So, here we are docked at the island of Roatan, which, together with Utila, Guanaja and 65 small cayes, makes up the Bay Islands, off the north coast of Honduras. Long and thin, like a miniature Cuba in a hidden corner of the Caribbean, Roatan is an island that cruise ship traffic is just waking up to. Like its more established nautical neighbors, it has pristine white beaches, swaying palms and a tropical interior, home to parrots, iguanas and monkeys. It also has the laid-back atmosphere that comes with an average annual temperature of 80F and year-round sun. On Roatan, though, the atmosphere has a Latino twist, a product of being simultaneously part of the Caribbean and Central America.
The twist — “Yeah, maaan” one minute, “Si, si” the next — runs through everything on the islands, not least the islanders themselves. Mr. Google tells me that it is a former British territory, ceded to Honduras in 1859; the Bay Islands today are home to the descendants of white Cayman Islanders, freed black slaves and more recent Honduran emigrants from the mainland. The result is an ethnically diverse mix, some speaking Spanish, others English, with many speaking a strange hybrid of both. Along the main strip on Roatan’s West Bay, Woody’s Groceries sits next to La Pulperia; hawkers on the beach sell both ice cream and helados; while in the beachfront bars, reggae vies with salsa. Ask a Roatanian what he’s up to and more often than not the answer will be: “Nada-much mon.”