Snorkeling in Roatan – When to visit & Best spots to go

Roatan in Honduras is a relatively small island of only 40 miles (64 km) from north to south with a mere five miles (8 km) of width. Yet despite this, its fans consistently rave about the number of experiences per square mile that the island packs in, and say that it is easily one of the best destinations in the Caribbean Sea. The island is beloved for its stunning beaches and superb marine life thanks to being located along the second biggest barrier reef on earth. If you are considering this place as your next tropical getaway, learn here what the best spots are to go snorkeling in Roatan and take in the stunning aquatic world!

Roatan snorkeling conditions

The finest months to for a Roatan snorkeling vacation are from February through August. This is because there is no significant rainfall in these months. In the wet season visibility here is typically from 80 to 150 feet (25-45 m). Naturally, this drops when it is raining.

Roatan sandy beach wit palm trees
Clear sky and calm waters – such a perfect weather for snorkeling!

The temperatures are fairly consistent in Roatan all year round but tend to be a nicer 84 degrees Fahrenheit (28.8C) in summer and a bit cooler average of 78 degrees Fahrenheit (25.5C) in winter. The west side of the island boasts easier access to the many shallow reefs complete with large colorful fish and shipwrecks sure to make snorkelers and divers happy. The northern, mountainous coastline is exposed to the wind, so there is no snorkel spot in that area.

The sea is warm enough 82-84F (28-29 C) all year-round so there is no need to pack a wetsuit, but make sure to think about sun protection since it is easy to get sunburnt.

Best places to go snorkeling in Roatan

West Bay Beach

The West Bay Beach area is one of the most popular and interesting Roatan snorkeling places to the island’s far west. This is the primary seaside resort town here where the majority of the high-end hotels lie and palm trees swaying over white sand beaches, but the most beautiful attractions lie beneath the waves!

Multiple colored coral cascades through the Caribbean blue water that gives home to numerous Atlantic blue tang, parrotfish and different kinds of angelfish. Merely swimming into the water here will put you in contact with sea chubs and butterflyfish.

Grand Roatan Beach
This is the beach in front of Grand Roatan Resort that provides access to one of the island’s best snorkel spot

Our recommendation is to stay at the Grand Roatan Resort since this is where the corals are the nicest. About 10 meters from the shore close to the black rock wall you will encounter the first instance of coral that only gets denser as you leave the shoreline and reach the outer reef. You will feel like swimming in an aquarium!

Starfish Alley

Starfish Alley is another terrific location for snorkeling in West End Roatan. Found nestled between West Bay and West End, this beach is easy to reach by following signs around the island leading to West Bay. You do not want to miss the fantastic Caribbean cushion stars that populate the seabed by the dozens in this unique location in under three feet (one meter) of water.

Caribbean Cushion Star
Caribbean Cushion Star Sea Star

The top snorkeling here can be found about 150 yards/meters to the east of the restaurant called the “Bite on the Beach.” Once in the water, you will see why the cushion stars love the site that is covered with a thick seagrass a mere several yards/meters off the beach.

You might need to swim back and forth and watch carefully to spot them as they hide in the grass often, but sometimes they move out to the sandy areas. The colors of these amazing starfish creatures here vary from beige and red to orange, yellow, and green.

Tip: Learn more about these interesting creatures by reading our starfish facts!

West End Reef – Half Moon Bay

West End Reef that lies around 200 meters off the beach in Half Moon Bay is rated among the top Roatan snorkeling places with good reason. Among the coral you will see literally dozens of different invertebrate and fish species.

Sergeant Major Fish in the Caribbean Sea
Sergeant Major Fish

Caribbean reef squid also like the sheltered bay. As you near the reef, you will see sergeant majors, blue surgeonfish, and even blue-headed wrasses. You might also take in scrawled filefish, hogfish, and three individual kinds of butterflyfish alongside little groupers.

West End is the tiny village found on the island’s west side at the tip of the island around half an hour from the airport by taxi or car. You can also get here on a boat in only 10 minutes by departing West Bay.

Tip: Our favorite hotel here: The Beach House Boutique Hotel

Sandy Bay (Blue Channel)

The Blue Channel shallow snorkel (and dive) spot can be found right off the shore of Sandy Bay West End, approx. halfway between the Brisas del Mar Hotel and Luna Beach (a diving buoy is marking the location). The channel slopes gradually to a depth of 25-30 ft (7.5- 9 m) with swim-throughs on the south side and a lively wall on the north.

This vibrant reef that runs parallel to the shore is teeming with life: many kind of juvenile fish, moray eels, fireworms made their homes here, but often eagle rays and turtles are cruising around. It is possible to get to Blue Channel from the shore too, but due to the strong traffic on the water, renting a boat is a safer and better option.

sea turtle spotted while snorkeling in Roatan
Sea turtle in Roatan

Tip: should you look for accommodation in this area, check out the Splash Inn Dive Resort and Villas!

Maya Cay

Quite possibly the best snorkeling in Roatan from shore can be had at Maya Cay. A private island retreat, the beach is right off of a portion of the Great Maya Reef that has the distinction of being the largest such reef system in the Western Hemisphere. There is also an animal rescue center on the island that lets you feed and hug a Capuchin monkey.

The stunning assortment of coral here will astound visitors along with the numerous species of tropical and Caribbean fish and other sub-marine life. Reaching the reef is easy thanks to the pier that extends out to it. Snorkel, mask, fins, and even vest is available to rent here in case you forgot yours at home, but out of hygienic reasons we always recommend bringing your own snorkel equipment.

Tip: it is a frequently asked question where is snorkeling better in Roatan or Cozumel? Well, it is not easy to decide since both islands have its own characteristic, but to help you out, read our Cozumel snorkeling guide that explains where and what to see there!

Little French Cay

In the south of the island lies Little French Cay that is considered the best place for snorkeling in Roatan thanks to the well-preserved reef. The lagoon boasts crystal clear waters and is protected by the outer coral reef. Although you need to pay an entrance fee to access the cay, but the rich marine life makes it worth the trouble.

Coral reef Little French Cay
Little French Cay coral reef

Once you approach the coral beds you can expect to see big shoals of grunts, substantial quantities of lobsters (almost unique to this spot in Roatan), and even several dozen lionfish that have made the reef their home. Beware getting too close to them since this species is venomous!

Lobster
Lobster in Roatan

Tip: if you want to discover more Caribbean destinations, see here our related posts:
Grand Cayman snorkeling
Aruba best snorkel spots
Where to go snorkeling in Curacao

Palmetto Bay

Palmetto Bay turns out to be a residential beach community that is ideal for relaxing. Here mostly vacation homes are available to rent therefore it is a perfect place for those who seek out a relaxing vacation near one of the finest snorkeling beaches in Roatan.

Palmetto Bay aerial photo
Palmetto Bay Roatan

This area offers superb accommodations with beachfront pools, moreover, there is a dock, a water sports and dive shop on location, as well as bars and restaurants where you can refresh yourself after a long day spent on the beach. Opportunities for both snorkeling and scuba diving here are consistently rated as exceptional. Sea turtles are one of the big attractions in the waters at Palmetto Bay.

Palmetto Bay beach
Palmetto Bay Beach

Tip: for families the Coconut Grove holiday villa is a great choice where 6 people can stay.

Mahogany Beach

Anyone keen on snorkeling in Roatan should not miss visiting Mahogany Beach that lies near the charming 20 acres large cruise port on a man-made tiny island in Mahogany Bay. Naturally the sand is powder white and provides easy access to the warm and pristine Caribbean Sea waters.

Roatan Mahogany Beach
Mahogany Beach

However Mahogany is not the island’s best snorkel spot, but a nice place to go for beginners, families with kids, and of course cruise shippers. And did we mention that there is even a half sunken shipwreck here? Besides snorkeling, there are many other things to occupy your attention, including water sports rentals like kayaks, paddleboards and wave runners.

Shipwreck Mahogany Beach
Mahogany Beach shipwreck

After you have enjoyed several hours in the sea here, Fat Tuesday’s Restaurant just down the beach is waiting to refresh you with specialties like conch fritters, barbecue chicken, and cold drinks.

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Roatan snorkeling spots

Anett Szaszi

Anett is a certified scuba diver, freediver and an expert in snorkeling with more than 10 years experience. She fell in love with the ocean when she put her head underwater in the Red Sea in 2008. Since then , she is traveling all over the world to discover our waters. Wherever she goes, she takes her mask, fins and underwater camera with her. Visiting mega-cities is not her style but getting lost in tiny coastal villages, capturing the beauty of the sea while snorkeling. She is interested in sustainable traveling and marine conservation. She is hoping to inspire people to protect our oceans by sharing her underwater stories. Find her photos on @anett.szaszi Instagram too!

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