Why go to Roatan?
Roatan is home to part of the world's second-largest barrier reef -- great for snorkelers and divers
Poverty is rampant beyond the immediate port area. Beware of panhandlers and keep an eye on your belongings
If you venture out on your own, know where you're going, and get comfortable saying "no"
Roatan Cruise Port Facilities?
You'll be anchored on the south side of Roatan at one of two places:
Coxen Hole: The largest city and capital of the Bay Islands, Coxen Hole is located just west of the airport. This busy gateway is named after the pirate John Coxen. Besides internet access, an ATM, a small shopping mall and a handful of restaurants, there's little for tourists. It's a good place to buy cold drinks and sandwiches before venturing east toward French Harbour and Oak Ridge, and west toward Sandy Bay and the West End. You can also easily walk past the port gates onto the local streets, where you'll find authentic food and souvenirs.
Mahogany Bay: Mahogany Bay, a 20-acre $62-million Carnival-sponsored area specifically for cruise passengers, opened in 2009. It's located just east of the airport, and it has room for two ships. Just off the pier, you'll find a strip mall-type central plaza, featuring souvenir shops, restaurants, a general store, jewelry kiosks, shore excursion information, car rentals, an ATM and, often, live music. There's also a chairlift that will give visitors unlimited rides to and from Mahogany Beach -- a nearby 10-acre private beach -- for $5 per day.
Good to Know?
Coxen Hole: If you travel beyond the immediate port area, be prepared to deal with pushy locals -- sometimes children -- who will offer everything from cab rides and excursions to local wares. You might also be asked for money by locals who try to force their tour guide services on you, even if you haven't asked for them. It's important to know where you're headed before venturing out on your own; two young children told us that certain bars along the main street, just outside the port area, are actually brothels in disguise.
Mahogany Bay: The whole setup is a bit of a tourist trap. If you decide to explore elsewhere and want to rent a car, be warned that the roads tend to be narrow, and traffic lights are basically nonexistant.
As you would in any unfamiliar place, keep all unnecessary valuables onboard in your cabin's safe.
A paved road runs north from Coxen Hole to West End and east to French Harbour. An unpaved road continues east to Paya Bay and Camp Bay. Taxis, rental cars, motorbikes and buses are available in West End, Coxen Hole and French Harbour.
By Rental Car: Captain Van's (+504-2445-5040) in West End rents vans, mountain bikes and scooters. Caribbean Rent a Car is located along the main road near French Harbour (813-506-8663). A car rental booth is also available off the main plaza in Mahogany Bay.
By Taxi: Some unscrupulous cab drivers have taken advantage of cruise passengers. Before entering a taxi, confirm the fare. If the driver says 20, make sure he's quoting lempiras, not dollars. Most cabbies accept both U.S. dollars and lempiras.
By Bus: Mini-buses run in either direction from Coxen Hole. Flag down a bus, and pay the driver's assistant -- about one U.S. dollar on most routes.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
The official currency is the lempira (named for a martyr who fought the Spanish). U.S. dollars are widely accepted, as are credit cards and traveler's checks. In Coxen Hole, BAC Credomatic provides cash advances on credit cards and features a 24-hour ATM. (located on the main street in Coxen Hole; +504-2445-1196; open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon) An ATM is also available at Mahogany Bay in the center of the main plaza. For the most up-to-date conversion rates, check out www.xe.com.