Prior to moving to Roatan in 2007, I had taken cruises to various Caribbean Islands and enjoyed them all. Part of the fun was anticipating what each port of call would have to offer. But at the same time I also wanted to have some insight into what I would find before I arrived. I would search for information and try to absorb the details I could find. But there was never enough out there.
Now I live on Roatan, and I find myself on the other side of the equation. When I go grocery shopping, or to the hardware store, or even to pick up the mail, chances are I will see a cruise ship or two, docked at one or both of the ports here on Roatan. I observe visitors, in tour busses and taxis, or strolling through one of the towns exploring the unique hidden gem of Roatan.
The first time I saw a cruise ship sailing away from Roatan was at sunset on West Bay Beach more than three years ago. I was relaxing on a lounger, sipping a glass of wine, as the ship faded over the horizon. My thoughts were with those on that boat, knowing from personal experience that many were leaning on the rail at various levels of the ship, gazing back at Roatan.
They would soon be getting ready for dinner, or perhaps to catch a live production in the grand theatre. They would be recalling and sharing the Roatan they had been introduced to—most for the first time. As the daylight waned, and the twinkle of lights dotting the Island began to appear, some would feel the pull of the Roatan Vortex.
A lot has changed since that first encounter in 2007. I attended the ribbon cutting ceremony at Port of Roatan when my husband Dave was one of the musicians playing for the expansion of that port, and I followed the progress as the second port of call, Mahogany Bay, was developed.
At least twice every cruise season, friends (or friends of friends,) announce that they are visiting Roatan on a cruise and I take great pleasure in showing them around the Island. But I am always surprised to hear how little information they have about the port they will be arriving at. Or worse yet, their concern that it isn’t safe on Roatan!
So here is a little inside info on Cruising to Roatan!
I wanted to include a detailed map of Roatan, but an on-line search showed me there isn’t much to choose from. Even the Google Earth map is missing key information (West Bay Beach.) The best one I found came from the Town Center website at the Port of Roatan. Needless to say they don’t have a marker for Mahogany Bay, which is located near Dixon’s Cove, east of the airport. Click on image of map to enlarge detail.
Which cruise-line you are arriving with will determine which port your ship docks at. However, even if your ship is scheduled to dock at Mahogany Bay, the weather (high wind) may dictate your ship be diverted to The Port of Roatan.
The Port of Roatan is on the edge of Coxen Hole. The port includes the Town Center and offers on-site shopping, dining, and other attractions, but there is no beach. You can however walk from the ship in to Coxen Hole. When you exit the port you will find a stretch of local shops offering souvenirs, food & drink, and excursions (if you haven’t pre-booked one already) to other areas of the Island.
Inside info on Coxen Hole
I live in Sandy Bay directly across the Island from Coxen Hole. I usually drive into the town a few times a week, whether it is to get some groceries, stop at the hardware store, pharmacy, the bank, to get the oil changed on our vehicle, pay property taxes at the Municipal Building—all kinds of normal day-to-day activities. I’m involved with the Roatan Hospital and the Day Care both of those bring me to Coxen Hole regularly too. The first time I parked at the municipal lot and walked through town I admit I felt a little intimidated. As a blond haired, fair skinned woman I didn’t exactly blend in. The public areas were far different from what I was use to in Canada. But I quickly learned I had nothing to fear. Oh sure I still get asked if I want a taxi or tour guide, annoying at times, but certainly nothing threatening.
The port at Mahogany Bay is quite different from The Port of Roatan. It is in an area that it is not possible to walk to a town or community. There is on-site shopping, dining, and a private beach (for cruisers only.) I have no personal pictures to share of the beach or other amenities and couldn’t find that they have a website, but here are some pictures I found on-line.
Making arrangements to meet family and friends who arrive at this port can be challenging. From the main road to the gate is a winding, steep, long path. I have some people coming for a visit in October and there are too many of them to fit in my vehicle so I will be renting a van for the day. The only problem is that it will be perceived that I am an independent tour guide and won’t be allowed through to the pick-up area. This means my guests will have to climb the hill to the main road where I will wait to meet them…definitely a challenge to coordinate.
Inside info on this area
Like I said previously, I don’t have personal pictures to share from this port because it is not an area that is easy to access. But I do drive past the main entrance (at the top of the hill above the port) regularly to go to French Harbour. That is where our insurance agent’s office is, the vet that takes care of my dog Mona, and my cat Baby. This is also the location of another grocery store I like to shop at, the print shop, and the library (that has recently moved and will be re-opening soon.)
While visiting Roatan, you may be taken back (at first) how under developed it looks compared to where you are coming from. But you will be awed by the breath-taking scenery, the crystal clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea, soft white sand beaches, and tropical lush foliage extending to the highest ridges. There are many tourist attractions to participate in—if that is your cup of tea. Or perhaps lounging on a perfect beach or a driving tour of the Island is in your plans.
Whatever you choose, you can experience, first-hand, a unique to you way of life, and you will meet friendly people that will welcome you to the Global Village of Roatan.
Note: I forgot to mention, Roatan time and cruise ship time are not necessarily the same. Be sure to confirm what the time is on the Island when making plans. Quite often the actual time on Roatan is 1 or 2 hours earlier than the ship time. Confused? I was when I picked up friends at the port and they thought I wasn’t coming, when I knew I was right on time.