How to Choose From the Best Dive Shops in Roatan
Dive Shops in Roatan are like Starbucks cafes in the U.S.: there’s one on every corner!
Just google ‘best dive shops in Roatan’ and over 50 different Roatan dive centers pop up. Some are boutique operations and others are all-inclusive. Some boast large boats for big groups and others focus on smaller, more personalized experiences. With all the choices, what’s a diver to do? If you’re finding it difficult to decide which Roatan dive shop to entrust your dive vacation to, evaluate your options using this guide on How to Choose from the Best Dive Shops in Roatan.
Full disclosure, this guide was created by Sun Divers Roatan. Why? Because while we’d love for everyone to dive with us, we know that our island is a world-class diving destination with many reputable Roatan dive centers to choose from. While there’s a dive center for everyone, not all dive centers are created equal. And what makes a great dive center to you might be different for another diver. So we’re presenting this guide to help you find the best dive shop in Roatan for YOU!
Here are 5 criteria to help you choose from the best dive shops in Roatan. You can also use this criteria to assess dive centers in any dive destination!
5 Criteria to Choose from the Best Dive Shops in Roatan
1. Location, Location, Location
Location is a top consideration when deciding which of the best dive shops in Roatan is just right for you. Roatan is made up of several villages and the most popular destinations for divers include West End, West Bay, Sandy Bay and Camp Bay. Each ‘village’ (or neighborhood) has its own character and vibe, as well as natural beauty and local amenities. You can find options for great Roatan dive shops in all these areas. Here’s a few ways to assess location:
Proximity to Popular Dive Sites: Roatan has a fringing reef with literally hundreds of moored dive sites surrounding the island.
The Northside of the island is sheltered from the prevailing winds, creating ideal dive conditions almost year-round. So, most of the popular dive sites are located on this side of the island – particularly in the northwest where West End Village and West Bay Beach are located. In West End, Roatan dive shops are going to be more centrally located to the majority of dive sites on the Northside. West Bay, Roatan dive shops and Sandy Bay dive shops will be closer to their respective areas.
However, the most popular dive site in Roatan, Mary’s Place, is ironically located on the Southside of the island. It is exposed to the easterly winds and thus typically has more waves and surface current. The topography of the reef and marine life on the Southside can also differ. This side of the island tends to have more dramatic deep walls and swaying soft corals. While the Northside is known for its extensive plateau with exciting swim throughs and channels carved through it. Some dive centers, including Sun Divers, travel to the Southside when we have either perfectly flat seas or northern winds make the conditions more ideal on this side. Read about ‘Southside Days’ here.
If Mary’s Place Roatan is on your bucket list and your dive shop can’t take you there, you can always do a day of diving with Barefoot Cay. This Roatan dive resort is located right by the dive site and also has an amazing poolside restaurant to spend the rest of the day.
Close to the action (or not!): Depending upon your vacation style, you’ll want to find a dive center (and lodging) that is in a Roatan village with the right vibe for you.
West End village might just be your vibe if you like to travel more like a local but still have access to great cuisine and entertainment. Akin to a sleepy beach town with character, West End has a few boutique hotels and tons more vacation rentals. You can walk to lots of great beach front restaurants – many featuring live music and other special events throughout the week.
If an all-inclusive Roatan dive resort with beautiful beach views is more your style, West Bay will be for you. The waters are turquoise, the sands white and the beach is bustling! Most hotels have an affiliated dive center on site for convenience. Forewarning, this area is a hot spot for large groups of cruise shippers and the beach can be crowded with both visitors and vendors.
If you want to feel more remote, but still within a quick jaunt to the happening spots, then you might consider Sandy Bay. This is a primarily residential neighborhood along the beach with a few vacation rentals and lodges with small dive shops. There are also a few local restaurants, but most of the lodges also have fantastic dining spots on site. You will likely need a rental car or a hired driver for most activities and to access the best beaches and restaurants.
And if you really want to get off the beaten path, look to Roatan’s East End. Here you’ll find eco resorts and undeveloped beaches for a more organic and rustic feel to your vacation.
Sun Divers is located in West End Village, Roatan on the shore of Half Moon Bay. We’re smack dab in the middle of over 70 different dive sites on the Northside and make it a point to take you to as many different dive sites as possible. When conditions allow, we will head out to explore more remote locations like Mary’s Place on the Southside, Roatan’s East End dive sites more remote locations like the seamounts and Cayos Cochinos. We’re neighbors with the iconic beach bar Sundowners and the Beach House boutique hotel, with whom we have a Dive & Stay packages available May through November. This little corner of West End is a real chill vibe and you could never leave. But if you do want to explore the best restaurants and bars – we’re just a beachy stroll away.
2. Dive Group Organization
Save yourself from frustrating dives by asking the Roatan dive centers that you’re assessing how they organize their fun dive groups.
Be sure to find out about the group sizes and number of people per boat when doing your research. Specifically, ask what the diver to divemaster ratio is for fun dives. Obviously the less fun divers assigned to a divemaster, the less likely you are to have to wait your turn to see cool stuff. And the less likey you’ll find fins in your face!
How the groups are organized matters as well. Find out if groups are arranged by skill level. If you’re into photography, see if there’s an opportunity to dive with other photographers or to even organize a photography dive.
If you are a student yourself, ask about the course ratio. While some PADI courses allow for up to 8 students per instructor – we believe that courses are more manageable for instructors and students get more personal attention when the ratio is 4 students to instructor or less.
When it comes to group size, we believe less is more! Our fun dive groups are kept relatively small at no more than 6 divers per guide. We organize groups by skill level and interest whenever we can, and also keep track of where everyone dives so that we can make sure you see a wide variety of Roatan diving. Courses are capped at 4 students per instructor to allow for more personalized attention even in a group setting.
3. The Type of Roatan Dive Center
There are many different types of dive shops in Roatan. Each offer a different environment (or “vibe”) and customer service experience. Each also has different amenities and course offerings. Here are a few examples of the type of dive shops in Roatan you can find:
- Boutique Dive Centers: These are smaller operations that focus mostly on recreational diving and courses. The boats are smaller with a capacity of around 10 people compared to 20+. Many offer 3-4 dives per day and cater to a personalized experience. These centers cater to folks who are visiting Roatan with the primary focus to dive and explore as much as they can. You’ll get a mix of experienced and well-traveled divers, along with younger people who have a newfound passion for scuba diving. The most popular boutique West End dive shops include Sun Divers and Roatan Divers.
- Dive Resorts: These centers are usually connected to hotels. Dive resorts are most prevalent in West Bay and tend to cater toward large groups and families. Many offer all-inclusive deals and also have amenities in common with the hotels they’re located within such as a pool, restaurants, gym and beach lounge chair access. Most of the Roatan dive resorts are located on West Bay beach. Some of the all inclusive resorts there include Mayan Divers and Infinity Divers. In Sandy Bay, you’ll find Anthony’s Key resort – the first dive resort on the island. And on the southside of the island, Coco View which is also one of the longest standing resorts and caters to underwater photographers.
- Instructor Development Centers: These operations offer recreational diving, but also focus heavily on training programs for divemasters and instructors. These centers will have a youthful, international vibe with young people who come from around the world to become dive professionals. On the boat, you will usually find a mix of fun dive groups with students who are doing their professional training. Many of our divemasters move on to become instructors with Go Pro Caribbean.
- TEC Centers: Similar to dive pro training centers, TEC centers offer niche instruction in technical diving. The centers that offer technical dive training in Roatan, also offer recreational diving, as well as professional training. Roatan Tec Center is one of the longest standing TDI certification centers on Roatan.
Sun Divers is a boutique dive center focused on curating epic dive trips for recreational divers. No one’s feeling like a number here. We take great care to pair you with divers of similar skills & interest, and make sure to show you a wide variety of dive sites. No heavy lifting required here! We set up your gear for your on the boats and will store all of your personal gear for you securely for the duration of your dive trip.
If you’re a student, you’ll learn from one of our experienced PADI scuba diving instructors and we always keep our groups small to ensure plenty of personal attention.
4. Quality of Gear and Boats
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the type of gear stocked by the dive shops that you’re considering. Here are some questions to consider asking:
- What is the brand/model of the BCDs, regulators and wetsuits?
- When was your equipment last replaced?
- Do you use weight integrated BCDs or weight belts?
- How often do you conduct hydrostatic testing and visual inspections on your tanks? Hydrostatic requirements can be different based upon region, but typically should be conducted every 5 years. Visual inspections should be conducted annually. impeccable
At Sun Divers, we have a strict commitment to quality, whether it’s our all-star team, our impeccable boats and facilities, or the top-rated SCUBAPRO rental equipment we offer. Check out the details on our BCDs, regulators, fins, wetsuits and masks available for rent. And take a look at our custom dive boats built for comfort and speed.
5. Environmental & Social Responsibility
As beautiful as coastal communities like Roatan are, they face a number of unique environmental and socioeconomic challenges. While tourism and scuba diving are economic growth engines for our island, they do also contribute to increased pollution and pressure on our reefs. And as coastal communities have moved away from harmful commercial overfishing, that workforce has had to find new ways to make a living.
That is why it’s important to find a Roatan dive center that conducts its operations in an environmentally friendly way, as well as supports local conservation efforts.
A few considerations:
- Is the Roatan dive center you’re assessing a supporter of the Roatan Marine Park either as a sponsor or Coral Restoration center?
- Do they support any other local conservation efforts or local nonprofits?
- Do they promote eco-friendly diving guidelines on their website?
- Do they have a sustainability program?
We’re on a mission to not only be the best dive shop in Roatan, but to also make the biggest difference. We are sponsors of the Roatan Marine Park, as well as a RMP Coral Restoration center. We’re proud supporters of the Bay Island Conservation Association and we also run our own scuba scholarship program for island girls in partnership with Roatan Peer Health Exchange and PADI. We also host the island’s premier Charity Golf Tournament event which raises money for the SOL Foundation and has earned us the prestige of hanging the Golden Buoy in our dive shop!
Other Considerations for Choosing the Best Dive Shop in Roatan for You:
- What do other customers say about them? Check out TripAdvisor and Google Reviews.
- How quickly do they respond to your inquiry?
- How thorough is the information they provide?
- Do they offer multi-dive packages? When it comes to dive services, you get what you pay for. So while cheaper doesn’t equal better, it
- Do they offer any unique experiences such as trips to Mary’s Place, Cayos Cochinos or other remote areas?
Check out what our divers have to say about us on TripAdvisor! If we sound like the best dive shop in Roatan for you, shoot us an email and let’s start planning the most epic Roatan dive vacation ever!