Honduras isn’t as well known as the other places in the Caribbean, but one gem worth considering is the country’s gorgeous island of Roatán. Honduras’s overall travel safety is often questioned due to the staggering crime levels, leaving one to ponder the question: is Roatán safe for tourists?
Roatán is the largest of the Bay Islands, offering travelers an off-the-beaten-path getaway. It has all the beauty of turquoise waters and lush forests that you would expect from a Caribbean archipelago. This makes it easy to understand why the island is gaining popularity among tourists.
A holiday here would be nothing short of spectacular, as it has plenty to offer to an adventurous spirit. But safety remains a top priority wherever you go. This deep dive into the possible dangers will ease your mind before visiting Roatán.
Why Visit Roatán?
Roatán boasts iconic white-sand beaches like those of West Bay and Mahogany Bay. You can relax on the shores, dip into the warm Caribbean waters, and engage in water sports like kayaking and paddleboarding.
The island is famous for its stunning coral reefs and crystal-clear waters. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is the second-largest barrier reef system globally and encircles the island. Divers and snorkelers visit Roatán to explore its vibrant coral gardens and interact with diverse marine creatures, including fish, manta rays, and even sharks.
Roatán’s captivating cultural heritage blends together indigenous, Afro-Caribbean, and European influences. To experience it, you can enjoy local markets, traditional music and dance, and the unique multi-cultural cuisine. Despite being lesser-known, it’s easy to consider Roatán as one of the best tropical vacation spots waiting to be explored.
Is Roatán Dangerous?
Despite Honduras being unsafe, the Bay Islands don’t suffer the same level of danger. Roatán offers a good level of safety for tourists, and you have a low likelihood of running into trouble. That being said, there are still concerns of petty theft, as there would be in any country.
General precautions and avoiding unsafe areas will mitigate most chances of theft and other crimes. The most pressing worries would be muggings, assaults, and break-ins, but tourist cases are few and far between. The other contributing factors to Roatán’s dangers are natural disasters like hurricanes, flash floods, and earthquakes.
Although Roatán has hazards, some things also contribute to your well-being. This includes protective locals and patrolling security guards in the well-traveled areas.
Dangerous Areas in Roatán
Coxen Hole is the largest town in Roatán and serves as the island’s administrative and economic hub. The safety generally aligns with the overall reputation of Roatán. However, it has a higher crime rate than the rest of the island. As such, petty theft is a more significant concern, and muggings and break-ins are more likely, especially at night.
While it may not boast the pristine beaches like other parts of the island, it draws visitors for its charming cultural offerings. Here, visitors can sample traditional Honduran cuisine and purchase handmade crafts. It is also a cruise ship port of call.
Los Fuertes is a popular location for tourism as it has many upscale resorts, hotels, and cabanas. Since it’s a travel hotspot, opportunistic criminals lurk in the area, making it more unsafe than other parts of the island. Nighttime makes you especially more susceptible to crime.
Although Los Fuertes is more dangerous than other parts, visiting and staying there is still safe enough. If your well-being is a top concern, there are better options in Roatán that offer the same travel friendliness but with increased safety.
Is It Safe to Live in Roatán?
Roatán may be a stunning tourist location, but locals fall subject to higher crime instances than someone who passes through for a holiday. Roatán has a medium crime index of 54.53, making it far below the country’s average level of 73.49.
Violent crimes like muggings, robberies, and assault are a medium concern, while general theft and break-ins are at a high level. Many criminal offenses in Roatán are due to the island’s serious drug problem and corrupt police system. The high poverty level also adds fuel to the fire.
Overall, locals in Roatán don’t face catastrophic crime struggles, but the lack of sufficient living wages makes getting by difficult. The frequent natural disasters also challenge the community.
Safe Areas in Roatán
Palmetto Bay is a tranquil and scenic area known for its incredible beachfront and lush tropical surroundings. You can relax on the immaculate beaches, swim in clear Caribbean waters, and enjoy various water activities such as snorkeling and kayaking.
The Roatán Institute for Marine Sciences is also nearby, offering you educational programs and opportunities to interact with marine life like dolphins. Palmetto Bay is a well-maintained and eco-friendly community with vigilant local authorities committed to ensuring locals’ and travelers’ safety.
Pristine Bay’s name says it all, giving you a world of immaculate beauty and captivating attractions. The centerpiece of this resort location is the gorgeous Black Pearl Golf Course, ready for you to take part in a challenging round of golf amidst breathtaking views.
Tourists are drawn to the resort’s luxurious accommodations and fine dining options, among other amenities. The area is also a gateway to vibrant marine life with nearby dive sites like the Blue Channel.
Pristine Bay also prides itself on its commitment to safety. This resort area boasts well-maintained facilities, professional staff, and a secure environment, ensuring a worry-free experience.
Nestled along the northwestern shores of Roatán, West Bay is one of the island’s premier destinations, with enticing white-sand beaches and coral-reef waters. The location is ideal for swimming, snorkeling, diving, and water sports. Beachfront bars, restaurants, and shops also complement the laid-back atmosphere.
West Bay benefits from its tourism popularity, which translates to a well-regulated and secure environment. The presence of resort security and local authorities, coupled with the generally friendly atmosphere of the area, adds to the overall sense of safety.
Although all these areas are primarily safe for travel, exercising caution is still as necessary as it would be anywhere. Petty crime is the foremost concern, and you must protect your belongings.
Warnings & Dangers in Roatán
Roatán can easily be considered one of the safer travel destinations in the Caribbean. That said, no place is all sunshine and roses, and the island does face its challenges.
Crime is the human aspect of the island’s dangers. Petty theft, like bag-snatching and opportunistic pickpocketing, is the main danger. Break-ins are also a realistic problem. General precautions of guarding and securing your belongings mitigate the chance of this.
More severe instances have occurred, like armed muggings, but it isn’t likely and will usually happen at night and in the unsafe areas mentioned. Sadly, natural disasters do add to Roatán’s list of unsafe scenarios.
Overall Travel Risk (3/10)
Knowing which dangers may lurk will prepare you for whatever comes your way. Taking safety precautions should eliminate most of the hazardous situations in Roatán.
Enjoying the nightlife is safe for the most part, but you should stick to tourist areas and have reliable transport ready when you want to head back to your hotel. You should note that transport on the island is also a cause of concern due to unsafe drivers and a lack of traffic regulations.
Drugs and prostitution are rife in Roatán but remain highly illegal. Getting involved with either is very dangerous, and even the temptation of a seemingly harmless joint will lead to trouble. Another consideration is the possibility of natural disasters. Roatán is hurricane-prone, like most Caribbean islands. The hurricane season runs from June to November.
Petty crimes such as pickpocketing and theft occur especially in crowded areas and tourist hotspots, so you should be cautious with your belongings. Lock your hotel room always, and use safes when heading out.
Most people in Roatán dress casually; therefore, openly displaying valuable items makes you susceptible to being a theft target. You should keep your bags close to you in restaurants, away from being easily grabbed. Also, never leave valuables on the beach when going for a swim.
While violent crime is relatively rare, staying in well-traveled areas, particularly at night, and using reputable transportation services will protect you. Coxen Hole and remote areas should be especially avoided at night.
Hurricanes in Roatán sometimes devastate the infrastructure and well-being of the community. Flash floods and landslides are a common worry and severely impact the already poor economy.
You should stay up to date on weather warnings and avoid visiting between June and November. It would be best to have contingency plans in place if you do need to travel during hurricane season. In general, some places on the island may have challenging terrain or limited infrastructure, so hiking or exploring remote areas is best done with a local guide.
The main roads and those connecting popular tourist destinations are generally well-maintained, but some less-traveled routes may be uneven or unpaved.
Rental cars and scooters are available, but you should rather avoid scooters as the roads aren’t particularly safe due to reckless driving — especially at night. Familiarise yourself with local road rules if you are going to rent a car.
Public transport consists of taxis and shared minivans known as “collectivos.” They are a convenient way to get around, but confirming fares before starting the journey is necessary. However, it is better to choose hotel-recommended transport for a safer, more enjoyable experience.
Drugs and Prostitution
There is occasional violent crime in Roatán, but it is mainly a local problem rather than for those who visit. It is also most often drug-related. It usually has to do with the drug trade directly or people damaged by addiction trying to get their next fix. Prostitution is also commonplace on the island and is often linked to drug matters.
The drug issue in Roatán is further enhanced by corrupt police who accept bribes and turn a blind eye. No matter the lack of control, please stay away from all forms of narcotics, as it only puts you in harm’s way.
Tips for Staying Safe in Roatán
When traveling abroad, being wary and exercising common sense is always wise. These top tips should help you:
- Not all hotels have room safes: in this case, ask to use the hotel’s main safe for your valuables.
- Don’t drink the tap water: Like most countries, bottled water is the way to go.
- Use public ATMs: using those in well-traveled and patrolled areas is safer and avoids problems like mugging.
- Stay hydrated: Roatán’s tropical climate is warm and humid, and water is essential for preventing heatstroke during outdoor activities.
- Bring sunscreen: sunscreen tends to be expensive in Roatán, and it is a necessity for a holiday in the sun.
Is Roatán Safe? | Frequently Asked Questions
Before you travel to this divine Caribbean paradise, some of these top queries should help you understand the island a little better.
What Language Do They Speak In Roatán?
Spanish is the official language in Roatán, but English is commonly spoken throughout the archipelago. Roatán Islanders often speak Creole English. This language is broken English mixed with French, Spanish, and some words from the Garifuna culture.
You should find it easy to communicate with the friendly locals, especially in the tourist areas.
Is Roatán Honduras Worth Visiting?
Roatán, Honduras, is undeniably worth visiting for its captivating natural wonders and cultural richness. Famed by the spectacular Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, Roatán is a paradise for divers and snorkelers.
You can spend your days exploring pristine beaches, lush landscapes, and cultural markets or participating in many other activities, including golf.
Can You Drink The Water in Roatán?
It is generally advisable for travelers to avoid drinking Roatán’s tap water. While they have tried to improve water quality, it does not guarantee consistently safe drinking water throughout the island. To avoid trouble, it is best that you rely on bottled water to drink and brush your teeth.
What is the Cheapest Time of Year to Visit Roatán?
May and October are quieter months in Roatán, with pleasant holiday weather. Since these months aren’t peak season, you’ll be able to enjoy lower-priced flight tickets and accommodation than usual.