By Perry – (Decatur, GA)
Hello. Our group of snorkelers is going to Roatan for two weeks in July 2018. Unfortunately, there is not a detailed guide! :> I have used the guides on this site as bibles for several snorkeling trips. I have read another Roatan community page on this site and documented my findings across other sites to prepare for our trip, but I wanted to reach out to this forum to seek additional insight and see if there is anything I may have missed.
My main goal is to make sure we experience all of the best sites the island has to offer that are either accessible by shore or an easy boat taxi ride. Also, some of the material is a bit dated, so I wanted get the latest experiences.
Snorkel sites I have noted to visit:
- West Bay – The second reef sounds great. How bad of shape is the coral in?
- West End (Half Moon) – It appears the best snorkeling is on the left side and around the point. Any other insights?
- Sandy Bay – Seems to be a large area. Where are the best snorkel sites and entry points?
- Old Port Royal (Cow and Calf Cays) – A little fuzzy on how to get there. Any insight?
- French Key – Appears to be a $30/head fee. Is it worth it?
- Spooky Channel – Is it accessible by shore or boat only?
- Pigeon Cay/Barbareta – Worth the excursion?
- Utila Island – Worth the day trip?
Any other north or east side sites worth visiting? Any good snorkeling on or around Camp Bay Beach? What about any sites on the south side?
Thanks in advance for any thoughts. We want to take as much advantage of the snorkeling as we can.
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Carlee – Jun 6, 2018 – Also Looking for Updated Roatan Info
Hubby and I are going to Roatan for the first time at the end of September 2018 and are also interested in any information this post will provide. Once you get back from your July trip, please grace us with what you found. Thanks!
Gail – Jun 6, 2018 – Loved It!
We stayed at CocoView Resort last year and the snorkeling right off the beach is amazing whether you go left or right, or join one of their dive boats for a different location. The dive masters will take you out in a smaller boat for other spectacular spots.
We are recommending this resort to all our friends and have it at the top of our “go back to” list!
Kris – Jun 6, 2018 – Roatan Tips
We were in Roatan last September to snorkel and loved it. I would highly recommend staying in West Bay which would give you plenty of time to explore the reef and so you can snorkel after the cruise ship guests have left.
We found the coral to be in great shape especially the farther out you go. I would recommend getting some sort of snorkeling dive flag because of the boat traffic. We used our snorkel vests but they were awkward to attach and drag.
I would also recommend booking a trip with Ruthless Roatan Charters. You could do the north shore trip or if there are enough of you, charter the boat so you can do as much snorkeling as you want. They are beyond amazing. We went to Cayos Cochinas which allows a little bit of snorkeling.
The other thing I would suggest is contacting Cleve’s Tours and Adventures. You can contact him through Facebook. He can arrange to take you to snorkel sites that have shore access and would probably be cheaper than a taxi (personally I would not drive in Roatan). I highly recommend the mangrove boat ride. Just a heads up – Cleve is a highly enthusiastic and outgoing person so if you are an introvert, he might not be your thing. Also, you can contact the dive shop at Bananarama or at Infinity Bay about doing a night snorkel (right after sunset). We went on our own which was a little too scary.
Richard Olson – Jun 6, 2018 – Roatan May 2016
I stayed in West End mid-May to mid-June, 2016. Taking a water taxi to West Bay I snorkeled Mandy’s Eel Garden, an excellent shore snorkel. I also did a dive boat tag-along with West Bay Divers who at that time only charged $5.00. I paid a little extra for a guide to go in the water with me.
Mostly I went out with West End Divers who put a guide in the water with me with a diver ring/flag for only $15.00! Coconut Tree Divers in Half Moon is also very good and only charged $5.00 for a tag-along. West End and Coconut Tree both have showers.
If you shore or boat snorkel on your own I would strongly advise taking a snorkeling dive flag as there are lots of water taxis speeding around. I got run over by one… dove down just in time to avoid contact. Boat driver never saw me.
Half Moon is a great snorkel on BOTH sides. I actually slightly preferred the north side. Go down the road to the Eco Divers Half Moon Lodge area and there is a shower and steps leading down to the water. Work your way out toward the reef to the right after putting in.
Perry – Jun 7, 2018 – Keep It Coming…
Thanks for the information so far. I really appreciate any further insight on my questions above.
Lisa A. – Jun 12, 2018 – West End
I agree with Richard that both sides of Half Moon Bay provide great snorkeling experiences. The people at Eco Divers are very accommodating. Hubby and I ask if we can snorkel there, and they have always been happy to let us. We eat a few meals there with snorkeling afterwards. It’s a great place to night snorkel (hubby and I have our own underwater flashlights). We like to day snorkel there first to get the lay of the land so to speak which makes a night snorkel less intimidating.
If you like seeing critters and don’t necessarily need coral, I also suggest the other side of West End for a different experience. A few of the restaurants there are over the water and if you ask they will let you use their stairs or ladders to snorkel after lunch or dinner. While not pristine, there are some great things to be seen.
Last year, under and around one dock area we saw a giant hermit crab, numerous fish, a goby and its goby shrimp (digging its tunnel), and three seahorses, which I had never seen before. Over at the west end of that beach section there is a cement wall covered with soft coral or sea lily type fauna where we saw all kinds of fish, crabs, shrimp (including mantis shrimp), and at night (we night snorkeled there also), there was an octopus and numerous wandering anemones, crabs, and sea cucumbers.
West Bay is also a great snorkel – go to the west of the main beach around the coral outcroppings – but be aware that the coral is very close to the surface in some areas. Take your time getting out to the snorkel area and watch for coral close to the surface.
Snorkeling Blue Channel is also nice – we saw turtles and squid and lots of fish – but I would suggest having a boat take you out. It’s safer due to the boat traffic. I think our charter was $50 for both of us (and it was only us) from West End to West Bay and the guide snorkeled with us to watch for boats (and having the boat hooked to the designated spot alerted the boats to our presence). And we stayed out snorkeling for a good hour and a half at least.
Last year we got to snorkel on the east (south) side. We took a small local boat charter (very reasonable) to snorkel near the “drop-off” near Fantasy Island and Coco View.
Sandy Bay is great to snorkel, but is generally less accessible via the beach. It can be a swim to the reef depending on where you’re going from and you have to watch for boat traffic. We generally take a boat charter when snorkeling there. I really enjoyed Spooky Channel and the shallows around that area. Lots of large soft corals on the sandy bottom.
So for me, the easiest from the beach snorkeling areas are West End (around the docks and the cement wall – watch for boats farther out), Half Moon Bay (both sides), and West Bay (to the west of the main beach – watch for shallow coral).
Hopefully someone else can give some advice on shore snorkeling on the east side and Sandy Bay.
Hubby and I are also going back this summer – the first week of July for us (also from Georgia *waves*).
Richard – Jun 12, 2018 – Roatan May 2016
Good scoop, Lisa. I’ll be going back to West End Roatan and will use your info for the spots I didn’t snorkel last time.
Trina L – Jun 17, 2018 – We Were in There in 2014
We stayed at The Beach House in West End, so we did a lot of snorkeling in Half Moon Bay. We preferred the right side if you are facing the water. Saw many interesting creatures (lots of squid and fish we didn’t see elsewhere), and apparently just missed a Hammerhead Shark the one time we entered the bay as another snorkeler was leaving. Boy were we jealous!!!
West Bay in front of Infinity Bay resort in 2014 was fantastic! The coral was lovely and had lots of fish, including massive Goliath Groupers (on the outer wall of the reef). I’m interested to know how badly the reef and underwater life has declined since then.
We did a snorkel excursion to French Bay. To us, it wasn’t worth it. The water was really rough, and all we saw were barracuda and lobsters.
Another excursion to a small outlying island, including a lunch barbecue was a worthwhile outing. I got to snorkel with juvenile Lemon Sharks!
We are returning in February 2019, and staying in the Sandy Bay area, which we didn’t snorkel at all on our last visit, so any tips would be appreciated! Can anyone comment on whether there has been a decline in the reefs and underwater life in the last four years?
Thanks, and have great trips everyone!
Perry – Jun 18, 2018 – Keep It Coming…
Thanks for the additional feedback. The details on West End are great. Any experience on the east side of the island Camp Creek or Old Port Royal?
Florence – Jun 30, 2018 – Media Luna Resort?
What about Media Luna Resort and Spa for snorkeling from the beach? Has anyone been there? Good snorkeling?
Jan – Jul 1, 2018 – On My Way Back
I tried snorkeling Roatan for the first time Christmas 2017. I loved it for snorkeling. Stayed at Henry Morgan Resort and in the morning, walked the beach to the left about 15 minutes for the best snorkeling I have ever seen (compared to Mexico). In the afternoon I took the dive boat to other sites to see something different. After two weeks I had over five hours of underwater fish video to edit when I got home. Saw many fish, lobster, octopus, lionfish, nurse shark, huge grouper, and huger parrotfish. The fish ratio compared to Mexico is 10:1.
Returning July 3, in two days, to the same resort. I would like to visit some of the other places mentioned in these comments. I have purchased a “swim buoy” to use as a snorkeling dive flag because I too was nearly run over by a boat.
Richard Olson – Jul 3, 2018 – Roatan May 2016
Water taxis between West Bay (Henry Morgan Resort and Mandy’s Eel Garden snorkel) and West End are like $3.00 if I recall, and only 10 minutes or so. They wait for at least three people. Just FYI.
Perry – Jul 30, 2018 – Just Returned From Roatan
Our 10 day trip ended this weekend. The whole party had a great time. Thanks for all the advice. Here are my thoughts:
– Roatan is a great island with a lot to see and very friendly people. However, the infrastructure is still a work in progress. If you are traveling over a few miles and/or going to a more remote beach, plan ahead because the trip may take a while and will certainly be part of the adventure.
– If you are staying on the island plan for and stay away from the main attractions on cruise days, they will become very crowded.
– The easiest and best snorkeling we found from the beach was definitely in West Bay as others have said. Follow the buoys out from Infinity Bay and go west along the outer edge of the first reef. Check out the canyons beyond the rock outcroppings, then come back along the second reef. It is a great snorkel that could last hours. The one thing to note was that I was a little surprised about the amount of reef life. Given the vast nature of this reef, the marine life was almost lacking a bit by comparison.
– Half Moon Bay had nice snorkeling and some good marine life. I found the north side to be the most interesting.
– Other great snorkeling was found on the reefs just outside the swim area on the north side. Dive shops or taxis can be hired for cheap to take you to these locations.
– We did some snorkeling on the south side. We found a shipwreck outside of a keyhole near our house, but the winds made it rough most days. That may improve during different times of year.
– The diving was great. So many spots to choose from, but we focused on the north side.
– We took a day trip to Cayos. Some of the snorkeling around the larger islands was fantastic. The water was extremely clear. I would recommend making the effort to go there for the day. We also did some great fishing on that trip.
– For the adventurous that like to get away from it all, I definitely recommend a day trip to hang out on the Camp Bay Beach and visit La Sirena for a meal. One of the best days of the trip. Note that is about a 1.5 hour drive from West Bay.
Nicole and Galen – Sep 3, 2018 – A Roatan Snorkeling Trip Report
There is another community trip report about snorkeling Roatan here.
Cindy – Sep 12, 2018 – Sandy Bay
We just arrived in Roatan! Staying in Sandy Bay so we will let you know. Ready for it to be morning!
Anonymous – Apr 24, 2019 – Important Info About Roatan!
I love Roatan and have been five times. I have a lot to add about snorkeling spots including snorkeling on Oak Ridge Cay on the southeast side of the island.
But for now I need to add some crucial info that I can’t believe nobody has mentioned especially if you have stayed in Sandy Bay. Something that will ruin your trip, as it did ruin my first trip there… Roatan has an extreme problem with sand fleas! Do not lay on the sandy beaches!
If you are staying at a resort, like on West Bay, where they rake often to rid the fleas and may also put some kind of chemical down to rid them, then the sand is OK. But if you lay on the beach at Sandy Bay or any other place on the island, you will be eaten by sand fleas which bite a long lasting bite and actually made me very sick.
Also, be wary of eating fish at any restaurant. I got some awful food poisoning.
Bring bug repellent with lots of Deet!
Having said all of that, I have returned five times because if you learn how to do Roatan right, it can be spectacular snorkeling.