It’s an oft repeated tale. Someone discovers a perfect, quiet little beach somewhere that no one else knows about. They talk fondly of their secret location, and that secret spot becomes more popular, and as the tourists flock in, the magic that made it so special in the first place has disappeared as it goes mainstream and the original character of the place changes.
Welcome to Roatán, Honduras.
It is still a nice place, but it is a place which attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year.
“This once quiet beach is now a bustling resort.”
Roatán, which is 29km (18 miles) east of Utila, is the largest, most developed, and most visited of the Bay Islands. One of the reasons for some many flocking there is because the Bay Islands are close to the second largest reef in the world, so snorkelling, diving and other water sports are very popular.
Roatán has a very active real estate market which targets North Americans who are buying homes or condos there. Many upmarket resorts have also been built along the foreshore, and cruise lines too have added Roatan to their bevy of ports of call.
Both Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruises have invested tens of millions of dollars in two new cruise terminals, both at Mahogany Bay and Town Centre at the Port of Roatán, which have the capacity to fill the port with nearly a million cruise passengers each year.
When the ships arrive the town becomes overwhelmingly busy with markets, tourist buses and the beach at West Bay becomes so busy sun worshippers are lying almost cheek by jowl in order to find a few grains of sand on which to relax.
Fortunately, you can escape the crowds by swimming out to the reef for some snorkelling.
“It is also a great place to be at sunset as, on a good evening, the colours of the sky can be quite spectacular.”
If you wish to experience the Bay Islands as they used to be, it is still possible to do so, you just have to venture out a bit further to places where mass tourism has hardly made a dent.
Many of the island’s hills remain undeveloped enough to give you that feel of actually being on a fairly undiscovered island, and Camp Bay, which is about an hour by car from Roatán, still remains in pretty much of a pristine state.
With increased tourism comes better amenities and a range of new activities, so as well as the snorkelling, sun bathing, etc. visitors can now also zip-line across the jungle-clad hills, take a submarine hundreds of metres into the ocean or search for pirate treasure in little-explored sea caves.