Honduras Crime - Thousands of tourists come to and go from Roatan each week without a safety problem. However, since Roatan is not a paradise and Honduras does have crime, some precautions are in order.
Most Honduras crime takes place on the mainland of Honduras, not on the islands. On the mainland, it is the large cities that are the most dangerous.
The islands are much safer. Part of the reason the islands are safer is that access is limited. Most people arrive through controlled access points, such as the airport, cruise docks, or ferry terminal. Roatan has primarily a single road as its main artery, making police stops easier.
The US funded the construction of a naval base which is in operation on Guanaja, one of the larger Bay Islands just east of Roatan, to combat narcotics traffic in Central America. Two other naval bases are under construction - one on the northeast coast of Honduras at Caratasca, and another just south of the Bay Islands on a peninsula of the main land in Puerto Castilla.
Obvious precautions include avoiding walking in large cities at night, keeping expensive jewelry and watches, cell phones, iPads, laptops, and other valuables out of sight. Staying in areas frequented by tourists helps you avoid high crime areas. Avoid remote beaches and walking through slums.
If you tour the island, choose a reputable tour guide. Check the reputations of Roatan tour companies on travel review websites. A native guide knows the safer and less safe parts of the island and can help keep you from having some unpleasant experiences. There is safety in numbers - tour groups are much less likely to be targeted by criminals that one or two people in an isolated area. Taking your own rental car and exploring remote areas that are unpaved can make you vulnerable.
The more developed western end of the island is safer than the more isolated eastern section. The foot traffic and road traffic are much higher on the western part of the island. Some of the Roatan drug war action in 2010 occurred not far from Paya Bay, a remote eastern area resort in a less safe part of the island. Travelers using the unpaved road from the Punta Gorda area to the remote east end have been the target of robbers at times. If you travel this road to the east end, do so during daylight hours. Police presence beyond Oak Ridge going eastward is pretty much nonexistent until it is time to follow up on a crime or chase a criminal. Robberies are more likely in remote, isolated areas such as Paya Bay.
Roatan has tourist police specifically to watch for the safety of tourists. Areas with high foot traffic of tourists tend to be safe, even at after dark. Coxen Hole is not safe for foot traffic after dark. In spite of stepped up police presence, most of the police force is on foot.
Theft is common on the island, especially with the drug usage problems that persist. Remote homes have been the sites of home invasions, with armed intruders tying victims and robbing the homes.
A legitimate road stop should have at least 4 uniformed police with rifles. Their uniforms are military style camoflauge. The police use orange traffic cones. They check your driver's license, vehicle registration document, and vehicle tags. You should not fear legitimate police stops. Respond courteously and have your documents ready.
Many tourists encounter beggars. Some are truly needy; others simply are looking for a handout. This is a poor country. Like any other country, there are people here with drug and alcohol addictions.
Steps have been taken to address crime on Roatan. The ferry has a metal detector for passengers traveling to and from Roatan. Roatan is within fairly easy reach of the mainland by small water craft, however.
Most owners of expensive homes that are isolated from other homes hire guards to watch the property at night while they are out of the country or have other people stay in their homes. Guards are hired for reasonable prices.
Water Safety - Two tourists from Spain were reported missing missing after encountering strong winds at sea while paddling sea kayaks. Helicopters, seaplanes, divers, and boats were used to search the sea for signs of the kayakers. The search for the couple ended with the only sign being an empty kayak some 25 miles north of Utila, a neighboring island.
The Bay Islands weather can change very quickly - from stillness to high wind, from sunshine to rain, and from calm seas to rough waves. Sea kayaks are especially vulnerable since they are so light and are blown about easily.
Kayaks should not be taken far from shore. Consult with knowledgeable boat captains about weather conditions. Take life jackets, water, and emergency gear.
Road Safety - The use of seat belts is required in Honduras. Even though the average road speed on Roatan is low, the main road is congested, very curvy, and narrow. Some drivers pass dangerously. Traffic is especially heavy on cruise ship days.
Vehicles have been stopped at night on rare occasions in remote areas with road blocks for robberies, but as the island traffic has increased drastically, increased traffic has brought greater traveling safety from road blocks. If they stop you, give them your money without hesitation. They may kill you if you resist a robbery.