My second dive off the island of Roatan impressed me the most, not with spectacular walls or big pelagic life (that came on the first and subsequent dives) but on simply the expanse of healthy coral reef and resident colorful tropical fish.

Although the current was not terribly strong, we chose to make a drift dive. Visibility was well over 100 feet as we dropped to the reef 40 feet below. It stretched on in all directions as far as the eye could see. There were deep channels and large overhangs in the reef. Looking one way I could see a sea turtle in the distance, the other a shark. We flowed with the current, and the reef seemed never-ending.

Here and there I would drop down into a channel to get out of the moving water. At one point I came across a mound of brain coral as big as a VW bug. The contours of the dome were without flaw. Further on I sat for 10 minutes in one spot filling my camera with images of reef fish in dozens of varieties and sizes. I photographed turtles, sharks and, although I never saw them, I heard dolphin in the distance.

We drifted further and still the expanse of pristine reef went on… Although it was several acres it seemed as if we covered several square miles. And all of it was some of the healthiest coal I have seen in all the Caribbean.

One of the big advantages of diving Roatan is the amount of dive sites available to the underwater explorer all bunched together. You could easily spend months here diving every day and not cover it all. Along with affordability, you could easily spend a large amount of time here exploring. It is a very economical dive destination with dives for all skill levels.

Roatan is part of chain of islands known as the Bay Islands. The islands, Roatan being the largest, are part of the central American country of Honduras. Roatan lies far offshore in clear, warm, current-swept waters. Although this is the most populated of the Bay Islands, it still retains a strong rural charm with many coves and secluded beach resorts where you can feel you are only one of only a handful of people on the island. Although there is excellent diving all around the island, most activity focuses in the central and western sections of the island, both sides.

There are resorts on both sides of the island. Most are small and intimate but offer everything a diver could want. All-inclusive packages with excellent local food and unlimited beach diving are common and very affordable. And the beach diving here off the resorts is excellent. Bay Islands Beach Resort, for example, has directly off their pier one of the island’s most exciting dives, Spooky Channel. The deep cut in the reef is narrow on the top and eerily dark on the bottom. Healthy reef surrounds.

Reaching the Roatan has become easier as of late. There are direct flights from Miami, Dallas and Houston and connecting flights from the mainland of Honduras. Your best bet in terms of price and schedule from LAX is to fly to Fort Lauderdale or West Palm Beach, Florida, take a short bus ride to Miami and then fly to Roatan from there.