There are many fantastic reasons to visit this little-known island in the Western Caribbean. We have written about a number of them here and here. But, no vacation destination is perfect for all people. So, following are three things to consider before you plan a vacation in Roatan Honduras.
- Quality of Medical Care
- Absence of Name-brand Hotels/Restaurants
- Stability of Electricity/High-speed Internet
Medical Care on Roatan Honduras
If you or someone with whom you intend to travel has a serious medical condition, don't vacation on Roatan. We recently had a prospective guest inquire about the availability of dialysis on the island, and while it appears to exist, we could not verify its cost, quality or hours of availability, so we advised against a visit. Any condition that can potentially require a trip to the hospital/emergency room is a good reason to reconsider a Roatan vacation. Most of the people we know on Roatan try to avoid the local hospital and handle all their medical business on the Honduran mainland.
This advice is obviously a bit different for cruise ship visitors who are only on the island for a day and have the ship's medical staff to fall back on in an emergency.
What about accidents, you ask? Well, as they say, accidents happen, and you cannot plan your life around avoiding one. When they do happen on Roatan, there is an excellent local clinic - Clinica Esperanza - as well as scuba diving-related medical facilities that can help. But for chronic conditions requiring anything above the most basic medical care, Roatan Island is not yet developed enough to be a safe bet.
Commercial Development on Roatan Honduras
Where's the local Weston, Marriott, McDonald's or Starbucks? They are everywhere it seems... but they are not in Roatan Honduras. So, if you are not sure how you'll survive a week without your triple-grande-skinny-vanilla-latte, or you're just not comfortable with renting accommodations at a resort you've never heard of, you might want to pass on a Roatan vacation - at least for now.
Many visitors find Roatan's underdevelopment authentic and charming. Some find it alien and uncomfortable. In the end, it's a matter of taste. There is great coffee, food and lodging on Roatan and a wide variety of it, but you won't see a lot of names you recognize on these things. If that's a problem, best to vacation somewhere else.
Electricity/Internet on Roatan Honduras
One area of underdevelopment on which visitors are unanimous is the quality of electrical and communications utilities. Having been to many islands in the Caribbean, it's clear that this is just one of those things that takes time. The bottom line is that Roatan island has not had professionally-operated electricity for that long (relative to the developed world), so it should not be surprising that it goes out now and again. Note that most higher-end accommodations like our Coral Vista Villas and Pristine Bay Resort have their own generators for just this reason.
High-speed Internet is a similar story: Roatan hasn't had it for long. On top of that, the connection between Roatan and the mainland is microwave-based, and there is relatively little broadband infrastructure (cable or fiber) to the island's buildings. To be clear - being connected to the Internet is not an issue. There's plenty of connectivity - our places all have high-speed wifi throughout. The problem is download speed from international servers. I think it took 8 hours to download the latest version of Apple OS X during my last visit. So, if your vacation for some reason depends on high-speed upload/download of large files, you will find Roatan (and a lot of the Caribbean, frankly) very frustrating.
Roatan Honduras is an Island on the Cusp
All of the developed islands of the Caribbean have gone through similar development curves; some more recently than others, some for longer than others. What makes Roatan fairly unique, probably because it is part of Honduras, is where it sits on that curve relative to the rest of the region in 2013. Having just crossed the 1 million annual visitors threshold, it still lags far behind places like the Bahamas, Grand Cayman and the Virgin Islands in terms of traffic and the commercial development that comes with it. But Roatan is growing up and beginning to provide many of the facilities and services required to fuel a growing tourist economy. Depending on your stance: some of that is good, and some of that is bad.
We hope to see SOME of you on the island in the near future.