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We just returned from a week at Paya Bay resort in Roatan, Honduras. Roatan is one of the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras in the Caribbean. If you go, get used to the question “where’s Roatan”. You’ll hear it a lot! We had read about the resort after seeing Paya Bay’s Lil’ Beach on a list of the best private beaches in an article. We’ve been to Jamaica and Cancun and wanted to try some place different and this seemed an interesting choice.
Getting to Roatan is not as easy as other locations in the Caribbean. Continental flies there Saturday, Sunday, and Thursday and the tickets tend to be rather expensive, so when I found a week when I could get them using frequent flier miles we jumped at the chance and booked. Taca Airline also flies to Roatan, but I could not figure out a way to get there in less than three stops and two days, so I was glad to find a Continental flight. We flew from Detroit to Houston, then on to Roatan. The flight was long, but pretty comfortable going and some turbulence on return. The airport is quite small. You line up for customs and three agents processed the plane, though one left to eat, I think. Considering they have one larger airliner coming in that day you would think they would schedule a bit better? Once through, there was a man holding a Paya Bay sign. He put our checked bag through an xray machine that no one was looking at and carried it to the curb. He get a tip and hands us off to the actual people from the resort. I figure there must be some airplane greeters union or something.
The ride of the resort was about 45 minutes and very hot. The van did not have good air conditioning and we were coming from the land of 40 degree weather in May, so it was a long ride. Much of it was on dirt roads with a zillion speed bumps they had to slow down for. It’s a very scenic drive, though. Roatan is long and thin and you could often see water in both the north and south directions.
Upon arrival at Paya Bay they checked us in and showed us to our rooms. The resort is very small. It only has 11 rooms and only four were occupied while we were there, though a few more people came in Thursday. Aside from us, there were two couples everyone referred to as “the divers” who were there for just that and one very quiet single guy in the fourth room who seemed to become good friends with the staff. The staff did outnumber the guests. The room was rustic, but very nice. It’s set on a cliff and has a balcony directly over the ocean. You hear the waves all day and night, which is very nice. We spent one afternoon watching a large stingray feeding under our room and saw iguanas sunning on the rocks several times. There was a refrigerator and they stocked it with beer, Cokes, and bottled water. The bathroom was small, but clean. The only criticism was the bed could be larger and the sheets were not large enough for the bed and two people. They definitely should invest in better bedding.
Paya Bay is not an all inclusive, but the “vacationer plan” we purchased covered most everything except soft drinks, alcohol, and it is recommended that you tip when you leave. This included two snorkel trips a day if you wanted and all food, bottled water, and fruit drinks. Everything was either free or on a tab, so there was never a reason to carry money. Paya Bay runs the restaurant for more than just the resort, so there were sometimes others there, but you go in and order what you want. There are scheduled times for meals and some of the evening meals were scheduled. Monday is a day when guests and staff eat together at a large table and Thursday is a beach picnic. One night they set up a buffet. The food was good, though not exceptional. There were usually two entree choices for dinner, one always being seafood and a larger selection of lunch choices. The food was very good, though no exceptional, but we were well fed. We were assured the water was okay since it came from a deep well. This turned out to be a mistake and we had to move to bottled water later in the trip. I would recommend staying with bottled water and avoiding dairy products, particularly ice cream while there.
The resort is gorgeous. For only 11 rooms, the place is huge. There are 22 acres on a peninsula. There are two beaches. The smallest was larger than those at resorts we had been to before. There’s a nicely set up area called Buccaneer’s Landing with nice structures for shade and several chairs and a smaller secluded area called Secret Cove with shade, hammocks, and chairs and there is a boat dock. All of this is connected by a series of trails through the property that are just lovely to stroll on. There is plenty of room to have space to yourself and there was rarely anyone in the area we were hanging out at other than ourselves. If you are looking for privacy, you’ll not find a better resort. We often had the beach to ourselves. They have two kayaks on the property that you can just take when you want; no checking out or anything. There is minimum boat traffic in the area and you can snorkel right off of the beach with a large reef in easy swimming distance. The water is very warm; like bath water. And, because the resort is on a peninsula, you can watch both the sunrise and sunset. We saw some lovely sunsets, but never got up early enough for a sunrise.
And you can be nude! The property is divided into three zones. Zone 1 is the big beach and is textile. Zone 2 is Lil’ Beach and is topless. Zone 3 is clothing optional and consists of Buccaneers landing and Secret Cove. But, one out of every four weeks is “naturist week”. On other weeks, the entire property other than the restaurant and the big beach is clothing optional. This includes the fabulous Lil’ Beach. The resort is secluded, so there are no gawkers and nobody walking on the beach (you couldn’t walk to that beach from off the property, anyway). Big beach is public, but you can’t see any of the rest of the property from there other than the restaurant.
Once each week they offer an optional trip to Pigeon Cay. This was an extra cost, but well worth it. Pigeon Cay is a very small island on the south side of Roatan. You ride there by boat from the resort; I think it was about an hour and a half trip. This takes you around much of the northeast coast of Roatan and around the end between some of the Bay islands. They stop at the large reef for an hour or so of snorkeling, and then move to the island for the rest of the day, heading back around 3pm. Lunch was served on the boat. The snorkeling there is some of the best we have ever enjoyed. We saw many brightly colored fish, a small stingray, and an entire school of squid in a long straight line. You can snorkel right from the island. We spent the afternoon snorkeling off and on, floating on rafts in the sea, walking around the island, and resting under a palm tree. During naturist week, the Pigeon Cay trip is also clothing optional.
At a week, this was the longest trip we had taken and was about the right length. We didn’t get sunburned until the last couple of days. We did get a bit of a stomach bug that we had to get cleared up on return, so I definitely recommend staying away from the water. There were bugs, but we had heavy duty deet and didn’t get too many bites. Roatan is not free of Malaria, so we did take the anti-malarial just to be safe. The power could be counted on to fail at least once every day, but they have a backup generator to keep things running.
The fish were a real highlight of the trip. I had one small fish that followed me for over an hour while snorkeling, swimming right in front of my mask. He was quite fearless and very friendly. While floating on a raft on Pigeon Cay I had a school of angelfish decide the raft made good shelter, so they were there right under me for quite a while. We saw one flying fish when heading for Pigeon Cay. We also really enjoyed the hummingbirds. There is a feeder by a window in the restaurant and we counted up to eight at time there feeding. I would definitely recommend Paya Bay if you are looking for quiet, calm, and privacy. It’s not a resort where you’ll meet a lot of people. The staff is very nice, but quite professional. We wanted to relax and it was perfect for us. We read a lot and swam a lot and had a very nice time.