Snorkeling the Mesoamerican Reef

We have snorkeled in some of the most beautiful places in the western hemisphere – Hawaii, Mexico, the Galapagos Islands, and others.

And while Hawaii will always be memorable because it was my *first*, and the Galapagos provided close-up experiences with amazing animals (Sharks! Turtles! Sea Lions!), this wee little island of Roatán has claimed supremacy as our top snorkeling experience.

It wasn’t even until we arrived in Roatán that we discovered what a hot spot it was for diving and snorkeling.  The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (the second largest in the world) is visible from shore, as it almost entirely surrounds this island and is reachable in many places just by walking out to it. We were very thankfully invited out by our friends at Upachaya to experience their offered excursion to one of the more remote spots.

Never before have we seen such an incredible reef.  The vibrant colors – many golds, greens, oranges and purples, glistened and swayed with the gentle waves.  The spectacular shape and colorful skin of the various fish as they weaved in and out and chased each other – never have we seen such abundance and variety.  And the sounds! We didn’t know that a reef could even have it’s own soundtrack, as it was possible to actually hear the fish nibbling on it’s nourishment.

 

It was just so…alive. And huge. We could have spent hours just floating above it and watching the abundance of activity go on below us. Our excellent captain Al guided us to the hiding spots of some of the diverse sea life: a moray eel, two octopi, sting rays, lion fish, scorpion fish, lobsters, blowfish, sea urchins, starfish, and more.

We have been here 6 weeks and are ashamed to say that it took us this long to discover it’s beauty.  However, gauging the reaction of our fellow snorkelers on our tour, it seems to have been worth the wait.  There are many places to snorkel from on the island, but all who were with us (and who had tried many of the other spots) agreed that this was by far the best spot.  Relatively untouched by tourists, it teems with animated life. I swear that I heard “Under the Sea” being sung by a crab with a French accent (from Disney’s The Little Mermaid)!

And then, just when we were sure we had sensory overload, Al led us to an edge – the gleaming spectrum of colors on the reef gave way to a massive blanket of royal blue – we suddenly were looking down a sheer drop of 70 feet into the abyss.   It was spooky, mesmerizing and incredibly beautiful. We realized that we could suddenly be very tasty looking morsels for a hungry giant waiting at the bottom of the abyss, but that didn’t stop the group from lingering and admiring the overwhelming sight.

Everything about this tour – the snorkeling locations, the guides, and the extremely delicious vegetarian lunch provided by the resort, made for one of those magical mornings that make us thankful to be in this beautiful corner of the world.

 

Editor’s note: Our snorkeling trip was provided courtesy of the great folks at Upachaya.

 

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  • February 9 2011

    Ah yes! The reef at Roatan is the most beautiful one I have ever snorkeled. I remember most the vivid purples, which I have never seen anywhere else. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!
    Barbara Weibel recently posted..The Making of a Tibetan Carpet

  • February 9 2011

    Snorkeling is one of my favorite travel activities. The best I’ve ever experienced is in French Polynesia. Looks like I should add Roatan to the list.

  • Dalene
    February 9 2011

    @Barbara – yes, the purples! Those big leafy things that waved with the current were such a brilliant purple. I wanted to take some home!

    @Donna – I wish I could say that I’ve been to the French Polynesia to compare! But this truly was a special experience. So alive!

  • February 9 2011

    Wow, this sounds awesome. We went snorkeling once in Hawaii, which was beautiful but I felt sort of claustrophobic. Water makes me nervous, lol. But this makes me really want to give it another shot… if at least to hear “Under the Sea!” 😛
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    • Peter
      February 9 2011

      @Christy – thanks for stopping by, it really was amazing. Yes, and if you’re lucky you will hear the singing crab, just like I am SURE I did!

      @Jill – the water is so buoyant you really don’t need a vest, but probably a good idea if you are not comfortable swimming. I wore one, but only because I couldn’t wear flippers because of my bad ankle (I don’t think I really needed the vest though). Besides, wouldn’t you rather be thinking of snorkeling than work?

  • I want to go!!! So badly. I’ll need a vest though (did I tell you that I can’t swim? ) but ugh, now that’s all I’ll be thinking for the rest the day while at work. Thanks a lot, Dalene!
    Jill – Jack and Jill Travel The World recently posted..Mike and Luci from 1000 Fights — Meet A Traveling Couple

  • February 9 2011

    Wow! Were heading to the area in May. Haven’t decided where to go yet but it sounds amazing…can’t wait.
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    • Peter
      February 9 2011

      Thanks! It truly is incredible, we have heard Utila is great also. If you guys come to Roatán make sure to look us up. We will be here until at least mid-June!

  • February 9 2011

    I can’t swim either 🙁 . Reading posts like this though make me want to give up the fear and just jump in a pool. It sounds SO incredible…I love ocean life!
    Sheryll recently posted..I’m Worth More Than 50 a Week

    • Peter
      February 9 2011

      Thanks Sheryll! We love it to, and man if you do take the jump it is totally worth it. An amazing world worth exploring. Cheers!

    • Paul Velasquez
      May 24 2017

      Hi Sheryll.
      I just returned few days ago from Roatan. I am a native from Honduras living in the States. This was my third time to Roatan. The island, matter of fact, ALL the islands in this part of Honduras are a true paradise in earth. I travel with one of my sisters couple of years ago, and she don’t know how to swim, but using a floating best, she enjoyed snorkeling, a matter of fact, she was the last to return to the boat, she have a really great time. I hope you decide to visit Roatan and experience the great beauty of the second world’s largest coral reef. You will be enchanted.

  • February 9 2011

    You made this sound and look so wonderful. Thank you. I might just learn how to put my face in the water after this.

    • Dalene
      February 10 2011

      You must do so!! Practice in the bathtub. 🙂

  • February 9 2011

    *searches for bucket list…..*

    ADDED!

    thanks guys 😉
    Justin Hamlin recently posted..Navigate Focus Live Inspire

    • Dalene
      February 10 2011

      As you should! 🙂

  • February 10 2011

    I have never done any diving or snorkeling in my life, and never heard of the reef at Roatan to be honest. But it looks like a great place to give it a try.

    • Dalene
      February 10 2011

      I had never even HEARD of Roatan at all up until a few months ago! It is a great place for a first try – I guarantee you’ll be hooked!

    • Paul Velasquez
      May 24 2017

      Tijmen, Roatan is not just a great place, is true paradise in earth. Islas de la Bahia, the official name of the 18th Department( State) of Honduras, is made of 3 main islands, Roatan, Utila and Guanaja. This last one, was the first island close to the continent, the entering door for Colon ( Columbus) to Honduras in 1502.
      Forget about Hawaii, Tahiti, Bore Bora, no islands in the world match Honduras islands. The second largest, most beautiful coral reef stun visitors everyday. Once you know this part of Honduras, you will never like any other island in the world.I promise you.

  • February 15 2011

    It sounds like I will have to add another destination on my list of places to visit in life! 🙂
    I love snorkeling too but the creepy sounds of an abyss freak me right out! haha I don’t think I would of stayed near the edge for too long… or at least I would make sure another snorkeler was closer to the edge then me…. haha
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    • Dalene
      February 15 2011

      Ha! Yeah, we were all huddled together pretty good, and only stayed there for a minute or so. I thought I would be more freaked out, but it actually was just pretty cool and really beautiful!

  • October 22 2014

    I am going to Roatan in January and I heard about the Mesoamerican barrier reef there and I wasn’t sure what part is best to snorkel on. Also, did you book some sort of snorkeling trip? If so, with who?

    Thanks!

    • October 23 2014

      Hi Andrea! It has been some time since we’ve been there, but even when we were there, the main “touristy” parts of the island are a bit mangled by all the tourists (for snorkeling), and your best bet is to go to a less-traveled place. We highly recommend working with Upachaya (http://upachaya.com/) It’s a little out of the way, but the BEST snorkeling we’ve ever done. Have fun!

    • Paul Velasquez
      May 24 2017

      Hi Andrea! I just returned from Roatan, Honduras, few days ago.You never had seen paradise in earth, until you visit this part of Honduras. With the second largest and most beautiful coral reef in the world, this Honduran islands don’t have a match, except the Autralian’s Great Barrier. Honduras reef is made of more of 130 types of coral, some find ONLY in this part of Honduras. The majority of hotels can arrange for you snorkeling trips.If you are not a great swimmer, like myself, you can use a vest to do snorkeling. This is one of the most wonderful experiences that I ever have in my life. Few days ago, I did my first dive in Roatan, no words to describe how amazing is. Send me a message if you have more questions. Von Voyage!

  • November 6 2017

    Hi Andrea,

    Hopefully, we will be heading there next year, so your blog post is very timely for us, as we know the snorkel tour offered by Upachaya Retreat is a really world-class event.

    Looking very much forward to it.
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