Our Life on Roatan: A Leisurely,
Luxurious, Affordable Caribbean Dream
By Judith Allred
You smell the perfume of the white ginger and watch
the palm fronds sway in the southeastern trade winds…
slip into quiet, blue water that feels like velvet
on the skin… walk along the white sand and scoop
up shells, adding to a collection already spilling
onto the patio table...
Experiences like those -- a daily pleasure on Roatan,
Honduras -- are, really, what enticed us to invest
Just this morning, perched on the railing of our
open porch, I sipped my tea as horses galloped by
with early riders. I swam for a bit, and from the
water, I looked back at the island, rising to mountain
forests. Nobody else was on our beach at Lawson Rock.
We never imagined we'd be able to afford an island
retreat -- let alone one right on a secluded beach.
But we're here pretty much full-time these days, enjoying
the beautiful, open-air house we had built -- and
an incredible quality of life -- for a fraction of
what it would cost us elsewhere in the region.
The truth is: We're living a dream retirement we
never even dared dream about before we came here.
Leisurely Days and Comfortable Lunches
Our days are leisurely. Climbing into our diesel
4-door pick-up today, I thought: "How nice to
NOT have so many luncheon choices as one does in the
big cities of the world." We're at Que Tal Café
in five minutes -- it's the place to meet-and-greet,
always peppered with locals.
Friends, stopping in as we are, chat about the past
weekend, ask if we got their email. I’ve never
tried much else on the homemade comfort-food menu,
since I adore the cranberry chicken salad and locally
grown lettuce with Kim’s salad dressing, served
in a little silver pitcher. We linger over two, three
refills of iced tea, our glasses wet with condensation
puddling on our coasters.
Another day, it's lunch at The View, on the east
end of the island. It’s a 20-30 minute drive
from our place, past farmland, banana groves, and
chickens miraculously walking the tightrope that makes
the shoulder of the 2-lane highway.
I stop en route at the new bakery to pick up some
little raspberry cheesecake squares as a gift for
my friends. We sit in the shade on The View’s
deck, overlooking the 190-degree stretch of multi-hued
water -- turquoise, then green, then periwinkle blue.
It's hot, but even so, we all order the warm shrimp
marinara soup, the best on the planet.
A World Away, But Just Two Hours by Plane
On days like that, it feels like we're a long way
from the United States. We've traded crowded freeways
for two-lane roads that land crabs amble across.
But for my husband and me, moving here turned out
to be an easy decision. We joined the Agora Travel
tour to Roatan on our wedding anniversary, back in
March 2003. We'd traveled widely before that and always
asked ourselves, “Would we want to live here?”
But until we landed on this island, the answer was
always, “No, too far from the children, grandchildren,
The quick, two-hour direct flight from Houston to
Roatan made our decision easy... as did the incredibly
We spent an exhausting (though enjoyable) week exploring
with the Agora Travel tour -- sightseeing; excursions;
informational presentations by realtors, developers,
local expats; great meals; personal visits to homes;
boating; swimming; snorkeling.
Never would we have been able to accomplish so much
in seven days on our own. We bid farewell to our group
at Rick’s American Café, high up on the
tree house-like, open-air deck. We had fallen in love
with the island. And we were staying for two more
weeks on our own.
We Built Our Dream Home and Settled In
Within five days, we had bought lot #3 at Lawson
Rock and met the Canadian designer who would build
us our dream house. Actually, it wasn’t really
our dream house, as we had never had thoughts that
we could afford a home right on the water.
But the description of our ideal home all but tumbled
out of us in short order. We wanted a pod-style Balinese
house. Hal Sorrenti designed it, and Nelson Abbott
built it. (Contact Hal at: www.sorrentidesign.com
email firstname.lastname@example.org); contact Nelson
One year later, we moved in.
The boxes piled high in our container on the ship
from Miami, FL, held Pier One furnishings in reds
and oranges. We brought everything, from refrigerators
to light bulbs.
And today we have an inside garden flourishing riotously
and tables groaning under vases of newly picked orange
birds of paradise, red hibiscus, pinks of the torch
ginger, and leaves from the varieties of crotons.
Our nearest neighbor, five lots away, became our
dearest first friend. She, a mother of twins, was
a writer who spoke of her assignments and how they
exposed her to island lore and locations. Immediately,
I jumped at the chance to write while here, and I
met the publishers of the two island magazines.
(On Roatan, there's no daily newspaper with news
of murders and wars, so in the mornings, we simply
enjoy our fresh mango juice and slices of sourdough
French bread from the bakery.)
I was interested in learning more about our new home,
and so I began writing for the magazine that covers
the community and the people who make it work. And
within time, I became the editor, in fact.
Would it be corny to say it’s a joy rounding
the bend of the road on the way to do an interview?
Would it surprise you to know that we think of Roatan
as our home, and our USA townhouse as our jumping-off
Our gray hairs are showing, yet we feel alive and
Plenty of Good-Value Real Estate Still Exists
Can you do what we did? Absolutely.
There are still a multitude of opportunities in real
estate -- affordable and beautiful.
• On the Bay Island of Utila there is Escapa,
a new exiting unique community with white sand beaches
and azure waters. Here residential lots start at $59,000
and beachfront at $249,000.
• Design a house atop a hill, to see the far-ending
reaches of the sky meet the water. You could do it
at Blue Ocean Reef, where lots start at just $119,000.
• See the possibilities of a family grouping
themselves together in a condominium project with
elevators for grandma and swimming pools for the wee
ones. You could do that comfortably at Pineapple Villas,
where units list for $179,000 and up.
• Picture nestling in the trees (mangos, cashews,
almonds) at Casa Can-Do, a home wrapped around a dipping
pool with total privacy and serenity…but with
a mile long white sand beach, large swimming pool,
and a soaring A-frame open-air restaurant just a short
walk away at Palmetto Bay Plantation. Asking price
• Be comfortable in an upscale resort environment.
At the sophisticated, south-side Parrot Tree Plantation,
there are established condominiums, beachfront homes,
and hillside lots. Preconstruction prices on the beachside
condos start at $249,900.
• Key Hole Bay is a planned community, still
in the early building stages. They have won two Honduran
awards for environmental innovative methods of protecting
the reef from run-off. An easy walk from the gorgeous
West Bay Beach, 1500 sq ft. condominiums start at
$394,000 with 15% and 20% preconstruction discounts.
• Infinity Bay Resort and Spa on West Bay Beach
is for those who enjoy the crowds, as many Europeans
do when they go to the seashore. Located right on
West Bay Beach, ocean view units here are priced (pre-construction)
from $258,760 for a one-bedroom to $789,360 for a
• Sunset Villas is a quiet retreat behind West
End, a young person’s paradise. Music at night,
plenty of walking and meeting on the funky oceanfront
street, and gatherings of tightly pressed, laughing
people at bars like the Purple Turtle and Sundowners
makes it the in-place. Units here start at $99,999
for a one-bedroom condominium and larger units start
at $199,999 (pre-construction).
Click Here for more information on Bay Islands Properties
Prices on the Rise, But Still a Caribbean Bargain
Prices for properties on Roatan have increased since
we bought three years ago. More people have discovered
the island. More amenities are in place -- better
roads, new restaurants, a bakery, a deli, etc. And
it's easier to get here on more frequent flights.
So for us, it's been a sound investment. Those trends
will continue, I believe.
And, as I've said, you've hardly missed all the good
deals. When you compare the prices here today to what
you'd pay for comparable properties elsewhere in the
Caribbean, the condos, homes, and lots on Roatan still
represent an extraordinarily good bargain.
For many, many years, this island was known only
among divers and adventurers -- with more than 100
dive sites, it's an underwater paradise. Because it
was relatively difficult to get to, it wasn't over-built
That's a blessing. Because even today, as more people
discover it and prices creep up, it's still not a
jumble of buildings. There are vast tracts of undeveloped
land, and it feels like you have space to breathe
and enjoy a relaxing lifestyle.
Plus this has become a splendidly international destination,
too. We have friends from mainland Honduras, Canada,
South Africa, Great Britain, Holland, Vietnam, Italy,
China, and many from the United States.
If, like us, you never tho