East of French Harbour
The narrow, two-lane highway (bicyclists beware) running east of French Harbour to Oak Ridge winds for most of its length along the ridge in the center of the island, affording superb views of both coasts and the reef, visible under the clear water. Between French Harbour and the Punta Gorda turnoff, the highway passes Juticalpa, a small Latino community and the only sizable inland settlement anywhere on the Bay Islands. Once heavily forested, these central island mountain slopes have been almost entirely denuded of their original cover and now support secondary scrub growth, pasture, or farmland.
About a kilometer east of French Harbour, keep an eye out on the right-hand side for a long white fence, at the end of which is a road turning in, with a sign to the Arch’s Iguana Farm (tel. 504/455-7482, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, US$5), located just over a kilometer (0.8 mile) from the main highway down a paved road. When you come to a fork, make a left onto the dirt road and follow the signs to the end. Here you can check out some amazingly huge (some more than one meter long) iguanas, frequently unnervingly interested in their human visitors, especially if you have banana leaves to share. There is also a large, enclosed deck area for viewing fish (including barracudas and tarpons), turtles (including hawksbill, green back, and loggerhead), and lobsters (which are in a separate section so they can lay eggs and repopulate the surrounding area, decimated by overfishing).
A few kilometers farther east is Milton Bight, home to the dive shop Subway Watersports (tel. 504/3387-0579 or 504/413-2229, ask for dive shop, www.subwaywatersports.com), which takes walk-in clients on dives to the many great reef locations near there for US$35 per dive, and trips to the revered site Mary’s Place are made daily. Kayaking, Jet-Skiing, water-skiing, water-boarding, shark dives, day trips to farther-flung sites (such as Morat, Barbaretta, Utila, the Sea Mounts, and Cayos Cochinos), and fishing trips can all be arranged as well. Subway is a PADI five-star Instructor Development Center, and the first National Geographic dive center in Roatán (the National Geographic courses teach the same diving, with a heavier emphasis on environmental awareness and marine science).
Subway also can arrange accommodation in a number of nearby vacation homes, listed on their website, ranging from nice to luxury, and priced accordingly (US$700–5,000/night, some with nightly rates also available).
While plenty of places on the island have water views, the best spot for a view of the island itself is the appropriately named The View restaurant, right on the highway not far from the turnoff to the Parrot Tree Plantation. From the peak of a steep hill, the view is of lush emerald vegetation leading down to the golden sand and turquoise water. Vendors sell handicrafts and souvenirs in the small grassy area in front of the restaurant.
Continuing east toward Jonesville, keep your eyes peeled for a spa sign along the highway that leads to Spa Tranquilidad (tel. 504/9797-0042 or 504/3260-7173, www.fuegodelmar.com/spa, by appointment only), a bit out of the way, but with some of the best-value spa services on the island. Professional masseuse Blanca Bodden offers hour-long massages for just US$30, and other treatments like facials, wraps, and stone therapy are available as well. The spa is at Politilly Bight—if you pass the Garífuna center Yubu heading east, then you’ve gone too far.
© Chris Humphrey and Amy E. Robertson from Moon Honduras, 5th Edition