For most people, the ideal beach is crystal clear water, and a soft white sand bottom. There are a few beaches like this in Roatan (West Bay and Camp Bay, for example), but the majority of beaches here have turtle grass in the shallows. Wading through turtle grass is something that you might not like,and maybe you've thought that the turtle grass should just be removed. Sometimes people do remove it, but it's not legal to do so. It actually has many important roles and should always be kept in place. Some marine life, such as seahorses and lizardfish, live in the turtle grass, and many juvenile fish use it as a temporary home to keep them safe from predators. Removing it destroys their habitat. Many herbivorous fish feed on turtle grass (and so do some turtles), and decomposing dead seagrass plants provides food for sea cucumbers, crabs and other filter feeders. Seagrasses help trap sediments and particles in the water to improve clarity, and filter nutrients from stormwater runoff before they go out to sea and cause damage to coral reefs. Even though you might not like the look or feel of turtle grass, it's important to the beautiful reef system that Roatan is known for. Instead of rushing past over it, next time you head out for a snorkel, spend some time checking out the turtle grass and seeing what creatures you can spot in this marine life rich area.
Torn between wanting to pack light and not wanting to forget anything important? Here are some helpful suggestions for what to pack for a trip to Roatan- a lot of the time, a carry-on size bag is all you need.
The international airport on Roatan, RTB, has direct international flights from Houston, Atlanta, Dallas, Miami, Grand Cayman, Belize, San Salvador, as well as direct charter flights from Toronto and Montreal several months of the year, and domestic flights from La Ceiba, San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalapa. If you're arriving on an international flight, what should you expect when you arrive?
The plane will disembark outside on the tarmac, and then you'll walk over to go inside to immigration, so be prepared for the blast of tropical heat!
Once you get inside, you'll go in a line to clear immigration. If the line is long and you've got to wait for awhile, there is free wifi in the airport, but sometimes doesn't work so well. The immigration procedure includes fingerprint scanning, so it takes awhile when there's a big plane (or several planes at the same time), but it has improved a lot over the last couple years, with many additional agents to speed up the process. Immigration can grant you up to a 90 day stay, but that is at their discretion, so they might just stamp you for a 30 day stay. If you are planning on a longer stay, make sure to ask for 90 days.
After immigration, you'll collect your bags. There are free carts to use, and there are also baggage handler guys that work for tips, if you want help. Once you've collected your bags, you'll need to put them through a bag scan along with your hand luggage. Why, when you've already gone through all the security before your flight? Who knows, that's just the way it goes.
Once you exit the secured baggage claim area, be prepared to be assailed with all sorts of offers for transportation. There are posted rates inside the airport for taxis (to Sandy Bay, the rate is $20, for example). If you want a pick up arranged to the hostel, we have a taxi driver that does this for $15 for 1-2 people, and can include a grocery store stop on the way. If you don't have much to carry and can dodge and weave through all the persistent taxi drivers, leave the airport, walk out to the main road and cross the street, then you can flag a shared taxi passing along the street for a cheaper rate (around 100 lemp per person to Sandy Bay), but there are no street addresses on the island, so make sure you've written down directions to where you're going.
Inside the airport, there are no money change facilities. Don't bother to bring down Canadian dollars, you can't exchange them here. If you're flying in from Belize, make sure you've changed any Belizean dollars before you leave Belize, as you can't exchange those either. The only currencies that you can exchange on the island are US dollars (and these are accepted around the island, so no need to go line up at a bank to exchange any), and a few banks also exchange euros. Banks have some strange rules with currency exchanges though, so you might end up frustrated. If you need an ATM before leaving the airport, there's one that dispenses in lempira and one that dispenses in US$. Occasionally these machines have been tampered with and have a card skimmer attached to steal your banking info, so you might want to wait and go to an actual bank to use their ATM.
If you need a bite to eat or something to drink before you leave the airport, there's a coffee shop, Espresso Americano, as well as a bar.
Time to fly out of Roatan? If you're on an international flight, you should plan to arrive at least 2 hours ahead of your departure time (and an hour for domestic flights). You'll need to line up at the airline's counter to check in and check your bags. It's not legal to take shells, sea fans etc, so be prepared to have them removed from your bag if you were trying to take some home. International departure tax is now included in the pricing for pretty much all the airlines that fly out of Roatan, as far as I know (it used to be paid separately, but I think only Spirit Airlines doesn't include it yet, and they don't fly in/out of Roatan, just San Pedro Sula).
Once you've checked in, you'll need to pass through immigration (and the fingerprint scanning again), and then through the secure area where your carry on items are scanned. Shoes need to be removed and put through the x-ray, as well as watches and any other metal items (belts with buckles, for example). They've stopped having people remove shoes in airports that I've been to in Canada and the US, but here, they still require this.
When you've gotten through to the secured area, there are some purified water dispensers, so it's worth bringing an empty water bottle with you. There's only 1 place to get anything to eat in the secured area (they have sandwiches and chips, not all that much selection), so you might want to bring some snacks with you to the airport.
Have a question about flying in or out? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, we're happy to help!
There are so many things I love about living here, but one thing that's definitely not on that list is banking. Banking in Honduras is usually very time consuming. Even if you avoid the busiest days of the 15th and end of the month (pay days), as well as Mondays, going to the bank can still sometimes involve waiting in line for an hour or 2. There's a special line for seniors, pregnant women and women with infants, but if you're not lucky enough to fall into one of those categories, then be prepared to be there for awhile!
Today, I had my 3rd trip back to the BAC bank for the process of opening a bank account in my business name. I've always just used my personal account for banking, but recently I had to receive a payment that was made by check in my business name, so I've been attempting to open an account so that I can cash it. For trip 1, I hauled along all my business documents (escritura publica, business permit, RTN, etc), as well as my ID and personal RTN. I waited for a customer service representative, told her what I wanted to do, and was told my temporary residency card wasn't good enough (for residency renewals, the card doesn't get printed right away, and often it's several months of just having a temporary card, something that happens every year), and that I needed to have a reference letter from my other bank, even though I already have a personal account at BAC. However, they said the paperwork I had would be sufficient if I became 'affiliated' with them, meaning signing up to have a POS system through them. That sounded fine with me- I've managed just fine up until now without accepting credit cards and just using PayPal when needed, but if that's what I needed to do for an account, then I was fine with setting up for POS too.
So I went upstairs to do that paperwork, and then back downstairs to work on the bank account. After 4 hours in the bank, I was finally sent home and told that they needed some authorization, and would call me to come back in a few days, but that the second trip would be pretty quick and just need some signatures, and that I wouldn't have to be in line.
I popped in a few times for my second bank visit, but there was always already someone with customer service and I didn't have time to stay there so long, so trip 2 took awhile to actually happen. On Friday, I finally went first thing in the morning, as they said that was the best time to go. Unfortunately, someone was already there, so I settled in for the wait. Once my turn finally came, I sat in front of the representative for over an hour while she typed in stuff on her computer, just answering 3 basic questions. After over 2 hours in the bank, I had to leave, as I had arrivals coming to the hostel. The representative kept saying it was nearly done, but I had to go, so she asked me to return first thing Monday morning, just for signing things.
Monday morning, I got there just as the bank opened, well prepared with a sweater and a blanket, as the last 2 visits I had nearly succumbed to hypothermia from the a/c. I settled into my seat with the customer service rep and got myself wrapped up while I waited. After nearly an hour and a half, she finally finished the paperwork and was ready for my signatures, and then got me up to the counter without the line in order to get my bank book. Success! After 8 hours of bank waits, I now have an account in my business name! The POS part is a next phase, so that will still take longer, but since my main interest was to get the account open, today has been a successful day.
If you're setting up a business in Honduras and need to open a business bank account, I'd suggest arming yourself with a good book, a sweater and a blanket, a lot of free time and patience before you head to the bank.
As more and more jobs become internet based, a growing number of people are traveling as they work- something that's become well enough known that it now has a name of its own, a 'digital nomad'. According to wikipedia, 'Digital nomads are a type of people who use telecommunications technologies to earn a living and, more generally, conduct their life in a nomadic manner. Such workers often work remotely from foreign countries, coffee shops, public libraries, co-working spaces, or recreational vehicles.'
At the hostel, we often have guests working while they're here, generally preferring to make the hostel their 'home' for several weeks or a month or 2 at a time, to establish a work routine and still have some free time to enjoy island life, and then they move on to the next location. I've had guests who manage Facebook and social media accounts, others who do IT work, do editing, do web design and graphic design, teach English, work as a travel agent- it seems like there's a wide variety of job opportunities to do remotely as a digital nomad. As an outside observer, it seems to work best when remote workers plan a set work schedule if possible, so that there are designated hours/days off to explore and have fun- occasionally I've had someone that seems to be busy working all the time, without taking the time to make the most of island life.
Doing this type of work means you need a fairly reliable internet connection, something that's not always a given, depending on the area you're traveling. On Roatan, for an island, our internet's pretty decent- though it's not speedy, it doesn't fail very often, though power outages can happen once a week or so. It's a good option to buy a local SIM card for your phone with the option to purchase a data package when needed, so that there's a back up connection if you have time sensitive work.
At the hostel, we have weekly and monthly rates, and have small, budget-friendly single options for solo travelers, so if you're working while away and need a little space to yourself, you can have it, including a few with desks. There's a communal kitchen, or also apartment style options that have their own kitchens. We have many guests that stay for a long time, so you'll have a great community to be a part of while you're here.
For years, I've had this idea about doing an island cooking class. Not being an islander, I didn't want to teach it myself, but I kept thinking how great it would be to offer a class on making some of the great dishes that are typical to here. I remember learning how to peel a green plantain and grate a coconut to make coconut milk, and how much I enjoyed discovering how to use the vegetables that are typical to here, like yucca and malanga, and I thought it would be great for travelers visiting to share these experiences as well.
This Sunday, my vision finally became a reality, thanks to our new cook, my friend's mom, Miss B. Students got to learn the steps to making tapado, a seafood stew in a coconut milk broth. We had people peeling, chopping, grating, kneading- lots of hands on participation as Miss B guided everyone through the steps to make this delicious meal. After the cooking? Eating of course :) We all enjoyed the fruits of our labour, a warm, filling bowl of tapado.
An island cooking class will be offered every Sunday at 5:30pm, and is open to everyone, not just hostel guests. The cost is $15 per person plus taxes and includes all ingredients. Space is limited, so sign up in advance. If you have a group of 6-8 that would like to schedule a cooking class during the day, just let us know and we'll arrange one for you.
Project time again! This year, we've moved the restaurant to a new location, which is more spacious and central, and now houses our book exchange. The old location for the restaurant is being converted into a house for me (as the new restaurant location is where our kitchen, living room and dining room used to be), and we'll have a few new rooms added on the floor above the restaurant, where it used to be part of our house. Then the hostel will be very close to the completion of the plan I had laid out :)
We've been busy at the hostel lately. This last week, we pulled out the projector and set up the screen right next to the pool, to enjoy movie night under the stars. It was a great new location for outdoor movie night, as guests could relax in the pool to watch, or make use of the lounge chairs. We had a BBQ before movie night started, so it was a great evening.
We also arranged a van trip up to the beautiful beach of Camp Bay with a stop at Punta Gorda on the way back for their Settlement Day Celebration.
We've had several hostel guests busy with dive courses, with Bill and Calli both coming to the completion of their divemaster training, and Ben is almost done his instructor course, and David's just started in on his DM training.
My kids have been out collecting cashews, and on Sat morning, they'll be offering a cashew roasting lesson :)
We have an onsite restaurant for breakfasts and dinners (non-hostel guests are also welcome), but it's nice to know options available for eating out around the neighbourhood. Recently, there have been several new additions to the restaurant options in Sandy Bay, all within a short walk of the hostel. Sandy Bay is a pretty long, stretched out area, so I prefer to think of it in two directions: east Sandy Bay (anything east of Anthony's Key Resort) and west Sandy Bay (west of Anthony's Key). If you're staying at the hostel, make sure to ask about how you can get a hostel discount at many of the nearby restaurants.
There are several inexpensive comedores in the area that serve typical local food, but if you'd prefer a sit-down dining experience, there are also a few restaurants.
Ellen's Place - located inside of Pirate's Den, which is about a 5 min walk from the hostel (turning right on the main road, following the curve, and on the other side of the street, just before the paved turn off to the beach). Vietnamese food, closed Sundays. They have a lovely spacious seating area with an oceanview.
The Jolly Octopus- located along the beach about a 10-15 min walk from the hostel. Go right along the main road until you reach the paved beach turn off on the other side of the road, turn down it, and then go right along the beachfront until you see their sign. Burritos, burgers, nachos. They have great live music Sunday afternoons, bonfires on Wednesdays, and also do kayak and snorkel tours. Closed on Mondays.
The Real Kings- The newest addition to the Sandy Bay community, the Real Kings is located on the beach just past the Jolly Octopus, so turning down the paved beach turn off east of the hostel, and then going right along the water. They have a dock with tables and chairs over the water, as well as a seating area by the beach. Apparently they're doing some nightlife there as well (karaoke night this last Friday, not sure if they're having that on a regular basis). I haven't had the chance to try this one out, but I walked by to get a few pics, and also have their menu to post.
Bambu Sushi and Fusion- A favourite of many island residents, Bambu is located on the upper floor of the building called Coral Stone, about a 10 min walk east of the hostel along the main road (in the same building as Core Pilates). Pricing is a bit of a splurge, but the food is excellent, and preparation very artistic. I don't have any photos or a menu to post, but will try to update that shortly.
There's lots of fun stuff to do in Sandy Bay, including Mayan Jungle Zipline and Monkey Park. It's located about a 30 min walk from the hostel, and they give $10 off for hostel guests, so it works out to just $35 per person, which includes the canopy tour as well as interaction with the animals, including monkeys, parrots, sloths, and deer, so it's a great value. One of my sons said it was his favourite zipline, which is high praise, as he's tested out several. He was allowed to hang upside down, and to do a flip- he's a total thrill seeker, so he loved it. The staff were very attentive and friendly, and gave us lots of time to make friends with all the animals after everyone was done ziplining.
If ziplining isn't your thing, the entrance just to see the animals is $10, and hostel guests get $1 off of that (it's been my mission this year to try to line up savings for hostel guests at various businesses near us, so staying at the hostel can save you some $$ and make you feel like a VIP :) ).
Mayan Jungle is closed on Saturdays, and any other day, you should plan to arrive before 3pm.
Mel is a Canadian who's been living in Roatan for 2 decades. Before being a single mom of 2, she used to travel around the world as a dive instructor. She looks forward to the opportunity to meet many other travelers in her hostel.