How to Travel to the Bay Islands on $169 a Day

January 16, 2015

Most visitors come to Roatan via cruise ship, so there’s little demand for cars and rooms (notice the quiet airport). Even then, it’s mostly divers looking for a place to hang wetsuits. The result: high-end resorts with low-end rates.

How to Travel to the Bay Islands on $169 a Day | Affordable Caribbean Vacations | Cheap Caribbean Stay
Barefoot Cay: About 30 minutes from busy West End are these ocean-view lofts ($215) and beach villas. From the dock it’s an easy swim (or kayak) to the world-famous reef. We wore swimsuits to every dinner — the staff is like family. Palmetto Bay Plantation: This palapa is practically on the reef. The villas ($225) sit among coconut trees on a mile-long beach and are almost as serene as the underwater world. There’s even a tropical-bird preserve on the property. Anthony’s Key: Roatan is to diving what Sicily is to pasta. Everyone who’s visiting the island has come to try it. Anthony’s Key caters to that singular focus. The room rate ($168) includes three dives and three meals a day. The wallet stays in the safe. S.Jackson
How to Travel to the Bay Islands on $169 a Day | Affordable Caribbean Vacations | Cheap Caribbean Eat

Eat for $1-$45 a day

If the Bay Islands are about diving, we’ll stick to the dive theme with meals too — without resorting to the Hot Dog Hut. Baleadas: When the manager at the Black Pearl Golf Course offered baleadas, I thought he was talking about a special type of ball. No, a baleada is the Honduran version of a light burrito. I wound up eating three of them because 1) they’re better than burritos, 2) I was famished, and 3) they cost $1 to $2 around the island, even at the upscale Black Pearl. Machuca: This fish soup made with coconut milk is found on the streets of the island’s oldest village of Punta Gorda. It’s a quick $5 fill-up — emphasis on “fill.” Tropical Fruit: Dining from the trees is truly local and really cheap. We bought two types of mangos and enough sweet pineapple to create a big $3 lunch. Don’t eat cashews off the trees. The fruit is edible, but the nut has to be processed so it doesn’t scorch the lips.
How to Travel to the Bay Islands on $169 a Day | Affordable Caribbean Vacations | Cheap Caribbean Play

Play for $0-$20 a day

What you see in this picture explains why a snorkel mask and fins replace Facebook and DirectTV for island entertainment. Use the Sea: It’s available 24 hours a day. One night on the dock at Barefoot Cay I saw the phenomenon of bioluminescence — an underwater fireworks show courtesy of glowing plankton. A six-pack of Port Royal beer added to the moment: $5. Find Camp Bay Beach: On one end of Roatan is West Bay, where everything is available: boat tours, Jet Skis, crowded all-inclusives. It’s why I made the drive the opposite direction until the island’s only paved road turned to gravel and ruts, and landed my rental car on a beach only the locals use. Call it $10 for gas. Go Out for Recess: Bring a bag of books and school supplies for the Sand Castle Library near Sandy Bay (literacy is maybe 50 percent on Roatan). Bring $20 worth of ibuprofen to Nurse Peggy’s medical clinic (her affordable care act costs locals about $5 a visit). Do any of this and a soccer game is likely to break out with thankful kids. Did You Know? Champagne flights arrive from Atlanta, Houston, Miami and even Montreal and Toronto. $155 a night is the cost of a private island half a mile from Utila. The weirdest mini-golf course is on Utila.The $6 fee includes a beer. Spare lempiras are collected at the airport to fund local charities.

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