Roatan Island’s carefree Caribbean ambiance is intermingled with an engaging energy and northern flavor especially apparent in its thriving arts and entertainment scene. Refined or festive, understated or somewhat outrageous, Roatan’s uniquely “Caribpolitan” culture provides natives, expats, and visitors alike ample opportunity to enjoy island life to its fullest – and add their own special ingredients to the fun-filled mix! Whether it’s the Parrot Tree Shrimp Festival, the Christmas Concert for the Angels, Garifuna Day Celebrations, art exhibits, reggae concerts, the internationally acclaimed Bay Islands Triathlon, or the annual Easter Week extravaganza, Roatan’s vibrant arts and entertainment community makes every day a celebration of island life at its best. And The Island’s burgeoning restaurant community makes dining out a culinary delight!
You’re never nearer to nature than when swimming the waters, strolling the shores, or walking the forested foothills of Roatan Island. Starfish beckon from breaking waves, parrots call from swaying palms, and the woods teem with exotic wildlife peering curiously at photo-snapping passersby. But, to get a real up close and personal look at some of The Island’s more fascinating species, you’ll want to go to where they have a home of their own.
The Institute of Marine Sciences (on Anthony’s Key) offers a variety of opportunities for close encounters of the first kind with the ever-popular dolphin community. That includes beach encounters, snorkeling, and diving with the dolphins on a daily basis. IMS even offers a dolphin summer camp for kids!
Sherman Arch’s Iguana Farm (at French Key) is home to dozens of languid Ctenosaura Oedirhina (that’s the official name – though they’re probably better known as “those things that look like prehistoric dinosaurs and starred in a movie with Richard Burton”). Like all iguanas, those at Sherman’s Farm may look ferocious, but they are actually as gentle as house pets (and that includes the Black Spiny Iguana, found no place else in the world by on The Island). So, you can pick them up, pet them, feed them, and even take them on a walk if you had a leash.
And if you are into flora, you won’t want to overlook Carambola Botanical Gardens (on Sandy Bay). And don’t forget to bring along your camera! Carambola’s 30 acres of natural jungle trails offer a picture perfect locale for hiking, eco tours, bird watching, and, of course, photography. You’ll enjoy a wide variety of flowering plants, orchids, medicinal plants, exotic spices, fruit and nut trees, including the popular “Chocolate Trees and world-famous Honduran mahogany.
Arts & Artisans
Roatan’s thriving cultural community brings together artists and artisans from across Honduras and throughout the world to make The Island a uniquely attractive cultural center. From folk art to seascapes, from sculpted images to handcrafted creations, there’s something for everyone in Roatan’s museums, galleries, and boutiques.
On Roatan, the culture isn’t limited to walk-throughs and guided tours. As they say on The Island, “Don’t dabble – dive in!” Roatan’s artists and artisans not only ply their trade, they gladly teach it as well. Almost every night of the week, experienced professionals offer classes in sculpting, painting, pottery throwing, singing, dancing, and playing almost any instrument you choose, from accordions to xylophones.
And yet, there’s more! Live entertainment has also become a welcome earmark of island life. In short, Roatan rocks! From solo artists to jazz combos and steel drum bands, Roatan’s nightspots are popular venues for those who love the sound of live music and long to dance the star-studded night away!
Festivals & Festive Fun
“Sometimes it seems that island life on Roatan,” the popular website Caribbean Life Club recently observed, “is one long spring break!” And why not? When the sun shines all year round, the fun just seems to follow suit. The best part is, everyone’s invited. No shoes? No shirt? No problem! Roatan’s festivals and festivities are free-spirited, fun-filled, and simply faboo!
While it may be difficult to single out any one celebration from Roatan’s crowded calendar of exciting events, it might be equally as hard to argue with those who cite the Roatan International Shrimp Festival as the most mouthwatering of them all. Held in June of each year, this two-day sea celebration features non-stop music, games, entertainment, and food – including, of course, massive amounts of sweet, succulent, fresh-netted shrimp.
Roatan’s International Fishing Tournament, now in its 13th year, holds special allure for all who enjoy aquatic life. While the anglers are out casting, catching – and releasing – thousands of sea lovers crowd the shores and walkways of West End to join in the four full days of non-stop fun in the sun. The event coincides with the annual West End Carnival, so expect an abundance of parades, street parties, food, and music.
April 12 marks the annual colorful Garifuna Day Festival, celebrating the day the Garifuna arrived on Roatan. As Frommers Guide suggests, “Get ready to party if you’re in town on this day.” The Bay Islands Triathlon offers yet another excuse to party hearty. As does the week-long Easter Week celebration. And if you’re on The Island in late December, you won’t want to miss the Christmas Concert the Angels, an annual event raising money for Roatan’s children.
For more information about Roatan’s festivals and festivities, go to http://tourismroatan.com/things-to-do/festivals-a-events
Roatan’s flair for blending tradition with innovation is amply reflected in its cuisine. Here, the most venerated of Caribbean dishes share a place on the plate – and the palate – with the newest creations from some of North America’s most imaginative young chefs arriving on The Island to spread their wings and flaunt their wares.
Seafood, of course, still reigns supreme as The Island’s claim to culinary fame. Poultry dishes with spicy herbs grace the tables of old and new restaurants alike. Fresh fruit salads abound. And vine-ripened vegetables from tropical gardens add a burst of flavors only available where the sun never sets on the growing season.
Relatively new to The Island, however, are the plethora of North American style restaurants offering the finest cuts of Grade A beef imported from the states on a daily basis. Roatan’s newest sports bars are providing wall-to-wall, HDTV coverage of major league baseball, college and pro basketball, and a full schedule of gridiron showdowns – all with the requisite menu of ribs, burghers, pizza, munchies, and dips.
And if you are a wine or beer connoisseur, you’ll want to treat yourself to a tour of Roatan’s newest gourmet bars and fine wine cellars. The very latest mini-brewery beers are now on tap and the wine menus boast international wines from the finest vineyards.