If you live on the West coast of the United States or Canada, thoughts of a tropical vacation typically run to places like Hawaii or the Mexican riviera. In the Eastern half of the continent, it's more likely to be the Florida Keys or the Eastern Caribbean. And this all makes sense given similarity of time zones and ease of travel. As a result, tropical vacation destinations from the Bahamas to Hawaii get a lot of press... and a lot of visitors. If you've done these places and/or just want to try something a little off the beaten path, consider the many islands of the Western Caribbean.
Explore the Western Caribbean Islands
According to wikipedia, "The Caribbean Sea is one of the largest seas [in the world] and has an area of about 2,754,000 km² (1,063,000 sq. mi.)". The Eastern part of the Caribbean is much better known thanks to the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands (both US and British), and the French Caribbean Islands. The Western Caribbean, by comparison, outside of the Cayman Islands, is almost anonymous. And that fact, makes the islands and beaches of the Western Caribbean very interesting to vacationers who are willing to try something new.
Experience the Caribbean with a Few Extra Benefits
One of those relatively unknown islands is Roatan. Together with its sister islands, Guanaja and Utila, Roatan forms a small island chain in the Western Caribbean known as the Bay Islands. They are the property of Honduras, and as a result, are often listed under Central America and not the Caribbean on travel web sites. Despite this unintentional slight, Roatan is indeed an island in the Caribbean - same water, same weather - but with a few extra benefits.
Roatan is relatively undeveloped. You will find almost no American chains there - no McDonald's, no Marriott, no Starbucks, no KFC, no Ritz, etc. As a result, you feel like you've left North America, not like you're in a strip mall in Arizona that happens to be surrounded by water. This is the way the Caribbean used to be (with apologies to Jimmy Buffet).
Roatan is also much more affordable than most tropical destinations - whether you are visiting for a week or investing for retirement. Caribbean waterfront property goes for 50% or less than better known islands. And when it comes to money, Roatan is flexible. You can conduct any transaction in either US dollars or Honduran lempira - from a villa on the beach to an empanada from a street vendor. In addition, English is one of the three languages spoken on Roatan, so you don't need your high school Spanish - unless you want to practice...
Taken altogether, Roatan is one of the most interesting Caribbean islands you've probably never heard of... and we haven't even mentioned the world-class diving. That's a topic for another post on this Western Caribbean paradise.