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When people think of vacationing in the Caribbean, destinations like Jamaica, Aruba and the Bahamas come to mind. There is certainly nothing wrong with these tropical islands, but there are other worthwhile vacation options in the region as well. Central America's Caribbean coastline is far to the west of the Antilles. It has many of the same traits as its popular Caribbean kin, but also some unique features that make it the perfect place to seek out an island holiday.

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For example, did you know that the world's second largest barrier reef, after Australia's Great Barrier Reef, sits off the coast of Central America? That is why places like Belize and Honduras are so popular with divers and snorkelers. One of the best of the many islands along Central America's Caribbean coastline is Roatan. Though the island belongs to Honduras, its history has a mixture of Spanish and British influences. Unlike the Central American mainland, you are just as likely to hear English as Spanish on the island. Almost all residents are bilingual.

Here is what you need to know to enjoy a Roatan vacation.

Dive Right In

Roatan beach resort and restaurants

image via Graeme Churchard

Roatan is known for its scuba diving. The reefs that sit all around the island are teeming with marine life. There are a number of dive shops that offer a full menu of underwater experiences. If you have never strapped on an oxygen tank and fins before, you can take a beginners class and get your certification. Experienced divers, meanwhile, can join more challenging underwater expeditions. Since there are so many options when it comes to dive sites on Roatan, you can enjoy the amazing underwater scenery and wildlife no matter what your skill level might be. Most of the best dive sites and shops are located on the western coast of the island.

Staying on Land

Roatan beach resort honeymoon getaway

image via Sheri Wetherell

Roatan is also a great destination if you prefer to stay dry. All the beaches on the island are public, so you can explore the beautiful sands and lounge on the beach wherever you happen to be. If you want to venture further inland, you can join one of the several eco-tourism companies that provide expedition on the island. Options include wildlife hikes, zipline tours or canopy walks. Looking for some extra romance? How about a horseback ride along the beach at sunset. El Rancho Barrio Dorcas offers horseback riding sessions. This is a great activity for any visitor. But if you are here on your honeymoon, or just on a romantic couples getaway, getting in the saddle is an absolute must.

A Seafood Lover's Paradise

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Roatan is a paradise for seafood lovers. The dishes made by the many restaurants here include impossibly-fresh ingredients. The island has some great sushi places, beachside cafes and more-casul bar-and-grill-type venues.

Roatan is as famous for its party scene as it is for its diving. Luckily, the island has a number of different options. Places like the Thirsty Turtle and the Booty Bar draw lots of tourists, while other spots like La Sirena are quieter and more relaxed. You definitely have a lot of choices when it comes to what kind of nightlife experience you want to have.

Staying in the Right Place

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Just like any other Caribbean destination, where you stay has a huge influence over your overall Roatan vacation experience. There are lots of themed resorts, cheap bungalows and luxury hotels on the island. If you are looking for a place that is just right, one of the best options is the Mayoka Lodge. Located on the island's untouched northern coastline, Mayoka is the perfect size for an intimate getaway. The resort has six separate suites, each of which overlooks the beautiful Caribbean and the lush coastline.

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In addition to all the amenities and pampering that you could want (an infinity pool, spa services, spacious air conditioned suites, a tennis court, etc...), Mayoka is home to one of the island's finest restaurants, Frangipani. Guests also get some great extras like a free cell phone to use while on the island. Also, good hotels like Mayoka can help you organize whatever experiences that you want to have while on the island.

Have you been to Roatan or another destination in the Western Caribbean? Use the comments section to tell us about your experiences and share your insights with us.