Top 10 Dive Sites in Roatan
A Barracuda sits amidst a school of Bigeye Scad. Photo by Dave Canaan.
When people come to dive in Roatan for the first time, the question is always the same: What are the top-rated, must-see dive sites on the island?
Just one look at the Roatan Dive Sites Map and you can see that there are hundreds of sites to choose from. So, choosing just 10 is no easy feat. That’s why we decided to ask the experts: the Sun Divers’ team of instructor-divemasters.
Needless to say, there was much deliberation and debate. And some really tough decision making. To appease our expert panel, we added an “Honorable Mention” category. That way, no one felt guilty for leaving a spectacular Roatan diving experience off the list.
Before we get to the results, like any survey, you should know our methodology.
Choosing the Top 10 Roatan Dive Sites
It started with getting the most qualified experts to contribute. Enter the Sun Divers team of PADI instructors. Consisting at the time of eight members, this group of experts represents a combined 80 years of experience in Roatan diving. The group also brings a diverse set of expertise and interests. Some love the macro, some love the adventure of walls and swim throughs, and some love the simple serenity of Roatan’s reef. The combined experience of the group gives our survey results a lot of weight.
Each person provided their Top Ten list and then rankings were weighted based upon how often a site was selected and where they sat in the ranking from 1-10, with the number one spot being their most favorite site here in Roatan.
What is so special about Roatan diving?
One of the most difficult aspects of a survey like this is the sheer volume of sites and options. Unlike many dive destinations that have limited sites to select from, Roatan is a 40-mile-long island, and the entire coastline (over 80 miles) is surround by reef. It not only represents the best of Honduras scuba diving, it ranks on many best of lists for the Caribbean. No matter where you jump in, you will be surround by life and reef as far as you can see. Much of the reef is unnamed so the sites that are listed here are from the list of named options.
In addition, the island presents a highly diverse selection of experiences. Sheer walls, expansive plateaus, exciting drifts, spectacular wrecks, expansive swim throughs, captivating macro, out-of-this world night dives, and deep technical options. All of which are engulfed in life and color.
There is no way to have the perfect top 10 list because everyone has different taste. But with this list, I guarantee there will be something for everyone.
So, without further delay here is the Sun Divers Top 10 Roatan Dive Sites list.
Drum Roll Please…
Top 10 Roatan Dive Sites
Top 10 Roatan Dive Sites Details
Skill Level: Advanced
Location: approximately 12 miles south of Roatan
Key Features: Massive schools of fish, robust current, unspoiled reef
List-worthy because: The Seamounts are one of the highlights of diving Honduras, however, they fall lower on the list because of the challenges to get there, and the variability of the conditions making it an advanced dive.
The Seamounts are exactly as the name suggests, two underwater mountains rising from the depths to provide a sanctuary of life in the middle of the ocean. The circle of life is more evident on the seamounts than anywhere else on the island with schools or predatory jacks, pelagic hunters, and giant schools of fish. The reef is pristine due to the low diving pressure, but it also comes with unpredictable currents and no land references when on the surface. For these reasons, diving the seamounts is idea for advanced divers.
At Sun Divers, we often combine a trip to the seamounts with a once-in-a-lifetime day trip to remote islands Cayos Cochinos.
This Honduras dive site would undoubtedly rank higher if it were more accessible, but the sheer beauty makes it a bucket-list option.
Skill Level: All
Location: a stone’s throw from Sun Divers and Half Moon Bay (hence the name!)
Key Features: Beautiful wall with enormous barrel sponge formations.
What makes it special: Half Moon Bay wall could be considered our back yard – literally a minute from the dock. But aside from a convenient one-minute trip from our dive shop, Half Moon Bay Wall is known for it’s dramatic wall that descends vertically from 50 to 120 feet, and for the beauty of the corals and Giant Barrel Sponges that adorn it.
Skill Level: All
Location: about 10 miles up the Northern coast just off of Pristine Bay
Key Features: A series of large pillars and platforms off of the main wall create a wide channel for divers to be surrounded on both sides for the duration of the dive.
What makes it special: This is one of those dive sites that makes you feel small in a good way. From the mooring line you will drip down into a large trench at 60 ft where you’ll remain for most of the dive. On one side of the trench is the main wall and on the other are a series of pinnacle coral structures the run parallel to the wall… giving you the feeling of being surrounded by coral. As you continue to the end of the dive you will shallow up in a field of soft corals and variety of sponges in the area considered the Garden of Eden.
Skill Level: All
Location: Southern end of West Bay
Key Features: Brilliant sand patch that Eagle rays love, easy-to-access swim throughs, and expansive Garden Eel habitat
What makes it special: Jumping in over the sand patch is such a welcoming experience to the reef. The sand reflects the sunlight in spectacular fashion as you cruise to the first swim through welcoming you to the reef. On the other side of the swim through you find yourself staring down an extensive wall.
While not as deep as other Roatan dive sites, at the 70-foot mark, the reef will again transition to sand – which is where you will find a number of large colonies of Garden Eels peacefully plucking food from the flowing water. Don’t get too close or they will withdraw into their holes. If you stay just far enough away, you can marvel at the true “garden-like” habitat that they create.
Also, on this dive you will find big mantis shrimp, sting rays, and frequent passing Eagle Rays.
Mandy’s is a great spot for all levels of divers, but especially welcoming to new divers because of the mild topography and limited currents.
Skill Level: All
Location: Between West End and West Bay… about a 5-minute ride from the Dive shop.
Key Features: Sandy plateaus surrounded by patch reef and shallow walls and the Roatan Marine Park’s Coral Nursery trees
Like so many of Roatan’s dive sites, this is another site that is nice for beginners and advanced divers. The site is divided into a “shallow” and “deep” sections marked by different mooring lines. The shallow site is perfect for new divers while the “deep” site flows out to a short wall. The deep site mooring line is in 40 feet of water, which creates a deeper profile – therefore a more advanced diver. The site itself, doesn’t present any other advanced challenges beyond air and NDL limitations.
One of the highlights is swimming through the Roatan Marine Park’s coral nursery, which is where they rescue fragments of opportunity, as well as propogate new fragments for coral restoration. Many times you will see our own team in the nursery, certifying volunteers to become Roatan Marine Park Coral Ambassadors.
Skill Level: Advanced
Location: Southern West Bay, on “The Point”
Key Features: West End Wall frequently features a nice current which creates an environment supporting a lot of fish life.
What makes this dive special: Located on the southwestern tip of the island, it is often one of the islands most dramatic drift dives. The site starts close to the iron shore at 20 feet and then drops dramatically to 90 feet. Throughout the duration of the dive you will run into a variety of deep caverns carved from the shallows to the deepest parts of the wall. On a day with crystal clear viz you might even spot the Josie James wreck that rests at a depth of 200 feet (beyond recreational dive limits).
The predictable current leads to a very fishy dive often featuring endless trains of Creole Wrasse, big schools of Jacks, and the occasional eagle ray passing by.
If you time it right, in August, Silversides can often be found in the crevices of the wall – which in itself is a bucket-list experience.
Skill Level: All
Location: Between West End and West Bay Straight off of Tita’s Pink Seahorse beach bar
Key Features: Beautiful wall, long swim-throughs, macro heaven, and grassy habitat
What makes this dive special: Diving at Blue Channel is like having three dives in one site. Most often, your dive will start on the wall and you will enter a beautiful channel that connects the open ocean to the inner waterway. As you enter the channel, you will immediately come upon an entrance to a swim through. But this isn’t just any swim through. Be prepared to weave your way through a maze of tunnels for the next seven or eight minutes. There are easy and frequent exit points, but why would you? The swim through is epic.
At the end of the swim through you will be mid-channel and starting to enter into a macro-lovers heaven. As you continue along the channel you will start to notice more of the turtle grass the covers the inner water ways. This grassy area presents a completely different habitat introducing another ecosystem to explore. Tons of Nudibranchs, starfish, and upside-down jelly fish with symbiotic relationships with small critters make for a photographer’s dream. Keep heading toward shore and you might discover a “wreck” or more like a small sunken sailboat teaming with life. What’s that big shadow in the distance? Oh, just a huge school of “goggle eyes,” also better known as Bigeye Scad. Swim toward them and watch the school part ways and then engulf you. Keep an eye out, sometimes huge barracuda like to hang out in the eye of the Scad storm.
Unfortunately, your dive will have to come to an end, but you have been spending the last 10 minutes in 15 to 20 feet of water, doing a delightful swimming safety stop.
Skill Level: Advanced
Location: about 15 miles from the dive shop on the South side of the island (French Harbor area)
Key Features: Fascinating Geological reef formation featuring deep crevices covered in life
What makes this dive special: Mary’s Place is considered one of the world’s top dive sites. This site is unique due to the way geologic events have shaped the site. At one time, this site was a normal section of the reef, but many thousands of years ago a geologic event split part of the reef off from the rest of the plateau. The result of the event is a giant crevice that extends from the surface down to 100 feet.
The dive usually starts at the deepest points winding your way through the multiple crevices as you work your way to the shallows. Each crevice is covered in hard and soft flowing corals giving you the sense of swimming through hallways of life.
The southside of the island often presents windy weather and rougher water, which makes getting to Mary’s Place a bit weather dependent. In addition, due to the deeper profile, it is recommended for advanced divers.
Skill Level: Advanced
Location: Just off of the Gibson Bight channel, about 5 minutes from the shop
Key Features: Deep chute followed by a maze of swim throughs
What makes this dive special: You start the dive in 20 feet of water and then immediate drop into a steep cavern that doesn’t end until you hit 100+ feet. There is a keyhole feature at about 150 feet which is usually patrolled by a school of horse-eyed jacks. Beyond the keyhole is the deep blue of open ocean. It is a spectacular sight and by itself is worth the dive.
But your experience has just begun. There are multiple routes to take on this site, but a popular one is to turn up another chute that takes us back toward the shallows in a steep incline. The entire trip down and back up is about 8 minutes. At this point we exit the chute in about 35 feet and begin exploring the maze of swim throughs, caverns and horse shoe passages, that give the shallow rock formation it’s nickname of “swiss cheese.” That will consume the remainder of the dive. With so many swim throughs it is one of those sites that can be a different dive every time you do it.
Skill Level – Advanced
Location – “The Point” on the southwestern tip of the island
Key Features: Robust drift and endless schools of fish
What makes this dive special: Although it is technically two sites, the natural current in the area will usually carry you over both sites. The current is also the primary reason why these sites are special, it brings nutrient rich water through the area which attracts numerous schools of fish ranging from the thousands of blue creole wrasse to the predatory jacks and tunas that will flash through the area.
The drift element makes this an advanced dive as well as the constant depth. It is best done on nitrox to maximize the drift depth in the 40 to 60 foot range. There is also a beautiful Barrel Sponge “garden” where you can usually spot the elusive Sargassum Triggerfish as well! The water conditions on the point can get a little rough, so this is a weather dependent site, but it is always worth the wait.
And what list would be complete without an honorable mention:
- Bear’s Den: You feel like an underwater explorer in the truest sense when you start this dive. From the moment you drop in, you’re greeted by the thrill of a swim through. Then throughout the dive, you can explore the shallow water caverns that give this site its name. If you’re in luck, you’ll find a den filled with Glassy Sweepers backlit by sun rays that make their way through holes in the roof.
- Spooky Channel: Some people love it, others hate it. It is a geological wonderland as a prehistoric natural sliver of a channel (as seen from the surface) that opens up to a cavern the size of a large building that you would never suspect before you jump in. The channel can be incredibly clear or a murky haze (ie. “spooky”). Either way, you will experience an original unforgettable dive.
- Gibson Bight: This site has nutrient rich water coming from Gibson Bay keeping it teeming with schools of fish and diverse marine life. But, what we really love about this site, is the cool J-shaped canyon with an overhang that creates an interesting swim through and then spits you out onto the wall. Spotted eagle rays can usually be seen towards the bay and we always seem to have seahorse luck at this site.
- The Odyssey: One of the two premier wrecks on Roatan, The Odyssey is over 300 feet long and has been submerged since 1997 so it has a lot of life encrusting the old cargo hull. The dive is for advanced divers only as the wreck sits in 100 feet of water. Best done on Nitrox. If you like big wrecks, you will also enjoy El Aguila – another of Roatans premier wreck dives.
- Cemetery Wall: A rare site for us to visit due to its location on the unpredictable south side of the island… but on those rare days when the Southside is a better option, we will seek out Cemetery Wall due to its fields of flowing soft corals and dramatic sheer wall making it a completely unique experience.
Let the argument begin… we would love to hear your rankings as well. Let us know what sites we should consider for our list. Want to book a trip where you hit all Top 10? Contact us today and let’s start planning!