Every five days or so, someone in the Trip Advisor Roatan forum asks the question -- "Should I stay in Roatan West Bay or West End?" -- and a polite back and forth ensues extolling the virtues of the two premier Roatan resort destinations.
That's nice... but let's be honest, there isn't really a debate. This is a no-brainer.
Roatan Resorts in West End Beat West Bay
Look, West Bay Beach is beautiful. It has been variously listed as one of the best beaches in the Caribbean, Central America, etc., but to be clear, it doesn't make the 2012 Top 25 Traveler's Choice list of Beach Destinations on Trip Advisor. In fact, it doesn't make the Caribbean segment of that list and is only #5 on the Central American list. So, if the single driving factor for your next vacation is the quality of the beach, go to the Seychelles or Australia's Gold Coast or even, God forbid, Seven Mile beach in Grand Cayman. But, don't choose a Roatan resort in West Bay because of West Bay beach.
This is a classic "nice place to visit, don't need to stay there" thing.
Let's examine what one does with/on a beach (family-friendly thoughts only please):
- Lay there
- Walk around
- Get into the water
- Get out of the water
- Lay some more
- Do something with sand
- Throw something with or at someone (could be the sand)
- Eat and/or drink
Notice that nowhere on this list is check in, unpack, or stay for a week. So, we can conclude that beaches are for visiting, not living on, which brings us to the question of where to actually live while visiting the beach. Hint: It's not at West Bay beach.
So here's the problem with beautiful beaches: resort developers know they're beautiful. So they buy the property on the beach and build resorts… which they must aggressively market… so they can fill them up with people… to pay for the land they bought and the resort they built. In fact, as good capitalists, they will try to maximize the ratio of rooms/guests to the very expensive beach front property they purchased. The time-tested way to do this is to build the resort in the shape of a letter "V", where the "top" opens up to the beach, and all the rooms on the inside of the "V" can claim a view of the water (even though it is only a sliver of a view). If they are successful, the resort will be full. And so will the beach.
Net-Net: West Bay offers pricey rooms on a crowded (but beautiful) beach.
A Better Approach: Stay in West End and Visit West Bay
A West End Roatan vacation rental offers:
- Beautiful places to stay
- Beachfront, oceanfront, full on views, not slivers
- Complete privacy (including the pool)
- Multiple ways to save money (shop and cook for yourself, no rental car)
- Flexibility/options in day-to-day activity (snorkel, kayak, shop steps from where you are staying)
- Experience local culture by staying in a neighborhood, not a condo-tel
- Enjoy a wide selection of dinner/nightlife options
- Easy, quick, affordable access to activities (including it's own beach)
This is why Roatan's West End is so superior to West Bay
People will tell you that the answer to this question depends what you're looking for. I disagree… unless you're looking to pay more than you have to, compromise your privacy and limit your flexibility to do what you want when you want. And I don't know many people looking for that.
Bottom Line: for less than the price of a room at the nicest resort on West Bay Beach, you can rent a private Caribbean villa on the water in West End and get everything on this list.
So, where should I look into Roatan resorts: West End or West Bay?
Stay at Coral Vista Villas in West End, enjoy Half Moon Bay beach on your doorstep, and visit West Bay beach in 5 minutes for $3 by water taxi if/when you want to. This really is a no brainer.