Surrounded by the Crystal Caribbean
Roatan's CoCo View Resort
Text and Photography by Rick Frehsee, Jul. 1997
Walk out to the palm-lined beach directly in front of your cottage and gaze out to sea. The horizontal panorama is right out of a tropical dream: White sand shallows lead to a grassy bottom and then a golden coral reef, all within a coconut toss from the shore. A fringe of foam marks where the reef front borders the deep blue; the beginning of a vertical drop to a sand slope and then into Bartlett Trough, thousands of feet deep. Off to the right is a reef that falls away to the entrance to the lagoon beside the resort. On the bottom, 60 feet deep, is a shipwreck, intact and more than 100 feet long. To the right and left is a nearly continuous wall; a lifetime of diving exploration over scenic nooks, crags and pinnacles, each more sponge decorated and beautiful than the one before. Directly in front, a 'snorkel away from the bar,' is where divers have seen Marlin, Mantas and even Whale Sharks.
Like all the special places in the world that you may be fortunate enough to find, words always seem to fall short of the actual experience of being there. At CoCo View, owing primarily to its location; a small island resort with a reef just off its front porch; there is a special mood and ambiance. Neither opulent nor too rustic, it has considerable charm.
CoCo View is on the south coast of Roatan, the largest and most populous of the Bay Islands of Honduras. Here, where shore diving is more relaxation than aerobic activity, is one of the world's greatest little dive resorts. Getting to CoCo View, which is predominantly a wilderness setting, is comparatively easy. Roatan, tucked into a notch of Central America in the western Caribbean, is actually not distant from the U.S. TACA of Honduras, a modern carrier with Boeing jets and great in-air service, accesses the Honduras mainland and Roatan directly from Houston, New Orleans and Miami. In a little more than two hours you arrive at Roatan's new and modern airport, to be whisked away in the CoCo View van. Less than 15 minutes later, via a paved road, you arrive at the resort's mainland dock for the two minute boat ride to the island resort. However, during that short boat transfer, a complete change occurs. Once at the resort, you are now in a magical world, where nature prevails and the noisy, busy trappings of civilization are left far behind.
Perched on the beach side of the island is the resort centerpiece, a two story mainhouse with a sundeck and walkway extending into the sea. The interior is an upstairs/downstairs restaurant and social area. Excellent meals, usually served buffetstyle, are prepared three times daily. Downstairs is an island-style bar, the social focus at happy hour. At the end of the walkway is a handsome gazebo and, just to the side, a diver's dock used to help launch shore dives.
There are three exterior styles of guest accommodations: East of the mainhouse are two, two story houses with air-conditioned cottage-style rooms. Extending off the beach and stilt-mounted in the water are three bungalows and two caba–as cooled by trade winds and ceiling fans.
All structures are wood; the entire resort is linked by decks, walkways and sand paths surrounded by island greenery. Out 'back,' on the lagoon side of the little island, is the dive dock and a tiny island used for cookouts. The CoCo View dive operation is a first class and totally dedicated dive service. The building holds all the dive support interiors, including a large walk-through for dive gear storage. Huge rinse tanks, one designated for cameras, are on the dock.
Three custom dive boats, each 45 to 58 feet long, are the resort's primary vessels. There are two boat dives per day; one at 9:00 am and the other at 2:00 pm. A second tank on each trip can be used to swim back to shore. Warning whistles signal departures. The style of diving is 'as guided as you request.' Experienced, capable divers are allowed to set their own dive plan. With boat to boat, boat to shore and shore to shore dives available daily, it is indeed possible to log four or more dives a day; all considered 'legal' as long as they are within the limits of safe, no-decompression time. Any diving below 130 feet (not recommended) must be planned in advance and cleared with the head of dive operations.
In addition to the resort dive operation, there are two interesting enterprises on the dock that separate CoCo View from almost all other Caribbean dive resorts. The Dockside Dive Center is a full service PADI and SSI facility that provides sales, repairs, rentals and a complete menu of advanced and specialty diver training. Items for purchase include primary equipment and special accessories. Rentals include dive computers, regulators and dive lights. Besides open water referrals, introductory and refresher courses, Dockside also specializes in advanced courses such as wreck, night, deep and computer diving. Two of its most interesting and popular specialty courses include fish and invertebrate identification.
Dockside Dive Center's certified instructors are Patty Grier, Joel Turnbow and J. C. Bodden. Although an independent operation, Dockside has been a permanent fixture at CoCo View for several years; Patty Grier is a former CoCo View resort divemaster. All three instructors are personable people pleasers. This is a professional and highly recommended organization.
Inside the Dockside Dive Store is the Ocean Images Photo Shop, owned and operated by longtime Bay Islands diver John Haught. John is an expert photographer and videographer (you can see some of his fine photo work during a slide presentation he gives upstairs in the clubhouse on Sunday evenings at 7:30 pm) who provides sales, rentals, processing, repair, training and custom photo and video shoots.
Roatan's reefs are high profile corals perched on the edge of a drop-off that parallels both sides of this 30 by 3 mile island, often beginning only 25 to 40 feet deep. Nearly all species of stony corals and a great variety of sponges, invertebrates and reef fish are found at more than 30 dive sites only minutes from the resort dock. CoCo View is owned by Bill and Evelyn Evans and managed by a team of hospitality professionals. The mostly local staff will become your friends in a week's stay. Island tours and mainland tours are available, including a spectacular whitewater river trip and a visit to the ancient Maya city of Copan.
For more information, contact Roatan Charter. Managers Terry and Jaki Evans and their staff are experts on Roatan, Honduras and Central America land/sea adventures. Call (800) 282-8932 or (904) 588-4132; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The Web site address is www.roatan. com.