If you love coral, Roatan Honduras should be at the top of your list as a scuba diving destination. Roatan is one of three Bay Islands off the Northern Coast of Honduras, and the islands boast some of the healthiest reefs in the Mesoamerica.
In a survey from 2015 the West End of Roatan, in particular, scored a 3.8 out of 5 for reef health. This is in part due to the protection and management of the Roatan Marine Park, and that it is the only place in the Bay Islands to have proper waste water treatment.
And on top of all that the water is crystal clear, and the dive sites are all located a short 5-10 minute boat ride from shore. This makes Roatan diving easy and accessible for all skill levels.
Over the past two weeks, we’ve had the opportunity to explore Roatan diving with EcoDivers Roatan, a small bespoke dive shop in the West End which prioritizes marine conservation and ocean awareness. Below is a list of seven of our favorite dive sites which you won’t want to miss when diving in Roatan.
1. Sea Quest Shallow – 16.28.998 N | 86.69.268 W
Shallow reef starting on a sandy bottom. Follow the sand to the top of the reef which sits at 6m (18 feet) deep. On the top of the reef you can find large grooved brain and boulder brain coral.
You can also find delicate branching Agaricia sitting on the reef like a crown of coral. Swim over the reef ledge and you can descend to 15m (45 feet) to a sandy bottom.
2 El Aquario – 16.18.149 N | 86.35.897 W
The aquarium is full of life with an exhilarating drop-off down past 40m. On the outer edge of the reef, you can find some impressive Eusmilia colonies over one meter across. You can find these colonies around 20 meters deep.
On the top of the reef look for colorful Mycetophyllia, you can find this coral growing on rocks, even tucked under other corals in a shady location.
3. El Aguila – 16.29.655 N | 86.34.762 W
The Aguila shipwreck is a deep dive with the wreck sitting at 30m deep. On the wreck, you can find flowering Meandrina meandrites coral. This coral is yellow with teeth that overlap like a zipper. The corals is meandering the common name is the maze corals.
If you look closely you can spot some solitary disk corals, Scolymia. This is a single polyp coral which can be green, red, yellow, gray, or purple. Near the center of the wreck there is a cluster of juvenile Siderastrea corals with two dozen pale blue colonies the size of baseballs.
4. Over Heat Reef – 16.19.288 N | 86.35.063 W
This reef is due west of the El Aguila shipwreck, the shallow reef leads to the reef wall and as time can have a current along the reef. The Mycetophyllia, Cactus corals at over heat reef are especially colorful with red, green, and even purple being dominants colors.
Mycetophyllia grows close to the reef and encrusts along the rock. Small colonies look like flowers and the fleshy polyps obstruct the hard skeleton beneath.
5. Fish Den – 16.19038 N | 86.35323 W
At fish den you can find the most interesting mix of unusual corals. The rocky reef gives way to a large channel leading to an impressive dropoff. Upwelling currents are channeled through the reef resulting in an eclectic mix of corals.
We found some beautiful green coralmorph mushrooms and clusters of Dichocoenia. Also look out for Grooved Brain Coral – Diplopia labyrinthiformis
6. Lighthouse – 16.18.284 N | 86.35.859 W
Lighthouse is a shallow reef perfect for beginner coral identification. As you descend you will find shallow sandy patches fringed by columns of Boulder star coral, Orbicella faveolata.
Once you’re situated you can look for Mustard hill corals which grow on the rocks and between the star coral, you can also look for Montastrea and keep your eyes out for a bright red colony near the east end of the dive site close to the sand. If you are an advanced diver head out today the reef wall and you can find large colonies of Eusmilia, flower coral.
7. Hole In The Wall – 16.18.824 N | 86.35.511 W
As the name implies this dive starts out with a swim through a deep channel out through a ‘hole in the wall’. The towering walls draw you as you swim towards the light at the end of the tunnel. But don’t be worried there is not a true hole or cave there is always direct access to the surface.
You are just swimming from the shallowest part of the reef through a deep crevasse to come out at the top of a dramatic drop off into the blue. From here head east or west along the reef wall where you can spot sea turtles, stingrays resting on the sand or if you’re lucky a graceful eagle ray flying below.
Dive site photos from the Roatan Dive Guide
All of these dive sites are within minutes from EcoDivers Roatan. EcoDivers offers one tank dives starting at $35 each for certified divers. They also offer PADI Scuba Diving Courses starting from Discover Scuba Diving up to Divemaster Internships. Visit www.ecodiversroatan.com for more information.