Roatan Honduras: The Expat Guide to Island Life
When you close your eyes and picture your dream retirement, what do you see? How about smooth, powder-white sand beaches and crystal blue water, all wrapped up with moderate, year-round weather at an affordable price? The beautiful island of Roatan Honduras, can offer expats all of the above and the best part is, you don’t have to be dreaming to make it a reality.
The largest of the Bay Islands, Roatan can be found just off the northern coast of mainland Honduras, encompassed by the clear, warm waters of the Caribbean.
Approximately 31 miles long and less than 5 miles wide at its widest point, Roatan only has a population of around 28,400 people, but this island paradise attracts thousands of tourists to its pristine shores each year.
In fact, Island Magazine named Roatan the #1 island in the world to retire to in 2011 and it was also listed on Kiplinger.com as one of “8 great places to retire abroad”.
But what is it about Roatan, Honduras, that is making expats choose this island over the many other fantastic Central American retirement destinations out there?
Scenic beauty and the perfect climate
Along with unspoiled beaches, lush forests, and the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, Roatan also has that year-round moderate weather that so many expats crave.
As is expected in any tropical environment, there are hot and rainy seasons in Roatan. The first rainy season will occur from June to July and the second (the winter rainy season) will span from October to February respectably.
The average temperature in Roatan is a perfect 28°C, with the lowest temperature being around 22°C and the highest, 31° C. So pack away your heavy coats, for in Roatan, you will never need more than a light jacket to be comfortable.
It’s not yet thick with crowds
Although this may change as Roatan continues to gain recognition, the island is not yet densely populated. If you choose to settle down in Roatan, you will be free of some of the crowds that would be simply unavoidable in other popular expat spots in Central America.
Actually the current balance is quite ideal. Because Roatan is not yet congested with tourists, the prices remain very affordable, and yet, because the tourism industry is an important aspect of Roatan’s economy, the island is filled with amenities like restaurants and bars that can be great additions for local expats.
There is an established expat community
Again, even though Roatan isn’t overrun with tourists and expats, there is definitely an established expat community in Roatan Honduras.
And with 4 modern supermarkets, bilingual schools (teaching English and Spanish) and other first world amenities available on the island, adjusting to Roatan life can be made a little easier for North American expats.
In Roatan, expats can not only expect to be welcomed by their fellow expats, but by the friendly locals as well.
The local people in Roatan, Honduras, are made up of a unique blend of cultures from different ethnic backgrounds, but the largest population of locals are of Indian and Spanish decent.
And while Spanish is the national language in Honduras, many locals also speak good English and some are even predominantly English speaking, which makes communicating in Roatan easy for North American expats.
A home away from home
One of the major dilemmas that many retirees face when deciding on a location for a second, or even primary home, is how much distance they are willing to put between them and their families back in the U.S.
On the one hand, relocating to an affordable tropical paradise may sound almost too good to be true, but on the other, not being able to run over to see the grandkids every day could be a deal breaker for some expats.
A home in Roatan, Honduras, can be the perfect solution for expats in this predicament.
Honduras is only a short 2.5 hour flight from Houston, Texas, and with flights arriving to and from on a daily basis, North American expats can realistically be lounging on the beach one day and enjoying Thanksgiving with their families the next.
It’s easy to get residency
Getting residency in Roatan is a relatively simple process and you can be granted a retirement Visa as long as you can prove that you have a monthly income of $1,500.
Once you’ve acquired that, you can own up to ¾ acres of land in your own name, the property taxes are very low and any foreign earned income will not be taxed at all.
It’s a great time to buy
The real estate market in Roatan is actually related to the U.S. economy, which consequently, is where the largest number of Roatan expats hail from.
After the housing crisis that reached an all-time low in 2008, the housing market in the U.S. is beginning to improve and the market today is prime for buyers due to extremely low prices. The same goes for Roatan, but just like in the states, these low prices won’t stick around indefinitely.
Exploring Roatan Honduras
The largest town in Roatan, Honduras, is Coxen Hole, where the airport, government offices, and cruise ship docks can be found.
But unless you’re catching a flight, Coxen Hole isn’t the best area for expats. The streets are very busy and unfortunately, some of the slums are unsafe (especially at night).
The French Harbour of Roatan is the second largest community on the island and is filled with amenities like grocery stores, banks, and even a shopping center.
In Punta Gorda, you will find the largest population of Garifuna people. Tied to their African heritage, the Garifuna continue to play African drums and to speak in their native tongue.
The west end of Roatan is definitely more popular with tourists, and in the bohemian West End Village, expats can find restaurants, bars, shops, dive centers, and a lot of excitement.
However, this excitement can best be experienced at night as people come out to dance, listen to live music, and walk along half-moon bay, the crescent shaped beach that the village is built along.
Of course, for those that would rather steer clear of the crowds, privacy can be found on the east end of Roatan. Here you can sunbathe, snorkel, dive, and stroll the mangrove forests in a much more solitary environment.
Slow down and live like a local
Like in many areas of Central America, the pace of life in Roatan is slow and relaxed, the complete opposite of life in America.
Enjoy the simple things in life as you spend your days lounging on the beach, scuba diving, hiking through the lush forests, or stretching out in a hammock with a good book.
And after stocking up with fresh produce from the local market, cook flavorful and inexpensive meals made up of fish, blue crab, shrimp, mangoes, coconut, and plantains and be sure to get a taste of authentic Honduran cuisine by trying local dishes like delicious conch soup.
Hit the beach
If you are a beach lover, West Bay Beach can’t be beat. Described by Lonely Planet as “pitch perfect”, West Bay Beach is what you expect the Caribbean to be, a true tropical oasis.
Soak in the the sun on the sprawl of white sand, swim or snorkel in the warm waves, or maybe try your hand at paragliding.
You can catch a water taxi from West End Village that will take you to West Bay Beach in around 10 minutes for under $3. What could be better?
Life in Roatan, Honduras, can be calm and relaxed, but it can also be lively and invigorating depending on how you choose to spend your days.
One of the most popular pastimes in Roatan is scuba diving, so if you are a diver, you are definitely in for a treat.
There are dozens of dive sites scattered throughout Roatan, including the 2nd largest coral reef system on the planet that is located just offshore. You will experience life underwater as you observe seawalls, shipwrecks, sea turtles, dolphins, and whales all in the gorgeous warm waters of the Caribbean.
With so much to offer, what is keeping expats from immediately jumping on the next plane to Roatan, Honduras?
Crime in Roatan
When many people think of Honduras, the first thing that comes to mind is crime and you may find yourself asking, “Is Honduras safe?”
It can’t be denied. Despite the fact that thousands of tourists fly in and out of Roatan each year, Honduras does have crime. And with gangs, the drug cartel, and the highest per capita murder rate, it’s no wonder that some expats feel wary.
The truth of the matter is, the majority of the crime in Honduras is situated on the mainland in the country’s major cities.
The islands, like Roatan, are much safer due to limited access. Most of the traffic coming in and out of Roatan arrives through monitored access points like the airport and ferry terminals and Roatan also uses a primary road that makes police stops quite easy.
If you are nervous about crime, protect yourself by making smart decisions. Don’t walk in large cities at night, don’t display expensive items like jewelry, and always avoid the slums.
Is Roatan right for you?
Roatan is a beautiful island community that will remind you what it means to truly enjoy life. If you have been looking for a retirement spot with ideal weather, picture perfect beaches and affordable prices that’s only a short plane ride away, consider Roatan, Honduras.
Book a flight, pack your bags and take a tour around the island to see if life in Roatan is in fact the life for you.