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Honduras Guide


Roatan

We decided to go to Roatan instead of Utila even though the latter is cheaper. Roatan has nicer beaches and arquably better diving. Certification is about the same on both islands. A friend who did her PADI Open Water on Utila was filling out the medical form and said she had a few things (including asthma). She was told to write 'no' to all the questions otherwise she would have to go to the doctors! You can still do US$160 OW and AOW in Roatan and the most comprehensive Divemaster course I have seen anywhere for US$500. New Zealand still has cheaper OW courses, but then you need a full-length wetsuit! Food and lodging are more expensive in Roatan, but the food in particular is usually good value.

We caught a bus from opposite the Clasico Copan to San Pedro Sula (3 hours, L77) then another bus to La Ceiba (3 hours, L66). We then caught a taxi to the ferry terminal where we caught the last ferry over to Roatan at 4:15. There is also a direct bus service from Copan leaving near Manzana Verde for around US$16 (AC, TV, WC, etc) direct to La Ceiba.

Diving in Roatan, Honduras

We caught a taxi from Coxen Hole to the West End for L35 pp (the usual price should be around L20-25 pp, but when the ferry comes in L35 is about as good as it gets). When we arrived the power was out and many places had closed up or were full. As a result we got an average, budget room for US$30! The next morning we moved up to Seagrape Plantation Resort where you can rent clean, budget rooms for US$8 pp (US$9 for a single, US$1 less pp on all rates for stays of a week or more. They also do monthly rates of US$200 pp). Seagrape includes a kitchen, nice deck area with hammocks. Another good budget option is Chillies, with clean, nice rooms and friendly staff. They have dorms for $8, doubles for $16 and cabins for $20-25 the latter with private bath.

Diving. After a fair amount of chatting to people we elected to dive with Native Sons in the West End. I am a Divemaster so I have a fair idea about what I like in a dive operation. I look for nice people, good service, professionalism, quality, well-maintained equipment and fair pricing. Native Sons has an excellent team of instructors and divemasters who have completed many, many thousands of dives between them, have the fastest boats in the West End, etc . . . . at US$15 per dive for 10 or more dives it is a bargain, and certification is with small groups - not the large 'dive factories' some companies operate. Highly recommended.

July is not whaleshark season in Roatan (an error in our LP edition). You might be very lucky to see one from Utila still. This year has been the best year for a long time for sightings with over 20 whalesharks cruising around February.

Internet on Roatan is ridiculously expensive. Most places charge L4 per minute with the cheapest charging L3. If you are staying for a couple of weeks you may decide that the US$30 membership that entitles you to half-an-hour a day for a month is better value. A few places include 15 minutes free internet with lunch.

At first you may think that food at the West End is very expensive, and some places, by Honduran standards are. However, there are some good deals and a great meal for LPS.60 is entirely possible. Most restaurants will charge you 12% tax on top of the quoted price, and many also quote in US$ although they will happily take Lempira.

The Rotisserie does 1/4 of chicken and two large, delicious sides for L60. Velva's Place at the East of Half Moon Bay (next to the turn off for Dive Half Mile where the submarines are) is locally owned and operated with friendly service and AMAZING seafood. Try the coconut shrimp with veges and potato for LPS.120. They also have well-priced lobster. Belvaderes does tasty burgers. My favourite is the blue-chees bacon burger for US$5 with fries. They also do possibly the island's best ice-cream with brownie combo for US$3.50. Pizzas'n'Treats does good calzone for LPS.60 (also does L3 per minute internet) and soft-server ice-cream for LPS.20 or with a brownie for LPS.55. Sundowners, opposite Native Sons has happy hour from 5-7, with L15 beers and L25 mixed drinks. Twice a week they have good burgers for LPS.50. The Bakery is good for lunch and breakfast with huge filled rolls in home-baked bread for LPS.30-45. Flowers does good local-style food at reasonable rates. Two, large baleadas for LPS.19 is great value as are the monster tortillas for L80. The Lighthouse is perfect for a splurge. A large pasta with lobster tail, garlic bread and salad will set you back around LPS.200. Mango Verde does good salads, stuffed pita pockets and big drinks. You get 15 minutes free internet with your lunch. Rudy's, just past the Rotisserie, does unbelievable smoothies that are more like ice-cream. At US$3.50 they aren't cheap but are enough for two and you can ask for it to be put in 2 glasses.

There are some places in the West End that specialise in dining for groups off cruise ships. We have found these places to be over-priced with poor service and they always add 10% service charge + at least 12% tax to the bill. They include Eagle Ray (horrible service, average food, high prices) and Cannibal Cafe (nearly a one hour wait for the bill even though we were the only customers and asked 5 times! They then gave one of our group the worst exchange rate for US$, quibled about L3 even though they had already added the tip then taxed it!). Blue Channel short-changed us by L100 and when question said they had 'run out of change', but could give it to us in US$ - then made a big deal as they were giving us US$0.13 too much!!

The Iguana Sanctuary has over 3,000 iguanas. Entry is US$5. They also have a fenced-off area of sea with some poor hawks bill turtles trying to get free. The owners think they might breed. I thought they probably would - if they managed to get out and find a therapist and some beer!

Safety. While we were on Roatan a couple were held up at machette point during the day walking along West Bay. This very rarely happens, but be aware.

Boats race over dive sites reqularly paying no attention to dive flags and safety zones. We heard of a nasty accident in Utila last weekend where a diver was run over and badly cut by the motor. As always, as you accend from a dive listen, look and stay alert on the surface. There are a few scorpion fish on th reef, which is another reason not to touch anything under the water. Roatan has two chambers. Insurance that covers you for dive accidents is important as this can be expensive. Divers Alert Network (DAN), among others offer cheap dive-specific insurance.

Wear as little sun block as possible before diving and keep a shirt and hat on. Sun block kills coral. Also wear a shirt or wetsuit while getting on and off the boats as this is the only place I found the flies to be really bad.

La Ceiba

Amsterdam 2001 is a grotty, little hotel. The staff are friendly enough though and it is OK for a night at LPS.120. La Ceiba has a good shopping mall with movies and cheap (LPS.20/hour), fast internet on the top floor.

We caught the first bus to Tegucigalpa from La Ceiba, then a taxi across the city then an onwards bus to the Nicaraguan border. At the border we paid a few Lempiras to leave the country (a bit dodgy, as there was no indication we should have to pay anything), then US$3 to enter Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan border is a bit frustrating as you have to go to mulitple booths and have multiple forms filled out.