23 Best Things to Do in Roatán on a Cruise [Port Guide]

Roatan cruise port guide

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If you’re visiting Roatán on a cruise, you’re in luck! Roatán is a favorite Western Caribbean cruise port for many cruise travelers. This small island off the coast of Honduras has stunning beaches and is packed with opportunities for adventure.

In this post, I’ll share the best things to do in Roatán on a cruise, including shore excursions as well as inexpensive or free activities. You’ll also learn everything you need to know about visiting the Roatán cruise port for the day and get answers to commonly asked questions.

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Roatán Cruise Port 

Roatan Cruise Center

There are two cruise ports located on the island of Roatán.

Mahogany Bay Cruise Center

Carnival Cruise Line built this port/cruise center, which can accommodate two mega-ships. Carnival cruise ships dock here, along with Princess and Holland America cruise lines.

Mahogany Bay Cruise Center is a gigantic 20-acre welcome center with a “private” beach. Many cruisers will spend the day within the Cruise Center visiting the restaurants, bars, duty-free shops, craft markets, or just relaxing on the beach.

The Port of Roatán (Also Known as Coxen Hole)

This port can accommodate three cruise ships at a time. Ships from all of the other cruise lines (besides those mentioned above) typically dock here.

This port is within walking distance of Roatán island’s largest city, Coxen Hole. The port terminal has restrooms, taxi stands, tour and excursion pick-ups, and an ATM. 

What Cruise Passengers Need to Know About Roatán Cruise Port



Roatán’s official currency is the Honduran lempira (HNL). However, cash (including USD!) reigns supreme here. You can pay with U.S. Dollars on Roatán, just expect to get change back in lempiras.


The official language in Roatán is Spanish, but English (with a Creole twist) is widely spoken.

Time Zone

The time zone in Roatán, Honduras, is Central Standard Time, which is one hour ahead of the Eastern time zone.


Roatán is an island in Central America located just off the Honduras coast. Its climate is tropical rainforest, with temperatures hovering in the 80-degree Fahrenheit range year-round.

Mid-July through October is considered the “warm season,” with temperatures in the upper 80s and low 90s. Roatán is very humid year-round, with humidity reaching 90% in the last four months of the year.

The rainy season in Roatán is from September through July.

Getting Around Roatán

The island of Roatán is 48 miles long and 5 miles wide at its widest point. It is safest to book tours (whether private or cruise ship excursions) to get around Roatán. 

On Foot

Whether you port in Mahogany Bay Cruise Center or Coxen Bay, activities are within walking distance. The Mahogany Bay Cruise Center is a 20-acre complex with a beach, restaurants, bars, and shopping areas.

Coxen Hole is Roatán’s largest city. Activities and amenities, including shopping, restaurants, and bars, are within walking distance of the port.

Public Transit

There are many taxis and buses available for transport in Roatán. The “buses” are typically 16-passenger vans running regular routes between Coxen Hole and West End or French Harbour.

Taxis can be private “privado,” which costs a little more, or “colectivo,” which means you might pick up and drop off other people along your route. This is a fun way to chat with locals but might take a little longer to get to and from your destination.

Car Rentals

Car rentals are available on Roatán, with rental kiosks near the cruise terminal. The island is easy to navigate, just watch for horses and cows on the road.

The Best Roatán Shore Excursions

Roatan shore excursions

Roatán has a different vibe than other Caribbean cruise ports. This Honduran island has a Central American influence with a Caribbean twist.

Roatán is situated on top of exposed ancient coral reefs, and just off-shore is the second largest reef system in the world: the Mesoamerican Reef System, also known as the Great Mayan Reef.

The diverse culture and unique natural wonders of Roatán make for a one-of-a-kind cruise port experience. Here are 22 of the best Roatán Shore Excursions.

1. Mahogany Bay Cruise Center

Carnival designed this 20-acre port complex to be an excursion in itself. The 800-foot-long white sand Mahogany Beach is part of the Cruise Center. You can get off the ship and spend the day reading on a beach chair or swimming in the crystal clear waters.

This beach gets busier and louder as the day goes on, so grab your chair early or choose a different beach if you are looking for quiet. The Cruise Center has a mix of duty-free shops and retailers, including Diamonds International, Del Sol, and Piranha Joes.

If you are hungry, there are several restaurants in the Cruise Center. Stop by Fat Tuesday’s atop Monkey Hill for amazing views, some Caribbean Jerk chicken, and a cold and refreshing “Banana Banshee” Daquiri.

2. Magical Flying Beach Chair

This is a fun experience that is unique to Roatán. Immediately after disembarking at Mahogany Bay Port, there is a chairlift that you can take to transport you to nearby Mahogany Bay Beach.

You’ll find the Magical Flying Beach Chair up the hill and to the right of the Cruise Center. You can purchase an “all-day pass” for unlimited use.

Be aware that the Flying Beach Chair frequently stops for people to get on and off. The chance to see iguanas in the trees and the magnificent ocean view make this a pleasant option.

3. Shop ‘Til you Drop at The Town Center Coxen Bay

Roatan cruise port shopping

There is a fantastic variety of duty-free boutiques and local souvenir shops in The Town Center shopping area at the Port of Roatán.

Be sure to stop at “Yaba Ding Ding” for local handmade arts and crafts, including Garifuna and Lenca pottery artwork. If you love photography, you’ll marvel at the underwater photos by Roatán local Shawn Jackson in his gallery here.

4. Snorkel, Scuba, and Relax at West Bay Beach

The world’s second-longest reef system, the Mesoamerican Reef, lies just off the coast of West Bay Beach. This beach is 30-45 minutes from the cruise ship docks and has some of the best snorkeling and diving in Roatán.

The beach is public and free to enter. However, paying a nearby resort for their day-use fee gives you access to chairs and a break from the vendors trying to sell their goods and services.

If you want to snorkel or scuba, water taxis from West Bay Beach will take you closer to the reef.

5. Cuddle a Sloth at an Animal Sanctuary

Roatan sloth

Several animal sanctuaries exist in Roatán. These excursions typically include the opportunity to hold a sloth, feed monkeys, and interact with parrots and macaws.

You can book a private tour, which is a little more expensive but allows you to move through the animal sanctuary (and have the experiences!) more quickly. This experience takes around an hour, so it is a good one to bundle with other excursions.

6. Spend the Day at The Little French Key

This resort is a one-stop excursion spot. You can pay a fee to participate in activities like horseback riding, swimming with pigs, massages, manicures, snorkeling and scuba diving, kayaking, rope swings, and a gift shop. They also have a mini zoo where they can interact with animals.

Look for the VIP pass, which includes drink vouchers, a lunch plate, a massage, horseback riding, and access to a less-crowded beach. Little French Key is a 30-minute drive from the port.

7. Taste the Unique Flavor of Wild Honduran Chocolate at a Chocolate Factory

Roatan Chocolate Experience

Cacao beans in Honduras are unique because they are grown in the wild instead of on plantations. Several chocolate factories can be visited to try this tasty treat.

Factory tours are usually a part of a “bundled” excursion. If you are a chocolate lover, this is a “must” for treats and souvenir shopping in Roatán.

8. Scuba Dive at the Mayan Reef

You don’t want to miss the opportunity to scuba dive in the second-largest reef system in the world: the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. Scuba diving is one of the top things cruisers recommend for porting here. Roatán has excursions available for every level of diver, from beginner to scuba-certified.

The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is home to diverse sea life, including colorful fish, coral, sea turtles, eels, stingrays, sponges, starfish, shrimps, and lobster. Most Scuba excursions take place on the West Side, nearest the reef, and will take several hours.

There are many dive shops in Roatán. You can book a beginner scuba excursion, where you learn scuba basics in the safety of a pool and then venture to the reef. Many boutique diving excursions will allow you to use your scuba certifications for magnificent dives in the deep.

9. See the Island’s Diversity while Horseback Riding

Horseback riding is a relaxing way to escape the crowds and see the diversity of this beautiful island.

There are many different types of rides available, from beach horseback riding to mountain trails. Some excursions offer a combo that includes a ride through local villages, up into the mountains, and even a ride along the beach.

10. Bike Around an Island on Hydrobikes

If you are looking for an out-of-the-ordinary water sports experience, hydrobiking is an exciting choice. Hydrobikes have pedals like a traditional bicycle, but are on floats so you glide on top of the ocean.

Your guide will take you on a tour around a private island near French Key. Hydrobikes are easy for all skill levels and are an active way to spend a few hours in Roatán. Just be sure to put on plenty of sunscreen.

Related: What to Pack for a Caribbean Cruise

11. Eat and Beach at Ginger’s on Half Moon Bay

Half-Moon Bay is located on the West End of Roatán. It is an exceptional beach for swimming and snorkeling, and the location of a delicious Caribbean Grill called Ginger’s.

You can use the beach chairs at Ginger’s if you order food OR just come for the delicious fresh seafood. Catch a game on the TV and order coconut shrimp and a frozen mojito.

Related: 30 Best Things to Do in Cozumel on a Cruise

12. Cruise Through the Mangroves

Located on the East End of Roatán, this excursion includes transportation to Oakridge’s traditional Caribbean fishing village. The town is an interesting visit, with buildings constructed on stilts over the water and fishing boats bobbing in the bay.

In Oakridge, you’ll board an authentic cayuco (a small motorized canoe), and travel with a guide through a canal dug out in the mangroves many years ago to connect the harbors and bays. Parts of the tunnel are barely wide enough for the boats to get through.

The land in mangrove forests provides shelter for migratory birds and monkeys, so there is a good chance to see (and hear) unique Roatán wildlife.

13. Spot Sea Turtles Underwater and On Land

If you love sea turtles, Roatán is an outstanding place to see them in their natural habitat. This island has three types of sea turtles: Hawksbill, Green, and Loggerhead Turtles.

The best time to see sea turtles on land is during their nesting period from July to August, when they come ashore to nest on West Bay Beach and Paya Bay Beach. If you are in Roatán during the non-nesting months, you can also observe these beautiful sea creatures gliding in the crystal-clear waters.

Dive and snorkel excursions are available that will take you to spots where sea turtles frequent. Typically, they are on the West End.

14. Take a Historical Dune Buggy Tour to Punta Gorda

This half-day excursion will take you on an adventure up to the North Shore and the historic fishing village of Punta Gorda. Drivers need to be 16 years or older and have a driver’s license.

Follow a tour guide on an adventurous dune buggy drive to the Punta Gorda community. Once you’ve arrived, enjoy a dance and music show by the Garinagu (Garifuna), natives of Roatán.

Afterwards, you can purchase lunch from nearby restaurants, including Garifuna favorites like Machuca, a delicious mash of green and sweet plantains rolled into bites and dunked into tasty soups.

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15. Monkey Around at Gumbalimba Park

This 20-acre beachfront adventure park offers many options for adventure seekers. Your tour guide will teach you about the history of the island of Roatán and its people while you hike around and observe animals, including monkeys and macaws, roaming in their natural environment.

After you’ve met the monkeys, you can get a monkey’ s-eye view of the park’s Trail Canopy Tour. You’ll zipline between 17 cable platforms extending from 120 to 500 feet in length.

Gumbalina also has water activities, including kayaking and going to the beach.

16. See Fish Without Getting Wet on a Glass Bottom Boat Ride

Glass bottom boats depart regularly from the beach at West Bay on Roatán. If you cannot snorkel or scuba but want to see the wonders of the reef, this is a fantastic way to do it.

These boats have windows that are underwater in a “semi-submarine” experience. Choose a glass-bottom boat ride if you want to witness the gorgeous marine life in Roatán without the hassle of sand and sunburns.

17. Underwater Scooter like a BOSS

If you want a unique scuba-like experience without the certification, you can book a BOSS (Breathing Observation Submersible Scooter) excursion. Your adventure will start with a catamaran ride out to the reef. Once you arrive, you’ll have the option to use snorkel equipment or try out the BOSS.

The BOSS submersible electric scooter has an oxygen-filled breathing helmet attached. You’ll be able to breathe freely while you scooter around 8 feet below the water surface, viewing the colorful marine life in Roatán.

Things to Do in Roatan Cruise Port
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18. Learn About Local Flora at the Carambola Botanical Garden

The 40-acre botanical garden is home to a variety of beautiful plants, including orchids, fruit and nut trees, flowering plants, medicinal plants, the world-famous Honduran mahogany tree, and the popular “Chocolate Tree.”

The botanical gardens can be visited as a self-guided tour, or for more money, you can have an informational guided tour by the founder of the garden. Plan on walking along the jungle paths for anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours.

19. Snorkel Right-off Tabyana Beach

The reef is more accessible from this beautiful beach. Unlike other beaches in Roatán, which require a short boat ride to reach the reef, you can explore it about 300 feet off the shore of Tabyana Beach, making it one of the best beaches for snorkeling.

Some excursions include snorkeling at Tabyana, or you can take a 20-25 minute taxi cab ride from the port.

You can relax on towels on the public beach or pay a resort fee to use nearby chairs. Local beach vendors aren’t allowed in roped-off areas, so if you want to relax without interruption, the resort fee is worth the money.

Related: How to Keep Your Belongings Safe on a Cruise Vacation

20. Spend the Day on the Private Island of Maya Key

Maya Key is a small private island that is located 3 minutes from the Roatán Cruise Terminal and 15 minutes from Mahogany Bay Cruise Terminal.

This 11.5-acre island has two beaches, a 70,000-gallon pool, an animal rescue center, jungle garden paths, a Mayan Interpretation Center, A Honduras Art Exhibit, a restaurant, and a shopping center.

Day passes for Maya Key start at $35 and include a tour of the wildlife center, access to the beaches and pools, and the use of restroom facilities. It will cost extra for the museums, food and drinks, lockers and shopping.

21. Roatan Craft Markets

Roatan Rusty Fish craft market

There are some awesome craft markets in Roatan. Many items are hand made by locals. One great shop is Rusty Fish, which uses recyclable materials.

22. Sample Local Rum at the Roatán Rum Company 

Rum cakes, rum cigars, and, of course, rum are the stars of this excursion. Located between West End and West Bay, the Roatán Rum Company offers samples of unique artisan rums (dark chocolate, spiced, and Caribbean coconut, to name a few) and rum cakes.

Roatán Rum Co. is located right across from El Faro Lighthouse and next door to a small souvenir market. Many excursions combine the three.

23. Choose Your Adventure with a Customizable “Best of Roatán” Tour

If you are having a hard time deciding between all of these exciting excursions, a “Best of” tour might be the way to have your rum cake and eat it, too.

You can choose the activities you want and have the expertise of a local driver to get you where you need to go. Roatán is small enough that you should be able to fit in several activities, and tour guides are often flexible with the weather.

A customizable tour is a great way to experience all that Roatán has to offer.

Roatan Cruise Port Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time of year to visit Roatán? 

The best time to visit Roatán is between February and May. This will put you in the sweet spot of less precipitation, warm (but not hot) temperatures, and less humidity. 

How far is downtown Roatán from the cruise port? 

No matter which port you dock in (Mahogany Bay Cruise Center or Coxen Hole), you are close to activities and eating.

Coxen Hole (The Port of Roatán) cruise port puts you on the doorstep of the island’s biggest town. 

The Mahogany Bay Cruise Center’s 20-acre complex offers plenty of options. It is about a 16-minute drive from downtown Coxen Hole.

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Final Thoughts On Things to Do in Roatán Cruise Port

Roatán offers a wide variety of excursions, allowing cruisers to explore the natural wonders of the Mesoamerican Reef and experience the people and cultures that make this island a fascinating place to visit.

Have you been to Roatán yet? What was your favorite part of this historical city?

Happy Cruising!


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