Travel Crime Warning: Tourists Assaulted, Robbed & Terrorized in Roatan, Honduras

Roatan Honduras MapIn January we reported on an incident in Roatan where a U.S. family's rental car was shot up while on a beach access road. The family of four (with two children) were robbed at gunpoint and terrorized. The family had arrived in Roatan via a Carnival cruise ship.

This violent crime followed a warning issued in December 2013 by the the U.S. Department of State warning. You can read the warning here. Since 2010, Honduras has had the highest murder rate in the world. As I mentioned in our prior article, the warning indicates that "the vast majority of serious crimes in Honduras, including those against U.S. citizens, are never solved; of the 50 murders committed against U.S. citizens since 2008, police have only solved two."

This past week we have received complaints from tourists and cruise visitors to Roatan. One woman from the U.S. was attacked after she traveled to Roatan to dive.  Here are her comments:

"I ..i am female..came to roatan to dive and was basically attacked by 3 local men on this island. They assaulted me then robbed me..holding a knife to my neck. I heard them discussing kidnapping me for a ransom..or selling me to a slave market...to be taken out by boat. I got away when another tourist group drove by with several guys in the car. They saved my life. No one should go to this God forsaken island. I have learned a scary and nearly life ending lesson."

Another U.S. woman informed us that she and her two children (boys 15 and 16 years old) were robbed during a private excursion to a beach. They were held at gun point and knifepoint and robbed of all of their valuables. The woman, a single mother, stated that the cruise line, Royal Caribbean, did not warn them that there is a crime problem in Roatan or, in particular, armed robbery at the roads to and from the beaches in Roatan which seems to be a particular problem. The incident occured, according to the woman, at an access road to Palm Beach. 

In addition to these two recent incidents which were reported directly to us by the victims, concerned expatriate U.S. citizens living in Roatan have told us about armed robbery on the island, mainly against people riding in taxi's or driving on beach access roads. We have learned that a taxi with four cruise passengers was recently stopped by two local men at Palm Beach. The men held a knife to a woman's Roatan Honduras Crime - Cruise Passengersthroat and pointed a gun at a man's head. One robber reportedly fired a shot into the taxi. The men stole the cruise tourists' money, cell phones, cameras and other items. 

After our article in January, we received comments from U.S. and Canadians living in Roatan that it was unfair to lump the island of Roatan with the mainland of Honduras as a dangerous place to live or visit. Some property owners who have invested in real estate in Roatan under the hope and belief that they would live in a slice of paradise may be second guessing themselves considering what appears to be increasing violence against people arriving from North America.

Some people don't like us to write articles like this, arguing that "crime occurs everywhere" or just "use common sense." But all of the victims who contacted us were using common sense and doing what people normally do while on a vacation.  The point is that certain types of crime occur more often in certain places than others. The problem is that criminals in these poor countries are targeting U.S. passengers with iPhones, cameras, jewelry and cash. The New York Times recently published an article about crime problems in Roatan: Security Concerns on a Honduran Island.

From our view, there appears to be a rising tide of crime against cruise passengers throughout the Caribbean ports. Honduras and the Bahamas are the only countries we know with port facilities which are the subject of warnings about crime from the U.S. State Department. 

The cruise industry just convened their annual trade show, Cruise Shipping Miami, with much fanfare on Miami Beach. A delegation came from Honduras, promoting Roatan. I wonder what, if any, discussions the delegates from the Caribbean islands had with the cruise lines about keeping cruise passengers safe? 

Have a thought?  Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Read our prior article about crime in Roatan.

 

Map & photo credit: Top - Global Healing; Bottom - Jim Walker. 

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Comments (29) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Jeff Dunsavage - March 20, 2014 12:44 PM

Folks really need to do serious homework before visiting -- and, in particular, moving to or investing in -- any of these "cheap pieces of paradise." Cheap is cheap for good reasons. The problem is, it is really difficult for people to find solid, credible, timely safety/security information about these destinations because the people who have the funds to promote and search-engine-optimize their promotions are the ones who have a personal/financial stake in drawing people, not in keeping them safe. Thanks, Jim, for reporting on these topics!

Froggy Bottom - March 20, 2014 10:37 PM

As an Ex-Pat living in Roatan. I can personally say that it is not safe to travel to Roatan. It is an absolutely pristine Island however, I suggest anyone thinking of traveling or investing in the Bay Islands; Have your affairs in order. There is not a functioning legal system in the Country. When you enter the Country you are totally on your own, if something should happen to you or your loved ones. Honduras has the highest murder rate per capita in the world. Cruise ship visitors think there is a safety net for them but I can not count the victims that have been left on there own, when jacked up by guns and machetes pointed at there heads.

Jesus Correa - March 21, 2014 8:17 PM

Dear All,

53 days ago the mew Major of Roatan took office with the commitment to make Roatan a CRIME FREE territory. A plan has been put in place where hi tech security cameras have been placed all across the Island with its corresponding monitoring system and a call center to access the security forces. The Municipal police is being selected among those that have impeccable police records,higher education as a must, fully bilingual and well paid. 6 Police Posts are in the process of construction on the main road of the Island from Oakridge (East) to West End.12, well equipped Police patrol vehicles will be constantly patrol the Island. Beach vendors are being forced to bear the merchant licence given by the Municipality after a deep background investigation is performed. Shortly visitors will be scanned when arriving and leaving the Island. Those with criminal records will not be allowed to visit Roatan and invited to leave by the same means they came, immediately.

Sad to say but Roatan burdens the fact that it is part of Honduras where the crime rate is very high, however if the statistics were only for Roatan,the Island is one of the safest havens in Central America.

John Nelson - March 23, 2014 6:49 PM

it is not totally safe anywhere. You have to be careful, even at home, so don't believe that these so called "paradise" destinations are perfectly safe and crime free. Unfortunately, some areas invites more press coverage than others, and the cruise industry is being targeted more than others.
http://www.city-data.com/crime/crime-Fort-Lauderdale-Florida.html

Vernon Albert - March 25, 2014 9:54 AM

Roatan is safe. This article is old news. I have lived on Roatan for 9 years and have never had a problem and I am in every village at all hours. Stop scaring people away from a very great place. All you are doing is taking food out of peoples mouths by trying to be an authority on crime. You are all off the mark. How many foreign people live on Roatan and have not had an incident? This is a great place to live with really great people. Come and enjoy and do not let the world make you not live "YOUR DREAMS"

Madame Marie - April 7, 2014 12:20 AM

Yikes! I just got off the Carnival Dream yesterday,April 5,2014. One of my stops was in Coxen Hole-Roatan. I didn't think I was ever going to see home again. Once I passed the security point and entered the district, I attracted a pseudo-travel guide. The man seemed friendly enough but wasn't quite understanding that I had no interest in his services. He continued to follow my every step knowing that I wanted to be left alone. He started to ask for money for the services he claims to have provided me ie:companionship. When I fervently protested that I had no money other than 10 dollars American, he insisted that he walk me to the bank to withdraw more. While making my way to the bank I became extremely nervous as he described a location called the Happy Frog. When we were at the Happy Frog I was told that the Hookers are kept here. I was one push away into the door. The establishment was secured with thick unpassable vertical wooden bars. There were women of all nationalities walking around aimlessly, with men who looked like they were in a meat market. I hoped that my debit card would provide me with money while in a foreign area. Once at the row of banks lined with police bearing machine guns, another problem arose. I couldn't read the word prompts on the ATM machine. My escort started poking at the screen telling me what to withdraw. When the police saw this transaction they intervened and told the man to back off. I hoped for reprive when I explained my ignorance and thought it wiser to just go into the bank. Yet another problem, tellers didn't speak English- NADA word! Unbenounced to me an undercover officer was watching. Because my escort wasn't allowed inside the bank the undercover took advantage of the timing and explained what he witnessed was something to be wary of and started to ramble off a list of possible outcomes and commenced with advice to me. He started to talk to one of the police officers as if to say, Yes she understands. I was then given a super fast lesson on the value of a Lempiras. 10 Lempiras = .50 cents I explained how the escort was asking for a tip and didn't know what to do. The undercover told me that it was up to me to make that decision. I hadn't the foggiest idea was WAS a norm if you were to give a tip for services rendered. In the end I had given 400 Lempiras and that seemed to be suffice. Albeit, he never left my side. My pseudo-travel guide walked with me from the moment I stepped out of security till the second I took one step back into the port. This gentleman, I'm glad to say, sat with me in the hair salon while my hair was being cut which was where I hoped to have given him the slip. Because of his persistent insistance of his presence an insurmountable amount of fear and tension weighed heavily upon my yoke the whole time I was in Roatan. I must say I will never desire to visit this very very scary location again.

Esly - April 8, 2014 6:59 PM

Crime happens all over the world!!!!! Are you guys not aware of that!!!! Saying that Roatan is horrible and a bad place to live or to visit because someone got killed isn't okay. That's almost as saying let's stop planes from flying into L.A or New York because someone was killed! NO! I'm not saying that the man whose life was taken is pointless but what I'm trying to say is that crime exists everywhere. This island is a beautiful paradise and it's peoples home you know! If you don't like it then get the hell out of their land! It's not fair that so many locals get affected by this because there will be less jobs for them. I'm just hoping that the government and president will do something to maintain security in this beautiful place many people call home.

Lee - April 9, 2014 9:36 AM

we are going to have to stop at mahogany bay via carnival magic in a few weeks. we may not get off the boat after reading that our lives might be in danger. I cannot believe that with all the other safer places to stop, carnival still stops at this obviously dangerous place.

Bill - April 11, 2014 11:02 PM

People visit Chicago and consider it safe enen considering t hey have hundreds of murders there every year. I was in Roatan 2 weeks ago and I woukd retire there in a heartbeat!

Lena Dixon - April 25, 2014 2:22 PM

To all Readers out there !!

I am from Roatan and i have been keeping up with the articles that are being written up about the crimes in Roatan. Let me just inform to each of you readers out there.. everywhere there is a crime.. there is bombs.. there is anything wherever we go doesnt matter if we travel to Honduras or any other country in the world. But not all what tourist is talking and providing negative feedback towards our island is the truth.

So before anyone can sit down and actually critize the island for the crime we should also see what is happening in your country.

What ruins us the island people is the social networks ( Twitter / Facebook etc )everyone takes advantage and publics asap on the web.. meanwhile you never post any of your crimes back in the USA.. but the bombs? the school shootings? the murders? So before we can sit down and point of the negativeness of a country or place also take the time and reflect on the place you live!

Thank you

Courtney - May 15, 2014 5:54 PM

I just visted Roatan last week. My husband and I had a wonderful time~ I was with a guided tour but we had no issues and talked to some of the natives that said that the one or two robbies has effected the island immensly. I didnt feel unsafe there at all.

GTH - May 31, 2014 10:18 PM

I agree with Lena Dixon. I visit Roatan each year and feel safer than I do in my hometown of Houston that had in 2012, 217 murders, 665 rapes, 9,385 robberies, 11,343 assaults, 26,630 burglaries and 67,978 thefts. I choose to live here and feel safe, yet we are careful. We have had our share of noting a school shooting, stabbings and luckily no bombings. If I could I would live in Roatan and feel safer there than Houston. Lena your right, the ignorance of some to use social media to exaggerate the issues is just. If you are a world traveler, you understand the risk which has not changed in the last 40 years of my travels and you understand the culture of where you go. But at the same time every incident of crime noted should be investigated at its fullest potential. The rate of solving crimes in Roatan needs to improve and if the new mayor is successful in his plan of a crime free territory, this will improve the rate prosecution and deter future issues. I am sad to hear that this plan stops at Oakridge as we love the east end, which is what the west end was 20 years ago. Cruise Law Forum is a great resource I look at, but also all content posted must be evaluated for truth when reviewing comments.

Janet Mittleman - July 31, 2014 12:11 AM

I have been to Roatan 14 times for scuba diving. We have 4 friends who live there and all of them been robbed many times. One of them has had 12 home robberies to date. Another friend has four dogs and a guard 24 hours a day. We have never been robbed but we do not venture off the main road. Our last visit in April of 2014 a crew member of a cruise ship was killed. The resorts that we stay at all have armed guards. Even in the grocery store we go to has a guard with a machine gun. Do not be fooled into thinking that Roatan is safe.

Steve - August 15, 2014 1:43 PM

I have been to Roatan twice, and it was quite nice. With that being said, Both times were with Holland America, and the second time we did not leave the confines of Mahogany Bay Cruise terminal. As with most places you can cruise to, there WILL be crime. If that scares you, either stay on the ship, or stay in the Cruise owned port facilities. However, Some places are worth the risk of going on a ship sponsored excursion. Roatan has some of the most beautiful scuba/snorkeling spots on the planet. It would be a shame to miss something on the fairly rare chance that your group will be hit by criminals. Just be aware of your surroundings, travel with companions, and if any place looks sketchy, tell your group, and get somewhere safer. Crooks with machetes are no match for a lead foot on the accelerator!

lwparish - September 9, 2014 5:38 PM

Madame Marie, you are much too naïve to be travelling any farther than the corner store. I spent 3 weeks on Roatan 2 years ago, and never had any problem.

Lisa - November 26, 2014 5:09 PM

Just visited Roatan 2 weeks ago. Took a private guided tour of the entire island. It was fantastic. Never once felt unsafe.

Joey - December 5, 2014 8:13 PM

My second trip to the island and came back December 1 ,and everything was great !! No problems anywhere.

Deanna - December 9, 2014 5:30 AM

Lena you are delusional! Yes, everywhere has crime, but some at lower levels than others! Where I live there are 3 murders per 100,000 compared to the 75 in Honduras. There are also NO shootings or bombings. Some places in the world are actually safe, amazing huh...

Candy - December 31, 2014 12:14 AM

I too just came back from Honduras on the Norwegian Dawn cruise ship. We just got back on Dec 15, 2014. I was with 2 other females on this trip. We had heard of the murder of the crew member and were a little worried to go out and do anything. We ended up going to Mahogany Bay by taxi (20 minute ride) and had no problems. Honduras is NOT a safe place to walk around in. Just be careful and travel in groups, an always be aware of your surroundings. Not that this will definitely keep you safe but I guess thats a chance you take when you go to another country. Thank God we've never had any problems!

Stephanie - January 10, 2015 7:35 PM

Roatan is part of a third world country. In third world countries, you have to try and blend in. If you are arriving to our beautiful country and wearing expensive designer clothing, watches and lots of jewellery you will be targeted. If you are showing off your cameras, iphones or flashing money you will also be targeted. Many expats also come to the island and don't change so they also have problems. If you blend in, you don't have any problems. About creepy guys: get the heck out of there and don't let them scam you. For cruiseshipers: take guided tours. Vacationers: stay somewhere with armed guards.

Randy Hurley - January 25, 2015 12:15 AM

My wife & I have been to Roatan on 3 other occasions and have had very little problems. We stayed at Luna Beach with my son and daughter-in-law and had no problems. Then we stayed at Los Rocas with some friends and had some kid go through our beach stuff while we snorkelled. Some people on the beach scared him off, thanks to them! Then we went to Infinity Bay with my daughter and her friend. She had her iphone stolen at the bar 2 years ago. Morale of the story, only take what you're willing to loose! We are coming to Sunset Villa for 3 weeks in March and are looking forward to it. Be aware of your surroundings and don't go by yourself! We also will be back in 2 years to celebrate our 40th anniversary and my son & daughter-in-laws 10th. We love your island and hope you can remove these thugs that are the problem!

Leslie Funk - March 7, 2015 8:26 PM

We live in the northern part of the United States, and I primarily survive the menacing cold and snowy weather by dreaming of one day living on one of your beautiful islands. We watch every show regarding island living. My extent of knowledge considering island living is solely dependant on other people exploring the islands. The opinions of the people that have lived or visited these islands is a valuable source for others desiring to visit or live there. All that we ask is that the articles you post are honest and accurate. Possibly you could include articles or include proof of your accusations. I believe that some of you are truly concerned about the welfare and safety but it also appears that some of you are trying to scare us. I will continue to research and hopefully visit my most desired locations which include Roatan, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Panama Hawaii before we form our own opinions. It would be helpful if you didn't magnify undesirable situations due to your lack of good judgment. In ending, thank you for your useful information. Sincerely, Leslie Funk. One more thing, barring visiting family, why would any of you living in these beautiful areas ever vacation in the United States?

Joeel Zepeda - March 9, 2015 11:04 AM

Hey. Have you watched the news lately, Honduras is no longer in the top list of the world's most dangerous
countries. Anyway next month I'll be in West Bay enjoying life like the rich and famous. I live in one of the safest cities in the worl(New York) people gets kill here almost every day. I just don't get involved in illicit activities, avoid dangerous places and beware of my surroundings and the people around it. Cheers and don't worry be happy.

Tenisha Ortiz - April 13, 2015 1:17 PM

I've been to the island twice in 2013 I had a blast. One issue with a guy being to touchy but besides that it was an amazing experience and I want to go back!

Rowena - April 14, 2015 1:52 AM

I am thinking of becoming an expat in Roatan & would love to hear from others living there just what life is really like on the island, a single retired female safe there & where is the best neighbourhood to live in?

student63 - May 26, 2015 8:15 PM

My husband is a tug boat captain in the Merchant Marine. He has been tho many ports in the U.S., all over the Caribbean and south america they are especially bad areas. Much poverty, drugs, etc... so cruise shippers should stick to three rules. The guys don't even get get off the tug boat when in dock. We are leaving for a week in Roatan and won't be leaving our little area. Looking forward tho leaving all the technology at home.

Carina - July 13, 2015 3:44 PM

Just got back from a cruise where our last port was Roatan. Heeded the safety warnings & paid for an excursion via the cruise line to Pirate Bay at Las Palmas Beach "Resort", as did a handful of fellow passengers. One of our fellow passengers & I tried snorkeling, but found the water too shallow & too murky. Got out after he spied a PVC pipe going from the restrooms into the bay. The swimming area was roped off & was surprised to see how far out the roped area went. A kid asked his mom if he could swim out to the rope, but Told him no after I warned her that it was so far from shore that it could be dangerous.
Sadly, I was right. Not but an hour after I made that observation, an adult man drowned near the rope. It was the man's FAMILY who had to swim out to bring the man back to shore, which took up valuable time. By the time the paramedics and a doctor arrived, there was little anyone could do. The doctor didn't have what he needed to resuscitate the man and the EMS was poorly equipped - no monitors, AED, etc. This young family was robbed of their dad, not by thieves, but by having experienced a circumstance that may have been surviveable at home in a place where it wasn't.
There was no lifeguard or anyone else there to assist with any sort of water emergency. In fact, the only workers we could see at this so-called "resort" were a tour guide who sat at the bar talking on his cell phone the whole time, a bartender, a gift shop operator, & a waiter/beach attendant dressed like a pirate who ran around straightening up outdoor furniture on the beach in between taking & delivering food orders at the open-air restaurant. This family would've been better off at a public beach in Galveston, TX than at this "resort." They may not have had public toilets, lounge chairs, food or beverages at a Galveston beach, but they'd have had lifeguards every hundred yards or so & likely still had their loved one with them.

Michael - July 27, 2015 9:50 PM

Thanks to all who posted the warnings and experiences they've had. Often, people don't warn others, because of some delusional idea that the dangers are the equlivent of American cities and wanting to protect the local businesses. Being on a small island with violent crime targeted at tourists is Far Different than crime in the United States. There is a huge disparity between Dangerous parts of cities and the vast area's of America that are Normal and Safe. America also has the rule of law, which the majority of people observe and criminals fear enough to avoid most area's. American's can and will often help a victim and police are always close by. People have easy and safe transportation available. It's absurd to equate being safe in the vast majority of America and this island and country. Keep up being kind and informative to people who wouldn't have a idea of the dangers they will face there

Kimberly - August 13, 2015 10:16 AM

My family cruised on the Carnival Glory in 2007. We were supposed to go to Costa Maya, but it had been damaged by a hurricane, so we stopped at a new port, Roatan, instead. I will not go into the whole, long story, but I believe we were almost abducted, and had we not all gotten a very bad feeling and gotten out of the situation, we may not be alive today. It was absolutely beautiful, but absolutely terrifying.

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