Like many Americans, Ray and I took to the road for the Memorial Day weekend. And by that, I pretty much mean “the” road, here: Carretera Principal, which runs almost the length of the island, sometimes along one of the coasts and sometimes right atop the inland spine. From it, there are a lot of offshoot roads, some of which make for easier driving than others, as we found out on our last stay in 2014 and again this time. (See Maps page if you want a broad overview; see map below for the first part of our excursion).
We definitely got our $37 a day out of our rental car. It was a cute little red something or other, which we started out calling the Chevy WTF (later amended to the Hyundai WTF, although eventually it was just going by the little red WTF).
Driving stick-shift, my mild (?)-mannered husband quickly turned into “Roatan Ray”; in other words, he could easily qualify now for a local cabbie license. Driving here is pretty much like driving in Italy – brake, gas, brake, oops swerve to miss pedestrians, bikes, scooters, or stopped collectivos, pass, brake, gas, etc. He said it was “an adventure” (I said if he really wanted an adventure, let me drive; since he once taught me stick-shift, he shook his head). He also kept up a regular patois in some accent resembling Spanish with a little Chinese thrown in for good measure, repeating radio announcements like: “We are Roatan’s party station. DON’T turn the dial!” (and he says I’m entertaining…)
Anyway, that was later in the day. We started out relatively calmly with a visit to West Bay. We know the beach area already via water taxis and we’ve taken the road once or twice by cab, but figured we’d explore it on our own this time. We found some fun stuff.
We did not know there was a rum company on island, for instance.
We figured we ought to stop, especially since it had the Florida state bird in front of it. Ray chatted up the proprietor while I wandered around noticing things like this sleeping cat under the coffee.
We sampled a few shots – the coconut was good, and I liked the chocolate (Ray did not). I enjoyed the marketing displays in the shop, especially that all the ‘mannequins’ were skeletons (wearing logo tees and other gear, of course).
Onward without a purchase (for now).
We followed the road past Infinity Bay which is usually our beach stop after snorkeling. It went up…and up…and this is apparently where the rich people live.
And this is the view from those nicely manicured yards. A hazy morning, but I’d still take that view.
Next up was the coast road through Flowers Bay. According to the Bay Islands Tourism Bureau, Flowers Bay is one of the oldest communities in Roatan, built right on the water, and a great place to experience local island life. This was true, with a lot of townspeople out and about. Since we weren’t stopping, we were reluctant to drive-by-photograph the locals, but we did capture some pretty views.
We’d noticed some banners hanging over the road leading out of West End for about a week advertising The Buccaneer Beer Bar in French Harbor, which we didn’t remember from previous trips there, so we thought we’d check that out next. Back on the main road, we got hung up behind some heavy equipment: a dump truck following a front end loader following a flat truck carrying other heavy machinery. On the uphills, the front end loader was pushing the flat truck with some engine groans that didn’t sound very promising. Several maniacal scooter drivers and cabbies were either attempting to or actually passing them on the curvy road – – usually not just one at a time, oh hell no, let’s go for broke and pass all three, usually into full speed oncoming traffic.
We decided to err on the side of caution (this was before Roatan Ray fully kicked in) so we stopped to look at these catamarans from Ecologic Adventures docked at the Barefoot Cay Resort and dive center – a beautiful facility, and the water in these canals was incredibly clear and clean – and hoped that by the time we got back on the road, traffic would have eased up.
But, we forgot about “Crazy Town” (Monte Placentero, or Mount Pleasant). In the span of a few blocks, there are often tons of people wandering around, lots of traffic stopping and going in every direction, plus other distractions like food smells wafting from the ubiquitous roadside grills and assorted signs and wares competing for your attention. At the best of times it’s kinda nerve-wracking, but this time it all came to a grinding halt because – you guessed it – that was as far as the construction crews had gotten.
But wait. Were we driving a WTF? Yes. Yes we were.
So Ray decided he was going to pass them like all the other nutjobs – which he did, all three vehicles, straight into oncoming traffic, shifting gears and the gas pedal down and swerve back into our lane, oh yeah, that was fun as my life flashed before me. On the other hand, we were in the clear again, and isn’t that what really matters?!
So we kinda needed a beer by the time we got to The Buccaneeer. By the way, lest any of you readers think that all we do is drink, I regret to say that our stint managing a motel has clearly put a serious and lingering damper on our ability to party. We may look like we’re always getting trashed but we’re usually lucky if we each manage a couple of beers most of the time – ie, we are definitely not closing any West End establishments this go-round.
However – if I was going to get a good days’ drunk on, this would certainly be a sweet place to do it. Have a look at this entryway.
It just got better from there. The “swim pool” costs $5 to use but looks more than worth it (notice the seats under the palapa huts are in the water).
To one side is an indoor/outdoor bar area. Love the bar stools, and the comfort canoe.
While Ray settled in (notice another cool feature, these tables supported teepee-style), I wandered out on the dock and took a photo looking back.
I also found the (shock!) hammock swings.
So, why is an awesome place like this virtually empty except for us? For one, it was not a cruise ship day, and for two, they’ve apparently only been open for a month or two and are only now just getting their cruise ship (and local) marketing underway. Oh well, more playground for us!
We could have easily spent the rest of the day at The Buccaneer (and I’m pretty sure we’ll be going back there) – but we only had a vehicle for another day and a half, with more to explore…so off we went again.