Roatan, Honduras

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The Eclectic Caribbean Island Of Roatan

Reviewed by Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen is the Live and Invest Overseas Founding Publisher. She has more than 30 years of hands-on experience traveling, living, and buying property around the world.

sunset on a pier, on Roatan Island. Honduras
Adobe Stock/unai

Roatan, Honduras, is the largest of the Bay Islands off the coast of this Central American country. When choosing to visit Roatán, most people end up in the West End.

The West End of Roatan is the most touristic section, the side with the most infrastructure, and the largest agglomeration of people that Roatan has to offer is there.

Due to the history of Roatan, there is a wide variety of cultures, traditions, and festivities. If you are looking for a lively destination, with amazing offshore reefs that rival those off the coast of Australia, beautiful beaches and turquoise waters, as well as scuba diving, countless water activities, and jungle intrigue, then Roatan is the place for you.

Today, Roatan is still mostly undeveloped. From the air, you see an island that is about 60 kilometers (40 miles) long and 8 kilometers (5 miles) at its widest point… And green!

There are no high-rise hotels; building regulations don’t allow high buildings and there are density setbacks from the beach and strict controls on development, particularly close to the water.

Change comes slowly on Roatán; only if you visited years ago will you appreciate the changes in residents, language, and amenities.

Although Honduras is a mostly Catholic country, Roatan is broader in scope and tolerance; with the number of foreigners on the island, who are generally more tolerant of differences, everyone seems to blend together rather than form groups of like-minded people who separate themselves.

Roatan is truly a melting pot of people, and they all seem to meld together, so there is a variety of religions represented and accepted, as well as all kinds of non-traditional sexual and gender lifestyles. Everywhere on Earth differences will be both challenged and celebrated; Roatán is no different in that regard.

Here is everything you need to know about Roatan, Honduras.

Cost of Living in Roatan, Honduras

The cost of living in Roatan can be very reasonable depending on how much you do and how far you go to do it. In Roatan you can expect to pay as little as around US$1,500 for all your basic needs (rent for a one-bedroom apartment, basic utilities, groceries, transportation, entertainment, and activities).

If you are looking to enjoy your retirement in Roatan, then you can spend between US$2,000 and US$2,500 for a lifestyle filled with wonder.

Moving to Roatan will have your days packed with outdoor activities, gorgeous ocean views, and local cultural activities.

In other words, Roatan, Honduras, is truly the place to be for the island life you have been seeking.

The cost of living in Roatan can be dirt cheap, and you can cut expenses almost anywhere to provide you with a better cushion for going on tours, exploring nature, and renting boats for any water activities you have been craving your whole life.

The most popular place in Roatan is Coxen Hole on the Western End of the island. For apartments in that area, you can expect to find a one bedroom in the city center for around $630 USD per month, and a three bedroom in the city center for around US$1,830 per month.

The further you are from the city center then the cheaper it will get, and if you enjoy living closer to nature then you need not be in the throes of the city.

As a result, your transportation costs (gas and maintenance) will increase. A one-bedroom apartment outside of the city center can run you around US$466 per month.

A three-bedroom apartment outside of the city center could set you back around US$1,030 per month. But, if you are more inclined to buy and settle down in the beautiful scenery of Roatan, the price per square foot inside the city center is around US$175.

The price per square foot outside of the city center goes down to about US$132.

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Basic utilities in Roatan can be a little expensive since the infrastructure of Roatan is not entirely equipped to deal with the amounts of cruises, tourists, and population that come here to visit.

To clarify, it is still extremely affordable on a budget. Your basic utilities (gas, electric, water, etc.) can cost around US$200 per month. A good internet service costs about US$110 per month.

When it comes to groceries in Roatan, Honduras, you can easily live on between US$50 and US$100 per week. A gallon of milk runs you about US$5, a loaf of bread costs around US$2.25, and a dozen eggs is only about US$2.

For example, eating out can easily done. Local delicacies can be as low as US$7 to US$8 per meal. For a nicer three course meal for two people, you are still only paying as low as US$32.

All the tours offered in Roatan (scuba diving, ziplining, fishing, parks, and sanctuaries) only end up costing between US$13 and US$500.

The longer the tour and the more provisions needed, the more costly it will be. Nevertheless, you can still enjoy all the wondrous things to do in Roatan, Honduras, on a budget.

You can eat out at restaurants that offer culinary delights from a wide range of countries such as Peru, Argentina, India, Thailand, England, South Africa, Italy, China, New Zealand, Jamaica, America, Canada and, of course, Honduras. A good meal will range anywhere between US$8 and US$15.

Roatan is fortunate to be located in the original banana republic, so fruit is plentiful and varied on the mainland of Honduras, but still has to be brought to the island.

There are also American-style supermarkets so there is access to products you will be familiar with. The average monthly budget for food and household items for a couple is US$500.

Monthly Cost of Living Budget for a Couple Living in Roatan, Honduras

(Given in Lempira, Honduras’s local currency.)

ExpenseMonthly CostNotes
RentUS$1,200Furnished, two-bedroom apartment.
GasUS$13For cooking.
InternetN/ABundled with phone.
Cable TVN/ABundled with phone.
GroceriesUS$277Basic items for couple.
EntertainmentUS$307Social outing, US$22 per person
TotalUS$ 2,047

Click here for currency conversion at today’s exchange rate.

Things To Do In Roatan, Honduras

Bay at Roatán

The things to do in Roatan, Honduras, truly encapsulate island living. Roatan is the largest island of the archipelago about 65 kilometers off of the coast of Honduras.

As a result, it is surrounded by the second largest barrier reef system in the world, the Mesoamerican Reef. And, this is why the scuba diving, snorkeling, and fishing are amazing around Roatan.

Plus, all the white sandy beaches and the hypnotizing turquoise waters, you will truly feel like you are in nature’s paradise when you live in Roatan, Honduras.

There are central places to visit in Roatan, Honduras. Most of them are on the West End of the island, since the infrastructure there is more in place compared to its Eastern counterpart.

The French Harbor, or Barrio “La Punta”, is still very much to same compared to decades ago. If you are looking for a more local style of living and a lively introduction to Roatan’s culture, then this small neighborhood is the place to be.

The West End itself, which is at the most Western point of the island, is probably the most visited town in Roatan, Honduras.

It is a perfect place for sightseeing, and along with its neighbor the Half Moon Bay, is a highly sought after real estate destination and has the biggest expat community on the island.

Other notable areas on the Western side of the island include West Bay (great beaches and the West Bay Mall), Sandy Bay (with two large marinas), Flowers Bay (populated mostly by local islanders), Anthony’s Key Resort and Bailey’s Key (where dolphin habitats are located and you can swim with dolphins).

The other town worth mentioning is Coxen Hole, which is the capital of Roatan. This town is as lively as it can get and is filled with local parades and festivities all throughout the year. It is also where the Port of Roatan, one of the two ports where cruise ships land, is.

All throughout the island you can find artisanal shops perfect for souvenir shopping, perfect real estate destinations for every taste, marine life, and biodiversity centers, and much more.

Things to do in Roatan are truly endless. Before moving on to the delights of nature that await you, why not make a stop at the Roatan Museum. It is next to the Institute for Marine and Science. It is the perfect place to learn about Roatan’s vast and vibrant history, culture, and its people.

There are loads of artifacts and exhibits presented in the most delightful way. After a stop here you will feel like you understand Roatan and its background much more.

Just across from Anthony’s Key Resort is the Carambola Botanical Garden. A perfect place to walk around, relax, and admire the luscious orchids that bloom throughout the year.

Be sure to stop at Gumbalimba Park to interact with white-faced Capuchin monkeys and discover other local fauna.

There is also a sailboat, now called iSoar, which is permanently moored in the waters of Half-Moon Bay. From this boat you can dive, swing off of ropes and enjoy many other activities that have been retrofitted into the boat. It is a perfect place to visit with your friends and family.

Most of the things to do in Roatan have been focused on the Western side of the island, but be sure to check out the Eastern side as well. There are more fauna and flora tours, and you can even visit the sloth’s sanctuary.

Visiting Roatan will let you partake in scuba diving tours, ziplining, island tours, fishing tours, rides on glass bottom boats and much more. You will truly get to experience the gems of nature that Roatan has to offer, and it will make you want to come back again and again.

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Tourism In Roatan, Honduras

Roatán isn’t a flat spot of sand in the ocean (as several Caribbean islands are), it’s a mountain that sticks out of the water. It’s close enough to the mainland (Honduras) which gives you a distant mountain view rather than uninterrupted open water.

Roatán also has the white sand beaches that define the Caribbean and that most people seem to appreciate.

From its hammocks-on-the-beach-for-backpackers beginnings, Roatán has grown into a full-fledged resort island destination. Tourism is its main economic activity. Snorkeling and diving are its biggest attractions, but cruise ships also call regularly.

Dozens of resorts and hotels that accommodate tourists have gone up on the island along with dozens of real estate developments catering to retirees and second-home buyers.

Roatan, Honduras: Moving And Visa

Moving to Roatan can be a scary prospect. It is definitely recommended to visit Roatan first before making any long term decisions. That being said, it is an easy endeavor all things considered.

Arriving in Roatan, you can land at the Juan Manuel Gálvez International Airport, which is only about a 5 to 10 minute drive to the city center in Coxen Hole. We recommend that you to rent a car while visiting Roatan, it will grant you more freedom and make your excursions much more affordable.

If you choose not to rent a car though, the taxi ride from the airport is only about US$6 to Coxen hole, and only about US$20 to US$25 from the airport to West End.

When you visit Roatan and Honduras, you can stay in the country up to 90 days without any visa requirements. This is perfect to scout out the area, have an adventure, and get to know your future home.

The process of getting a visa in Roatan and Honduras can take anywhere from 6 to 9 months.

Due to the length of the the process, it is not uncommon for people waiting for their residency application to go through to have to leave the country two or three times. This is due to the limit of staying in the country as a tourist (90 days), and you must leave the country for a minimum of 72 hours.

For instance, this is a great opportunity to continue getting your affairs in order back home or visiting surrounding countries that have always been on your bucket list, before completing your move to Roatan.

There are two ways of getting permanent residency in Honduras. You can take the retiree or pensioner track, or the employment track.

Applying as a retiree or pensioner, you can be of any age and must have a proof of income of at least US$1,500 per month from a reliable source (Social Security income for example).

The other option for the retiree or pensioner visa in Honduras is applying as a renter.

As a “Rentista”, you must show proof of income of at least US$2,500 per month from a return on an investment in Honduras (such as a rental property).

The second track for getting residency in Roatan, Honduras, is through employment. You can apply for this visa as a “key-employee” of a company, an entrepreneur, or owner of a business in Honduras. This is a perfect visa for someone looking to keep on working while living the life in Roatan and Honduras.

A last remark concerning visa and residency in Honduras is that your documents must be apostilled by officials from your home country.

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Weather In Roatan, Honduras

The weather in Roatan, Honduras is very tropical. That being said the sea breezes help keep the temperature in Roatan cool throughout the year, between 70° and 80°F.

The temperature in Roatan can still sometimes get up towards 90°F though.

Like most tropical places, Roatan has a rainy and dry season. The rainy season goes from September to February, and the dry season runs from February to August. Nonetheless, Roatan manages to stay green all year round, despite if you are there during the dry season.

Most importantly, rain in Roatan happens for around 112 days a year. This shouldn’t discourage you from moving though, since it’s usually scattered showers, even during the rainy season. Sometimes it can rain for a few days straight, but this will give you ample time to catch up on your reading, or work on your new hobbies.

If you are worried about hurricanes, this is a moot issue since Roatan lies outside of the hurricane corridor.

The chance of there being a hurricane in Roatan, Honduras, is only about once every 26 years. This fact, coupled with the year-round wonderful weather, makes Roatan a prime destination for home ownership.

On top of that, since you will be spending a lot of time on or near the water, it is good to keep in mind that the water temperature rarely drops below a perfect 80°F and can even go up to 85°F.

In short, perfect to cool off after bathing in the sun, go for a swim, or visit the surrounding reefs while scuba diving or snorkeling.

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Roatan, Honduras - FAQs

Is Roatan, Honduras, Worth Visiting?

Visiting Roatan, Honduras, makes for the perfect island getaway. Whether you are looking for laid back jungle fun, local life filled parades and festivals, or want to visit one of the world’s top scuba diving areas, then Roatan is the place to be.

What Is Roatan, Honduras, Known For?

Roatan, Honduras, is known for its amazing offshore reefs, beautiful sandy beaches, pristine turquoise water in the Caribbean Sea, and its surrounding islands that make up the archipelago of the Bay Islands in Honduras.

Not to mention, Roatan is also known for its amazing scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, and any other water activities you can think of.

On top of that, there are great jungle excursions, island tours, and plenty of flora or fauna to discover when you are not mingling with the locals and partaking in traditional activities and festivities.

Is Roatan, Honduras, A Good Place To Retire?

Retiring to Roatan, Honduras, is a perfect plan for someone who wants to sit back and relax on an island. This doesn’t mean you’ll just be staring at the waves crash onto the beach underneath the sun (although that does sound like a wonderful plan and a perfect way to spend your time).

Plus, it has a wonderful expat community to become a part of, and plenty of investment opportunities that will make your life living in Roatan a true wonder.

Why Should Americans Move To Roatan, Honduras?

Americans should move to Roatan, Honduras, because it is so easy to get a residency visa in Roatan nowadays. If you choose to take the “Rentista” track, not only will you end up with permanent residency and be on track to get citizenship, you will also be creating a perfect real estate investment in Roatan that will allow you to travel more.

Moving to Roatan creates a perfect home base for visiting the surrounding countries. Although, if you wanted to stay in Roatan and never leave, no one would blame you.

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