Fantasy Island Beach & Dive Resort, Roatan, Honduras - along with another couple, my husband and I spent 2 weeks here beginning of Feb 2005. They are divers, I am not. And although the scuba diving is the main focus of this island, there is still lots else to see and do - and if you’re staying at F.I., you have a great beach to do it all on as well.
This hotel, at only 87 rooms on its very own island off Roatan’s south coast, was our 16th all inclusive vacation and was a refreshing change from the much bigger resorts we’ve been to on the Mayan Riviera and Cuba. For the non-Canadians reading this, please note that apparently only World of Vacations out of Toronto was offering this hotel on all-inclusive basis. The airport in Roatan has just been extended to accept international flights, and apparently only us Canadians and Italians were on direct non-stop flights right into Roatan. From Toronto, we were on West Jet with just under 4 ½ hours flying time, and yes WoV provides box lunches on the flight.
One final in respect of refreshments – pop, beer, water, wine at dinner time and RUM based drinks only were included” in this all-inclusive.
For the divers, let’s get this attraction out of the way first – the 3 divers in our little group, found the reef and wall diving comparable to Cozumel with the exception of the visibility. With approximately 20 dives in 2 weeks (and for around $500 U.S. which includes $85 for 1 shark dive), they are full of stories of the beauty of the hard and soft coral, the numerous colourful fish, watching a moray eel with his head in a container of bread while his body swirls around the dive master holding the container, being the only 3 on one dive to see a nurse shark under the reef, and seeing dolphins swimming along side the dive boat. As well, they took opportunity of the free shore diving offered here - there is a gazebo on the opposite end of the island where the dive shop brings you and your tanks over to, and from there you can follow an underwater cable to take you out to a sunken plane and old boat.
For some better visibility and a change of dive sites, head up to West End and arrange some dives with the many dives shops all along the one main road that is West End ($20 each way by cab for up to 4 people in the cab). The 3 divers arranged 2 dives with West End Divers ($60) and were quite happy with both finding the visibility in this area to be a bit better than the south shore dive sites.
The highlight dive though, had to have been the shark dive – swimming with 18 to 20 reef sharks and then sitting back on the sand to watch the sharks go diving into the fish bucket head first and fighting for their share of a bite to eat. The dive is $85. U.S. and the DVD (which is a must so you can relive what seems to go by so quickly) sells for $40. U.S.
Before I go any further – note: arriving at the airport - have your baggage ticket handy! For some reason, you cannot leave until you’ve walked by a lady who checks the baggage ticket against the one on your suitcase. I don’t know if this applied to just the Canadians flying in, but be forewarned and forearmed.
The sand fleas - these are a fact of life but a little prevention goes a long way to enjoying your vacation. The tour rep advised that the best prevention was to hang around people who the bugs are attracted to – since that was me out of our group, I had to really work on the prevention thing here. The Cactus Juice ($12 U.S. in the gift shop, $10 U.S. in town) which is SPF #20 and bug repellent in one bottle works the best! Plus it has a much more pleasant smell, and way less greasy, than the Muskol we took down. My routine was to apply a thin layer of Cactus Juice all over before even go out of our room in the morning, and then reapplying after swimming/sweating. Towards dusk I would then start spraying on the Muskol. I had also brought down Avon’s Skin-So-Soft spray on bath oil which was reputed to work against the no-see-ums but found it way too greasy so didn’t bother with it.
In spite of all the prevention, some bites are inevitable and so I used After Bite and Johnson & Johnson’s Anti-Itch Gel Medication which both worked well.
As extra added prevention, I also brought down Shower & Shave Gel and the Whipped Body Oil (used it as after sun moisterizer), both from the Avon Skin So Soft line of products, so with the combined use of these 2 great products, the Cactus Juice, the Muskol and the anti-itch medications I ended up with maybe a couple dozen bites over the 2 week period with no nagging itching.
One last point, if you’re going to spend time on the beach sit where you can get a breeze - this really helps to keep down the bites as the no-see-ums don’t stand up to any kind of wind well. Sitting under the trees in front of the Palapa Restaurant, with little or no protection against sand fleas, is just asking to get bit all to hell. You’ll also note people sitting or laying their lounges right in the water which is another effective way to keep the flies off ya.
The food - though a very small selection on each buffet, you would most likely be able to find something you like. The fish was always tasty (grouper), and many times there would be a seafood sauce for the pasta with large hunks of lobster and shrimp, or piles of breaded fresh shrimp on the dinner or lunch buffets. Albeit on days when the cruise ship passengers come in (they buy an excursion to sit on the beach at Fantasy Island), the food gets even better, but most of the time no complaints that way. Thursday night is seafood night with grilled lobster tails, crab legs, etc.
The rooms were clean but very basic – no little bottles of shampoo and such in the bathrooms (although there is a dispenser for a body & hair shampoo, you may wish to bring your own products), and the bathrooms in some of the rooms were in need of more than minor repairs. However, the rooms are large, there is a fridge with drinking water in a jug, satellite tv (deposit for the remote which is no big deal), and in some rooms, terry cloth robes hanging in the closet! Safety deposit boxes are in the lobby and there is not a lot of them…if travelling with others, share one to hold all your travel documents. Dive computers and cameras we kept in the room (hidden away in suitcases) and had no problems.
Excursions off the resort – cheapest way to go is $55 or so, to rent a car for the day and tour the island yourselves. Going east will take you into the real Roatan side of the island towards The View, Oak Ridge, Punta Gorda…going into Oak Ridge you will be accosted to go on a $5 (per head) boat ride through the mangroves. Kind of lame as you’re spending more time in the open water to reach a small section of mangroves…but for $5, what the heck. Going west from Fantasy Island, there is one paved road and so you can’t really get lost. The road takes you back past the airport and into Coxen Hole (don’t take the first exit sign you see, take the second!). If you are looking to do some shopping here, then don’t bother on Sat, Sun or Mondays as the markets are all closed because there are no cruise ships docked…so if you want to shop at the markets, then you want to turn right on the main road in Coxen Hole which will take you into the main market area…however, this is also where thousands are getting off the cruise ships to get into vans, taxi’s and cars heading out to explore the island, so you’ll find it quite crowded. Excellent shopping for (expect to bargain to about 50% to 60% of asking price) handcrafted wood products, beautiful textile products such as table runners, loads of jewellery and pottery. The ubiquitous Roatan t-shirt can be had for $5 here. In spite of the great shopping, the cruise ship crowd got on my vacation nerves and we were all glad to be out of there. Moving onwards, the road takes you across the island and past Anthony’s Key Resort (where there is a museum worth stopping in at), and into West End. Where you see a sign that says Mayan Princess Resort…don’t go that way…stay to your right, and you’ll know you’re in West End because you’re all of a sudden on a crowded sandy road with a beach in front of you. There are several restaurants to choose from here by the way, but we sure liked Eagle Rays – you can’t miss it as it sticks out into the water and there is a dive shop below and restaurant above. We could never get past the appetizers of the fish fingers (real fresh grouper) and chips, the nachos, etc.
You’ll see an activities desk in the lobby with a load of different things on offer to do and see, such as the Canopy Tour (ziplines through the trees), a shopping trips into Coxen Hole and West End & finishing off watching the sunset from Eagle Rays in West End, visiting the Iguana Farm next door (which you can do on your own by just taking one of the kayaks from the beach and going over there).
Currency note – U.S. dollars widely accepted but you will often get change in lempira - $1 U.S = .18 in lempiras.
Language note – mostly everyone speaks English but if you know a little Spanish, you might get to use it sometimes.
Internet café – at the hotel rarely seemed to work, but there are several in West End, French Harbour and I’m sure, in Coxen Hole.
Any divers out there should read the Guest Book section at www.fantasyislandresort.com for full information on the dive facilities here.
We would definitely go back here but hopefully the service in the dining room and bar will have improved by then. This was a great vacation!