“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T.S. Eliot
In my quest to make sure that my decision to buy a home in Costa Rica and not some other place with a better latitude than Charlotte is the correct one, there are places you need to check off your list. Call it due diligence. Roatan is one of those places. Wait what? You’re buying a home in Costa Rica? Yep! …future post…stay tuned…
I had heard friends speak of this mysterious island before. Roatan is your typical Caribbean island: palm trees, reggae music, white sandy beaches, sweet overpriced drinks, world class diving, one main road, expensive imported goods, cruise boats in port…and it’s hot, my god it’s hot.
Would I go back? Maybe.. but probably not. For my money there are better places in the Caribbean and Central America that give you all of the Caribbean feel, for half the cost…and heat…and quantity of bugs.
Reasons I probably wouldn’t return:
- The Heat – Did I mention it is hot? The humidity was averaging 90%. Even at night, walking to dinner, I would be in a flop sweat. “Real Feel” temp was 94 degrees… at 9pm…in March. Air conditioning in my otherwise well appointed room was an extra $10 per night to discourage use. Fortunately, the winds were sufficient to cool the room off by 12 or 1 in the morning. Like I said…hot.
- Bugs – Lots of bugs. Having lived in Charleston, SC for 5 years I got used to the heat and humidity and the varied assortment of “bichas” who chose to share their space with you. This included the ever present noseeums. They are everywhere in Roatan, especially at Sunset, when you want to relax most. Mosquitos. Moths. And lizards…even though they are on the friend list… are abundant. There were 6 lizards on the ceiling above me at dinner, at a nice restaurant. I think they were planning some sort of ambush… I get it, I get angry when I’m hungry too.
- Cruise Ships – When cruisers get to the beach, it’s like being the sober one at the party. Everything and everyone becomes extremely annoying. You quickly understand the term “ugly American” that gets tossed around frequently outside of the U.S. People demanding drinks, and bathrooms, and snorkel tours. Commenting about the culture of the locals with an air of entitlement and snobbery. The otherwise tranquil beach turns into scene from Jersey Shore. The street vendors who know where cruisers get dropped off for their day at the beach descend like sharks. American accents, white sneakers in the sand, neon colored Myrtle Beach tank tops, the smell of money and 30+ sunscreen is like blood in the water. The difference between Sunday – no ships in port – and Tuesday – 3 ships in port – is mind boggling. Lesson: don’t visit cities or areas that have cruise ports – unless you are on a cruise yourself – then by all means get the fruity cocktail and a YOLO tattoo during your excursion.
Reasons I might actually go back:
- The Food – …and the drinks! The food was very good both at restaurants and on the street. A couple nights I had baleadas from different street vendors. Starving upon arrival the first night, I ordered one each of pork, beef and chicken and walked away with a 7” high mound of heaven on a paper plate – total $4. Drinks at all of the bars were stiff and cheap. Local beers averaged $1. My final night I visited “the best restaurant in Roatan”…per my bubbly resort owner Krys… and the food was bueno y barato…good and cheap. I would put it up there with the best restaurants in my hometown of Charlotte, NC any day. Mango Mojito, General Tso’s cauliflower, hand made pasta with avocado, mozzarella, tomatoes and a homemade “snickers bar” – total $20. Provecho!
- The People – Everyone is very friendly on the island, both ex-pats and locals, street vendors and business owners. You’ll also meet many a Canuck, there are 5 direct flights out of Toronto every day. 9 of 10 people I met on the trip were Canadian. I mentioned Krys, the owner of CocoLobo resort? She ate breakfast with us most mornings, gave me a ride into town one day and always had great recommendations for things to do, see and eat. I would highly recommend her place if you ever find yourself in West End. She was typical of everyone you found on the island. Muy Pura Vida.
- The Places – The vibe here, as expected, is very laid back. No rush to do much of anything. Safety never seemed to be a concern either. At Cocolobo, you leave your keys in an unmanned basket in the common area, you take beers and food from the fridge as you please and you just mark down on a sheet of paper what you took. You are able to use the facilities and equipment any time you like without questions or check outs. Free towels, free snorkel gear. Honor system prevails. A nice change that helps you unwind more quickly.
- The Diving – While I didn’t go diving on this trip, what I heard on the streets is that Roatan offers some of the best diving in the Caribbean with a diverse coral reef full of tropical fish, shipwrecks, and more. Next time…maybe.
- The Sunsets – Some of the more picturesque sunsets I’ve witnessed. Proof is in the pudding.
All in all, a great stay. It’s hard to complain too much about a tropical paradise, right? But as stated, for my money, I would still rather be on either coast of Costa Rica.
Until next time.
Final Fun Fact: Bojangles Chicken, which is headquartered in my hometown of Charlotte, NC has locations in 11 states, D.C…. and Roatan. They deliver delicious southern style cajun chicken via scooter and hot box to the whole island. Who knew?