I've just come back from a better honeymoon than I dared hope for, and it's largely thanks to the amazing place I visited and the wonderful hotel I stayed at, so I thought I'd better plug both of them.
The place is Roatan, one of Honduras' Bay Islands, a little tropical island less than three hours' flight from Houston (direct flights also go from Milan, Toronto and Miami in season), and the hotel was Cocolobo, in the village of West End.
First, a little about Roatan. This island is a former British colony, with four main populations: English-speaking "islanders" descended from freed slaves from the British era, Spanish-speakers from the mainland, Garifunan-speakers, and expats from the US, Canada, Europe and elsewhere. It's a narrow, tropical island with a single paved road and many unpaved tributaries, and it sits squarely on the second-largest barrier reef in the world (itself a protected marine park reserve).
We stayed in West End, a town that's touristy enough that you can get a delicious meal at any of several restaurants and draw out cash from one of the two ATMs (when they're working!), but also far enough off the beaten track that it felt sleepy and safe and absolutely tranquil and isolated from the cares we'd left behind.
A huge part of that was Cocolobo, our hotel, where we stayed for about $75/night, in a large room with air-conditioning, a ceiling fan, a back porch with a hammock overlooking the sea and the "iron shore" (fossilized coral) with spectacular nightly sunsets, a pool, and delicious hot breakfasts every day. Rory and Claire, our hosts, were magnificent, helping us find dive-shops, babysitting, great food, and fun things to do while there.
We dove every day, mostly with Ocean Connections (who were fantastic) as well as with Coconut Tree. The diving was unbelievable — clear seas, warm water, and an amazing variety in dive-sites from high-speed drifts along the wall to mellow dives among the giant barrel-sponges. There were turtles and rays and morays in plenty, and dolphins and sharks, too, as well as a couple of challenging and spooky wrecks. Dives were very reasonable — about $25/person including gear rental.
We spent a lot of time at Cocolobo, too, relaxing and reading, playing with the baby, snorkeling off the iron shore, getting online now and then. It was incredibly comfortable and beautiful, besides.
For meals, we favored the $6 lunch at Mavis and Dixie's, right on the beach, where we got a generous portion of blackened wahoo, plantains, beans and salad, usually with a fresh banana-pineapple smoothie. Sometimes we'd take the baby to the secluded lagoon behind Mavis and Dixie's for a splash and a dig in the sand (the folks at the restaurant even loaned us a spoon so she could dig in the sand!).
There were lots of good dinner options, but the most remarkable was Ooloontho, a gourmet Indian restaurant run by a Canadian-born chef and his Indian-born wife. We ate dinner there twice and I was knocked off my seat both times by the delicate flavors, the inventiveness, and the quality of the ingredients. I'll never forget the calamari, and I'll never, never, never forget the banana bread-and-butter in a salt caramel sauce! I was in Mumbai in September and while I ate some great food there, Ooloontho beats everything I tasted in India or here in London.
(Speaking of tastes, ZOMG, Bucanero hot sauce kicks 18 kinds of ass — we brought home ten bottles!)
We barely scratched the surface of all there is to do in Roatan — dolphin encounters, yoga, horseback riding, a butterfly reserve, zip-lines through the jungles, and the world's deepest-diving civilian submarine (built by a hobbyist who taught himself to weld!). Nearly every person we met was friendly and helpful. I've never felt so relaxed in my adult life.
We fell in love with the place and are hoping to return next year with our extended families, taking over five or six of Cocolobo's 12 rooms, along with one of the smart little self-catering cabins they were finishing while we were there. The hotel and island are the picture of paradise: laid back, kid-friendly, warm and unspoiled.