Diver’s Paradise (with two 3-year olds in tow)
Back in 2007, we became friends with the owners of our local Mt. Airy coffee shop, Jocie and Jason, and their daughter Jade, who was 6 weeks older than our son, Foster. It was like the friend version of love at first sight and as they lamented that they’d not been able to go diving since before Jade was born, a trip to the dive mecca of Roatan was promptly planned for August 2009 (giving us time to save up, and ensuring that our kids would be out of their Terrible Two’s).
We booked the 2-bedroom Sundancer cottage, with a pull-out couch for the kids. It was very basic and a bit out of the way in terms of getting downtown to where the West End dives shop and restaurants were, but once we got the hang of using the local bus, it became a bit of a fun adventure each day. The group of 6-8 cottages shared a pool, which we pretty much had to ourselves at all times, and we had our own dock out to the bay. The cottage also came with its very own bat family in the eaves of the porch, and an unidentifiable hummingbird-size flying insect-type thing which we dubbed “Mothra”. The sand fleas were INSANE. You could not step one foot out of the cottage onto the sand without Deet covering every surface of your body. Unfortunately, I learned that lesson the hard way and spent the next two-weeks covered in nasty, bubbly bites from head-to-toe. So we’d probably rank this house in the “roughing it” category, and would likely choose another location, closer to downtown, if we ever return.
For those of you who are non-divers, diving is done in a buddy system, so by having four of us, it would allow each couple to dive together while the other family stayed with the kids. But we ended up hitting the dive shop jackpot with the family-run, locally-owned Native Sons. Within our first few days of diving with them, we became so comfortable with Alvin and his crew that when they offered to have one of their family members watch Foster and Jade so that the four of us could all dive together, we quickly jumped on the offer. It truly is the best diving we’ve done to date in terms of fish variety, coral formations, swim throughs, wrecks, water temp, visibility and diversity of dive locations all within a short boat ride.
Downtown West End is basically one super cute strip of dive shops, restaurants and a market or two with a smallish strip of beach. It’s totally chill. The standout dinner restaurant for us was Red Hot Chilies which had cool fabric draped booths right on the beach. We ate lunch pretty much daily at a tiny little stand with one picnic table, stuffing ourselves on $1 chicken baleadas (the Honduran version of a taco).
On a rare non-diving day, we ventured to Gumbalimba park. A bit touristy, yes, but in that “this-would-never-fly-in-America-because-the-insurance-would-be-insane” kinda awesome way.
The opposite end of the island from the West End is West Bay. There are a handful of restaurants and it’s where the better beaches are, but it’s also where the cruise ships dock for the day, so we only spent one day there. It was fun for a day, but we preferred sharing the beach with the locals in the West End.