West Bay Beach Snorkeling
The MOST popular snorkel dive spot in Roatan.
Monday 1 August 2016 06:47 GMT
At the southwest end of Roatan, the snorkeling at West Bay Beach offers exceptional biodiversity, healthy coral growth and good water clarity. While there is good snorkeling along the entire West Bay Beach, the eastern end has more seagrass with the reef further offshore (about 600 feet). The best snorkeling is located near the western end, especially southwest of the water taxi dock at Infinity Bay Resort, where there are two marked underwater snorkel trails and beautiful coral reefs only 300 feet offshore. The coral formations come within 5-10 feet of the water surface. The West Bay Beach is a protected part of the Roatan Marine Park. The entire West Bay Beach, especially near Infinity Bay Resort, is very popular with the cruise ship tourists, so make sure to check the cruise ship schedules for planning a big day at West Bay.
During West Bay Beach snorkeling, you may encounter eels, grouper, conch, sea horses, clownfish, midnight parrotfish, lionfish, Caribbean spiny lobsters, Caribbean reef octopus, and Caribbean reef squid. There are occasional stingrays, green sea turtles and hawksbill turtles further offshore in the deeper, cooler water. The marine life can be found around the elkhorn coral formations lettuce coral, fire coral, brain coral, sea fans and barrel sponges.
A good place to start is directly off the southern end of the Infinity Bay Resort property. About 150 feet offshore, you’ll see the first underwater marker for the start of one of the snorkel trails. Continuing west, you’ll pass through gaps in the coral and the water clarity will improve greatly. At the end of the coral reef formation gap, the wider are of sand flats is known as Mandys Eel Garden. Mandys Eel Garden is about 300 feet southwest of the water taxi dock at Infinity Bay.
Further south along the reef, there are other good snorkeling sites, especially approaching the iron shore wall at the end of the beach. There is the start of another snorkel trail just off the beach at the south end of the beach. In calm seas, you can snorkel along the edge of the iron shore passing between the gap of Black Rock to the iron shore. Just beyond the Black Rock along the coast is the drop off for the West End Wall. There is usually very good visibility to see into the deep. Keep an eye out for the occasional hammerhead shark that may pass closer to shore in the deep waters. Make sure to use extra care when snorkeling between the Infinity Bay Resort northeast to the Bananarama Resort. There is heavy water taxi, glass bottom boat and dive boat traffic all day long.
The snorkeling off Roatan is known to be truly world class. Roatan is located northeast of Tegucigalpa about 35 miles off the Honduran coast. Isla de Roatan is about 32 miles long and ranges from 1 mile to 4 miles wide. The reefs around Roatan are known to have about 25% live coral, which is actually relatively healthy compared to other reefs found in the Caribbean. The average water temperature around Roatan varies little from summer (82F) to winter (78F). The best visibility can be found during the driest months of February through May, which can be up to 100 feet. During November and December, the visibility is typically 30 feet or under due to the heavy rain runoff. By the way, there are dozens of so-called dive shops around the island, however, most of them are just fronts for guided scuba dives. The dive shops rarely have any gear for sale, and the rental snorkel gear is old and very basic. Make sure to bring everything you may need, even mask drops.
The waters surrounding the West Bay are protected as the Roatan Marine Park. The Roatan Marine Park has installed over 60 mooring buoys at major dive sites to protect the reefs from anchors. There is an annual $10 USD fee to snorkel in the Roatan Marine Park that is payable at the local dive shops. Note, while snorkeling in the marine park, watch out for boat traffic from water taxis, glass bottom boats and dive charters; they all short-cut through the marked marine park boundaries and rarely use the designated entry channel. A diver-down flag would certainly make you feel safer.
After a long day of snorkeling at West Bay Beach, you might want to grab a drink in West Bay to cool off at Beachers Bar, the Thirsty Parrot at Bananarama Resort or the Palapa Bar at Infinity Bay Resort.
To reach the snorkeling in Roatan by air, fly into Ramon Villeda Morales International Airport (SAP) in San Pedro Sula. Then, you will need to transfer to an inter-island flight to the Bay Islands. Alternately, if you are coming from the US, you may be able to find a direct flight to Roatan into Juan Manuel Galvez International Airport (RTB) from Miami or Houston. A passport valid for at least 6 months past the departure date is required for entry, and there is a $40USD departure tax. Note: when preparing to fly off the island, make sure to give yourself plenty of time a the airport with a minimum of two hours - there are five long steps to the departure process and the planes do not typically wait even if you are confirmed checked-in. Also, the land-line phones on the island are very unreliable, so make sure to come with a complete list of the mobile phone numbers you may need such as dive shops, hotel, restaurants and rental car agency.
The West Bay Beach snorkeling is located southwest of the airport off West Bay town. To reach the snorkeling in the West Bay area from the airport near Coxen Hole, turn left out of the airport towards Coxen Hole. At the first intersection with Petro Sun Gas Station, turn left to Coxen Hole. Continue straight to next intersection with Sarita Ice Cream Shop on corner, veer right to Gravel Bay / Flowers Bay. Continue straight through Gravel Bay to next intersection, turn right toward West Bay / West End. Continue straight to next intersection, turn left towards West Bay. The center of the West Bay area is near the West Bay Mall. There is parking just west of the West Bay Mall towards the shore, and also across the street from the Infinity Bay Resort.
Overall, West Bay Beach is the 1st most popular snorkel dive spot of all 16 snorkeling dives in Roatan. Several of the better snorkeling spots are nearby West Bay Beach including Turtle Reef, Herbies Place, Lighthouse Reef, Cayman Turtle Centre, Tabyanna Beach and Schoolhouse Reef.