Alright, let's talk about Roatan. I think this port was the best one for everyone in my group, I REALLY enjoyed it. Here we go!
We arrived right on time to a beautiful sunny day in the port. I think this port was the only port we sailed in to where I walked outside and went, alright, I'm on an island. I really felt like I was somewhere different. My gf was a bit taken back, as she hadn't ever seen anything so far from the first world we live in.
We had a busy day in Roatan, so we got up early and stopped by the windjammer for breakfast. No pictures, just a quick standard windjammer meal. We got off the boat with no problem, and made our attempts at navigating the port.
This port is SMALL, so it was packed with people. We had a "best of Roatan" private tour booked through Bodden Tours. They did send us directions on where to find them, they weren't perfect, the signage in the port wasn't perfect, but there's really only one are where they have all the taxis and tour people lined up, and Bodden is the first kiosk there so we didn't have many issues. There were LOTs of people talking fast and offering tours and experiences and asking us what we wanted to do. Most of them if you ignore them just move on, a couple we had to say we're all good, and they moved on. As a result of all the people looking to pull people in for tours, this area can get quite noisy and people are moving quickly, it didn't bother me but I'm sure it would throw some people off.
After finding the Boddens tour desk, they quickly checked that my name was already on our list, and they asked us to stand by off to the side, and said a driver would be assigned to us shortly. After 5 or so minutes, Victor Bodden himself came over and introduced himself and wished us a great day in Roatan. Victor ushered us toward a vehicle and introduced to our driver/tour guide Jerry for the day. He noted what things I had requested for our tour to our driver, and we were off. We were in a standard looking van, with air conditioning, no issues that I had with the car at all.
I grabbed a couple shots of Allure while we were driving up on to the island:
Jerry first took us to our first stop at the zip line and "Victors monkey business." Here's the very small parking lot:
This is run by Victor Bodden as well, so this is where we paid for our Zip lining, monkey visit, and our tour for the day. That WAS noted in the emails that were sent to us, but not very well explained when we arrived, so I was briefly a bit confused when she asked me for $340. I confirmed this was for both and we were all good very quickly, I think they may have over charged me by $20, but not purposefully, I think think there was some confusion about how many of us were zip lining and I didn't even realize it until later, not the end of the world, the prices were very reasonable in the first place. I made sure Jerry knew that the sloths were a big priority for my sister (we're talking Kristen Bell on Ellen levels of love, if any of you have ever seen that video), and he said we'd be zip lining first but all would be good for the sloths (the "go to sleep" at 11 am, and you can't hold them any more, only take selfies near them). Jerry walked us to the zip line staff, and quickly got us a guide, and told them we had horseback riding at 11 so they should get a move on! The guides were very friendly, got us all set up in to our gear and sent us walking toward the first zip!
There are I believe 12 total zips at victors, of varying lengths. There's a short walk up to the first one, enough to get me out of breath (maybe 5-10 minutes depending on your speed), but not bad. This was at the beginning of our walk, you can see some of the zip lines at the top oo the picture there:
All the platforms looked well built, equipment seemed fairly new, and we did NOT ever have to "brake" ourselves. Some zip lines in the islands require riders to wear gloves and apply the brakes themselves toward the end of the zip, this can prove quite scary, and not always successful for people who are scared, so this was good! We had multiple guides with us (generally 2 + a photographer who joined after the first 2 zips, though we did have as many as 4 a couple of times, the staff moved themselves among the zip lines VERY quickly). All the staff spoke English fairly well, and were incredibly friendly, and encouraging, especially with my mother who has anxiety. She's zipped before but she did get some anxiety part of the way through, the staff was able to calm her down very well, and keep her having a great time. As I mentioned, we did have a photographer with us who was taking pictures, the staff was more than happy to take some with my phone as well though, this isn't like the dolphin experiences where they rob you to get a picture.
Heres a picture of the first zip of the group:
Throughout the zip lines, there are briefly some walks and stairs throughout, nothing required as much as the first hike up though, I found myself enjoying the movement, but was still a bit out of breath (I am not at all in shape, for those of you curious for comparisons, I don't "work out" at all). There was also a rope bridge, which they had us stop and pose for a picture on:
There are briefly some views during the walks, and even better ones during the zips themselves! I wasn't ever brave enough to have my phone out during our zips, but here's one small view I enjoyed while we were walking:
We also encountered a cow while we were moving between lines! He looked at us briefly but wasn't at all bothered by us, and we weren't bothered by him:
The zips were sometimes "in" the trees and sometimes through some big open fields with trees below and around you. I really enjoyed the variety and the views we had. This photo is of one of the longer zips they had that crosses down a big field.
There was some brief rain in the forecast for today (your standard island rain of 10 minutes and done), it happened just after we started zipping. It was very light, and actually wound up cooling us off during one of the longer zips, I actually enjoyed it and it certainly didn't put a damper on our day.
Some of the zips they offered to have us go with a partner (I managed to go with my gf, sister, and mother, so we all got to go with each other at one point or another). They also offered to let us go upside down on one of the zips. My sister was particularly excited with that:
My mom got a bit of anxiety on this one and said she wouldn't, but our guide quickly calmed her down and promised he'd go with her and that she could do it! They both enjoyed the zip, despite the odd positioning.
My mom wound up zipping with one of our other guides as well, who was just as friendly and helpful.
Toward the end of our zips, our main guide paused to tell us a few things. 1. that the last zip was VERY short and quick, so the breaking there is sometimes a bit abrupt, he said not to worry, just keep your legs up and it'll be fine (I wasn't at all jostled by it, but I understand why its mentioned). 2. to thank us for being there and that they hoped we enjoyed everything. and 3. the standard, hey we work for tips, and any tip is appreciated speech. I of course planned on tipping them, but I didnt love that they said "the best way to tip us is with 20s". They're working hard and they went above and beyond what I thought they were required to do though, so I was more than happy to tip.
After the last zip, theres just a guy with a laptop sitting there. He asked us if we wanted to see some of the pictures they had taken of us. I was prepared for the pricing to be astronomical, but we looked through and some of the pictures were good so I asked. He said for $25, you give me your email, and I send you an email later tonight with every single one. Done! That seemed downright reasonable. He said "great, you'll receive an email tonight, and if not tonight, tomorrow, and if not tomorrow, then the next day, until you get your pictures." I laughed at the humor and paid the man! We had our pictures almost as soon as I was back on board, everything was very quick. And as a note, the last 3 pictures above came from them, and these next 3 did as well. They're not perfect, but it's also hard to grab a picture when we're zipping along as fast as we were, so I'm quite happy with what we got.
After we got off the zip line, we found Jerry, who got us a guide to walk us through the monkeys and sloths. They have all sorts of animals here, and we were able to go inside and pet/interact with Monkeys, Sloths, lemurs (they were asleep) and parrots. We had plenty of time to get pictures with them all, and our guide was very friendly and had lots to say about each of the animals they had.
We visited the monkeys first, they told us their names, and brought us in, we left our bags in a small area that we entered first before going in with the actual monkeys, make sure you do this if you ever visit them! They grab at EVERYTHING.
As soon as we were in with the monkeys, they were all over. They're clearly looking for the little kernels of food that the guide had, and quickly got them all over us, putting them in our hands and pockets. I giggled each time the monkey came and checked my shirt pocket. The monkeys seemed very happy and well kept.
Next we were off to the birds! We walked in, talked about them a bit and then were able to hold one and were encouraged to bring it up and kiss it if we liked, the birds were very calm and happy to be held.
Next we walked by a some other monkeys
and then in to the lemurs, they were sleeping, so we just pet them briefly and took a couple of photos.
Of course, we said hello to our friend toucan sam
And then, it was time for the big moment, the sloths. Now, I was not joking when I said my sister loves sloths. She merely saw someone else holding one and immediately burst in to tears
They brought us over 2 sloths, and we were all able to hold one and take plenty of pictures, they were so calm and friendly, it was nice to be able to hold one for a little. My sisters reactions to the sloth even got a big smile from the staff who get to see this every day.
And that was that! So worth it, it was really enjoyable and we all had a good time. The sloths, though slow, were more than happy to pose for some pictures. We tipped our monkey guide and took a few minutes to look through the gift shop they had on site. They had some very nice stuff, that part of me wishes I had bought a little of, but I'm also happy to have saved some money. There was a woman in the gift shop who was happy to talk about anything they had, and I'm sure we could have haggled a bit.
After a quick bathroom break (as a note, the bathrooms were nothing fancy, and there was no toilet paper that I saw, something thats fairly common in islands like this, but may be a bit, odd to some here), we spent a couple minutes looking for Jerry, and were on our way. He had our car cooled off and ready for us. At this point, 4 of the 6 of us WERE supposed to go straight to horseback riding (we had booked it for 11 am, and it was, 11 am). But Jerry let us know they were running a bit behind, and that he had already talked to them and we'd go meet them in a little bit. We got in the car and told him we wanted to do a little sight seeing, and possibly grab some lunch. He took us down by the water, to what definitely looked still fairly "local" but definitely a more tourist friendly area.
After talking with him for a little about life on the island, and what he does for a living (he jumps between being a tour guide, and working on various cruise ships, he's normally a cook and has been on several Royal ships, and a bunch of others), it was time for lunch. At first, Jerry was suggesting the more standard tourist options, but after we talked with him a little we emphasized that we wanted to go wherever he likes to eat lunch. After a bit of reassuring that we meant somewhere not necessarily for tourists, he did a u turn and drove back in to the island a bit, after a short drive we arrived at "Omar's local food stand"
Jerry parked the van, quickly got us seated, asked what we wanted (he basically turned in to our waiter!) and jumped behind the counter and helped the staff with our food. THIS was exactly the type of place we were looking for.
The place was small, with locals, and everything was fresh and home made. We were offered either short ribs or fried chicken. After a bit of talking, we chose to get a couple of both, and my sisters husband (he's Peruvian, so he speaks fluent Spanish) also found out they had fish, and opted to get that. Jerry brought us our food, and a big bottle of island soda, with cups.
He also sat and ate lunch himself after we were taken care of, we paid for his lunch as well, a tip part 1 I suppose! Everyting was AMAZING. I never knew I could enjoy rice and beans as much as I did here. They also gave us some hot sauce, that was excellent. This was my short ribs, everything was served with plantains, rice and beans, and a potato salad.
My sisters husbands fish took a bit longer, and was also EXCELLENT.
I didn't get any picture of the fried chicken, but I enjoyed that as well. A gentleman came through while we were waiting for food selling banana bread, we were really hesitant at first, but bought one slice. I wish I had bought more as it turned out to be the best banana bread I've ever had, bar none. It was so moist and fluffy, I loved it. Jerry was surprised when we had banana bread later, and asked where we got it.
After lunch, Jerry took us to another spot for a nice view. There was a shop for rum cakes (we didnt go in), a different zip line experience near by, a few gift shops and a small gift shop perched at the top of the mountain we were on, with a beautiful view. The shop was set up like a light house where you climb up and could go outside the top (3 floors) for a view, and they had anywhere on the ground blocked off so the only place you get the view is inside. We walked in and went upstairs and were THEN told that going upstairs requires admission of $2 each, which was posted on a sign. I gave the guy a few dollars (less than $2 each) and he said it was fine. It was a really beautiful view out at the top and we took a few minutes to take some pictures and look around much of the island.
And of course you can't have a view like that and not take a cute couples picture
We came down from the view, and it was time to go horseback riding. Jerry took us to meet up with our horses. We had booked this through "El Rancho Barrio Dorcas", which was recommended on Bodden tours website. They're a separate company, but have clearly dealt with Bodden tours many times. Jerry told us he had told them to meet us a bit further up the hill than they normally start, since were were already in that direction. I think that saved us from a few minutes ride up a roadway that a few people have mentioned in their reviews riding with this company. We basically pulled over on the side of the road, and met up with the horses. Jerry took my sister and her husband to do some alternate activities while we rode, since they did not want to ride (he took them to a couple different island shops, and they came back with some really nice 100% real cocoa butter that they paid like $5 for, that would be quite expensive here in the states). We were quickly set up with our horses, and met Roosmarie, who we emailed with to set up our scheduled time. We found out she does not own the horses, the gentleman who was with us when we arrived named Sharkey (not sure if I'm spelling that right) owns and takes care of them, Roosmarie manages the website and scheduling for him, and comes down to Roatan to vacation a few times throughout the year. The ride was just the 4 of us, along with Roosmarie and our guide (who did not speak a lick of English, but Roosmarie translated for us when necessary). After getting set up, they asked if anyone had ridden before or not, when my girlfriend said she hadn't ever ridden, Roosmarie had our guide "lead" her horse (basically the guide sits on her horse and has a leash back to my gfs horse), after a few minutes of this my gf asked if this was required, she wanted to ride by herself, and she was able to do so.
The ride took us along some local roads (past a school, and plenty of local homes), we said hello to the locals who were sitting, and they happily said hello back. We rode out on to the beach, and in to the water a few times. Our guide offered to take my phone and take some photos a few times as well.
This was one of the roads we rode along.
The beach views were wonderful
and as I mentioned we saw some local kids a few different times.
My sisters horse wasn't being very cooperative with her, so our guide swapped with her, minor issue, quickly fixed. She didn't make it in to our first group picture since the horse wouldn't come over.
We got plenty of nice pictures though, Roosmarie is the one on the far right in this one
I of course managed to take a couple bumpy selfies and pictures throughout our ride as well.
Once we were done on the beach, we walked off, stopped briefly for the horses to get some water, and then our guide took us up to a bit faster speed (a quick trot), nothing too fast, but a little faster for us to experience.
There was a storm heading our way, so I think she took us back a bit early (the ride is normally 1.5-2 hours, we were out for just over an hour). Since there was clearly some rain coming, I wasn't at all bothered by it though. We arrived back where we started, Roosmarie asked one of the other people waiting with the horses to call Jerry and have him come back, and we got off the horses, paid Roosmarie, and then had a few minutes to wait. We took a few minutes to pet the horses and take a few pictures. My gf really took a liking to hers (and she seemed to like her too).
Jerry arrived shortly after, and we got in the car with my sister and her husband. It was starting to rain and everyone was quite tired at this point! We had a couple more brief things to do though. I wanted to stop for alcohol (Roatan is definitely not the best island to do your alcohol shopping in, but it was when I had time, so we asked Jerry to bring us somewhere). He brought us to a small shop with a decent selection, and I bought a nice bottle of Scotch to give to my gf's father (he loves his scotch!, every Friday is "Scotch Friday!" accompanied by a nice post on facebook). We also stopped briefly at the Stone Castle Cameo Factory. I wanted to see this but by the time we arrived they were mostly closed for the day. They still happily took out a few trays of cameos for us to look at, and we bought a bag of sugar cane from a gentleman outside. That stop was a bit of a disappointment for me, as I was thinking I'd buy something but, not a big deal.
After that Jerry took us back to the port, we offered some of our sugar cane to him, and he laughed and showed us the bag he had bought himself. We pulled in right where we had started, said goodbye to Jerry (with a tip of course) and walked back to the boat.
More in a moment! I'm getting worried about how long this single post is!