“Most of the expats and retirees in Honduras,” explained Correspondent Michael Paladin yesterday, “have flocked either to the north of the mainland, beginning at Copan, variously described as the Athens or the Paris of the Mayan world, or to a few enclaves along the Caribbean coast and the Bay Islands, especially the famed diving island of Roatan.
“The current U.S. Ambassador to Honduras estimates that there may be some 3,000 American retirees among Roatan’s population of 30,000-plus.
“Roatan is where most of the development in this country has been focused to date, much of it to support the big volume of cruise-goer traffic this island has enjoyed until recently. Right now, the cruise ship business and other tourist traffic are off by 30%.
“At the same time, the second-home/vacation-getaway market is way, way down over the past year.
“As a result, all development on Roatan has stopped…with the exception of the new US$50 million cruise ship terminal and a Guatemalan-financed golf course.
“The island is feeling the pinch. Businesses are for sale, prices are soft, and offshore owners are anxious to unload their dreams.
“You can get a really great deal if you’re in the right place at the right time.
“For example, if living a simple, peaceful life on the quiet side of a Caribbean island retreat appeals to you, take a look right now at Fiddler’s Bight, a reggae-tinged village, where a one-bedroom house is for sale for US$10,000. Yes, it is on the water, accessible by a finger pier or a canoe. There’s no electricity and no water, but the views are spectacular. Not for everyone…
“The West End is the far more developed part of the island and its jewel, with white sandy beaches and streets, quaint boutique hotels, and superb restaurants. There are no bars on the windows, little crime other than stealing someone else’s date, and the water all around is turquoise.
“You can rent a two bedroom ‘island-style’ home for as little as US$350.
“The East End and the middle of the island are commercial areas, with freighters, fishing boats, and small, seedy strip malls. The high-speed ferry from La Ceiba docks over here (the two-hour ride costs about US$20). A taxi from the airport to West End is US$20.
“Coxen Hole, Roatan’s aptly named port and present capital, will eventually fade away.
“Politically, Honduras is fairly stable and has been for the last 30 years. Honduras and Costa Rica were the only two countries in Central America to escape the regional troubles of the 1980s.
“Being on the Caribbean side of this country has its pluses and its minuses. Since the first of this year, seven planes have crash-landed while carrying drug shipments.
“So if the Cessna that’s heading your way appears to be off-course and lower than usual, it might be a good idea to duck for cover.”