Roatan: Deserted sandy beaches, laid-back lifestyle and roads repaired with coconuts

After a crazy trip down the Rio Motagua by cayuca, a walk along the beach to Masca, tales of lost cities and a few bus rides I was really looking forward to hanging out on the beach…

22 January, Saturday                         Coxen Hole, Roatan

Well hot damn. I’m sitting in the zocalo in La Cieba, the funkiest town I’ve seen so far. Pure Caribbean. 50,000 plus people. The new King Kong is playing at the flicks. A neat place.

Got up real early, packed my gear and rode over to the bus depot. Bought my ticket to La Cieba at 8 Lemps. Also an extra 2 Lemps for my bike. That’s one Honduran custom I don’t like. Loaded my bike on top and soon we took off. The ride was interesting enough, but crowded. The little kid behind me kept pulling my hair. Lots of nice mountains, clear rivers.

Pulled into La Cieba at 10.30. Stashed my gear on the Silver Dawn and rode down to the docks. Found out that the boat to Roatan might leave around two…that is if it gets here in the first place. So I just rode around, ending up on a bench in the square eating all the goodies the vendors had.

Well, hot damn twice. I left the zocalo and hit a pretty good restaurant. Then I went back to the pier and waited for the boat. About an hour. Bought my ticket and hopped aboard. 10 Lemps plus 5 Lemps for my bike.

Real nice ride over. The boat was a 70 ft 1930s style converted pleasure boat. All Mahogany but falling apart. We cast off and left La Cieba behind. Pretty rough. The Honduran coast is fantastically beautiful. High jagged palm-covered ridges running down to white sand beaches. Just how I would imagine the Caribbean coast to be.

Felt good to have the rolling decks under me once again. Wasn’t long before Roatan appeared on the horizon. Long with hills. Looked good. Soon the clouds broke and the sun came out. All right. Making about 15 knots, the trip took three and a half hours. Pulled into an incredibly beautiful harbour right at sunset. Coxen Hole. Yippee!

Disembarked and found a sleezy joint for 4 Lemps. Ate a good rice / meat / banana / cerveza meal for 2 Lemps. Kinda walked around a bit. Things are hopping here. Sabado noche. I might be able to off El Biko for 200 Lemps. They’re a hot item here. Manana, I explore the island.

23 January, Sunday

Up early to explore the island on my bike. I rode west down the south side of the island along the shore. Real nice. Then north, over the central ridge to West End. White sand beaches, coconut palms, off-shore reefs, perfect. Lots of lobsters, I hear, fish also. I rode along the north side, simply superb. I might rent a house over there in a few days. Went past Half Moon Bay, Sandy Bay, Gibson’s Bight, the ultra-exclusive resort of St Anthony’s Key, all along a dreamlike beach. Then back over the ridge to Coxen Hole.

Relaxed a bit then rode down the south side to French Harbor, nice, but nowhere near as beautiful as the north side. Had a small spill and sliced up my left foot a bit. I’ve got a lot of open sores on both feet. No big deal, though.

Returned to Coxen Hole and walked around a bit. Met some interesting characters. Ate a good supper for 1 Lemps then went to the movies. Saw a pretty good gangster flick. Yeah, I really like it here.

40 kms ridden today, 1415 kms total

24 January, Monday

First things first. Got up a rode down to the Correos and got three letters. One from Mark and Bill. I guess they’ll meet me in Roatan. Outtasite. Also one from Ma and Pa and one from Suzanne.

Mostly lazed around all day. Met a few people, visited a few stores, just took it easy. Bought some hand-rolled cigars and smoked one. What a trip. My first cigars. Ate a lot. I tell you, this is the life.

25 January, Tuesday

Up early to go to the Correos, but it was closed: national holiday, Ladies Day. Readjusted my brakes then buzzed down the road towards West End, looking for a place to stay on the north shore. Stopped off at a few places, but nothing. Stopped at a small stream to wash my clothes. Done. So the day’s not a complete loss.

Continued down the road to West End. A few gringo tourists there. Found a little grass shack for 10 Lemps for two weeks. All right. They have a place for a fire and it’s right near the beach. Rather primitive, but I like it. Talked to a few people.

Buzzed back to Coxen Hole and just wandered around. Ate at Maude’s, great dinner for .5 Lemps. Saw a couple of so-so flicks.

20 kms ridden, 1435 in total.

26 January, Wednesday

Well all right! Rolled out of bed early and got all my gear straightened up. Went to the PO and mailed a few letters. Bought a tad of rice and some tomato paste. Left my pack with a lot of spare gear at Maude’s Hotel, stashed behind the jukebox. Then, after packing my bike I left Coxen Hole for West End.

Across the island, up over the main ridge down to Sandy Bay. Along the beach, past St Anthony’s Key. The added weight of my gear makes pedalling in the loose sand real tough. I’m forced to walk a bit. Then inland, over some ups and downs, down to West End.

Wow! The little kids had fixed up my little hut real nice. Put in a sleeping platform, a couple little benches and even a tin roof. Real nice. So I loaded my gear in. Home for a week.

Met the family who lived there, real nice. Walked down by West Bay, a beautiful white sandy beach lined with coconuts. Copped a bit of a suntan.

Moseyed on back and looked around a bit. Gathered some firewood, went to the store for a few potatoes and onions and started supper. Built me a little fire and whipped up some stew. Um, um good. As I was scarfing down, Dorado, the owner came by and we shot the shit for a while. Turns out he knows Lauderdale pretty well. He invited me out fishing manana. Cruised around a bit more then crashed out.

10 kms today, 1445 to date.

27 January Thursday

Up early to go fishing. Dorado has a small dory. We loaded a few lines on board and paddled down towards West Bay. Passed over the reef to the blue. Threw out the lines, but no luck. Nice sitting out there, though. Paddled back to shore, hard work.

After a while I walked down to the store and bought some eggs and cheese for lunch. But when I returned and looked for my lard to fry them all up all I could find was an empty wrapper and lots of crab tracks. Live and learn. Anyway, cooked up a dynamite meal with fried platinos for dessert. Yum.

Lazed around a bit, smoked a cigar, just took it easy. Went swimming. Went for another paddle with Dorado to help him put out another fish trap to catch bait. Walked about a bit, ending up at the soccer field where they were choosing up sides. All right. Played about an hour. All-in-all, a nice day. Walked back to my hut, shot the breeze with some friends and crashed out.

28 January, Friday

Rather a relaxing day here in West End. Slept in relatively late, 8am. Walked to the store and bought the day’s provisions. Returned to my hut and cooked a dynamite breakfast of eggs, onions and cheese, very good. Then I started cooking some red beans with onions.

Mostly hung out all afternoon, becoming very relaxed as the afternoon progressed. Gathered a bunch of firewood, talked to people just enjoyed life. Started my supper fire around sundown and cooked up my beans, later frying the mashed beans. Um, yum. Combined with fresh bread a meal not to be beat. What a life.

29 January, Saturday: Up real early to go fishing with Dorado. Again no luck. As they say, better luck next time. Water was real still and clear and we could see the reef very clearly. Went diving down West Bay in the afternoon. Very, very nice. Relaxed a bit, ate a good supper of eggs, onions, fried platinos and home-made bread. This is the way to live.

30 January, Domingo: Another kick back day spent relaxing and enjoying myself. Cooked up a dynamite supper of beans and onions. Combined with Miss Jewell’s coconut bread I have no complaints.

31 January, Monday: Typical West End day. Sunny and warm. Gathered firewood and horse-eye nuts. Cooked some dynamite (what else?) fish stew for supper. This place is nice.

1 February, Tuesday: My last day at West End. Went fishing again with Dorado. I must be bad luck ‘cuz we didn’t even get a nibble. Lots of paddling.

Ate an absolutely delicious meal for supper at Dorado’s: Fried fish, platinos, rice, beets, homemade bread and butter, lemonade and for dessert the best lime pie in the world. Puts Mac’s in Marathon to shame. I can say that my stay in West End was one of the best weeks I’ve spent so far. A nice place.

2 February, Wednesday

Well, back to Coxen Hole. Packed up early and hit the road. A big cruise ship was anchored off Sandy Bay. Won’t be long before this place takes off. Rode over the hills and into town.

Got a a room at Maude’s, changed money, bought a bit of food and just relaxed. I figure I’ve got to figure out a plan of action pretty soon. Perhaps down the coast. Just relaxed, ate a good 1 Lemp supper.

Kms ridden: 10, to date: 1455

3 February, Thursday: A very slow day. I’m trying to sell my bike. Think the best I can do is $75. Ate lots of munchies plus my usual 50 cent supper. I’m getting restless again.

4 February, Friday: Up early. Hit the correos and mailed a package with excess weight to the US along with seven letters. Ran into a friend there and we decided to go down to French Harbor. Had a good time.

5 February, Saturday: Took it easy, not doing much. Enjoying myself, though.

6 February, Sunday

Woke up early, packed all my stuff and rode up towards French Harbor. Only here in Roatan do they try to do road repairs with coconuts. Stopped in French Harbor for a few hours to eat and check out the docks. ‘The Three Stooges in Outer Space’ was playing at 7pm. Looked good but I headed up the road toward Oak Ridge. The road started out fine, but soon got hilly. Hard pedalling but making for very fine vistas: clear blue water, different shades over the barrier reef.

Just before Oak Ridge I met a kid, Junior, who was riding his beat-up bike home to Diamond Rock. He said I could camp out near his house. So we rode up past Oak Ridge and Punta Gorda to Diamond Rock, reaching Junior’s place about sundown. I set up my camp and ate a bit of real good pumpkin bread. Crashed out soon after.

25 Kms rode, 1490 total

7 February, Monday

Up real early as the bugs in Junior’s yard are utterly terrible. Junior’s family is very nice, giving me a nice breakfast.

Junior had a couple of horses so after a few chores we saddled them up and rode up over Port Royal Hill to Port Royal. The road, once used for cars, was washed out in a few places, making it impassable to large vehicles, motor bikes being the largest. A nice pine forest atop Puerto Real Cerro.

Not much going on in town. One loud generator and a few houses. Looked about for a few minutes then headed the horses for home. Just a real pretty ride. Got back to Junior’s and found out I was covered with these tiny ticks. There must have been literally over a hundred of them. My clothes and sleeping bag were also infested. Ugh. So I washed up by the well, but that didn’t do much good. Those guys are tough. I guess manana I’ll retreat to French Harbor to de-tick.

Relaxed a bit then walked down the road to Oak Ridge. Oak Ridge is a bustling fishing town. Lots of boats leave from here to Mosquitia and Nicaragua. I learned that this is the season right now. I just looked around a bit, ate a bit of ice cream and started the long walk home. Nice sunset.

Got back and talked with Junior’s ma and pa for a spell. Mistress Novia told me last month here brother sold 4 acres of beachfront property for USD$200. Sounds like a good deal. Americans are buying (and subdividing) lots of land here in Roatan. I give it two years til it gets to boomtown. We’ll see. Crashed out to an itchy sleep.

8 February, Tuesday

Awoke early and packed my vermin-infested gear on my bike. Said goodbye to Junior and his family and started the long, hot, itchy trip back to French Harbor. I like to take my time and relax while I ride.

About two kms from Oak Ridge I was riding along and – snap – my chain fell off. Closer investigation showed a broken link. No big deal for the well-prepared bike tourer. I had a spare. As long as I was stopped I greased and oiled the bearings as well. All-in-all, this trip has been pretty much trouble-free. So far.

Half-way between Oak Ridge there is a little refresco stand. How convenient. Hit French Harbor about 2pm. Rented a pleasant room in a small house for five Lemps. It has lights, a shower and privacy. A real good deal.

First things first. Hit the shower. Got most of the ticks off afterwards by picking them out. I had them everywhere – face, belly button, legs – all over. Went to the store and bought some poison and food. Later on I washed some clothes, trying to reduce their tick population. A long process. A nice relaxing evening. Slept soundly between clean, white sheets. Ah, luxury.

15 Kms ridden, 1505 total

9 February, Wednesday

Hated to get up this morning it felt so good lounging between the sheets. But I forced myself. Rode to the store for breakfast of a refresco and a packed of galletas wafers, my favourite cookies. Then I took a quick jaunt to the docks to put up a ‘crew position wanted’ notice and look around.

I returned to my nice house and set to work de-ticking. First I washed my sleeping bag. It was totally filthy. I mean it was so sleezy I didn’t want to sleep on it, much in it. Don’t know how it will turn out. I continued on doing all my clothes, towels and poncho. I probably won’t wash my clothes again until Panama.

Took it easy the rest of the day, eating a real good 65 cent dinner of chicken, rice, beans, platinos, onions, tomatoes and a couple of icy refrescos. Tried to sell my bike, but to no avail. A beautiful sunset, about par for the course.

10 February, Thursday

Awoke to the sound of rain striking the tin roof. Looks like a damp ride back to Coxen Hole. Packed my gear very leisurely. My sleeping bag hasn’t dried out yet, hope I didn’t ruin it by washing. Sure needed it, though. Pulled out about 25 ticks out of my body. Boy, I was covered in those little bloodsuckers.

I set out from my little house through the misty rain out of French Harbor, down the road. Past the wreck of the ‘Hawthorn Trader’, a ship washed up during Hurricane Fifi. Just buzzed right along. I’m getting to know this road pretty well. Arrived at Coxen Hole where I ran into my friend Alstead Woods, who said I could stay at his house.

Went to the Correos. No mail. That settles it. I’m leaving as soon as I sell my bike. Down towards Nicaragua. Bought 20 cigars to sen to Pop. Mostly relaxed for the rest of the day.

11 February, Friday

What a day! Got up early and mailed a small package back to the USA. 2 Lemps and it will take two months. We’ll see. Packed my gear on the old ‘Silver Dawn’ and took off for French Harbor. I really zipped up the road. I’ve got riding down to second nature.

I pedalled first to the shrimp dock to see about a boat to Nicaragua. Nope, nothing there. Checked out a few other wharfs, but I’d picked a bad time. We’ll see.

I met some people who saw me pedalling through the mud this side of Palenque after Agua Azul. They were camping out. Then I rode up to a small Cocina and sold my bike to the owner for $25 plus a couple of free meals.

I’d ridden a total of 1525 kilometers from Cozumel. I’d spent a total of $541 dollars in those 114 days. I had $346 left.

Hung around French Harbor for the rest of the afternoon, met some nice people. Bought the South American Guidebook for $10. Relaxed a bit then rode with Alstead back to Coxen Hole real late. Might be a boat to San Andreas soon.

12 February, Saturday

Bad luck day. Woke to find I’d lost 90 Lemps and my jackknife. Must have been last night stumbling around French Harbor. On top of that I couldn’t get an exit stamp on my passport so I couldn’t go to San Andreas on the shrimp boat. Double bummer.

Spent the rest of the day in a daze, trying to figure out what’s going on. At least I’m plenty relaxed.

13 February, Sunday: Another relaxing day.

14 February, Monday: Checked flights to Tegucigalpa. After dark went to see a local band play some dynamite music.

15 February, Tuesday

I was planning to leave on the 6.30am flight but I slept too late. Finally got up and packed my gear. Ate a final meal at Alstead’s mom’s house. Very fine people on Roatan, the best I’ve met.

Relaxed in the AM then walked over to the airfield. My plane arrived and I said so long for now to Alstead and Roatan and hopped aboard. Looked out the window and saw Roatan disappear. Sure is a nice place. Landed in La Cieba for 20 minutes and changed planes in San Pedro Sula so I didn’t arrive in Tegucigalpa ‘til 4.30pm.

I’d consolidated all of my gear into two packs, awkward but small enough to carry when I had to hoof it. And now I had to hoof it. Picked up my gear at the side door, shouldered my pack and hit the Carretera del Sur towards Jicaro Galen, 80 or so kms away.

Two hours later I was still waiting for my first ride. At the end of the third hour I decided to camp out in a conveniently placed cowfield. Rolled out my sleeping bag and was real comfortable. My feet are healing up slowly and surely, thanks to my new Honduaran Sneakers.


It took me a couple of weeks to thumb to Panama. Got some excellent rides through Nicaragua and then scored a ride all the way to Panama City with three Canadian lads in a old Plymouth Fury…

Published by Phil Parent

Phil Parent is a geographer residing in Queenstown New Zealand.

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