Roatan is a Central American Paradise that you just will love when you have the chance to visit. The skies are blue, the water is crystal clear and the beaches are gorgeous. In fact, Roatan is known for scuba, fishing, and snorkeling and it’s awesome.
We were here just for the day, and due to limited time here we needed to figure out what worked best to get the most out of our day. There were 6 in my family. Our ages spanned from 11-75.
I began investigating all the different things we could do from shopping to touring and somehow our plan came together. We arranged a private tour, run by a company that is well respected on the internet, and I will say their information is spot on.
The ships do prefer you to come and go with their particular excursions. However having been on a few previous Carnival excursions, packed in like sardines, we opted to do something else!
Something we learned back in the day with my dad and mom as we cruised with them! We chose our own vendor, with plenty of good writeups and had quite the experience.
Tips For Touring Roatan When At This Port Of Call
Remember, taking adventures not scheduled by your own ship is taking a risk. Use caution when dealing with any and all vendors at different ports of call. We are not advising for or against, we are just telling you what we did.
Michael and I have plenty of cruises under our belts so we proceeded with our own plans. Being honest, we are not the only ones. While the cruise ships frown on this, there are plenty of reliable and safe tour operators.
Often the ones you seek out through word of mouth (and reviews on Google) provide better than average tours and information.
Since, we have been on cruises where operators were canceled due to lack of participation, we learned how to fend for ourselves! Again, I can only tell you to proceed with caution.
Don’t be afraid to make your own plans! Just be BACK On time as you are responsible to make your way back to the ship, they wait for NO ONE!
We are in Roatan, here is our welcome map are we ready for an adventure? – Tips for Touring Roatan
I paid for my tour, as did I pay for my family. Here’s the thing, this is really me telling you just what I thought. DO I think this is the best tour operator around? Nope. But, do I think that this operator really makes sure you are safely back at the port on time?
Yes! So, there’s the tradeoff. Would I do this differently next time, if there is a next time? Yes. Why? I want more beach time and less of the earful we got on the tour because of controversy.
The tour company is good at making money. First, you are given a ride to the top of a mountain where people are selling souvenirs. (I am sure some of the people are part of this operators business).
Then you will move on to the tour of the farm with the birds, and animals. Next, you buy your tickets which are CASH only. Don’t forget tip money, and that’s where I say, “welcome to island life. ”
Tips for Touring Roatan- Plan Your Excursion Ahead
Plan ahead, be meticulous about it, read up on the tour provider you are using. Understand you will be exposed to both the good life (resorts, best of, etc, ) and then the reality check the impoverished conditions that the families on the islands or countries live in.
That stated I am hoping the reality comes through on my overview and it does not appear NEGATIVE, just very telling of the area.
REALITY CHECK – Tips for Touring Roatan
Truly one of the most intimidating, uninviting ports of call we have arrived at to date. While I realize we would have missed the beautiful beach, sometimes I think we should just have stayed on the ship.
Now, the fact that we received this note, was the heads-up that it might be seedy here. Every vendor clamoring for your business and lying to get you into their tour shuttle. I get it, it’s a way of life, but, it also had a profound significance in how I viewed Roatan.
Off The Ship & Through The Shopping Port – Roatan
When you get out of the shopping area that is directly at the port, you walk up a set of steps, and at the top of the steps are the POLICIA. My kids were no more fond of this than were we. I believe we had a lighter version of this in Cozumel, but really don’t have it embedded in my mind as much as this.
Once you clear through the policia and the dogs, get ready it’s like a cattle call of vendors getting in your face. There are so many tour people biding for your business, but you must remain strong and find your CORRECT Tour person.
Under the Advisement of This Received Email from Victor Biden Tours
The tour company we had hired sent that. It basically states that other people were ‘impersonating’ their workers so please make sure you are with your tour and get the right bus.
Ohhhhh, can I just say I was shaking my head and hoping for the best? We had never had this happen on any of the other cruises we have been on and we have been on several other cruises.
It was not hard to find our tour, but many people did try to stop us, we just continued on to seek out the photo of the shirt we were sent for our particular operator.
THE AREA- Tips and Should We?
I am not usually one who will question issues, but this was beyond ridiculous at this point. It reminded me of another port we had been in (which shall remain nameless) and I will never go back with, again with Carnival on a different adventure.
After trying to get through all the vendor vying for your business and the police, dogs, guns, etc., I truly questioned our decision to take this tour and wondered if we should not go?
Another issue that crept into my dislike overall was the fact that the tour was comprised of 3 different cruise ship lines, none of whom were leaving port at the same time, and one leaving much earlier than our ship.
Our personal tour which was loaded with Cruisers from Norwegian, and Holland America as well as one other couple from Carnival.
Guess what? When One leaves you all leave, so beach time got cut SHORT! One good thing, our person leading the tour reminded us to recheck our ship time versus their time, due to the ships all leaving at different times.
Before You get to the beach, you ride through West Bay Village, and the Roatan Area in order to get to Victor Bodden’s Tour Center. Our guide was explaining issues with crime and poverty.
This is a photo of what Roatan streets look like, it is very much an economically depressed country, it is a third world country and sugar-coating it I won’t.
CHECK INTO LIFE – Reality of Travel
The destination is known for its diving, snorkeling, and reef, not the surrounding area. Everyone knows that the resort areas are the places that thrive. Consider, however, that with every resort, there are workers.
Workers and their families live in these conditions. This was the discussion our tour guide provided on our way to their farm. Her moral of the story: All of those tall fences that shelter the resort, have another side.
While you are busy living the life of Riley, your tourism is supporting the less than wealthy area you are visiting. This is when it is time to remember that with every encounter you experience, every tip matters to everyone you will come into contact with on your trip.
Our Tour Provided a Bit Of A Debate which the operator Took Issue With
It is not ‘Island’ living as some tourists in our group stated. Quickly, this German traveler from a different ship was basically put into his shell. The guide explained that what we were seeing is actual housing and housing conditions.
And that folks was the ‘drop the mic’ moment for him. He sat stymied at what he had been told. He came to the island thinking it was a bunch of beach bunkers and shanties that people owned and came to. Instead, he got a dose of reality.
His demeanor, as well as comments, suddenly stopped for the rest of the time we toured.
Can You Handle Reality? Tips For Touring Roatan? The Discussion Continued
No weather created what we were seeing and no one really likes living in this manner, it is the living circumstances, of a third world country that you are visiting.
His ignorance ignited her soapbox and his vision of what Roatan should be. Truthfully, at this point, I had sucked up enough of the bantering and just wanted the beach, but it was still not within reach.
The education achieved through traveling is like no other. Perhaps it becomes an ‘a-ha’ moment for some and for those things we all take for granted.
So let’s get to the good stuff, now that I have explained tourism, personal tours and the personal lesson in economics that my family adventure proved ripe with.
Get Ready For Some Fun
Trust me, I have read so many thing about traveling to the different ports of call, some good and some bad, that I really never know what to believe.
My trusted resource however gave me some good insight and once I reached out to Victor Bodden at Victor Bodden Tours I knew we had made the right decision.
The tour we decided to take is called the Fun -N-Sun-Excursion. The tour starts off with a pick up at your port, which you have to walk to them.
Stop One – Touring Roatan
Now on to the good stuff. Your first stop is on top of a beautiful mountain which overlooks West Bay Beach. The view is grand and there are a few vendors here.
Shop here, barter, whatever you want to do, the bus stays for a quick time (15 minutes or so). We managed to get a few hats for as low as $5 each. These vendors will bargain with you, and they want you to, so make sure to counter offer!
This was glorious. As a side note, our driver allowed all of us to keep our bags on the bus, and he sat with them, so we had minimal stuff with us so it made it easier to get out there shop, take photos and enjoy.
To Monkey Business Farm – Touring Roatan
Once we shopped for 30 minutes, the bus then took us to Victor Bodden’s Monkey Business Farm. Here is where you pay CASH ONLY for your day of fun. Maybe things have changed but when we were there, cash and cash only!
This is just a little building, you go in, pay and receive your armband (for the tour). Why do you need this? In order to use the bathrooms and changing facilities at West Bay Beach (which is also cash only)
Then you go onto your Monkey Tour where you get to interact with little monkeys and a very large Parrot. All fun, but I will say if you want more beach time, this is taking away from it.
Here’s our visit with the monkeys.
It is fun and the monkeys are so darn cute. You do have to listen to your host about not moving around, or grabbing them, just let them come to you, and they do! No worries!.
IF you take this tour there is a $5 additional fee time with the monkeys and the parrot and then the deer, squirrels, etc., Also, as mentioned there is a tipping area after which they would like gratuities (bring plenty of $1’s).
Do You Just Want To Go To The Beach? This Tour is probably Not The Best Option if we are being honest.
After you leave here you board the bus and you are off to the beach. We loved it here. The beach is the last part of the trip and the sun is awesome as is the water, The blue skies, the drinks, and the music, I would have gladly stayed forever it is paradise, but your 2 hours goes quickly.
The ride was quick to get to the beach and you will find both a food and bar vendor there. In addition, you will find a changing area, and you each get a beach seat. The two hours goes very fast, but the water is great, the sun was fantastic and it was just paradise.
Get changed and you take the bus back to your port, where you are DRIVEN back into the terminal this time. This was a nice change from when we came in. All you have to do is get out and you can shop as you are now back in the port of call.
I believe that Victor Bodden Tours is very organized and is a good tour to take, but I also have another opinion on this. Why did we have to be with other people? We could have just gone to the beach. Simply put, we could have arranged for passage to and from the beach.
If we ever went back, I would do just that. Here’s what I know. We could have called the resort and purchased these passes as well. I know this because we have done this on other islands and countries we have visited. You may not need the extra charges incurred by using this tour operator. The mountains are mountains, but beautiful, tranquil beaches are harder to find!