The Island of Roatan is located 30 miles off the coast of mainland Honduras.
Roatan Town, known locally as Coxen Hole, is the largest city on the Island and the main port of entry into the Bay Islands. The town has little to recommend it and security for yachts is reported to be bad, so skippers might be advised to take a taxi to the Port Captain’s Office in Coxen Hole from one of the marinas or the anchorage in French Cay Harbour.
French Cay Harbour and West End are the two favourite anchorages for cruisers on Roatan. There are a number of marinas in both places and around the Island. Facilities in these harbours are improving with a new haulout facility planned for French Cay Harbour and two new marine supply stores opening up. Quite possibly, Roatan is swiftly becoming the St. Maarten of the NW Caribbean.
Cruisers visiting Roatan should understand that spear fishing is not permitted by anyone, including Honduran nationals, anywhere in Roatan. (The sole exception is for taking lionfish and for that you must take a class and get a license.) Foreign nationals are not permitted to take lobster and conch at any time anywhere in Roatan and Hondurans can only take them outside the park boundaries during the open season. Fishing is only permitted by hook and line.
Last updated April 2015.
If clearing in at Coxen Hole, the Q flag and Honduran courtesy flag should be flown. A crew list must be handed in as well as the clearance papers from the last port. A 90-day cruising permit is issued which can be easily renewed. Immigration must also be visited. The check in fee is $3.00.
Port Captain's Office Coxen Hole: Open 0800-1200 & 1300-1700, phone 2445 1262.
Immigration Coxen Hole: phone 2445 1326.
Check in at Utila is preferred, as the Customs and Immigration officials in Coxen Hole are often busy with cruise ships.
The alternative is to use an agent here (see Agents & General Services).
Last updated July 2013.
Anchoring in Coxen Hole is not recommended. Brick Bay Marina is 4 miles East of Coxen Hole.
Cruising the eastern end of Roatan should be done with care and avoided during the low-season when the crime rate increases. The same applies when exploring ashore. Use extreme caution when off the main path, especially when in a highly noticeable rental car.
West End is a small town and West Bay is the beach. Following a proposed ban on anchoring in West End by the new Mayor in March 2012, no one enforced the ban for several weeks. However, on 28 April officials demanded that all boats leave West End. Read the history of this ban here. This ban is not imposed anywhere else on Roatan, however it does mean for now that anchoring or picking up a mooring ball in West End is no longer possible.
In Gibson Bight, West End, there is a marina.
West End/West Bay is badly exposed to northwest and north winds. Most local vessels move to the south side of the island if strong northerly winds are forecast.
Anchoring on the reef at Sandy Bay, West End Marine Park, within Half Moon Bay and West Bay, is prohibited. National Park mooring buoys are provided in these bays, however in West End the mooring buoys have been removed following the anchoring ban. All that remains are the mooring lines attached to the pins, so be aware of these lines when coming into West End. Anchoring is prohibited in the old mooring field, but anchoring is permitted to the left of the entrance to West End. There are a limited number of National Park mooring buoys available in French Cay Harbour.
Security Update January 2015: A boat at anchor here was burgled whilst the owners were ashore, a hatch forced open and cash stolen.
French Cay Harbour
French Cay Harbour is a large, very well protected anchorage with good holding and a limited number of Marine Park moorings available. In addition there are 3 marinas: Roatan Yacht Club, Brooksy Point Yacht Club, and Fantasy Island Resort & Marina (see photograph left courtesy of Fantasy Island). A new haulout facility catering especially to cruising boats is also planned for French Harbour.
Almost everything needed by cruising sailors is available within the French Cay Harbour area, including the best provisioning on the island, banks, hardware & marine supplies, doctors/dentist, a variety of dining options and a wealth of marine services. Access is via 2 dinghy docks, bus or "collectivo" taxi. Almost all goods and services needed are within a 15 minute walk of either dinghy dock.
The dinghy dock, commonly referred to as the 'Shrimp Dock', is private property. The owner 'Mr. Bobby', has generously granted its use to cruisers. Your co-operation to maintain the shrimp dock as an access point is required by following basic guidelines - do not take water from the dock, do not dispose of garbage, and do not wander around the property. Please be courteous to all whom you meet. If there is someone on the dock, ASK for permission before you tie up. Finally, the gates are locked and the dogs released at 4pm, so be aware, and beware!
The other dinghy dock is provided by the Roatan Yacht Club (see photo right) and allows 24 hour access for a 50 limpira or $2.50 fee.
Note: The whole harbour is a marine reserve and taking ANY marine life is prohibited.
It is easy to take a taxi or bus from French Harbour to Coxen Hole to check in.
Roatan Marine Parks
In all designated marine parks no one must touch the coral or remove anything from the sea including endangered species such as conch and lobster. Dive buoys (white with a black RMP logo) and fishing moorings (black fishes) cannot be used by yachts. No sewage is to be released into the sea within 5 miles of any Honduran coast. Failure to observe regulations may result in a jail sentence or vessel being impounded. Spearfishing is prohibited to tourists on ALL areas of Roatan. There is virtually no enforcement capability.
The latest Marine Park regulations can be found at the Roatan Marine Park website (see entry below).
Last updated April 2015.