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.
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.
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”
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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