Roatan: Exploring the Island by Car
I am a firm believer in getting ‘beyond the tourist trail’, getting lost for a few hours and exploring a place on my own terms.
Many travellers prefer to vacation the ‘all-inclusive’ style: relaxing on a white sandy beach somewhere with bottomless ice cold beers and zero intentions of ever leaving that lounge chair let alone the resort! Sometimes we simply need some R&R; a chance to disconnect from our busy lives and get back to basics. I am guilty of this too – after my first semester as a PhD student, I was longing to relax in a hammock, read a novel and get in some paddleboarding.
But let me tell you, there is SO much more out there that you are missing out on. Since we travelled to Roatan specifically to get in tons of scuba diving, we stayed at a private scuba resort so we could easily get a dive or two in each day. Eventually though, we started to get the itch to get out of the water and explore the island, so we decided to rent a car. We ended up borrowing a local man’s car who worked at our resort instead of going through the process of finding a rental agency, which worked out beautifully!
Roatan is accessible from the west end of the island to the east via one main road (which we believed made navigating in unfamiliar territory that much easier!). We really wanted to check out the east end of the island, where the local Garifuna culture is rich and the unique mangrove trees can be spotted, rooted amidst the salt and sand of the eastern coast line.
It is pretty hard to get lost when there is only one single highway, but we managed to do it! Somehow we ended up off the main road and found ourselves at a dead end leading into the island’s garbage dump… not quite the destination we had in mind for our afternoon adventure! Instead of turning back onto the highway, we inadvertently found ourselves ‘off-roading’ in our tiny sedan as we attempted to power the vehicle up a steep and jagged access road. We bounced and jostled around and crossed our fingers the car wouldn’t get stuck or stall out. Thankfully we made it to the top without busting a tire and found our way back to the main highway – I should know by now my sense of direction is awful, but it seems it’s now at an all time low. It definitely made for a few good laughs!
Back on track, we drove as far east as possible, reaching the island’s end – were rewarded with a secluded section of beach and a charming bar atop a deck that outstretched over the clear, turquoise waters.
We decided (quite easily) to enjoy the beautiful area with a beer and some food on the dock, under a shady, leaf thatched umbrella. (It’s 5:00 somewhere right?)
The beach was calling to me! I wanted to go for a snorkel and to our delight, not a soul was in sight on the beach or in the water, as if we had stumbled onto our own little slice of heaven. It was completely silent and serene, except for the sound of the waves lapping into the shore.
We left the east end of the island sun-kissed and satisfied with our afternoon adventure and our beautiful, ‘off the beaten path’ discovery. The moral of the story: Take the road less travelled – you may wind up getting lost, but you will most certainly find adventure!!!