If Roatan is the best kept secret of the Caribbean...
then the east end destinations are truly
the best kept secret of Roatan
Well-researched tourists and cruise ship visitors are heading east more often and word is getting out about the growing number of attractions in Jonesville, Oak Ridge, Punta Gorda, Port Royal, Camp Bay and area.
Heading east from French Harbour, the first town you’ll come to, approximately 45 minutes from the main tourist center of West End, after taking a right turn from the main road and heading down a steep and dusty road to the southern shore of the island, is Jonesville, established in 1852.
This quaint fishing village provides a glimpse into true island life. There is one small tourist shop, which opens on demand, and a couple of typical tiendas (small grocery stores). McNab Place, a new, family-run eatery, easy to find by either road or water, has become a favorite local meeting place. Puky’s (as it is known to locals), hosts a barbeque every second Sunday and offers a wide variety of local and American choices on the regular menu on other days.
Jonesville and the surrounding area is home to some of the island's best dive sites, where the reef is a only a few feet from shore, and there are several dive outfits operating in the area. Snorkeling, deep sea fishing, mangrove tours, and bone fishing are also available here.
The Hole in the Wall, in nearby Blue Rock, is the most frequented and best known tourist destination in the area and is accessible only by boat, which is half the fun. Long, narrow dories, fitted with sun shades and thatched roofs, chug at a leisurely pace through crystal clear water, past small fishing communities, under foot bridges, and through mangrove canals. To the south, just beyond the reef, is the Caribbean Sea and if you’re lucky, the giant peaks of the mountains on Honduras mainland may be visible, in the distance.
Bob, proprietor of “the Hole,” serves up a delicious steak and lobster feast every Friday and Sunday during the winter months and every Sunday during the summer, and a wide variety of tasty local treats every other day of the week, and is famous for his rum punch and basket of fat, hand-rolled cigars, free for the smoking. A visit to the “Hole” is quite often the highlight of a Roatan vacation.
Hayo’s Spot is another local restaurant/bar, also accessible only by water, where you can enjoy local music under the huge palapa, sample the local fare, or enjoy a Saturday night fiesta and dance the night away.
The next town you will come to, once again, to the right, and down a long hill, but in this case, along a paved road, to the south coast, is Oak Ridge. A historic fishing village, Oak Ridge was, at one time, the social hub of the island. Often referred to as the Venice of Roatan because of the water based transportation, this is a unique community where colorful houses, perched on stilts, line the waterway.
Oak Ridge is home to a large fleet of lobster and shrimp boats as well as a busy seafood processing plant. This typical island town is seeing more and more tourist activity all the time. Dories depart from here for mangrove tours and trips to Hole in the Wall. Dive boats pick up groups of divers and a catamaran departs on day trips to Port Royal and overnight trips to the nearby Cayos Cochinos from Oak Ridge.
The Reef House is a small, intimate dive resort that enjoys less traffic than the more popular tourist areas to the west end of the island. Their most popular package is the 7 night dive package, which includes accommodations, three meals per day, three boat dives per day, one night dive per week, unlimited shore diving, and transfers to and from the airport. The Reef House is known for its delicious meals, which can be enjoyed by the public, on a call-ahead basis.
BJ’s Backyard is a popular Oak Ridge destination. Whether you stroll past the banana trees and crimson flowered hibiscus from the parking lot or wander through the outdoor patio area from the docks, you’ll step into a room surrounded by warm yellow walls. Perch on a yellow bar stool and catch up on some local gossip, settle into a comfortable rocking chair and put your feet up or enjoy the scenery from the outdoor seating area and watch the dory traffic go by with loads of tourists taking mangrove tours.
Every Saturday during the tourist season and every other Saturday during the rest of the year, local musicians Alex Poirier and the Banditos set up their equipment and treat guests to an impressive level of entertainment on BJ’s shaded, outdoor patio. Those who wish to play along are welcome and the crowd is both appreciative and supportive.
Just past the cutoff to Oak Ridge, this time veering left, and following the road down the hill to the north coast of the island, you will find the Garifuna town of Punta Gorda.
Far from the beaten path, this oldest, continuous community on the island was settled in 1797, when a group of approximately 2,200 Garifunas, or black Caribs, was marooned on the Island by the British, after being exiled from St. Vincent.
Each year, on April 12th, the townsfolk celebrate Garifuna day by holding a Carnival, which includes a reenactment of the original landing, a parade, a wide variety of tasty local treats, and displays of exotic Garifuna music, dance, and home-made souvenirs.
Marble Hill Farms
Past the fork in the road at Oak Ridge, stay to the right and follow the sign that leads to “East End Beaches.” After a short, but somewhat bumpy ride along a dirt road, watch to your left for the entrance to Marble Hill Farms.
Descending along a laneway, through an exotic swath of dense jungle, past the crackle of majestic bamboo stands and flowering tropical trees and bushes, a view of the sea below in all its turquoise glory appears as you reach the Crow’s Nest Restaurant, perched high among the tree tops.
An inviting open air setting welcomes, as you cozy up to the bar, or sit inside, in the shade or out on the open patio. Choose from a variety of appetizers, island-famous pizzas, salads, and decadent treats, such as Philly cheesesteak and pulled pork sandwiches, then finish up with a piece of key lime pie to die for.
The eco-lodge has casitas available for rent and offers great diving in 86 F water, kite boarding, glass bottom kayaking, wake boarding, wind surfing, snorkeling, and PADI diving courses at reasonable rates!
Home-made jams, jellies and sauces make great souvenirs for friends and family back home and you’re welcome to taste before you buy. It’s well worth the trip to the East End for the camaraderie and great eats at Marble Hill Farms.
A couple of miles beyond Marble Hill Farms, there is a fork in the road, leading to Calabash Bight to the right. If you take the left fork and continue for a couple more miles you will reach Paya Bay Resort, an all-inclusive, 11 room resort, complete with a restaurant overlooking the turquoise Caribbean Sea below. The resort offers hiking, snorkeling trips, bird watching, yoga, diving with Tropical Island Divers, weddings, sea kayaking, sport fishing, and side trips to the nearby Cayos Cochinos and the neighboring Honduras Bay islands of Guanaja and Utila.
Continue further east past Marble Hill Farms if you are up for an adventure. The remote town of Camp Bay is about a twenty minute drive further and about as far east on the island as you can go, but the road can be bumpy and dusty and the going is slow. It’s worth the drive if you crave quiet, isolated beaches where you can be all alone and enjoy the pristine beauty of Mother Nature.
La Sirena, also known as Asylum, at Camp Bay is a perfect place to have lunch, snorkel, fish, or take a cayuca boat tour of the Mangrove Forest on the canals. Camping on the beach is permitted. Show up with your own camping equipment and snorkel gear or rent them here.
La Sirena scores a whopping 96% positive rating on trip advisor. This review sums it up well. “At the end of the road is this unique little palapa restaurant over the water, with cold beers and excellent fresh seafood in a one of a kind setting. The people and service were great, which made the price of $29.00 US, for a couple beers and a combo seafood platter of grouper, lobster, and shrimp, bearable.”
At the eastern end of the island, on the south shore, you will find the community of Port Royal, an area rich in history. British Buccaneers took over the Bay Islands from the Spanish in 1564 and buccaneer Henry Morgan was based for a time at Port Royal, Roatan, one of the best harbors in the Western Caribbean and strategically located within plundering distance of nearby Spanish ports, which were bursting with wealth but mostly defenseless, as well as the Spanish galleons, heavily laden with new gold, silver, and gems, destined for Spain.
Accessible by water only, Port Royal offers a choice of several resorts. According to National Geographic, which named Roatan as one of the top 10 destinations for a summer trip this year, the pristine and secluded waters of Port Royal, offer “the ultimate Roatan retreat,” where you can combine saltwater flats fishing, kayaking through mangrove canals and just chilling in your hammock.
Half and full day sails to Port Royal are available aboard the catamaran “Free Radical,” which departs from and returns to the nearby town of Oak Ridge.
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