A white sandy beach, palm trees and colorful boats on a crystal sea – West Bay is an enchantment. But the spectacle is at its finest under the water: multi-colored coral cascading in the deep blue water, parrotfish in abundance, shoals of Atlantic blue tang and several species of angelfish, and all in exceptional visibility. West Bay is a must for snorkeling in Roatan, and certainly one of the most beautiful spots in the Caribbean.

Aerial view of West Bay snorkeling area, Roatan

How to get there?

At the far west of the island, a 30-minute drive from the airport ($25 by taxi), West Bay is the main seaside resort in Roatan, where most of the luxury hotels are concentrated. If you are not staying there, it can be tricky to park for free and to find a way leading to the beach. Since the road is set back from the beach, only a few footpaths between the hotels give you access to it. If you are staying in West End, the easiest thing to do is to take a taxi boat (departures from the jetty opposite the Splash Inn Dive Resort, well signposted). $3/60L per person one-way, with the boats setting off when at least three people are on board. Once you have reached the water’s edge, walk towards the west (to the left as you are facing the sea) as far as the end of the beach, which is “closed off” by a barrier of black rocks.

West Bay Roatan snorkeling map

Water entrance

You can enter the water anywhere along the beach, but we recommend (because of the absence of boats and the proximity to the most beautiful reefs) choosing the far west of the beach, shown by a barrier of black rock. Most snorkelers leave their things on the rocks and get into the water here.

Exploration

The area to explore is vast, covering the space between the beach and the northern limit of the reef, about 150 to 250 yards away. Make sure you take note of the position of the many dive boats before getting into the water.

As soon as you are in the water, you will be greeted by dozens of sergeant major fish and sea chubs (↕2-4ft/0.5-1m), which are apparently used to being fed. Carry on moving out to sea. Around ten meters from the beach, the first coral clusters appear and grow denser as you move away from the shore (↕4-9ft/1-3m). A large number of parrotfish, surgeonfish and butterflyfish live in these areas.

As you move even further from the beach, you will soon come across the particularly spectacular reef drop-off (↕12-32ft/4-10m). The reef is covered with sea fans, and plunges abruptly down toward an immaculate sandy seabed. A number of parrotfish species are abundant on the drop-off, as are butterflyfish, always seen in couples. You might also come across grey and French angelfish or the sublime queen angelfish, which is more timid however.

Queen angelfish at West Bay, Roatan

Swim closer to the small rocky islet and the small black rock cliff that marks the western limit of the beach. In this zone, known to divers as “West End Wall”, you will have the best chance of spotting a sea turtle. Among the dozens of species that you could see in this spot are the barred hamlet, royal gramma or the elegant midnight parrotfish.

Here the sea is generally very calm, with a total absence of waves. Visibility is also exceptional. As the spot is extensive and particularly pleasant, you should protect yourself from the sun since you are likely to spend longer in the water than you first planned. On the reef front, there are sometimes dive boats, so be careful.

Coral reef drop off at West Bay

Snorkeling tours (2 to 4 spots, $15 to $45 per person) are organized, taking you to the spot by boat, even though it is only a few meters from the beach, which might make you think you have wasted your money. Discuss with the excursion organizer which spots you want to visit beforehand.

Restaurants & accommodation

There are many upmarket hotels on the beach, with restaurants open to non-clients, and a number of snack bars and supermarkets nearby, set back from the sea, around the main road.

Species you may spot while snorkeling West Bay
COMMON NAME SCIENTIFIC NAME ABUNDANCE FISHBASE WIKIPEDIA
Green sea turtle Chelonia mydas  
Queen angelfish Holacanthus ciliaris  
French angelfish Pomacanthus paru  
Gray angelfish Pomacanthus arcuatus  
Southern stingray Dasyatis americana  
Midnight parrotfish Scarus coelestinus  
Stoplight parrotfish Sparisoma viride  
Greenblotch parrotfish Sparisoma atomarium  
Atlantic blue tang Acanthurus coeruleus  
Doctorfish tang Acanthurus chirurgus  
Foureye butterflyfish Chaetodon capistratus  
Banded butterflyfish Chaetodon striatus  
Spotfin butterflyfish Chaetodon ocellatus  
Sergeant major Abudefduf saxatilis  
Bluehead wrasse Thalassoma bifasciatum  
Bermuda chub Kyphosus sectatrix  
Indigo hamlet Hypoplectrus indigo  
Royal gramma Gramma loreto  
  • Level required Beginner
  • Protected areaSandy Bay-West End Marine Reserve
  • Maximum depth10ft/3m on the reef flat, 30ft/10m on the reef drop-off
  • Water entranceEasy, from a sandy beach
  • Potential DangersDive boats
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersHigh
  • Access costsFree
  • Restaurants nearbyYes
  • Public toilets & showersNo

MAP Spot

Sea turtle watching in West Bay

snorkeling-hawksbill

Sea turtles (both green and hawksbill sea turtles) are often sighted in West Bay. In order to be a responsible snorkeler, be sure to respect the following rules when observing them:

  1. Do not attempt to touch or ride sea turtles
  2. Stay at a distance (6 to 10ft) from sea turtles
  3. Do not chase a turtle swimming away
  4. Avoid sudden movement and allow sea turtles plenty of space when they come up to the surface to breathe

These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.