Roatan diving is world famous - and rightly so. From (relatively) frequent whale shark sightings to the Cordelia Banks to the world's second largest barrier reef just minutes off shore, diving off Roatan is truly amazing. Not surprisingly, world-class diving coupled with a growing number of annual visitors has given rise to a dizzying number of Roatan dive shops. As a result, we're often asked where to go for Roatan diving. There are two ways to answer this question: who to dive with, and what sites to visit. Let's take each one in order.
Evaluating Different Shops for Roatan Diving
First, there are a lot of really good dive shops on Roatan. Some are resorts, some are independent. All are services. And like all professional services, they are only as good (or as bad) as the person providing the service. If you dove with one before and liked them, see if the main people are still the same (owners, dive masters) and, if so, dive with them again. If the key personnel have turned, don't expect an exact repeat of your last experience (either good or bad).
If you are new to Roatan diving and are staying at a dive resort (or resort that has its own dive shop), it's probably worth giving that outfit a try as there will likely be benefits (either economic or convenience) associated with them. If you aren't staying at a resort or want to evaluate the independent market, it is important to look at track record (how long they have been around, how stable the key people are, what the online reviews say). It's also important to understand what services they offer and their pricing schedule (most places offer discounted packages if you dive with them enough). Keep in mind that smaller outfits can afford to be a bit more flexible with dive times and dive sites. In general, the shops that get out earliest, get the best sites.
Roatan Dive Sites
Speaking of sites, there are a number of great sites around the island, so one consideration that links shop selection with dive sites is the location of the shop (actually, its boats). A dive boat located on the mid-point of the North shore will not be able to access, say, Cordelia Banks, without a very, very long boat ride. So if you have a particular site (or day trip) you would like to arrange, you need to consider the relative proximity of the shop to the trip. In general, West End and West Bay shops are more convenient for day trips to Utila and Cayos Cochinos and the western Roatan set of sites while dive shops in the center of the Island have better access to the Eastern sites and Guanaja.
Almost every dive shop on Roatan has a "Top 10" list on their website. In most cases, these are the top 10 sites near them. Our favorite independent shop is Native Sons in West End. You can read about them here, and you can see their favorite dives here. Our favorite dive resort is Anthony's Key Resort (AKR). You can learn all about them and their favorite dives here. Both of these places have been in business a long time, offer a wide range of services, and do certifications. You cannot go wrong with either one of them.