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.
Tourists used to be mainly divers but the islands beaches have attracted additional package tourists and cruise ships. In recent years, several new cruise ship ports have been opened, causing a significant influx of traditional cruise ship tourists to the island. You'll know when the cruise ships are in port because suddenly there are several thousand additional tourists on the beaches and in towns. It is best to avoid buying anything when cruise ships are docked, the prices of food, goods, and services generally double to quadruple to capitalize on the higher expendable incomes of the typical cruise ship passenger.
There are three types of travelling experiences in Roatan. First would be the typical Caribbean resort-oriented beach vacation experience which can be found at any number of islands in the region. This type of vacationing is still developing on Roatan, however, in the past few years it has become a bit more common and the island offers many resorts and activities that would appeal to those who prefer this type of setting. Alternatively, Roatan can still be experienced through the back door and more rustic accommodations are abundant. If you are looking to sleep under a mosquito net with little to no view of any other human, you can certainly experience this on Roatan.
The final type of travelling experience on Roatan is the cruise ship, these visitors are generally in town for short bursts of time and come in huge numbers, it's not unusual for you to wake up and have West Bay suddenly be covered with several thousand cruise ship passengers rubbing shoulders to find a small patch of available beach to soak up the sun in. Several cruise ships have ports in Roatan, but some dock only in the exclusive private towns and beaches owned by the resort, and you will hardly notice them except for the large ships on the horizon.
Luckily there are still parts of the island that harken to past times when Roatan was more of a remote destination. Although development is spreading to all parts of the island, one can still find more rustic settings and establishments east of French Harbor. Keep in mind that traveling to the far eastern end of the island can take time due to road conditions. Those staying around the West End of the island should expect at least an hour of travel time to reach Camp Bay in a car.