Port of Roatan Guide: What to Expect When You Book Roatan as Part of Your Cruise Tour Itinerary

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As part of our recent cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas, we visited the beautiful island of Roatan. Our ship docked at what is known officially as the “Port of Roatan” and is located at the town of Coxen Hole.

Despite having cruised around most of the Caribbean and Central America for the past 30 years or so, my wife Morag and I had never visited the port, and we struggled to find useful information about it ahead of our trip.

So I’ve put this guide together for future cruise passengers which I hope you will find helpful when planning a trip to Roatan.

Where is the Port of Roatan, Honduras?

A Short Walk Around The “Town Center At Port of Roatan”

The Port of Roatan is located at Coxen Hole on the island of Roatan, off the coast of mainland Honduras.

Roatan is one of the Bay Islands, which are situated about 30 miles off the northern coast of Honduras in the Caribbean Sea.

Geographically, it’s the largest of the Bay Islands, stretching approximately 48 miles in length and varying between 1 to 5 miles in width.

The island is surrounded by the “Mesoamerican Barrier Reef“, the second-largest coral reef system in the world. This makes it a hotspot for marine biodiversity and an amazing location for diving and snorkeling!

Politically, Roatan is part of Honduras and falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Bay Islands.

The island has its own local government, but it’s ultimately governed by Honduran law.

Spanish is the official language, but the islanders all speak Creole English, and can easily converse in English when you speak to them.

The relationship between Roatan and Honduras is probably what most concerns cruise visitors, as it is fair to say that Honduras does not have the safest reputation. 

However, do not let that put you off. Roatan is clearly growing as a tourist-friendly destination and they are making great efforts to distance themselves from any preconceptions about Honduras.

What Cruise Lines Dock At The Port of Roatan at Coxen Hole

The Port of Roatan at Coxen Hole
The Port of Roatan at Coxen Hole

Most major cruise lines dock at the Port of Roatan at Coxen Hole. So all the Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships dock here as well as ships from Norwegian Cruise Line, MSC, TUI, and Virgin Voyages.

What Other Cruise Ports Are There in Roatan?

The other cruise port in Roatan is located at Mahogany Bay. This is an exclusive port area which is owned by Carnival Corporation.  So if you are sailing on any of the Carnival Cruise Line fleet or with Princess Cruises, you will dock at Mahogany Bay.

Mahogany Bay is located at Dixon Cove further up the coast from Coxen Hole.

When we were in port (September 2023), the only cruise ship visiting the island was ours – The Wonder of the Seas. However, our tour guide told us that they can have as many as 5 cruise ships at a time visiting.

How Far Away Is Mahogany Bay From Coxen Hole?

Coxen Hole is actually only about 5 miles (7km) from Mahogany Bay. So if there are ships at both ports you can expect the area to be busy.

What Facilities Are Available At the Port of Roatan?

There are Lots of Bars, Restaurants and Duty-Free Stores Directly At The Port
There are Lots of Bars, Restaurants and Duty-Free Stores Directly At The Port

Like many cruise ports in the Caribbean, the port itself has lots of facilities for shopping, dining, and drinking! This area is directly off the ship and is known as the “Town Center At Port of Roatan”.

While this area is convenient for cruise passengers, it does mean that many visitors don’t really see the “real” Roatan, as they will remain in this area.

In fact, we actually found it a little bit difficult to find the exit out of this area into town, so they really do want to keep you in there, spending your cruise dollars with the port operator rather than local businesses in town!

Be aware that the prices in the port’s “Town Center” were 2-4 times higher than what they were in town.

A beer in town was $2. At the Town Center, it was $6-$8. Fried Chicken was $6 in town, but $16 in the port.

Port of Roatan Town Center Guide

You Can Grab A Drink Directly At The Port - Prices Are Cheaper in Town Through!
You Can Grab A Drink Directly At The Port – Prices Are Cheaper in Town Through!

Duty-Free Shopping

Within the port, you will find many familiar “port” brands including Harley Davidson and Diamonds International.

There are many jewelry and clothing stores from the higher end right down to the tacky souvenir fridge magnet level.

Food & Drink

There are plenty of places to eat and drink as well. But do yourself a favor and walk into town. You will then be directly helping the local economy and a small business owner who is trying to compete with the conglomerate that owns the port area.

Tours, Shore Excursions, and Car Hire

This is where you will also meet up with Roatan tour operators. Walk right through the complex and watch for the (rather small) exit signs. You will then reach a covered area with stalls on either side all manned by tour operators and hire companies.

The Shore Excursion / Tour Operator Area At Port of Roatan
The Shore Excursion / Tour Operator Area At Port of Roatan

This area was VERY busy. Fortunately, there is a notice board at the start and end of the stall areas showing the names of the companies.

Here you can book an independent shore excursion, or hire a car or scooter.

We were booked on an independent tour with Victor Bodden Tours (via Viator) and once we checked in with them they directed us to a cooler, covered pavilion to wait for our driver.  This seemed to be a central pickup area for all the local tours.

What’s In Coxen Hole Town?

When you leave the port area it can be a little bit overwhelming at first. All the “approved” tour operators were inside the port area. Outside awaits all the rest: local taxi drivers and minibus-owing entrepreneurs touting for your business.

It’s all good I say and fair play to them. I wouldn’t have any problems negotiating an island tour with any of these vendors, They were all friendly and keen for your business.

We had pre-booked a tour, so we did have to say a nice polite “no thank you” a few times. Which I don’t mind. these people have to work hard to scrape a living together on this island, so I totally respect what they are doing.

As you leave the port, you can head left or right.  Turning right will lead you into the small town and local shopping area. Turning left will lead you to our first port of call which was Captain Jack’s Seafood Island Bar.

Captain Jack's Seafood Island Bar Weather Station
Captain Jack’s Seafood Island Bar Weather Station

This was a great little establishment, but when we were there the two ladies running the place had some kind of “domestic” disagreement and were shouting and screaming at each other. As a result, we didn’t stay long, which was a shame as it was a nice location.

There didn’t seem to be much beyond here within walking distance, so we turned back and walked past the port area which is where the main part of town is located. (i.e. turn right when you come out of the port!).

We initially headed to the Lookout Restaurant and Bar. I had checked the reviews and they were all pretty positive, but the bar did look quite shabby,  The service and food made up for it though. It was outstanding and I recommend a visit.

Maya Key on the Left and Wonder of the Seas on the Right
Maya Key on the Left and Wonder of the Seas on the Right

It had a great view over to the small island of Maya Key as well.

Walk past the Lookout Bar and you will reach the small town proper. There are lots of little souvenir shops and bars here. This is a poor area, so don’t expect to be doing any designer shopping. But it is a great place to wander around and everyone is very friendly.

Do be careful with the roads though – the sidewalks are non-existent in places and the street is busy with cars going back and forward to the port.

You might exhaust what Coxen Hole itself has to offer in a couple of hours, so I would definitely plan an excursion of some kind as there is so much else to see in Roatan.

Is The Port of Roatan Safe for Cruise Visitors?

Yes. It is. Honduras understandably gets a bad rap, but Roatan is miles away from the political upheaval and issues in mainland Honduras.

Is Roatan Safe? Read my report from our own experiences and see what you think.

[RELATED POST : Is Roatan Safe?]

Things To Do In Roatan – What Tours And Excursions Are Available

There is no end to the different types of shore excursions or tours that are available in Roatan.

This really is a cruise port that you want to get out and explore.

My wife Morag has a thing about Sloths, so we had to include an opportunity to cuddle some sloths in our Itinerary. Equally, there were lots of Beach tours available, as well as Diving and Snorkeling.

You could also do Jungle tours and for the adrenaline junkies, there were zip line jungle canopy tours and ATV tours.

The West End of the island where the cruise ships dock is truly beautiful, so there are many things to see and do.

I have put together a full list of the best Roatan tours that are available based on some of the feedback we heard from our fellow passengers and on our own experience.

Here’s my list of the top 16 things to do in Roatan on a cruise day.

Information on The Current Construction Underway at the Port of Roatan

Construction Underway At The Port of Roatan
Construction Underway At The Port of Roatan

When you get off the ship you will quickly realize that Roatan Island is in a growth phase. There is building work going on everywhere, which is wonderful.

The port itself is being expanded and there are apparently plans to build an additional pier (currently only one cruise ship can dock at a time).

They are also planning a Wildlife Center and Sealife Center as well as a Lazy River, right at the port. 

While this is great, I do hope that the port doesn’t become another “Costa Maya” where cruise visitors end up never leaving the port. That would be sad for the local businesses.

Roatan Should Definitely Be On Your Bucket List

One of the Many Bars in Roatan Cruise Port
One of the Many Bars in Roatan Cruise Port

We had a fabulous time in Roatan and it was definitely one of the highlights of our Wonder of the Seas cruise.  The test for any cruise port for me is always the question: Would I come back here to stay a bit longer?  Both myself and my wife Morag agreed this would be a definite YES.

Many Americans and Canadians are buying property on the island and I can understand why. This truly is a hidden gem that should be on your bucket list.

We cruised with Royal Caribbean on Wonder of the Seas out of Port Canaveral and our seven-day itinerary included stops at Coco Cay, Cozumel, Costa Maya, and Roatan.

Before wandering around Coxen Hole town, we did the “Roatan Fun-n-Sun Group Tour” with Victor Bodden Tours which included a visit to a Sloth and Monkey Sanctuary and time at West Bay Beach. Great Value at just over $30! 

Our Recommended Tour Operator in Roatan
Roatan Tours With Victor Bodden Tours

Before booking a tour in Roatan we asked many of our friends who had previously visited the island. Everyone who had booked with Victor Bodden Tours had great things to say about them.

As a result, we used them for our Roatan Island Tour and they were outstanding! Great service and they have lots of different tours available.

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Alan took his first cruise in 1991 and has been cruising ever since. When he is not writing articles for CruiseNonstop.com you'll find him either on a cruise ship (he's the guy in the kilt), or on the golf course!

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