Gay Caribbean Escape: Roatan Island
By Mike Boisvert.
The first thing that hits you about Roatan, 35 miles off the coast of Honduras, is that this is a different sort of tropical island. The island is located near the largest barrier reef in the Caribbean Sea and the second largest worldwide after Australia's Great Barrier Reef. It has become an important cruise ship and scuba diving destination in Honduras.
For many years the island was a hidden gem, with some of the most beautiful white beaches and the best snorkel and diving spots in the Caribbean, but it was 'discovered' around 2005 by cruise ships and hotel developers.
On most of the biggest-name Caribbean destinations, the boat ride to the dive site can be more like a morning commute. It takes forever, and you're worried about finding parking. You're fighting for mooring balls with the other dive boats. This is not a problem on Roatan. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, known for its diverse coral, sponges, and other aquatic life, is what draws people here; the West End Wall, one of the island's premier sites, is only a couple miles offshore. But with no other boats in sight, there's no one competing with you on your 100-foot descent through clear turquoise waters, drifting on the current, watching schools of tang fish swim past. Nothing to rush you from spending the afternoon hanging out on the West End's white sand beach after your return ~ and no fear of stepping on someone's towel.
Gay adventure group Undersea Expeditions hosts several dive excursions to Roatan throughout the year. The manager of Undersea Expeditions, Greg Hamman, told us: “I think the thing that makes Roatan and the laid-back funky charm at the Inn of Last Resort so appealing to lesbians and gays is the adventure of traveling to Central America, going someplace that most of our friends haven’t heard of. Someplace with an edge and interesting history, but safe and relatively easy to get to, and a real bargain! It’s one of those inside secrets that adventurous travelers let each other know about. It’s a fun way to get some diving experience and meet new dive buddies.”
The The Inn of Last Resort is located in the Sandy Bay area of the island. The Inn is located on a private peninsula, tucked up into Roatan’s palm shrouded hills. Each of the Inn’s 30 rooms are air conditioned, with understated wooden décor, ceiling fans, hot water showers, and free wireless Internet service. Meals, with waiter service, are served in the resort’s spacious, airy restaurant; breakfast was fresh fruit, eggs, and beignets, and the dinner entrées ranged from coconut shrimp to filet mignon. A relaxed and friendly feeling permeates the entire compound; gay men are instantly and genuinely felt welcomed by each member of the Inn’s staff, as well as by all of the flip-flop wearing, suntanned, largely Mid-Western folks who are also staying at the Inn. Owners Donna and Andy Arcaya have created a rustic retreat that almost seamlessly blends into the surrounding natural flora. Though the housing is comfortable and pleasant, outdoors is definitely where you want to be. The Inn features a private lagoon (perfect for snorkeling or a quick dip in the warm azure waters) as well as a brand new deck and bar for cocktails and sunbathing.
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