Roatán, aka “The Big Island”, is a Caribbean island off the northern coast of Honduras. I hadn’t heard of this place until I booked my cruise with Carnival. But now that I have had a small taste of this piece of paradise, I want to go back and explore that part of the country and its beautiful mainland.
I booked an excursion that would take me through the raw beauty of nature at Gumbalima Park and then to the beach where the jungle meets the ocean. Gumbalimba is Roatán’s finest preservation park. There are shaded trails, waterfalls, bird sanctuaries, and a monkey refuge. The monkey refuge was my favorite part…they are so cute! After a short bus ride from the cruise ship, the tour began with a short history of the island inside Coxen’s cave which held artistic murals and depictions of the different periods in Honduran history starting with the first inhabitants, the invaders, the slave trade, etc. We then proceeded to walk on a trail that went through what felt like the city of iguanas. This was the first time I had seen iguanas this massive and actually witnessed them eating (they kind of made me hungry). I guess I’ll add seeing their tongue to the list as well. Yuck!
The tour continued and we came to a rope-bridge that crossed a river. Now, being from Manhattan I’m used to bridges but one made of rope had me reaching into the depths of my civil engineering degree to see how safe I felt it was to cross. You were given the option to use the “chicken path” if you didn’t want to wobble over the water using the don’t lose your balance/walk of death/you better not slip bridge. The catch was if you chose the chicken path it came with an obligatory chicken dance, and a chicken dance I was not about to do! As we proceeded to cross the bridge, I’m pretty sure I held my breath the entire time and halfway across, when I saw my life flash before my eyes, it became quite apparent that I should have done the chicken dance instead (cluck cluck). The reward was the bird sanctuary on the other side of the bridge. Here you can interact with a macaw and even take a photo with one on your shoulder. I prayed this massive bird with its even bigger beak didn’t attack my face or peck at my head!
Our next stop was the monkey refuge. The monkeys, like all the animals in the park, roam free. A monkey can run across your path, climb on you, take anything they might want (hold onto your hats), or jump from person to person. In other words, the monkeys were being monkeys. I was fortunate enough to have a mother and her baby climb onto my shoulder for a photo-op. The baby was fascinated with my hair. He grabbed a chunk of it, pulled my curls apart, and then just stared at it. Word of caution, these are wild animals and will urinate when nature calls – I witnessed a poor soul experience it. Glad it wasn’t me… peee ewww!
After our park tour was complete, we headed to Tabyana Beach which was about five minutes away. As you pull into the beach area, you hear live reggae welcoming you to this tropical paradise. Cue Bob Marely’s song, “Three Little Birds”. The beach had white sand, clear blue water, and lush tropical vegetation. There was also a bar that served lunch which consisted of BBQ chicken and rice and peas. Watching the iguanas had made me hungry, so I gobbled it down as I relaxed on a lounge chair under a palm tree while looking out at the ocean. What a great way to end this excursion.
Roatán is an island in the Caribbean Sea about 40 miles north of the Honduras near the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef – the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world.
Roatán is the largest of the Bay Islands of Honduras and has become an important cruise ship, scuba diving, and eco-tourism destination in Honduras.
Gumbalima Park is located in West Bay, Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras and is situated on over 20 acres.
The park is named after one of the native Honduran tree species, the Gumbalima Tree. This tree has bright red, peeling, smooth bark that is often used as fence posts in Roatán. Amazingly, the fences will grow because the tree can resprout from a broken branch!
The park features trails with beautiful flowers and wandering butterflies, a tropical forest canopy, free-flying parrots and macaws, free-roaming monkeys, an insectarium, and a botanical garden with over 200 plant and tree species, as well as several waterfalls and fountains.