When my husband and I were planning our honeymoon, we wanted it to be something new and exciting for both of us. Since we got married in February in one of the snowiest cities in the US, we knew that our honeymoon had to be somewhere warm. It was easy to realize that a cruise was the perfect fit! I wanted one that was slightly more adventurous and went to more interesting places, so that’s how we chose the western Caribbean. After a fair amount of research, we decided on the Norwegian Getaway – a seven night cruise from Miami with stops in the following ports: Roatan Bay, Honduras; Harvest Caye, Belize; Costa Maya, Mexico; and Cozumel, Mexico. We knew with this itinerary that we would get to visit a few new countries and experience some great culture! This was my second, but my husband’s first cruise – so it was a lot of fun to see him enjoy a cruise for the first time. You can read more tips about cruising in my first Wanderlust Wednesday post.
Port 1: Roatan Bay, Honduras
Roatan was our first stop off of the cruise ship and we were greeted to gorgeous turquoise waters leading up to the harbor. At the end of the dock was an indigenous band playing local music to welcome us to shore. For this port, we decided to pre-book a tour independently from the cruise company. I had done a fair amount of research online and chose to book a private tour with Island Marketing Ltd. Yes, I was a bit leery at first about the reputability of the company, but everything worked out perfectly! We chose the Wild on Roatan Wildlife Tour, which included a tour around the island and visits to multiple animal sanctuaries.
When we got off of the boat, we made our way through the little strip mall to the large parking lot of drivers waiting for their passengers. We found our driver (as well as our new friends for the drive) and he walked us over to his private vehicle. Again, I was a bit cautious because it seemed so unofficial. But let me tell you that this tour was the best experience we had throughout our cruise! It turns out that our driver was a local (not so surprising), but also that his family owned many of the places that we visited. This meant that he knew the island inside and out and was able to give us the best advice possible. Since it was just us and one other couple, the itinerary was really ours to work with and our driver asked what we were most interested in seeing. He then set up a schedule for our day so we could all see what we were most interested in.
The Roatan Chocolate Factory
When I discovered that there was a chocolate factory right on the island, I was thrilled! So we had our first stop – Roatan Chocolate Factory. An authentic Honduran chocolate shop with lots of samples to try. I was in heaven! I purchased a coffee infused dark chocolate bar to bring home to share and a bottle of water to quench my thirst. Water wasn’t enough for everyone though…
Of course my husband (and luckily enough the other passengers) were eager to try some local beer, and our driver was happy to oblige. So our next stop was a … gas station? That threw us off. When we said we wanted a beer, we expected to stop at a local bar or restaurant. But our driver knew what he was doing – gas stations sell individual bottles of beer for roughly $1. And it’s perfectly legal to drink them while riding in a car (not driving!). So we each grabbed a beer and got back in the car. The drinks were quite refreshing for the heat of the day. Another shocking aspect of the gas station was the security. Outside several places around Honduras we saw security guards at the doors with rifles. Quite intimidating. But our driver assured us that we were perfectly safe, and that some were even just for show. Even still, it was an adjustment to get used to seeing such militaristic guards everywhere.
Daniel Johnson’s Monkey and Sloth Hangout
Back to the itinerary. One of the stops on the excursion that I was most excited about was the monkey and sloth hangout. And it did not disappoint! The workers there were super friendly and very informative about the animals. You can tell they care for the animals deeply and want the best for them – and they are not just there to exploit them. They have all been rescued and are known by their names and personalities. It was great to see the relationship the keepers have with the animals. Some of the exhibits are there just to observe, such as the agouti (lovingly known as the “Roatan Island Rabbit”) and coatimundi.
But the birds, monkeys, and sloths are there to play with you! The workers are very careful about the sloths as to not disturb them too much. They handle them very slowly and, if you want, will place them gently on your chest for a very personal experience! My husband still raves about holding a sloth to this day. The capuchin monkeys were a bit more feisty and a lot of fun to play with. We got to enter their exhibit – after removing anything that could be stolen from us! (Hint: keep your purses and sunnies outside the exhibit! Those monkeys are sneaky!) The monkeys were jumping around – off the walls, the ground, and our heads! It was an incredible experience.
Another tour company put together this video on YouTube showcasing the hangout!
Arch’s Iguana Farm
The next stop on our journey was to the world’s only natural iguana farm. It was amazing! Arch’s Iguana and Marine Park is a joy to visit. As soon as you step out of your vehicle, there are hundreds of iguanas roaming around. They aren’t afraid of people either – in fact they are very friendly! The workers there offer you large leaves to hold to feed the iguanas. Do it! They gently snap off pieces of the leaves to chew on to the point when you’ll need to drop the stem for them to enjoy. You’re also free to touch the creatures – they feel both rough and surprisingly smooth to the touch. Another fun thing is to take lots of photos with them. Because they are pretty slow moving, you can get some great photos, and the iguanas are generally intrigued by the camera!
The area has a few cages of baby iguanas and some other animals worth checking out. Also, take a few minutes to walk down to the water and out on the dock. There will be schools of fish right below your feet! Local fishermen were feeding some when we were there. And the views of the island were perfection.
Because we had a little time left before we needed to get back to the cruise terminal, our driver asked what we’d like to do. So our last stop was at a manmade beach – home to a cocktail bar, pristine beaches, clean restrooms, and… wifi! We made it a quick stop, but it was a nice place to spend a few moments enjoying the day. I ordered local fruit juice and my husband (of course) got a beer. While manmade beaches are not my preference, it was nice to have the little luxury to connect with our loved ones back home.
When we got back to the port at the end of our trip, we still had enough time to browse the shops and pick up some souvenirs. I also asked around and was able to find a person to stamp our passports to prove we had visited! Always a plus. Before getting back on our boat I stopped for an iced Honduran coffee – the perfect ending to day one.
Stay tuned for port two!