Known around the world for it’s spectacular under-water experiences, Roatan is a beautiful Caribbean Island off the coast of Honduras. Travelers flock to this Island of the Bay for the fantastic Mesoamerican Reef diving experience. However, there is so much more to Roatan than what lies beneath it’s sparkling blue waters.
While my husband was stationed at Soto Cano Air Base (on the mainland of Honduras), we took a week-long vacation on the island. (Going to visit him was on my Deployment Bucket List!) Neither of us are divers, so that activity was out of the question. But that didn’t mean that we just lazed on the beach for a whole week.
Quite the opposite, there are so many other things to do in Roatan besides scuba diving. So much to do in fact, that we ended our vacation already planning a second trip!
10 Things To Do in Roatan That Don’t Involve Scuba Diving:
1. Visit Gumbalimba Park
Hidden in the lush jungle of West Bay is an animal and nature preserve -Gumbalimba Park. We loved walking through the park and seeing the wildlife, especially the monkeys!
Visitors can feed and pet the animals. As a result, they are very friendly and very curious, reaching in pockets, looking through your hair, and nibbling on buttons. These feathered and furry fellas have yet to meet a stranger. Taking pictures with the monkeys and macaws was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. (Check out this article about why Gumbalimba Park is one of the most Instagram-able spots in Roatan.)
The mommy and baby duo were my favorite!
That little monkey kept nibbling on the button on top of my husband’s hat.
Posing with a macaw.
While, there are several zip-lining options on the island, we zip-lined at Gumbalimba Park. Their zip-course consists of 17 different zip-lines that zoom through the jungle canopy at speeds up to 35 miles per hour!
The guides were friendly, fun, and knowledgeable. Although I am terrified of heights, I never felt unsafe on the lines or platforms (except for when the iguanas got a little too close). This was my first ever zip-lining experience and I loved it!
My husband coming down the last line.
When you’re up in the trees, the iguanas are so close!
Waiting on the platform before we went down the first line.
I know I said that we weren’t scuba divers, but that didn’t mean that we didn’t want to see what all the fuss was all about. During our visit to Little French Key, we went on a snorkeling excursion. Our guide took us out by boat before we dove in over the reef.
It was truly one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. We saw schools of exotic fish and legions of colorful coral all from the safety of the surface (or close to the surface) of the water. My only regret was that I did not have a water-proof camera. The splendor of the Mesoamerican Reef was truly magnificent.
This was taken from the surface before the boat left the dock.
The boat ride out to the snorkeling spot.
4. Horseback Riding on the Beach
On our day trip to Little French Key we made sure to get the package that included horseback riding. We started with a slow walk down a sandy beach before heading into the water to get a better view of the King Triton statue. We stopped often to take pictures and the guides were more than happy to help and even posed the horses for us.
The handlers stayed with us the whole time (even when they had to swim). The horses were gentle, well-trained, and properly cared for. This fun and peaceful ride was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip.
The horses went out so deep that the guide had to swim to keep up.
A ride through the beautiful Caribbean waters.
After the handler posed the horses in the water and took a picture for us.
5. Watch the Crab Races and Fire Dancers
Behind the Bananarama in West Bay there is a weekly beach bash. Part of the festivities include crab races and fire dancers. If, like me, you have no idea how to race a crab, here’s what happens: bets are placed on numbers before the event, then a big circle is drawn in the sand and a bunch of numbered hermit crabs are dropped in the middle. The first crab to cross the finish line (the outer edge of the circle) wins. To our surprise, our crab won the race! We were awarded the prize of a free dessert at a nearby restaurant.
After the crab race and the when the sun sank below the horizon, the fire dancers appeared. And they were spectacular! Their performances set to local and American music hits were choreographed dances complete with flaming ropes, hoops, and torches. At the end of the show, they created a burning message in the sand. It was an experience I’ll never forget and the best part…..it was free!
The start of the crab race!
This little boy was helping collect the crabs after the race was over.
Fire dancers on the beach in West Bay.
6. Day Drinking on the Beach
What’s an island vacation without a little bit of day drinking? Roatan is not short on beautiful beaches or booze! More than once we found ourselves in West Bay on the beach behind the Bananarama, where you can find the Thirsty Turtle. This bar and restaurant served the best pina coladas I’ve ever had. There was nothing more relaxing than laying in the sun beside my husband with a good book and a cold drink.
Sippin’ and sunnin’ at Little French Key.
Lazing on the beach in West Bay.
Watching the sun set from our hotel room balcony.
You can’t possibly spend time on an island without getting your feet wet! We loved swimming in Roatan’s crystal Caribbean waters. It was the best way to escape the tropical heat and humidity. Bright yellow fishies surrounded us as we waded in and all was right in the world, if only for a moment. For those opposed to salt water, many resorts and hotels have swimming pools. Our hotel had an infinity pool with a spectacular view of the ocean…a pretty fair compromise, I’d say.
Swimming with the fishes at the beach in West Bay.
Look how clear the water is!
At the swim up bar in Little French Key.
8. Hammock Napping
Never in my life have I seen as many hammocks as I did on the island of Roatan. There was one on our tiny balcony at the hotel, they were strung up at Little French Key, near the beaches of many of the resorts, pretty much anywhere there were trees, there were hammocks. So, grab a book, some bug spray and settle in for a long summer nap. You won’t regret it!
The hammock on our tiny balcony at our hotel.
Even their giant ropes can be used as hammocks!
Honduras is Latin American foodie heaven and Roatan is no exception! There was so, so, SO much good food to be found on the island. From upscale restaurants to street vendors, Roatan’s food scene is as interesting as it is delicious. Make sure you try the smoothies, banana pancakes, baleadas, and the conch ceviche.
A local guide told us that Roatan grows pretty much every fruit imaginable, except for apples. We ate fresh fruit and drank a smoothie every day. Forget about your diet out the window during your visit….besides, do island calories even count?
Burritos from the Cannibal Cafe in West End. This was the only restaurant that we visited more than once!
My banana smoothie from the Cannibal Cafe in West End.
10. Take ALL the Pictures
This island is a photographer’s paradise. I mean, it’s everybody’s paradise, but it’s an especially photogenic one. You’ll want pictures of all your fun adventures, the wildlife, the beautiful flowers, the sunsets, the gorgeous Caribbean waters – I don’t think there’s much that I didn’t snap a picture of. You’re Instagram feed will inspire envy and wanderlust among all of your friends and family. Bring your camera and take. ALL. the. pictures!
My all-time favorite picture that I took in West End.
Shells attached to the rocks on the beach in the Pensacola community.
A secluded section of beach in West End.
Don’t overlook Roatan because all you can find on the internet are rave diving reviews. I’m sure the diving is spectacular, but there is so much more to this destination. (You can see here the things that I WISH I had time to do while we were there.) There are so many things to do in Roatan besides scuba dive. It’s an island that will please land-lovers too!