Staying on the island of Roatan gives visitors the opportunity to easily explore other isles in the Bay Islands. The archipelago is made up of three large islands, Utila, Roatan, and Guanaja, and also several smaller islands including Santa Elena, Barbareta, Morat, and, Cayos Cochinos.
Chris and I jumped at the opportunity to do some island hopping while on Roatan, first with local guide Mr. Johnny who picked us up in his motorized canoe for an off-the-beaten-path experience through the mangroves forest.
We passed along the familiar shoreline until the trees changed shape into those of mangroves with long, thirsty roots. Mr. Johnny expertly maneuvered the canoe into an extremely narrow opening in the forest where we navigated through a cut just wide enough for the boat.
Mr. Johnny taught us about the plants and animals indigenous to the mangroves forest all while paddling and simultaneously ducking as we glided along smoothly under the forest canopy. The mangroves roots were close enough to touch and I wondered how we didn’t get stuck! Mangrove fun-fact: they are salt-tolerant trees that have adapted to life in harsh coastal conditions.
Once we found our way out of the mangroves maze, Mr. Johnny pointed us to a tiny island on the south side of Roatan. We had a pretty beach to ourselves along with a view of a sunken fishing boat near the reef. In my excitement to go on this tour, I grabbed our snorkels and fins, but completely forgot to bring our dive masks. Snorkeling fail!
For our final stop, we explored the shore of Santa Elena to do some beachcombing – I love looking for seaglass and special shells or rocks. It was the perfect ending to a fun and informative tour around the islands.
Speaking of special rocks, our Camp Bay neighbor, Chrissie, recommended a trip out to Barbareta to see Jade Beach where we would likely have the beach all to ourselves (our favorite kind of beach). Another fantastic local guide, Hanford, whisked us away in the Little Jeyni for a quick ride along the coast heading east toward our destination, Barbareta.
Miles of unspoiled beaches, lush tropical forests, and a huge stretch of reef make up a marine national park on the privately owned island of Barbareta. We arrived on the shore of Jade Beach where we were greeted by armed guards protecting the perimeter of the park. My understanding is that visitors are allowed to spend time on the beach or in the water, but may not go into the forest in order to protect the island’s parrots and other wildlife.
We snorkeled to our hearts’ content to find some of the most healthy reef we’ve seen to-date. Oddly we didn’t see tons of fish, but we were impressed with the abundance of colorful corals. Chris was on underwater camera duty this day since I was having major equipment issues (new mask, not impressed with it!) so the photo credits on these stunning reef photos go to him.
We walked the length of the beach a couple of times to find the best pieces of natural jade stone. I probably could have filled our suitcases with the beautiful stones, but I made myself settle on just one to bring home. Okay, okay, I brought two pieces home – one is much smaller and I’m hoping I can have it made into a pendant for a necklace.
After snorkeling we worked up quite an appetite, so we were thrilled to enjoy such an amazing lunch at one of Hanford’s relative’s house on Santa Elena. Geraline (I hope I spelled that right!) served a huge home-cooked spread for us and it was one of our favorite meals of the trip.
If you’re on Roatan and especially if you’re staying toward the east end, don’t miss the opportunity to do some island-hopping with Mr. Johnny and Hanford! At the time of writing this blog article, I don’t have contact info to post for Mr. Johnny’s mangroves tour, but just ask around – he is well-known, and if you’re staying in Camp Bay he will be easy to find. Hanford can be contacted here. Happy exploring!