon type beaches.

Jan 21, 2013
Snorkeling Jade Beach on Roatan
by: debbieo

Thanks so much for your response! We are staying at Sandy Bay. We will have a car so will try the other less traveled parts of the island. We will be looking for Jade Beach on the map. Sounds like a great place to snorkel. Any other suggestions will be appreciated but I also am just content to snorkel.

Jun 09, 2013
Roatan Trip Report
by: debbieo

WOW WOW WOW. That's what you really need to know. Roatan snorkeling is well worth the investment in your ticket. The reef surrounds the island. In some places it is close to the shore--others a little distance out. In between the reef and the shore is usually fairly shallow with places to stand.

We stayed in the Sandy Bay area. It is a safe and friendly area. Our house was in the Marine Park, about a 1/2 mile swim to the reef. Like I said many places to stop on the way.

On the way out we swam over Starfish Alley. Everyday there were 20 or more large orange starfish laying on the white sandy bottom in the blue clear water. Got that picture?

Swim a little further to the reef and my own school of Sergeant Majors were waiting to welcome me. The coral was healthy and teeming with fish. We saw turtles, rays and eels almost everyday. The 6 large Rainbow Parrotfish were always an amazing sight to see.

We stayed on the northwest side of the island. Very easy access in numerous places. Not one of them a bad snorkel. But not a one of them beat Sandy Bay. Usually it was very very calm inside the reef like a lake.

A few days when the wind kicked up we went to the west end to snorkel the amazing Aquarium. It is everything you may have read. We walked in through the Tranquil Seas Resort or you can enter through a park right next door. This is what I would call a baby snorkel with adult entertainment. The access is as easy as it gets, the water is perfectly clear, you can see every fish on your little card - well minus the sharks. The coral is a little worn. Oh, I wish I had been there 50 years ago. But if you swim to the outer reef it is still lovely. There you can see the edge of the wall very clearly. That is often where I would see the turtles coming up after being disturbed by the divers below. In fact, I don't think they saw anything I didn't.

We only went to the east side twice. Once on a much touted catamaran trip. Save your money.

After many conversations about Glover's Atoll, Bonaire, and Roatan, dear hubby and I could not pick which to visit again. They were all so good and all so different.

Roatan is a true third world country. Be prepared for that. Be smart as you travel around the island. I like the use of a car even though it is more than easy to get around by cab or bus.

We cooked fresh veggies and fresh fish, but did eat in the local places. Yummmm and mostly fairly clean and inexpensive.

West Bay is very touristy and the boats bring in tourists. Just stay away those days or swim out to the second reef. Day snorkelers usually do not venture there.

Kinky West End is not a place to go and snorkel. Just plain used up.

Spooky Bay is a wonderful mysterious place to visit, not only for the light in the cut but the healthy coral all around the channel. Bubbles come up from below the coral like champagne. I am not sure why. But delightful to swim in.

WOW WOW WOW. Let me know if you have any questions.

Jun 29, 2013
Snorkel West Bay Beach
by: Tim

We have been to many places all over the Caribbean (e.g. Grand Cayman, Turks and Caicos, St John, etc.) and our best ever snorkeling was off West Bay Beach Roatan. The reef in this area is close to shore and is divided into 3 sections. Some of the animals we saw include eagle rays, sting rays, black, gray and queen angels, various butterflies, eels, various groupers and huge parrots. One person in our group even saw a seahorse. Do not miss the great snorkeling at West Bay Beach.

Jun 30, 2013
Avoid West Bay, Roatan Snorkeling
by: Anonymous

This past February we went on a snorkeling trip to West Bay, Roatan. We would NOT recommend West Bay area as it is too resort-y, though we rented a fab house a short walk up the hill. Yes, the reef is just offshore but the hordes of people walking on it have killed most of what is there. It is too crowded with day trippers from massive cruise ships and there is bland overpriced food in restaurants, even basic local fish. We were very disappointed.

Locals were nice but there is a fair bit of hustling. We wish we had ignored the guidebooks & info on-line and organized some boat trips to snorkel AWAY from West Bay (and paid a lot as it's NOT developing world prices off the mainland). We walked & water-taxied to West End twice but the weather did not allow for snorkeling on those days. The best food was in West End at a real Honduran style place Anthony's Chicken & More (5 outdoor tables, very clean, spicy jerk chicken, big plate for very low price - closed Sat).

We have snorkeled many places: Hawaii aka The Big Island - (many great easily accessed spots right off the beaches but can be very wavy), St. Lucia (not bad, some good night snorkeling), islands off Baja, Mexico (great guided kayaking trip, camping on beaches & ok snorkeling), Fiji (ultimate experience with the biggest & most incredible coral I've seen & plan to go back which I rarely do as there's so much of the world to see), Belize (boat out to Laughing Bird Key, a protected area, & stay in or just outside Placencia which was very tranquil).

Jan 06, 2015
Thank you
by: Anonymous

I am so thankful that you shared your snorkel experience. I will be in Roatan in just a couple of weeks and can't wait to see the underwater beauty.

Jan 06, 2015
Roatan questions
by: debbieo

We will be in Roatan again in April for the night of the blood moon. We spent a month in 2013 and 6 weeks in 2014. I might have an answer or at least opinions if I can answer any questions for you. We have always had a car and have traveled out and about on the island. It's been fun meeting fellow travelers especially snorkel buddies. :)

Apr 06, 2015
Debbieo, so how is the "Blood Moon" trip?
by: Maarky

We have not been to Roatan in about 10 years but we are planning a return this summer. We stayed at Half Moon Resort last time. We need your opinion on where to snorkel. ALL of the reefs were pretty much virgin last time. I hear they are worn in places now. I would value your advice.

Thanks for your time.

Apr 15, 2015
Just returned from Roatan
by: David

I just returned from a 7 day snorkeling trip to Roatan.

If you are looking for a variety of marine life, I would have to say staying in or near West End and starting your snorkeling days in Half Moon Bay would be your best bet. It was extremely easy to swim out of the bay to the left or right and snorkel the reef line. It can vary in depth from breaking the surface of the water to 20ft which is pretty doable in terms of free-diving if you like to get close-up photographs and even deeper. I saw in and around Half Moon Bay: Green Turtles, Hawksbill Turtles, Reef Octopus, Green Moray Eel, Spotted Moray Eel, Striped Reef Shrimp, Arrow Crab, Scrawled, Orange Spotted, and White Spotted Filefish, Smooth and Spotted Trunkfish, Parrotfish (all kinds... Stoplight, Yellowtail, Redband, Queen), Grey, Queen and French Angelfish, Caribbean Reef Squid, Porcupinefish, Scorpionfish, Black Durgon, Peacock Flounder and many others... The water clarity was great (dry season is Feb-May I think) so April was a PERFECT time to go. It was always quiet in Half Moon Bay and there was maybe only ever 3 or 4 other people snorkeling.

If you are into reef structures, snorkeling the point (very END) of West Bay and going out to Sandy Bay may be worth it. If you do West Bay, follow the rock wall to the dramatic reef drop off. Everything within the typical swimming area is extremely murky/brown/gross. West Bay was the only area I saw Midnight and Blue Parrotfish.


Feel free to peruse my Roatan pictures on flickr.

Apr 17, 2015
Roatan. Snorkel Delight :)
by: Debbieo

Hello from Roatan. This place has worked its magic and we are definitely on island time. Looking at the reef from my porch waiting for the sun to be just right for my first snorkel of the day.

I enjoyed the review of Half Moon Bay and agree the fish life there is great. Something new to see everyday.

I would divide the island into several sections.

West Bay has lots of restaurants, lots of hotels, lots of people and for many, lots of fun. The reef at West Bay gets lots of usage.

If it is windy where I stay, we often go to West Bay to spend the day. We swim to the outer reef, and swim above the divers but see very well to the corals. Fish life can be abundant here because of the updraft of nutrients. We have seen everything that was mentioned in the comment about Half Moon. The closer you get to shore the coral is in very bad shape. But I am always amazed at how much fish activity is still there. We enjoy West Bay for a day trip. You can purchase a band from the Mayan Princess or other places and use chairs pools etc.

West End has lovely Half Moon Bay. We have snorkeled the rocks on the side searching for the elusive frogfish listening for his croak to no avail. This is a busy little area with lots of restaurants and dive shops. Sunset on the bay is spectacular. It has a number of sports bars the crowd is more in the 20-40 year old range. We visit there a few times on each trip. Mostly to get supper from the guy on the beach across from the small grocer or to see the sunset. It is my least favorite place to snorkel.

Sandy Bay is where I stay. It is quiet with few restaurants but more houses and apartment rentals. Most days we snorkel twice a day on the reef in front of our house. Every day we see enough to keep us fully occupied for approximately 4 hours or more. We have starfish alley some days. Where they go all at once and then come back the next day is a mystery of life. Usually it is very very calm. I can swim through the channel to the outside of the reef or stay inside. There are many beautiful corals here and every type of fish life. Right now there is a batfish staying under our dock. We often see Rainbow Parrotfish and all their lesser kin. We have the pleasure of Green Turtles and Hawksbill. This year we have Striped and Bridled Burrfish. There are Spotted Eagle Rays and a 5 foot Southern Stingray. Grouper chasing octopus will not be forgotten. Ok there's my paradise. :) Sandy Bay covers a large area. The map below shows where I stay.



The rest of the island gets its fair share of the wind so snorkelers usually don't stay there. There are resorts. Lots of divers stay in that area. It is a remote and lovely area. We usually take a drive for the views.

We are here till the end of April. If you would like us to check on a specific location for you let me know. It would be a pleasure to help.

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