Coxen Hole

Bay Islands Roatan and Utila - Main Attractions - Tropical Discovery

Port in Roatan, Honduras

The largest city and capital of the department of the Bay Islands, Coxen Hole is the most important city from the point of view of politics. Although there are not many tourism attractions as such, the rich afro Antillean influence lend a unique atmosphere to this community. It is also the main gateway to Roatan: Both the airport and the dock where the ferry arrives are located in Coxen Hole. In addition, many of the better souvenir shops are located here. There is regular bus and van service leading both, east towards French Harbour and Oakridge, as well as west towards Sandy Bay and West End.

Bay Islands Roatan and Utila - Main Attractions - Tropical Discovery

View from a cruise ship docked at Roatan Honduras

French Harbour

Perhaps the most bustling community on the island, French Harbour is home to one of the largest fishing fleets in the Western Caribbean and is the economic motor of the Island, with many of the banks in the island located precisely here. On the outskirts of French Harbour, a local islander has set up his own Iguana reserve. According to the owner, Arch, there are over 2,800 iguanas of four different species living on his property in French Key. Although there are really no facilities to speak of, you will marvel at the sight of these reptiles, which are quite docile, despite their prehistoric appearance. The entrance fee to the farm is $1.00 USA dollar per person. There are good photo opportunities, as well as some souvenirs. Arch has this Iguana sanctuary out of his personal appreciation for the animals and your visit will help him continue his conservation efforts.

Bay Islands Roatan and Utila - Main Attractions - Tropical Discovery

An aerial view of a tropical resort with fantastic reefs and clear water on Roatan Island, Honduras.

Oakridge/Punta Gorda

Continuing on the road towards the east, you will arrive at Oakridge, located on the southern end of the island. Oakridge is a small and very picturesque community with a strong afro Antillean influence. Up until shortly, access to this part of the Island was somewhat limited, and therefore, Oakridge has not changed much with the passing of time. On the south side of the island you can find a variety of communities, fringing the coast, starting with Jonesville, Oakridge and Calabash Cay. All three are very picturesque and interconnected by a series of canals through mangrove forests. Fishing here is outstanding. Although services to tourists are scarce, the Reef House Resort, located on a small key, just across from the main dock at Oakridge offers first class restaurant service.

On the opposite side of the Island (The North Coast) is the Garifuna community of Punta Gorda, the only true Garifuna community on Roatan. Punta Gorda was actually the first Garifuna settlement in Central America.
The Black Caribs or Garifunas where marooned in Roatan by the British in 1796 and first settled in Punta Gorda. To commemorate their arrival to Roatan, the Garifunas at this community have a carnival every year on the 12 of April. If you happen to be in the Island on this date, it is well worth your while to visit and enjoy the carnival. Nearby Jonesville, a picturesque fishing community has one of the more popular bars in the island, the Hole in the Wall. Access to the bar is only by water, so you will have to hire one of the dorys that operate as water taxis to take you there.

Bay Islands Roatan and Utila - Main Attractions - Tropical Discovery

Pretty woman sitting in shallow water by a tropical beach

Sandy Bay

Sandy Bay is the cultural center of Roatan. It is here where the Institute of Marine Sciences, The Roatan Museum, the Carambola Gardens and Marine Reserve are located. This small community, located, as its name appropriately states, on a sandy bay offers a lot to do, and whether you are planning to spend your vacation on Roatan in this part of the Island or not, you should definitely plan on visiting the area and its attractions. The famous Anthony’s Key Resort is located in this area.
The Roatan Museum is open from Thursday to Tuesday. There is an entrance fee for everyone not a guest at the Anthony’s Key Resort. Entrance fee is $4 US dollars. The Institute of Marine Sciences has dolphin encounter shows regularly. On weekdays, the show is at 10:00 a.m. and at 3:00 p.m. On weekends there are three shows, at 10:00 a.m. 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. The entrance fee for the show is also $4 US dollars per person. Guests at Anthony’s key are free of charge. There are no shows on Wednesday.

The newest tourist attraction in Roatan is located in the Sandy Bay area. Tropical Treasures Bird Park has a live exhibit of macaws, toucans and parrots that are native to Honduras, as well as a few species from South America. The birds, all from a private collection of many years, are in fantastic shape, and although some of them are quite common, there are several species that are extremely rare, such as bufon’s macaw, a large green macaw that is native only to Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.
The park is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. till 5:00 p.m. and the admission fee of $5.00 US per adult and $3.00 US per child includes a guided tour. Special rates can be arranged for groups. 17 species and over 95 birds can be enjoyed in the lovely park that is pleasantly shaded by big old mango trees and cooled by the gentle Caribbean breeze. The compound also offers a nice souvenir shop, located in a lovely old island house, typical of yesteryear in Roatan.

Bay Islands Roatan and Utila - Main Attractions - Tropical Discovery

Walking on the beach. Roatan, Honduras, West Bay

West End & West Bay

Whether this is the most popular part of the island because it has the most commercial establishments, or whether it has the most commercial establishments because it’s the most popular part of the island remains to be seen. Either way, if you’re looking for liveliness and variety, this is the spot for you. You’ll find idyllic beaches in a dreamy tropical setting and a full range of hotels and restaurants. You’ll also find a variety of activities here, whether it’s relaxing on the beach, boating along the coast, sailing, diving, sea kayaking or horseback riding.
There’s no bank in West End, so make sure you take care of your money needs back in Coxen Hole. The Mayan Princess Hotel in West Bay offers some of the best rooms on the island and the best beach in Central America, making it the place to stay if comfort and luxury are your cup of tea.

Bay Islands Roatan and Utila - Main Attractions - Tropical Discovery

Female underwater photographer glides along through one of the distinctive spur and groove systems of coral in Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras

Diving Utila at Laguna Beach Resort

Utila offers a variety of diving in over 100 dive sites around the island. Following are some of Laguna Beach Resort’s favorites beginning with its spectacular shore dive.

Laguna Beach Shore Dive

The reef is located approximately 150 yards from the Resort beach. The dive begins with a wall dive with drops from 15′ to 100′, featuring bluebell tunicates, stingrays, and an abundance of juveniles due to the proximity to the mangrove lagoon. Following the tongue & groove coral formations towards the shallows takes you past abundant elkhorn & pillar coral. Particularly during night dives expect many invertebrates, including lobster, shrimp and squid, as well as occasional sightings of both moray and conga eels. Continue into shallows towards the beach to find urchins & conch hiding in the turtle grass. Exit onto the beach just a short 10 yards from the restaurant.

Black Coral Wall

Just west of Laguna Beach Resort mooring buoy, you will find the most vertical wall of the south side. Heading west from the mooring, the wall drops from fifteen to eighty feet. Abundant bushy black coral and deep water sea fans start in as shallow as twenty feet. Keep an eye out to the blue for passing spotted eagle rays. At night with a flashlight, the wall’s true colors come to life. Look for basket stars in the vase sponges, octopus in the shallows, as well as large eye toadfish.

Silver Gardens

The top of the reef at fifteen to twenty feet offers sand patches and channels for exploring at safety stop depth. A large school of horse eye jacks, as well as numerous juvenile reef fishes abound. The wall here drops to eighty feet and offers plenty of nooks and crannies for giant green moray eels, large groupers and dog snapper. Look closely for arrow blennies and slender filefish. Another classic night dive.

Little Bight

Creating a break in the reef that runs parallel to shore, a wide sand patch gradually slopes from the beach to well past one hundred feet. A favorite shallow dive for looking at the little things in the sand; sea horses, sailfin blennies, juvenile green razorfish, upside down jelly fish and garden eels are among the many treasures to be found. Coral rich walls flank either side of the sand patch.

Jack Neal Cove

This is another sweet sandy spot, in which it’s almost always possible to find one or more sea horses, pipefish, pike blennies, corkscrew anemones with cleaning shrimp, and peacock flounders, if you look closely in the sand. You may also encounter a curious school of reef squid here in the shallows. The coral walls on either side of the sand patch offer perfect habitat for parrotfish, trumpetfish and spotted drums. Keep an eye out for occasional hawksbill sea turtles.

Bay Islands Roatan and Utila - Main Attractions - Tropical Discovery

Scuba Diving in Utila, Honduras in the Carribean Ocean

Stingray Point

The last dive site on the south side before the Utila Cays, a sandy slope drops from the mooring buoy at twenty feet to over one hundred feet, and is flanked by a steep wall to the west, and shallower wall to the east. In the sand look for southern stingrays, and off the wall, keep an eye out on the blue for passing spotted eagle rays. The wall to the west has particularly abundant and large sea fans and soft coral plumes.

Raggedy Cay

The first of the west end dive sites of Utila. The top of the reef in this area is twenty five to thirty feet, with sand channels which lead you to the gradually sloping wall. A nice site for making deeper dives to 130 ft. Look for spotted moray eels, puffer fish, and spawning Creole wrasse. Occasional sightings of hawksbill sea turtles and spotted eagle rays.

Spotted Bay

This dive site is on the west end of the north side of the island. A sand patch just in front of the mooring buoy at forty feet, leads to a sloping wall. To the west the wall is more vertical, and drops to well over recreational dive limits. The top of the reef here is twenty five to thirty feet and like a coral garden of hard coral heads and gorgonians. Look for octopus, flamingo tongues, and nudibranchs. Also keep an eye above the reef for passing wahoo, mackerel, barracuda, and sea turtles.

Bay Islands Roatan and Utila - Main Attractions - Tropical Discovery

Roatan Snuba Diving Excursion

Turtle Harbour Marine Reserve

Welcome to the wild side, on the north side of Utila where the sheer cliff wall seems to drop off into the twilight zone. Turtle Harbour is preserved especially for the hawksbill sea turtles which nest on the beach here. They are often spotted in the shallows and along the walls. Visibility is usually exceptional, and each dive site in this area offers something spectacular.

Cj’s Drop Off

The deepest dive in Turtle Harbour, the wall here drops off to approximately one thousand feet. The contrast of the deep sheer wall to the rich life on the shallow top of the reef makes this an ideal site for multilevel diving. Spend your safety stop admiring schools of Bermuda chubs, mahogany snappers, and look more closely for lettuce sea slugs.

Bay Islands Roatan and Utila - Main Attractions - Tropical Discovery

Good illustration of the spur and groove reef system of the Bay Islands,Honduras

Willie’s Hole

Just over the edge from the mooring buoy in twenty five feet, the wall drops directly to eighty five feet, where you will find an open cavern full of silversides, bar jacks and occasional large groupers. From here, head east towards “The Maze” and explore the extreme formations of canyons and sand channels at forty to sixty feet. Look for juvenile spotted drum and glassy sweepers in the many holes and overhangs.

Pinnacles

Just beyond the mooring buoy you will find a canyon with overhangs which leads out to the wall at sixty feet. The wall drops here to one hundred and fifty feet. Heading west along the wall, you will find a dramatic pinnacle which rises from one hundred and fifty feet to twenty five feet from the surface. Along the wall look for longsnout butterflyfish, fairy basslets and blackcap basslets. From sixty feet and shallower is a great place to find spotted, green and goldentail morays.

Great Wall (Duppy Waters)

The easternmost site in Turtle Harbour, and perhaps our favorite! The wall here seems bottomless and is alive with giant barrel sponges, groupers, horse eye jacks, Creole wrasse, spiny lobster, and occasional jewfish. Keep an eye on the blue for mobula (manta ray) and great barracuda. The top of the reef is thirty feet, and teems with juvenile wrasses, damsels and soft corals.

Blackish Point

Another spectacular north side dive. Here, you won’t find the depth that you find in Turtle Harbour, but a gentle current makes this wall perfect for a drift dive along overhangs and caverns at sixty feet, great habitat for nurse sharks. This is one of the only sites in Utila where you will almost certainly see midnight parrotfish, rainbow parrotfish and tarpon. A rich variety of sponges and corals encrust the overhangs with living color, making this a superb dive.

Aquarium

On the east end, this area is known as the Ironshore, for it’s jagged volcanic rock formations. This dive site allows for a shallow exploration along the shoreline, which has been carved away by waves, creating dramatic overhangs, chimneys and blow holes. Look up to see the waves crashing just twenty feet above you. Here you will find greater soapfish, trunkfish and spotted drum. Spend some time over the white sand bottom to find both yellow and southern stingrays.

Black Hills

This dive site is the reason many come back again and again! This sea mount off the east end of Utila, rises from the depths to thirty five feet from the surface. On a typical dive here, you will see more pelagics than any other site on the island. Schools of horse eye jacks, Atlantic spadefish, southern sennets, ocean triggerfish, and yellow snapper are just a few of the many species abound here.

Ted’s Point

This diverse south side site offers a sandy bottom at sixty five feet where a small sailboat serves as home to tunicates, sponges, and young brain coral. In the sand here you can find brown garden eels and stargazers. To the east is a sloping wall with maximum depths of over one hundred feet. To the west is shallower with maximum depths of sixty feet, but you don’t need to go far to encounter free swimming morays, permits, groupers, yellow head jawfish, and sand tile fish.

Airport Caves

A playground of caverns, caves and swim throughs from ten feet to sixty feet, perfect for afternoon and night dives. Schools of sergeant majors, schoolmaster snappers, glassy sweepers, and dog snappers. Look closely for spotted scorpionfish, and the infamous longlure frogfish that live amongst the coral heads and sponges. Keep an eye on the blue for passing spotted eagle rays.

Tropical Discovery Tours going to this location: