Sitting about 30 miles off the coast of mainland Honduras, Roatan is a popular destination for cruise ships — especially those sailing from Galveston, New Orleans, and other ports on the Gulf of Mexico. And within Roatan is a small area surrounding a cruise port known as Mahogany Bay.
A destination for Carnival ships, if you’re sailing on the cruise line to Roatan, this is where you’ll port. Not only does the spot give you the feel of a private port of call with its own beach, shops, and more, all designed for cruise passengers, but it’s also an ideal starting point to explore the rest of the island.
So whether you want to just relax and work on your tan or you want to go experience one of the most beautiful tropical islands in the world, you can do it all from Mahogany Bay. And if you’re visiting the area, there’s plenty you should know before you arrive. Below, we’ve detailed important tips and things to know about visiting Mahogany Bay in Roatan on a cruise.
Map of Mahogany Bay, Roatan
It helps to have an idea of the lay of the land before you get off the ship. Fortunately, the area is relatively small, and the ship is always visible so you don’t run the risk of getting lost. In total, it only takes about 15 minutes to walk completely from one end of the port area to the other, with the ship right in the middle.
Go Enjoy the Free Beach (10-Minute Walk)
The first thing you’ll notice as your ship docks is the gorgeous white-sand beach to the east. With green trees, white sand, and blue water, it’s a postcard-perfect view from the ship. The best news? It’s absolutely free to go and enjoy.
Simply head off the ship and hang a right to get over to the sand and water. There you’ll find bars/restaurants, loungers, facilities, and some of the most gorgeous water you can imagine. Hitting the beach is definitely one of the most popular things to do and you’ll find lots of company hanging out, soaking up the sun.
There are Multiple Great Spots for Photos
Want a picture in front of the ship? What about a sign for Mahogany Bay? Or a sign that says what you’ll definitely think while you’re there: “I wish I could stay here forever”? There are multiple spots all around the Mahogany Bay area that are perfect for getting those souvenir photos.
And don’t worry about missing them. The only one that’s a little harder to find is a spot in front of the ship, which is on the Nature Trail in Mahogany Bay. All the others are highly visible as you walk from the ship toward the beach.
Think of Mahogany Bay as Two Sections
As mentioned, the port area of Mahogany Bay is designed for cruise passengers. It has everything that you could need and is essentially broken down into two areas.
As you exit, you’ll follow the path to the first section, which is a large open area surrounded by a number of shops, including those selling everything from high-end jewelry to a craft market with locally made goods. There is also an exit here to grab a taxi or tour bus for excursions to other parts of the island, along with a few spots to get a drink.
Then there is a pathway that takes you over to the second section of the port, which is the beach area. It’s just a few minutes walk, or there are alternate ways to get there (more on this below). This section is likely where you’ll spend most of your time should you decide to stay near the ship.
Wi-Fi Access Is Available
These days you can get Internet access on the ship, but it can be pricey and a bit slow. For instance, buying Carnival’s highest-tier plan will run you about $20 per day during your cruise. If you just want to check in occasionally, then you can wait until you get into port. Most ports have somewhere that you can access wi-fi, and Mahogany Bay in Roatan is no different.
As you exit the ship into the main shopping area, head to the left. There you’ll see a small yellow and green kiosk where you can pay $5 for unlimited wi-fi for the day covering the shopping and beach area. This is way cheaper than what you’d pay on the ship and gives you a chance to check-in back home when you just want access for a few hours.
Forgot Something? There’s a Pharmacy in Port
Inevitably, no matter how much you pack, you’ll forget something. That’s just the way it goes. While ships have shops where you can pick up forgotten items, you’ll find more variety — and usually cheaper prices — if you can wait until you get into port. There, you’ll almost always find a small “pharmacia” selling anything you might need.
That’s the case in Mahogany Bay. If you look in the shopping area of the port, you’ll find a small pharmacy that has lots of toiletries and the such for passengers who need to pick something up while in port.
There’s a Nature Trail to the Beach You Don’t Want to Miss
If you are walking over to the beach area, then you have two options to get there. There’s a regular pathway that most people take, but there’s also a nature trail that’s worth checking out.
As you head down the main paved path, you’ll see a rocky path off to the right for the trail. It has some elevation change and uneven ground, so it may not be for everyone. But if you can handle it, the trail takes you slightly back into the woods toward the water. In our visits almost nobody is there at all, giving more peace and quiet. The best part is that it offers some neat views of the ship that most people don’t see.
Don’t Want to Walk? Take the Chair Lift
One of the unique features of Mahogany Bay is one you can easily see from the ship. The port offers a chair lift that takes you from the main shopping over to the beach. You catch the lift near the exit from the shopping area. It costs $8 for kids and $14 for adults (though prices may change).
One thing to know is that the ride is a bit slow. It goes at about the same pace as walking but also stops to load and unload passengers. That means being up in the full sun with no shade. It will give you a good view and is a neat experience, but just take note of the weather. If it’s hot and still, you might be more comfortable walking.
“Clamshells” Are a Must on the Beach… Or Find the Shady Spot Farther Down
The beach at Mahogany Bay is beautiful. There’s little doubt that you’ll want to spend some time on it. But you’ll also want some shade. For most people, that means renting one of the “clamshell” covers that are lined up on the beach. They are a bit expensive — $26 for a spot — but it’s worth saving your skin from the sun.
If you want to save some cash, then one tip is to head down the beach a little farther. There you’ll find loungers that are underneath the shade of some small trees. It gives you some relief from the sun and saves your wallet.
Remember, This Is Just a Small Portion of Roatan
For many, visiting Mahogany Bay is idyllic. But if you’re an explorer, then know there is a whole lot more of the island to check out. All told, Roatan is 30 miles from end-to-end, with gorgeous beaches dotted around. If you’re a diver or snorkeler, the area has one of the largest barrier reefs in the world. In other words, it might be worth checking out the excursions offered or set up your own up for when you visit. There’s an entire world out there beyond the port area.
Bring Some Cash Into Port
While Mahogany Bay is for the enjoyment of cruise passengers, it’s not just an extension of the cruise ship. That means unlike some private islands you might visit, you can’t just use your keycard to pay for things in port. Instead, it’s a good idea to bring cash with you. Yes, you can use credit cards, but we like to use cash instead of risking using the card in a place where we are leaving that afternoon.
Drinks/Food Are Available in the Port Area
One the highlights of any port is being able to grab something to eat or drink somewhere other than the ship. While we think the food on a cruise ship is overall pretty good, eating anything for several days in a row can wear on you.
So if you want to hit the beach, the good news is that there is are bars/restaurants that serve cruise passengers… and they are just steps from the sand. Just keep in mind that you’ll pay tourist prices. While many ports offer cheap drink specials for those passing by, with only a few options available, we found the prices were inline with what you’ll pay on the ship.
Want to Hit the Water? Lots of Rentals Are Available
Sure you can go swimming, but there are plenty of other ways to get out on the water. From kayaks to snorkel gear to paddle boats to personal floats, they are all available for you to rent. Just head over to the beach area and you’ll see the building for rentals
Just be prepared for the prices. Renting snorkel gear cost $20, while a kayak was $34 an hour. Even an umbrella for the beach was $26. Here’s a full list of prices from a recent trip:
- Snorkel gear: $20/day
- Floating mat: $9/day
- Hydro Bike: $30/hour
- Paddle Board: $30/hour
- Fun Cat (small boat): $50/hour
- Sea Clam: $60/day
- Clamshell: $26/day
- Sea Hammock: $30/day
- Aqua Cycle: $26/half hour
- Aqua Cycle Boat: $60/half hour
- Paddle Boat: $46/hour
- Kayak: $34/hour
- Umbrella: $26/day
There Are Lockers to Store Your Valuables
Want to hit the beach? You can leave your valuables with your stuff, but that means having to keep an eye on things. Instead, there are lockers available for visitors. Head up to the rental station (where things like kayaks and snorkel gear are also for rent). The cost is $6 for a locker, along with a $6 deposit.
Need a Shower or Restroom? Yep, They Are Available
If you’re planning to hit the beach, it’s good to know that showers and restrooms are available to visitors for no charge. You’ll pass the restrooms as you make your way to the beach and go through a “tunnel” between two buildings. Showers are farther down the beach, past the restaurants. There is a line of about 6-8 stations where you can rinse off the sand and salt water. While they are nothing fancy (just a bunch of shower heads lined up), it feels amazing to get all the sand and salt off the body after a day at the beach.
Adventurous? Try “Fish Therapy”
We weren’t brave enough to try it, but many people were — and it was quite the spectacle. Near the beach (right next to the shower heads) is a small building that has several tanks of water lined up. As you walk toward it, you might think that people are just soaking their feet. But a closer inspection reveals there are fish in the tanks.
This is “fish therapy” where people soak their feet and dozens of tiny little fish eat all the dead skin cells. Predictably, the spot had many people talking and lots of people stopping to take a look. It’s something that you don’t see every day, so if you get the chance and have the urge, try it out. Those who tried it raved about it afterward.
Bring a Towel, Keycard, and ID From The Ship
For a day at the beach you don’t need much, but there are a couple of important things to bring. First, you want to bring a beach towel from the ship. You are allowed to bring them with you (as long as you return it), and it’s something you’ll definitely want as we didn’t see any towels available at Mahogany Bay.
Second, you’ll want to bring your room keycard. This is scanned as you get off the ship (so the staff knows you are onshore when accounting for passengers) so there isn’t a real danger of forgetting it. But, you’ll also need to bring photo ID. The cards and ID are checked as you head to the beach and again as you go to return to the ship to ensure that you’re with the cruise and not a tourist who happened to wander into the wrong area.
Where can I go to see monkeys?
What I am looking for nice sandy beach and not rocky? In Aruba we rent a car and drive. just wondering if this is advisable in Rotan?
So if you are on Carnival, you’ll head to Mahogany Bay on Roatan, which is private area for passengers. There is a very nice sandy beach that you’ll see from the ship. If sailing to the other port on the island, then you can make your way to the west end of the island via taxi. I’m sure you could rent a car, but it might be easier just to pay a taxi driver to drive you around for the day.
My second home is on Roatan. One day when a ship was in port, I drove over to Mahogany Bay to check it out. I was able to sneak into the shopping area and looked around, purchasing a few tee shirts. But when I wanted to check out the beach area, I was barred from doing so. As far as I am concerned, that was Carnival’s loss. The one time I landed on Roatan with my friend on a cruise ship, it was with Norwegian and therefore was in Coxen Hole.
I agree with Michael above that this is my favourite island in the Caribbean, bar none. It is lush and tropical with jungle, as opposed to many that are little more than deserts. I tend to stay away from the tourist areas when ships are in port, and there are plenty of other beaches on-island that have few tourists most of the time. The roads sure have improved, especially where my home is, with both routes I can use now being concrete. I just hope that Roatan stays close to what it is now, and not like many of the islands that are just expensive tourist traps.
This is by far my favorite port in the western Caribbean. I have visited approximately 11 times and have to say, as much as there is things to do at the cruise center, venturing beyond the port is a must!
The beach at Mahogany By is man made, yes it’s a nice beach, but nothing like visiting the Little French Key and West Bay Beach.
Nice work on this post tanner, very thorough and informative!