Port Stop: Maya Key, Roatan

Roatan-Maya-Key

I’m an avid watcher of HGTV, and two of my favorite shows are “House Hunters: International” and “Beachfront Bargain Hunt”, because I’m really meant to be living on the ocean but I likely won’t for a very long time so I must live vicariously through others. Roatan, Honduras has appeared frequently on HH:Intl and has been a bucket list destination from the first episode it was featured.

Needless to say, finding Roatan on the Carnival Freedom itinerary was a key factor in booking that particular cruise. I don’t know much about the different beaches there (aside from what I’ve gleaned from House Hunters) so we did a little research on port excursions (and I highly recommend reading TripAdvisor reviews along with any reviews offered by any cruise company) and decided the Maya Key excursion hit all the notes: snorkeling, animals, food and beach.

Maya Key is a private key just a short boat ride away from the Roatan pier. It’s 11.5 acres in size and it never felt crowded – a rarity on some cruise excursions, to be sure. The island features two private beaches, a pretty swimming pool, a snorkeling pier with staff to help with fittings or guide you through the reef if you so wanted, stand up paddle boarding, and a huge gift shop that seemed to have just about everything.

Roatan-snorkel-pier

In addition to the beach amenities, Maya Key is home to the Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. The rescue center takes in orphaned, injured, confiscated or donated wildlife for rehabilitation. They explained that, whenever possible, these animals are released back into their native habitats. While we were there, they had animal encounters with some of their monkeys (but we couldn’t drag the kids out of the water to check it out.) We did wander around the habitats closer to the beach – it was an unexpected treat!

Roatan-Maya-key-lolo

The water right at the edge of the pier is shallow enough to stand in and get sorted with fins and snorkel. They have helpfully strung a line through the reefs to give you an easier path to follow, or a guide would take you out to point out fish. At the start of the snorkel trail, the path is narrows a bit between the coral; while there should be plenty of room to pass other snorkelers, we found some beginners crowding through and Miss M got knocked a bit into a reef and scraped her knee. Once we got through the first bit of reef, the water was deeper and we saw a greater variety of fish, and even more so as we neared the drop off .

My daughter likes to snorkel – but getting the snorkel mask to fit is ALWAYS a frustrating time. Here’s a tip if you have a kid that struggles with mask and snorkel – just let them bring their swim goggles. They can pop their head out of the water for a breath of air, and you won’t have to fuss with the mask if it overwhelms them.

(I’m buying a snorkel and mask so she can practice in the swimming pool this summer. We will be READY for the next snorkeling excursion.)

Roatan-Maya-Key-Snorkel

The Boy does not like to snorkel, and I didn’t make him. He did pout a bit because the rest of us opted to NOT mope at the edge of the dock, and we snorkeled without him.

When the stand up paddle board guy came walking by a while later, looking for customers, I asked the kiddo if he wanted to try that, instead. “The water is really calm today – it’s perfect for paddle boarding”, guide Luis enthused.

However, as the time to meet approached, he started to look anxious and that’s how I found myself kneeling on a paddle board an hour later, trying to NOT fall off. Needless to say, we both did manage to stand (there’s a whole other story, there) and not fall off whilst paddling.

You’ll have to take my word for it. There are no photos. I would have subjected myself to a photo in a swimsuit as proof I accomplished it, but a selfie on a paddle board was beyond my skill level.

One of our friends lives in Germany and is a keen paddle boarder and she’s much more experienced than we are! She’s just bought a new paddle board, so if you’re looking for an SUP board to try this sport for yourself, then she’s recommended this site to me – sup board günstig.

Roatan-Maya-Key-SUP

(To my husband, who said “what, I was supposed to take photos?” The answer is yes, always yes.)

The staff puts on a mean buffet lunch, which is included in the price of the excursion. Among the choices were salad, fried banana chips, coconut rice and beans, baked barbecued chicken and fried sea bass. Did I mention there was fried banana chips? So yummy! Iced tea and water were provided, and the bar offered drinks – from specialty drinks (someone try the Monkey Lala for me, please) to local beers – at a really fair price. There is a lovely patio just overlooking the pool where the buffet is served, and we sat at one of the many umbrellaed tables positioned there.

As a food blogger, I am a terrible fail. We were starving and dug in before the thought of taking a photo crossed my mind that afternoon.

Other activities on offer at Maya Key include a sea-lion encounter, and for the braver, the opportunity to snorkel with their stingrays and nurse sharks, as well as the chance to visit the Bay Islands Mayan Interpretation Center and Ethnic Honduran Art Center. Really, it’s a lot to take in over 4-1/2 hours, so we had to save the latter for the next trip.

Lockers are available at a small fee outside the bathrooms, which were very clean. Outdoor showers were available as well.

Given all the warnings of Zika provided us by the cruise line, we dutifully packed insect repellant – and forgot to put it on. Given how lush this little key is, and with the beach chairs themselves shaded in some areas by overhanging trees, I expected it to be buggy, and it wasn’t.

We were charmed by the beauty and the array of activities available on Maya Key, and were sad that the stay itself was only 4 hours in length, due to the departure time of our cruise ship. It offered up a taste of Honduran hospitality, and I am looking forward to visiting again. (Hopefully sooner than later.)

Routan-Maya-Key-Preservation

Like anywhere, please respect the natural resources of the island as well as the people who work there. We did see visitors leaving trash behind which then blew into the water (which my kids quickly grabbed and discarded.) While the recent influx of cruise ships visiting this Roatan has benefitted tourism, locals are fighting to protect marine environments that are suffering under the influx of so many tourists.

So leave only footprints (- and not on the reef).

Comments

  1. Gmom Phyl says:

    Most interesting report on Maya Key. Can you stay there? Sounds like a place for Marty!

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