Did you know that there are over 7000 individual islands in the Caribbean? Roatan Island is one of these islands and is found in the Western Caribbean and the things you can do in Mahogany Bay are endless! Despite the island’s small size (40 miles long against 4 miles wide), it hosts up to one million cruisers per year.
Most of these cruisers come to the island through the Mahogany Bay cruise port owned by Carnival Corp, located on the southern side of Roatan. Its only open to Carnival and its sister cruise lines.
The bay lies on Dixon cove, between a town named after a famous pirate, John Coxen (Coxen hole) and the French harbor. It has a docking capacity for two ships at any one time. The bay features a shopping area, restaurants, and a man-made beach. And as is common with the Caribbean, there are plenty of adventurous activities to engage in, while at the port.
This article will give you a preview of this port of call and the best things you can do while at Mahogany Bay.
Things to do in Mahogany Bay
There is plenty to do on this little island, you can relax at the cruise port, go on excursions or go exploring on your own. The 20-acre colorful cruise port will give you an unforgettably enjoyable experience.
To get to the port, walk down the pier, through the Dufry shop and climb the rest of the pier to get to the port’s entrance. Once at the entrance you will find the market area on your right and the beach/ restaurant areas on your left. If you love shopping, shop for clothing, jewelry, and pieces of art to remember Mahogany Bay by at this market.
On your right, you will see the chairlift, path to the beach and restaurants. This is where your port day at Mahogany Bay will start. But, if you want to explore the island on your own, then head on over to the opposite corner from the red fountain, to exit the port.
Once you exit the port you will find taxis and local tour companies which will take you on a tour of Roatan. Ridding yourself of unnecessary cruise excursions and the bills attached.
The taxis will cost you about $40 and above for a day’s pass. Get a good driver, or a local tour guide, to take you on a tour of the island. They can show you the best places while giving you the history and the lowdown of the place. There are various places to visit such as Little French Key, Daniel Johnson’s Monkey, and Sloth Sanctuary, and Gumbalimba park whose nature trails end at Tabayana beach.
But first thing’s first, what to do while at the cruise port:
1. Ride the Chairlift
Ride the magical chairlift, located on the port, to take you to Mahogany Beach. Get a panoramic view of the island by taking this scenic route. The magical chairlift whisks you over the path, trees, bushes and even the waters of Mahogany Bay. If you are lucky when riding the chair you might even catch a glimpse of sea life through the crystal clear waters beneath.
You can buy this ride as an excursion, save by booking it in advance to reap any discounts available. Otherwise, you can buy it when at the port for $14 per adult and $8 per child. The price is a day pass’ worth.
While the magical chairlift will take you straight to the beach in 5 minutes, you can also take the path, which is a 10-15 minutes’ walk.
2. Mahogany Bay Beach
The main beach on Mahogany Bay is Mahogany beach which is an 850-foot-long man-made beach. It features a white sandy beach that has access to clear warm ocean waters.
Once here, you can grab a beach lounge, or hammock and just relax at the beach. While at this beach, you can access water-gear rental shops, and rent out water gear such as paddle boards, snorkeling gear, kayaks, wave runners and more.
When you get hungry grab a hearty meal of barbeque chicken, burger, or conch fritters with French fries from Fat Tuesday’s located further down the beach, where you will also get your cold drinks from.
Looking to do some snorkeling on this beach? Head outside the secluded swim area, but kindly note the waters on this beach are not always clear and you might not have the snorkeling experience you are looking for.
Pro Tip: Arrive early to get to the shaded spots.
3. West Bay Beach
Now for the best snorkeling experience, head to the west end of the island, to West Bay beach. This beach which was once ranked as top 25 beaches of the Caribbean by Trip Advisor features powdery soft white sandy beaches and clear blue sparkling waters. It also has beautiful coral reefs further out in the sea, courtesy of the Mesoamerican coral reef system which is the 2nd largest in the world.
To get out there you can book a catamaran-snorkel excursion combo from your cruise line, the catamaran will take you to great snorkeling and diving spots.
If planning on just bumming around the beach without indulging in any excursion, you can visit any of the resort on this beach and buy drinks and food to access the beach all day for free.
The best waters are in front of infinity beach resort. All you have to do is pay $10 extra for a beach lounge or $20-40 more for a beach umbrella and relax on this beautiful beach. Or just rent a sea floater and float lazily on the shallow, warm, calm Caribbean waters while soaking in the sun.
Food on this beach is much better than at the port as it includes local cuisine from fresh seafood such as lobster, conch, shrimp, crab and more. You also get to enjoy a culinary tour of Honduras, with their spiced foods and the special coffee made from Honduran coffee beans.
4. Little French Key
We always save the best for the last, located a 20 minutes cab ride east of the Mahogany Bay, this small private island is a must-visit. You can book Little French Key cruise excursions via your cruise line if offered (there has been a bit of dispute on this between the owner of the island and Carnival).
You can visit the place on your own, all you have to do is exit the port, get a taxi and instruct them to take you to little French Key. The taxi will drop you at the harbor where you will take a 4-5 minutes boat ride to the island. Once there you will be greeted warmly and given a tour of the whole island then shown your lounge chairs. Of course, you have to have purchased the day pass to the island, and the most popular is the island package, which includes snorkeling plus equipment, kayaking, a meal, and drinks.
The beach at French key is peaceful, beautiful featuring a long stretch of powdery white sandy beaches, pristinely clear blue ocean waters and plenty of shade from palm and casuarina trees. The host of the island is warm and friendly and the local delicacies amazing.
Relax here and when it’s time to get back to your ship, do so without any hustles as transportation is readily available. With that said always be careful to leave with plenty of time left, so, that you don’t miss your ship.
Mahogany Bay Cruise Excursions
If you are feeling a bit more energetic and love exploring, this cruise port also packs a lot of fun shore excursions, either offered by your cruise or by a local tour company, excursions such as:
5. Catamaran Ride with Snorkeling, BOSS Excursion
So sure, you just got off the ship, and the idea of spending your port day on another boat at an extra cost sounds wasteful, but the catamaran excursion on Roatan, is a one of a kind.
Take a catamaran ride to soak in the sun, enjoy the view, sea breeze and have a close-up view of the marine life in the island’s waters. Additionally, you can enjoy a combination of different underwater activities such as snorkeling, snuba or ride the BOSS under water.
The cat will take you to a nice snorkeling spot where you can snorkel and explore the beautiful coral reefs of the Caribbean. Also available on this tour is the BOSS (Breathing Observation Submersible Scooter excursion (booked separately) where you get to explore deep sea by riding on an underwater scooter. The Boss excursion goes for roughly $125, and the catamaran excursion on its own goes for about $90.
After all, this is done, you will have worked up quite an appetite, so, enjoy an open buffet style lunch and drinks on the boat. This excursion serves delicious rotisserie chicken, pasta, rice, and salads.
6. Go Scuba, Snuba Diving
Have you been putting off the scuba diving excursions because you don’t know how to dive, but secretly wish you could? Well, worry no more the snuba excursion allows you to learn how to scuba dive and actually do it.
If you are booked on this excursion, you will take a 40 minutes bus ride from the cruise center to a private resort called Anthony key’s resort. Once there you will have a class on basic scuba diving practices. Then proceed to practice the same in shallow waters and once you have mastered how it’s done, you will be taken to an actual diving area (about 40 feet deep) where you will get to dive and explore the beautiful coral reef off the shores of Roatan. All this will part you with about $135.
If you are already a certified scuba diver, you want to take the 2 tank diving excursion, also located at Antony’s Key resort, where there are 2 excellent diving spots, namely Marylin’s porch and elbow. These spots offer 70 feet and 40 feet well lighted deep-sea excursions. The dive guides are professional and caring, and you can always access your photos and videos from the local photographer diving with you taking pictures and videos of you underwater.
7. Tour the Island
There is plenty to see on this island, starting with the animal life, which has a variety of monkey species, macaws, birds, iguanas and beautiful tropical Caribbean plants. For about $50 you will be taken to Gumbalimba park, where you will see a variety of animals, plants and learn about the history of Coxen cove.
You will also get a chance to visit the monkey sanctuary, play with them have them sit on your shoulders, mess up your hair and take photos with them. You can even pet a baby jaguar for $50 and feed iguanas in their habitat.
8. Kayak on a Clear Vessel
Go kayaking in a clear kayak, that allows you to see the marine life beneath. Based on the time of year you take this excursion, you can either have a splendid view or not so good a view. The kayaking is done on the waters around Gumbalimba park, where there is plenty of colorful marine life.
From Mahogany Port, you will take a bus to Gumbalimba park, where you will be taken to the kayaking area, given equipment and instructions and start the journey. The highlight of this trip is at the end where you get to spend time with monkeys and toucans at David Johnson’s monkey park and it also includes an hour of snorkeling. This excursion is priced at $75 per person by Carnival Cruise Lines.
9. Have a Date with the Dolphins
If you have never had an encounter with dolphins, you should take this excursion. It’s one of the best dolphin excursions offered in the entire Caribbean. For just $140, you will get to pet, swim with and even get kissed by a dolphin. All this happens over at Antony’s key resort, where you will be taken to the Marine Research Institute and allowed into the sea to interact with the dolphins.
It’s such a great thing that this beautiful life is not put in secluded pool areas, but stays in their own natural habitat, the ocean, but in a protected area where they are fed and taken care off.
They are so cheerful, friendly and as curious about you as you are of them. You can even find out their speed first-hand by going on the dorsal ride, where you hold on to their dorsal fin and they speed through the water pulling you along, fun right?
Once you are done (about 1 hour later) access all your photos and videos from the cameraman at a price, though a bit pricey, you will want this photos for memory purposes, since you aren’t allowed to carry your own camera into the waters.
Pro Tip: August- September is usually their mating season, so this excursion might not be in the cards then.
10. Ziplining and Relax at Tabayana Beach
Traverse above the Roatan jungle of Gumbalimba through 12 zip lines which are up to 600 feet apart. A one-hour bus ride will take you to the mountain ridge and from there your helpful instructors will give you safety information and hook you up to the zipline, giving you a Tarzan-like experience swinging through the jungle.
While you won’t see a lot through the thick canopy of trees, once in a while when you stop below a particular section, you will get to see a lot of iguanas, macaws, and different bird life.
Once at the bottom of the mountain after 50 minutes of ziplining, you will take another bus ride to Tabayana beach where you can enjoy a nice rotisserie chicken lunch, with hotdogs, hamburgers, and slaw. Grab a cool drink, relax at the beach or take a swim in the shallow waters before you are whisked back to the port. This excursion will cost you about $90.
11. Food and Drinks
Grab a bite at Fat Tuesday’s on the port, they have two of them on Mahogany Bay, one in the shopping area and another on the beach side of the cruise port.
Here you can grab a chicken jerky, nice BBQ hamburgers, hotdogs, salads, fried conch and a strong island-themed drink. Visit Playa Tortugas Chill n’ Grill also located on the beachfront, for more grilled options. And if you fancy eating a fresh catch then go over to Hideaway Fishery and gorge on fresh caught fish, lobsters and crab.
If you are not confined to the port, there are plenty of other places to eat depending on your location. At the monkey and sloth sanctuary, you can visit parrot tree resort and enjoy the famous Monkey-La-La-La drink. While at west bay and French Key you will get to enjoy a variety of local cuisine as well.
Also Read a Collection of Other Cruise Port Guides:
- 16 Ways to Experience Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay, Bahamas
- 22 Things To Do in Grand Turk During a Cruise Vacation
- Costa Maya, Mexico, Here’s What You Can Do
- 21 Things About Half Moon Cay, Carnival’s Private Island
12. Port Shopping
A cruise port cannot be complete without the chance to shop. On your way back to the ship, pass by the market and shop for Caribbean themed t-shirts, scarves, cover-ups, caps, sunglasses, jewelry and other trinkets.
For the true shopper who looks for genuinely made island craft, head on over to the to the artisan market at end of the shopping area and gets beautiful shaped wooden items, shells and beaded jewelry made from ocean shells. Also, be on the lookout for an artisan stand on the beach which sells rather beautiful and unique artifacts that you can carry home as souvenirs.
Pro Tip: Carry some cash, most small stalls don’t accept the sail card or credit card.
I know the weather is a major factor to consider when organizing your cruise vacation, but in this case, you don’t need to worry. Roatan experiences warm weathers all throughout the year, with just a 10-degree variation. However, note, that the heaviest rains pour between November and February which coincidentally is also the peak season for cruises.
The island of Roatan experiences a tropical rainforest weather all throughout the year. The weather is pretty warm and sunny all throughout the year but the island seldom experiences a dry season. This is mostly due to offshore trade winds which make sure the island is always receiving from mild precipitation to heavy rains.
The hottest seasons in the island starting from 80 degrees onward are from mid-July to October. The coldest months are from mid-November to January, these months receive a lot of rainfall.
However, if you do visit the island and it rains, there is no cause to not enjoy your cruise the sea water remains relatively warm all throughout at temperatures ranging from 81-84 degrees Fahrenheit.
A Cruise to Mahogany Bay is Now Needed!
This is not all that you can do on the island, it is just a sneak preview of the best things you can do at Mahogany Bay. You can also go on an island tour of the chocolate and rum factories (tasting and samples are available), interact with the locals, learn how to speak Garifuna, learn how to make cassava bread, sing and dance to traditional island music.
Now without adding more, to avoid overwhelming you with options, remember to relax and just enjoy yourself, after all, you are on a vacation. You can always check out some of the excursions once you are at the port, to decide which look interesting to you. We wish you all the best on your next cruise to this island. Happy Cruising!!