Roatán, Honduras

Roatán, HondurasFeeling like the Caribbean is getting a little crowded? As much as you’ve enjoyed cruising to St. Thomas, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic in the past, their ports have been feeling a little crazy lately. That’s why you decided to head west this time. But Cozumel and Belize City haven’t felt much different. So when your ship departs for Honduras, it’s time for a different game plan.

After docking in Coxen Hole, skip the tour lines and trinket shops, and get out on the water. It’s the best way to see Roatán. The largest of the Bay Islands has more boats than cars anyway. You stop sweating as the boat picks up speed over the turquoise water. The wind whips stray hairs into your face. Salty waves lightly dampen one side of your body. You’re free.

Located along the second-longest barrier reef in the world–after the Great Barrier Reef, of course–Roatán is a water lover’s paradise. And the ideal place to finally learn how to scuba dive. Or just stick to snorkeling. Either way, the water is usually calm and clear, providing high visibility for the colorful coral, huge sponges, schools of fish, and exciting wrecks below. Watch hawksbill turtles, king crabs, manta rays, and reef sharks swim within feet–if not inches–of you. Maybe you want to stay above the water though. Kayak around uninhabited cays or into quiet bays. Troll for barracuda and dorado. And cruise along the quiet northern shore.

Few visitors make it up here, but it’s certainly worth the trip. Old Port Royal has the ruins of a pirate fortress. Palm trees along the shore give way to tropical oaks and gumbo limbo in the hills. Stop at B.J.’s Backyard in Oak Ridge’s mangrove canal for a Port Royal beer. The friendly expats will be surprised you made it this far. If it’s Sunday, head to Hole in the Wall in Jonesville for all-you-can-eat lobster and steak. The rest of the week, Gio’s in French Harbour serves enormous seafood platters.

And as the day comes to an end, head southwest to West Bay Beach. The powdery white-sand beach is consistently named one of the best in the Caribbean. It’s not a secret though. This is the place to be when the sun is setting. Sometimes even the crowd gets it right.

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