Retiring To Roatan Honduras-A Woman’s Perspective

Hello Everyone!  The articles on this website have previously been written by my husband, Steve.  But I decided it would be useful to share my thoughts from a woman’s perspective on retiring to Roatan Honduras.  I hope this article will both educate and encourage you to think about taking this step toward a new chapter in your life.  Relocating has been a wonderful experience!  It has also been an eye-opening experience!

As Steve has told you before, we did a lot of research regarding living outside North America.  We decided to head to Central America first, solely for economics.  It was inexpensive to live in the places we researched.  Although we knew very little Spanish, we were going to areas with many English-speaking expats – so we felt comfortable.   We just wanted an inexpensive adventure!  We called this a check-it-out trip.

Retire to Roatan - All About Blue Water and White Sand
The water around Roatan is Beautiful and full of life. A true underwater paradise.

Retiring to Roatan Honduras Opened Our Eyes

The first stop on our retirement adventure was Roatan, Honduras.  We arrived in January – the first 3-4 months of the year is the most popular time to visit!  Roatan is located off the Caribbean coast of Honduras.  The island was like a picture postcard – white sugar sand beaches and warm turquoise water.  The breeze was gentle and comforting with mostly sunny days!  You could snorkel right off the beach or schedule a dive trip with the many dive shops available.  Roatan was everything we wanted in a vacation –  but this wasn’t a vacation.  It was a relocation.

After less than 2 weeks in an Airbnb apartment, we rented a beautiful 3 bedroom home on the iron shore (fossilized coral reef).  We woke up every morning to the rolling waves of beautiful water, and in the evenings, we would watch as the cruise ships sailed away on their journey to other destinations.  We filled our days with all things beach.  Living such a short distance from West Bay Beach, we went there regularly for fun, food, and entertainment.  Snorkeling and diving were a regular occurrence. We were in paradise and having a great time!

A Comfortable Home, But It Came With Issues

The house we rented was in a safe neighborhood with lots of neighbors and a community swimming pool.  Upstairs was a deck that looked out on the Caribbean.  The entry to the house was a glass sliding door that brought that beautiful view inside to the dining room and kitchen. There was a living room with cushy chairs and couches.  Three bedrooms were available for visitors each with private bathrooms and showers. We had arrived at such a lovely place – maybe we would want to live there permanently!

Then the reality of day to day living clicked in.  Unfortunately, there were some drawbacks for which we were not prepared!  Because we were in a house, and not a hotel, things were a little different.  This tourist destination with all its beauty became a somewhat difficult place to live.  Retiring to Roatan Honduras was different than we expected.

Potable Water

In Roatan, there is no potable water except maybe in the larger hotels with filtration systems.  We had never been anywhere we couldn’t drink the water.  A delivery person came every week and dropped off 5-gallon jugs.  Then Steve that had to carry them up a flight of stairs to the kitchen, so we had drinkable water.  All of a sudden, retiring to Roatan Honduras required muscles!

Meal Preparation Was “Challenging”

Bleach is a necessity when retiring to Roatan Honduras

A very dear friend took us aside and taught us that you don’t eat fresh food without disinfecting it in Roatan.  Every fruit and vegetable had to be soaked or sprayed with a weak bleach, or disinfecting solution and meats were soaked in vinegar to kill possible parasites and bacteria.  After a meal, you washed your dishes – all dishes and utensils, pots and pans and then rinsed them in a 1:1000 solution of bleach and water with a contact time of 1 minute.

Just to have a meal at home, preparation time and clean up were doubled due to all the disinfecting.  Also, most rental properties in Roatan don’t have dishwashers.  I had never lived without a dishwasher.  That was a shocker to me!    It was a vacation destination, right!  And We were retired!  What were we doing washing dishes by hand?  Oh yeah, we were relocating.

Retiring to Roatan - No See Ums may be small, but their bite is pure aggravation!
No See Ums may be small, but their bite is pure aggravation!

Bugs!

Roatan is a long narrow island.  We were never far from the beach.  You expect bugs.  But I didn’t expect them to appear on the kitchen counter when I was trying to cook dinner and try to haul off my food!  There were ants of many kinds – big ones and itty bitty ones.  Sometimes, you would look down, and it would look like the surface of a table was moving.  That was because there were tiny almost translucent ants making a beeline to some minuscule crumb you had left when cleaning up.

And let’s don’t forget the “No See’ um’s”  or sand fleas.  You could never see them at the beach – but you could sure feel their bites!  Luckily we were not allergic, but sometimes you would see people on the beach with bites all over their bodies and swollen!  One of our friends started mixing lavender and lemongrass essential oils in coconut oil for us to spray on our skin.  Helped a bunch and smelled great!

Humidity

Our rental property had a washer, but no dryer.  Clotheslines were available in the covered garage where no sun shined!  Clothes were difficult to dry in the humidity.  When we snorkeled or went diving, we had to rinse all the gear of saltwater and store it for the next day.  Nothing every fully dried = some mold.  Our dream of retiring to Roatan Honduras was looking less and less like a dream.

Climate

Roatan has plenty of this
Roatan has plenty of this.

It was so hot.  I had lived almost all my life in Houston, Texas, and I was no stranger to heat.  The only problem was that it was very different on the island.  In Houston – you went from your air-conditioned house to your air-conditioned car to your air-conditioned office, etc.  In Roatan, there was little air conditioning anywhere.  They depended on the ocean breezes.

Ocean breezes were great except when the salt spray blew into your windows from the coast.  The spray would blow continuously into your windows for hours depending on the wind and sea at that time.  The water and salt would be blowing into your open windows that depended on “ocean breeze” for cooling.  So we either had to close the windows and have no air circulation – or mop continuously.  Oh my!

Our house did have air-conditioning units in the bedrooms, but none in the main house.  We found that was the norm for rental properties on the island.  So unless we were in the water, we were miserably hot.  At night we could turn on the air conditioning in our room, but it was also extremely expensive.  We were stuck between a rock and a hard place.  Preparing meals was not pleasant.   Can you imagine having to do all the prep work, cooking, and clean up with disinfection for meals in that heat?  Therefore, we ate out frequently and that upped our expenses even more.

And then the rains came

After February,  it rained more frequently than before, and our roof began to leak.  I don’t know whether the roof had leaked for a long time and nobody fixed it or what, but there were not enough pots and pans in the house to catch all the dripping water.

Luckily, it was only the main house; the leaks did not affect the bedrooms.  We stayed for 3 months, and the management never fixed the roof.  It leaked the whole time we were there.  Our management people said they were waiting on us to leave so they would not disturb us while they fixed the roof.  We paid prime time rent for this home and it was not a shack.  It was beautiful inside and out, but it leaked like a sieve.  I don’t know how the rental management could have not repaired the roof.  It didn’t just start the day we got there.

Transportation

Retiring to Roatan Honduras- Red Scooter
This red scooter was the source of many problems.

In Roatan, there is no public transportation.  We knew that fact before we arrived, but had worked out all those problems by buying a small scooter to get around.   In our minds (silly us), we had decided that a motor scooter would be just right.  After all, we had ridden mopeds easily in Cozumel and expected the same island terrain as in Mexico.  We were so wrong.

The island terrain of Roatan is very mountainous, and from the main road that runs the length of the 37-mile island, the roads down to the coast are steep.  We had accident after accident, and we fell off our scooter multiple times going uphill (much pain, open wounds, etc.).  A dog that ran faster than the scooter bit Steve on the leg.  And he almost fell down a deep ravine after losing control of the bike on our steep driveway.  We finally gave up and sold it to a divemaster Steve met.  People were praying for us to sell the scooter and continue to live out our retirement.  We were thankful people loved us enough to say “Stop that nonsense”!

We Sold The Scooter, Now What?

So after we sold the scooter, there was the cost of transportation around the island.  We walked everywhere we could, but going to the grocery or bank required a taxi into town.  So there was always the problem of the double standard.  If you were “Gringo,” everyone wanted to charge you twice what an islander would pay to travel.  It was very frustrating.  You know they are taking advantage of you, but what can you do.  Sometimes we would walk up the road from the taxi stand, and find someone who would negotiate.  Fortunately, we were at the end of our stay.

Safety

On the island, the culture of safety is carried out by show of force meaning that everywhere we went we saw armed guards with military-grade weapons.  They were standing out in front of banks, grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, hotels, and other businesses.   We didn’t see that in the States.  The last time I saw a member of the military with a gun in the States was in New Orleans right after Hurricane Katrina.  The thinking is – a show of weapons deters crime.  I was never afraid on the island, nervous at first, but not afraid.

We used good sense, just like you would in any town.  I didn’t wear any flashy jewelry, we stayed in our neighborhood or well-traveled lighted tourist areas if we were out after dark.  Phones were in pockets and money was minimal on our person.  We would walk the West Bay Beach and West End at night without fear.

Conclusion

I loved Roatan and its many wonders, but after 3 1/2 months, we decided it was just too hot, too expensive, and too much trouble to live there.  We would leave retiring to Roatan Honduras for someone else.  We made lovely friends, and still keep up with with them on Facebook.  The restaurants are good and the time you spend snorkeling and diving is magnificent.  It is a great place to visit, but living there is difficult.   We would love to return, but only for a vacation – and when we do, we will stay in a hotel where there are potable water and air-conditioning!

Paulette Tuggle

 

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16 thoughts on “Retiring To Roatan Honduras-A Woman’s Perspective”

  1. Excellent article you have written here, Paulette and I must say that even though I have yet to read your Hubby’s view of your exploration of  Roatan Honduras, based on what I have read here, it seems like a very excellent place to stay and explore. It seems very peaceful but then, the weather condition is the major disadvantage. The hot climate is really not a plus. Great to read from your perception though.

  2. Thanks for your time and helpful comment.  Steve’s article is more positive than mine, but he does mention most of the difficulties.  And we have found other interesting places to visit that are much easier to manage.  Most are in the mountains where it is much cooler! 

  3. Wow, being a woman, I understand how it feels to face all these problems.  A new home is supposed to provide comfort and rest for you.  This obviously created a lot of extra work.

    I’m sorry you had to go through all that.  I’m currently living in an environment where everything is really cool and easy here. No bugs, water issues, etc.  Your post should urge everyone to make proper findings before moving to a new place.  Thanks for the information.

  4. Thank you Chloe for your time and understanding comment.  And we have moved around since then and are in a much more comfortable place.  But I have to tell you that for us, getting to go somewhere and stay for several months or more is part of the fun of our lives.  When we first retired, we were not looking for a place to spend the rest of our lives.  

    So we have been able to travel all over Latin America.  And our expenses are much less than they would be in North America.  We have many experiences to share, so please check back from time to time.

    Paulette

  5. Thanks for the dose of reality! White sand and turquoise water were apparently outweighed by primitive conditions. You have a very interesting niche (or Steve does). This will present facts most likely not included in advertising material.

    I lived in S. Korea many years ago and loved the country despite much similarity to what you describe in Roatan Honduras. Freezing winters, scorching summers, a monsoon season, etc. One huge difference – this was a military tour and I had a Jeep and driver, as well as the aegis of the U.S. government.

    Please keep posting similar candid presentations of retirement options abroad. This is interesting to me. More importantly, you may influence someone who could benefit from your personal experience.

    All the best, Richard

  6. Richard, thanks for your comment.  Thank you also for noticing that we try to present facts based on our own experiences.  Too many of the larger publishers need to keep their advertisers happy.

    Thank you for your service for our beloved country.  Even though we no longer reside in the U.S. we are still faithful citizens, and all of our family lives there.  And we will keep posting stories designed to help others make what can be difficult but necessary decisions.

  7. That’s quite the story. An interesting read. Seems like you had quite a few issues while you were there but you were still able to enjoy the time you spent.

    I don’t think I would have been able to handle it as well as you and your husband did.  The hot weather is one thing but, to have to disinfect pretty much all your food (can’t imagine what meat soaked in vinegar would taste like), and then disinfecting all your dishes AFTER you have already washed them? 

    There has to be better places to live after retirement.  It’s not that cheap to live in my country but our water is some of the best in the world and our food is free of critters.  Probably good if we just stay where we are.

    I also hope that wherever you are now is much better,

    Wayne

  8. Hello Wayne.  First of all, thanks for reading, and also for your interesting comment.  One thing she forgot to mention was how often the electricity went out. The worst ever was when we lost power with 1 minute to go in the first half of the Super Bowl!

    You didn’t say where you live.  Visiting Europe is on our bucket list, but our efforts with Making Money Online will have to bear fruit before we take that trip.

    If you read some of my other posts, you’ll learn that we are living very happily in Medellin, Colombia, and we also enjoyed our time in Boquete, Panama and Cuenca, Ecuador.

    Thanks for your time. 

    Steve

  9. Interesting read, and it shows that online research can only get you so far. (Although for your particular location your article certainly helps.) 
    I’m almost 50 myself, an age you start thinking about retirement. I currently live in Belgium, and while it’s a great place for the awesome beer and chocolate, it also happens to be one of the most expensive countries in the world to live (also due to our high taxes.)
    I’m planning to move to somewhere in the south of France, but in a less expensive area. It’s a region not that well known but very beautiful. However I’ve only visited it with they eyes of a tourist so far. After reading your stuff I realize I’ll have to research it on a different level. 
    Have you ever considered the south of Europe? It’s still cheaper than the US but probably more convenient than Honduras 🙂

  10. Hey Dave, Yes definitely going and staying in a place for 3 months instead of a quick 2-week or less stay is a much better way to evaluate a location.  Retirees aren’t planning a short stay (or at least they shouldn’t).  And most countries will let you stay 3 months, and many offer easy extensions.  We have never crossed an ocean, although if we get the chance we will definitely go.

    I had to do a lot of research recently on cost of living in different countries, and I know what you mean about Belgium.  I almost feel guilty at how inexpensive it is to live here in Medellin, Colombia.  No car, ridiculously low healthcare and health insurance, and no A/C or Heat.

    Thanks again.

    Steve 

  11. Thanks for your time and for leaving a comment. You were very thoughtful. And we agree. We have thoroughly enjoyed all of our retirement travels, seeing and experiencing many new places, people, foods, and beauty.

    Steve

  12. Hello, 

    Excellent post with the dose of reality! I’m not a fan of AIRBNB because owners put price and pictures which do not match what you see when you come to the place.

    My husband and I went many times to Mexico ( Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, and other places) but stayed at the resort, so, no bugs, ants, flies. We had airconditioning and perfect service at restaurants. I feel sorry for your husband, and you and I think you don’t need this kind of life on your retirement ( it is too much).

    I believe the best option if we stay where we are and take vacations to different places a couple of times a year.

  13. Hello and thanks for your comment.  When we were younger and still working, we had many of the same experiences you have had.  Cancun and Cozumel were easy 2-hour flights from Houston.  So we went often.  But when we retired, we intended to leave the US for essentially the rest of our lives and find beautiful places which were much more affordable than anywhere in the US.

    Roatan was our first stop because we loved blue water and white sand.  But vacations in all-inclusive resorts are totally different than living long-term in the same place.  That is what we learned from our first stop.  But we have many friends who have lived for many years in Roatan and love it.  So please don’t feel sorry for us.  We learned quite a lot in that first 3 months.

    Boquete, Panama was our intended first place, and that is where we went next.  It is in the mountains at 3,000 feet and higher, and the Expat population is about 20% of the total.  It was a much easier place to live, with cooler temperatures, but a little more expensive than we wanted.  We enjoyed our stay of 17 months, and then were ready for a change.  This is one of the main reasons we recommend not buying property until you are very sure you want to stay.

    We did some more traveling and checking out destinations in South America before ending up in our current home in Medellin, Colombia.  And we stayed in many AirBnb’s and have only been disappointed once.  For us, Medellin is perfect, so I encourage you to check out some of our other posts.  We have now been retired for more that 3 1/2 years with the last 1 1/2 years in Medellin.

    Thanks for your comment.  I hope Paulette will write many more articles because she sees things in a totally different way than I do.

    Steve Tuggle

  14. That’s a wonderful eye-opening article.
    It’s sounds fabulous to live on the Iron shore, hearing the waves and your view is the blue water. There’s always a downside, but it’s worth going through a different lifestyle.

    I’ve lived in a few countries and after a while I really missed my home and the high standard that was actually normal for me (public transportation, safety, no poisonous animals, to be able to drink from the tap, etc., but after all, it was also a valuable experience.

    Thank you for sharing your perspective, it was a pleasure to read it.

  15. Living on the Iron Shore was fantastic.  The cruise ships cruised past our home in the early mornings (at least that’s what Steve told me-I wasn’t foolish enough to be up that early!) and evenings.  They were close enough that we could hear the music.  And we were only a few minutes from the tip of the island and then around to West Bay Beach.

    As far as your point about the high standard that was normal for you, we do have every bit of that here in Medellin, Colombia.  Great public transportation so we don’t need or want to own a car, 24-hour security guards, no poisonous animals or bugs in this large city of about 3 million people, and drinking water from the tap.  It is a lot different than other countries.  And very inexpensive.

    Thank you for your time and your thoughtful comment.

    Paulette 

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