I recently busted my shoulder and learned I couldn't do any of my normal activities (surfing, basketball, mountain biking) for at least two months. The one thing I could still do... was scuba dive!
(As long as it was tropical -- there was no way I could get a wetsuit on over that arm!)
Knowing it probably wasn't the most responsible thing I could do (it's kind of my busy season, and I've already spent three months traveling this year)... I decided to preserve my happiness and sanity by booking a trip to Roatan!
I'll be honest: I booked the trip expecting Roatan to be like Bonaire - that is, amazing shore diving and complete independence. However, I was kind of completely wrong.
Roatan is NOT Bonaire. It's hard to find a dive shop that will rent you a tank. Some, like Infinity Divers in West Bay will, though they were asking $25 for one tank! You can also try asking the guys who sell tours in the street - chances are, they'll figure out a way to hook you up. One guy said he could get me two tanks for $25, but I never followed up.
So... what I thought would be a super affordable dive trip quickly got about a thousand dollars more expensive than I expected it to be.
But, whatever. I decided this year in the Philippines, and re-decided after that recent UN report stated in no uncertain terms that the coral reefs will all be dead soon, that it's worth blowing all my money on scuba diving, because right now is the best (and possibly only) time in my life I will be able to see anything other than jellyfish.
So I began doing my Roatan research. I considered CocoView and Anthony's. On the one hand, I thought, I'm a little young and adventurous for an all-inclusive resort (and also not on my honeymoon or whatever).
âOn the other, I hate doing research about travel stuff, the food on the island rumored to be expensive, and both of these AIs (it took me forever to read AI as anything but "artificial intelligence") offer unlimited shore diving, as well as three boat dives per day.
Anthony's Key -- the other thing you need to know about this AI is that they have a "swim with dolphins" experience, so that's something you have to be morally okay with. I am -- especially since, someone told me, the dolphins are free to come and go. "They perform at their own option." Also note that you will be staying on a private island with only other tourists. Which is right for some people and not others.
âI ultimately decided against CocoView, after reading that their reef is less healthy than it used to be. However, once I arrived in Roatan, a man who spends several weeks there a year told me CocoView is "the only resort that offers meaningful shore diving," so I'm not really sure what to believe. I pulled up some recent Youtube videos to inform your search:
ââNext, I got super close to booking at Anthony's - especially since, in September and October, they were running a buy one, get one free deal (and, for once, I wasn't traveling by myself). I was 100% ready to commit, but my travel buddy, who was hung up on the extra $700-ish it would cost to stay there vs. somewhere else, nixed the idea. (Which I was a little grumpy about... until I dove Spooky Channel, aka Poopy Channel, and decided I would have been disappointed with the visibility there.)
ââWe compromised: let's book two nights at CocoLobo, which is a five-minute walk from West End, but still kind of private and secluded. Then, we'll either stay there or move to another place.
But then, of course, we had to decide on a dive shop.
âI'm bad at reading reviews and choosing one product or service over a seemingly identical one. And, at first, that definitely seemed to be the case with Roatan dive shops. However, in the end, one shop stood out to me:
Coconut Tree Divers.
They were priced about the same as any other dive shop: $30-$35 per dive, plus a little more if you want nitrox or night dives. But there were two main differences between them and other shops:
1. Most dive shops offer three dives per day - but the boats come back to the shop after every dive. They don't do two- or three-tank dives. They do three one-tank dives. Which seemed like a lot of unnecessary commuting to me. (Though it turns out it's really not that much extra commuting, since most of the dive sites are within 4-15 minutes of the dive shops.)
Coconut Tree Divers, on the other hand, offers a two-tank dive in the morning, and then two one-tank dives in the afternoon. Twice a week, they also do night dives. Meaning you could do five dives per day with them. Or four, if that's more your speed.
2. Coconut Tree Divers caters to more experienced divers.
Yes, they offer lots of classes and certifications. I wouldn't not recommend them for that. But whereas other shops may cater more to beginners, Coconut Tree will take you deeper and give you a bit more independence and bottom time. They design their dives to be 60 minutes long, and kind of let you decide when to do your safety stop and end your dive. Because they have a lot of Dive Master interns, if you've got someone in your group who goes through their whole tank in 30 minutes, that person can buddy up with a DM and ascend without ending everyone else's dive.
They also offer technical diving, I guess, though I don't really know anything about that.
I'm more of a goof-a-saur with janky equipment from 1998.
They definitely seem to attract more experienced divers. Normally, I always have the best air consumption in my group. On this trip, I wasâ¦ probably on the lower end of average. Which never happens.
My only complaint about Coconut Tree is that one of the dive instructors explained to my buddy and me, at length, that Spooky Channel sucks. It's supposed to be one of the "best" and most famous dives on the island...
But the visibility is worse than Monterey, CA, and the water is apparently trashy and poopy, because it's right down the hill from "The Colonial," a neighborhood where a lot of the mainlanders live - apparently, like, 10 to a single-family home, and with no plumbing. (I can't verify this claim. It's just one thing two people, an expat and a local, told me.)
I was grossed out hearing about this, and definitely DID NOT want to go to "Poopy Channel," EVER.
The next morning, we all got on the boat for our morning dives. Based on previous discussions, I thought we might be going to Texas... but then we went north instead of south. I asked where we were going, and the (different) dive master told me we were going to Poopy's.
True to the stories we'd heard, the visibility sucked (I saw some sting rays, though, which I guess was cool - and if it was truly "poopy," at least I didn't see any actual turds) and the DM missed the channel the first time around, meaning we spent, like, 40 minutes on the "shitty" part of the dive.
âIt was seriously bad enough that I started breathing faster and I lied about how much air I had, because I wanted to end the dive sooner. (Though it's worth noting that, eventually, there was light at the end of the tunnel, with some cool coral and fish after all that murk, and I even saw a spotted eagle ray; so basically, I ended up coming up with, like, 20 PSI and it was only 80% awful.)
I didn't feel like I should have to pay for that dive - especially after Coconut Tree's own DM had told me how gross and poopy it was literally 12 hours earlier.
But other than that, I has a super positive experience and would recommend them to prospective visitors.
My second recommendation, based only on how pretty it was, is Roatan Divers. Tucked away in a pretty little corner of the beach:
The shop was literally built on the dock (most other dive shops are across the street from the beach - it's a super short walk, but it's still prettier and more romantic to be on the water).
âI was definitely bummed that I didn't get to shore dive while in Roatan, but I think Coconut Tree Divers offered the best experience I could have hoped for on the island.
ALSO WORTH NOTING: Just because the shore diving is not that cheap and the options are limited, doesn't mean the snorkeling and free diving aren't amazing. Some of the coolest stuff I saw, from moray eels in sunken submarines to octopuses to cool reef structure, were all on #OneBreath. :P
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Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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