Black and yellow angelfish darted through the water under my seven-year-old daughter and me. Then a school of silver… jack?… porgy?… swam by. I’d have to check my fish identification book when I got back to the hotel room. Francesca pointed wildly, and I squinted through my snorkel mask. It was huge, it was colorful… a parrotfish perhaps? We popped our heads out of the water to check where my husband and son might be. They surfaced as well, and pulled their snorkel tubes from their mouths to shout, “We saw an octopus!” All this and we were hardly twenty yards from shore, at West Bay beach, Roatan, in the Honduran Bay Islands.
For both work and pleasure I’ve explored Roatan’s 60-odd kilometers from east to west, and there is so much more to do and see than what we could squeeze into our four and a half days on the island.With 735 kilometers of coastline on the mainland, and three large islands plus a couple dozen cays in the Caribbean, sun worshippers in Honduras have beaches galore from which to choose. In my four and a half years in Honduras, I’ve visited plenty of them, and would be hard pressed to name a beach I didn’t like. But this trip was different. It was our family’s farewell to Honduras, and we wanted everything to be perfect. It had to be West Bay.
A spectacular setting, great snorkeling, and lots of amenities. Caribbean Travel + Life named West Bay one of the top ten beaches for snorkeling in the Caribbean. I’ve picked it as “Best All Around Beach” for the upcoming edition of Moon Honduras and the Bay Islands (due to hit shelves in October).
While you pay a premium for proximity to the water, West Bay still has a few reasonably-priced hotel options. Traveling in the non-peak season allowed us to splurge on one of the beach’s top hotels. We tumbled out of bed each morning and onto the beach. Each day we chose a special activity on top of the snorkeling and swimming along the shore.
Day one was parasailing. “I’ll take pictures from the boat,” offered my husband.
After clipping ourselves into life jackets, and strapping into harnesses, the kids and I stood on the platform of a specially-equipped boat, holding on to a siderail as we sped away from the shoreline. Our harnesses were clipped to hooks on the parachute, and as the boat picked up speed, the wind gently lifted the three of us up off the boat. The rope connecting the parachute to the boat uncoiled, and we rose a few hundred feet into the air. Look Ma, I’m flying…!
The white sands became a thin line encircling Roatan’s lush greenery of palm trees and jungle. The boat pulled us around the tip of West Bay, granting an aerial tour of private homes along southern Roatan. Our fifteen minutes in the air felt short, and far before the kids and I had tired of the trip, the rope was slowly being wound back, for a gentle landing on the boat’s deck. (Let me just note here, that parasailing has improved a lot since I first tried it with my parents and sister some twenty years ago, when we floundered through shore landings, stumbling across the sand and trying not to get hurt or injure anyone!)
On day two my husband and I celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary at Vintage Pearl, where excellent service and food accompany a relaxed beach vibe (customers are asked to leave their shoes at the door). The kids got dressed up too, and discarded the kids’ meal options in favor of potato soup with bacon followed by wahoo in peanut sauce, and strawberry flan.
For my son, the highlight of the trip was hiring a boat one day (we negotiated US$50 per hour, all equipment provided) to take us on a snorkel and fishing trip. The line fishing consisted of line wound around an empty plastic bottle, with bits of crab on a hook for bait. A simple, but effective trick, and the kids caught several fish between them, which they were sad to release back into the sea. We tried trolling for tuna and barracuda, with professional rods and bait, but were less successful. Apparently those fish are earlier risers than we are. “Captain Wayne” then took us to the Blue Channel to snorkel, a popular site between West Bay and West End, where we watched brilliantly colored fish play peek-a-boo in the coral wall.
For both work and pleasure I’ve explored Roatan’s 60-odd kilometers from east to west, and there is so much more to do and see than what we could squeeze into our four and a half days on the island. In fact, there was more to offer just on West Bay beach than what we could fit into our time. But who needs to do it all? What we did manage to squeeze in will make for a lifetime of special memories.