The U.S. State Department yesterday updated its travel advisory to Honduras, stating that the level of kidnapping, crime, and violence in Honduras remains “critically high.” (this warning supersedes the last warning in October 2015).

The warning states that “criminal activity is a serious problem throughout the country and the Government of Honduras lacks sufficient resources to properly respond to, investigate, and prosecute cases. As a result, criminals operate with a high degree of impunity throughout Honduras.”

Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world (it’s homicide rate was 60 per 100,000 in 2015; in comparison, the U.S. rate is around 4.5 per 100,000). The warning further states that the U.S. Embassy recorded 37 murders of U.S. citizens since 2011, with three recorded since January 2016.

Cruise Roatan

Many tourist-dependent businesses and U.S. and Canadian expatriates on Roatan claim that the island is generally safe. The hotels, resorts, bars and dive-shops advertise Roatan as an idyllic, tropical, get-a-way vacation paradise. The State Department warning acknowledges that the islands are generally safer than the mainland of Honduras, but the crime is still higher than what most U.S. passengers would face at home.  The warning contains specific warning about Roatan:

“Roatan & Bay Islands: Roatan and the Bay Islands experience lower crime rates than the Honduran mainland. While the national government of Honduras, Roatan authorities, and businesses took measures in 2014 to improve tourism security, thefts, break-ins, assaults, rapes, and murders do occur. You should exercise caution, especially at night. If staying at a hotel resort, book tours and sightseeing through the resort or reputable tour companies. Coxen Hole on the island of Roatan should be avoided after dark.

If you are on a shore excursion from a cruise ship, take care to book only with reputable tour companies during your stopover in Honduras. The port agencies at Mahogany Bay and Towne Center have worked to improve taxi service to and from the ports.”

The warning’s refers to 2014 because a NCL crew member was shot and killed near the port that year. The Filipino crew member worked on the Norwegian Pearl. Previously in 2014, a number of tourists, including a mother and her two boys from a Royal Caribbean ship, were robbed at gunpoint while taking a private trip to the beach. Earlier in 2014, a family in a rental car with their three children vacationing on a Carnival cruise ship stopping in Roatan were shot at and robbed.

One of the problems with Honduras is it is a key player in the international drug trade. The warning explains that “transnational criminal organizations conduct narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout the country and use violence to control drug trafficking routes and carry out criminal activity.”

Roatan has long been considered one of Honduras’ “narco-islands.”

There have been several instances where crew members from Honduras have been arrested trying to smuggle drugs on cruise ships, like this arrest in Roatan of a NCL crew member from the Norwegian Dream last year. Last year also saw five NCL galley workers from the Norwegian Sun arrested in Tampa when the cruise returned from Roatan where the crew members picked up cocaine. In 2014, police officers in Brazil arrested several Honduran crew members after finding 333 bags of cocaine weighing 100 pounds on the M/S Empress, owned by Royal Caribbean and operated at the time by the Royal Caribbean brand Pullmantur.

Roatan has been home to a notorious list of major drug intermediaries who launder money by purchasing properties on the island. Members of the “Los Cachiros“ drug trafficking ring were arrested and numerous properties in Roatan were seized several years ago.  In 2014, a drug trafficker with connections to Colombia, Carlos Arnoldo Lobo, alias “El Negro, was arrested and millions of dollars in bank accounts and numerous of his properties in Roatan were seized.   Earlier this year, Mexican drug kingpin El Chapo’s’ “Honduras henchman” Franco “The Wizard” Daniel Lombardi, the financial operator of the Sinaloa Cartel in Honduras, was arrested and many of his properties in Roatan were seized.

The January 2014 New York Times article Security Concerns on a Honduran Island indicates that the U.S. State Department has warned since at least December 2013 that the “level of crime and violence in Honduras remains critically high.”

If you travel or cruise to Roatan, the Times’ article suggests visitors:

  • not to walk alone on the stretch of beach between West Bay and West End;
  • avoid unpaved roads to the beach;
  • avoid Coxen Hole after dark; and
  • stick to the island’s main road unless you’re with a group.

Photo credit: Jim Walker

  • Skywalker

    THe truth of the matter, yes everywhere you go in the world you may experience crime;however, nowhere is crime hidden more like Honduras. 2017 and police officers are involved in crime, judges and lawyers. The judges use selected lawyers as puppets to get money from Americans and rich locals or people just moved to Honduras or islands. In San Pedro Sula people are terrified to go dancing places because there is hardly any choices since all are control by gangs MS18, 8 Francisco Escobar-Orellana and other gangs. People are in costant fear in both cities Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. Notice all the citizens know the WAR TAX, means you pay taxes to the gangters if you have a business. Depends where you leave you pay the amount that corresponds to the Gang or MARA 18 or 8 or whichever controls the area. I know of many who had been killed for not paying the war tax.
    In Roatan who control the Gang or MARA are all the judges along with franco lombardi, Richard Koliski (El TIO), Kevin Wesley, David Dashner Owners of Grand Roatan resort, some members of the Magna family and others who are controlled by them like some lawyers like Melvin Rosales (el oso feo), Gustavo Amaya who are members along with other lawyers. In addition, the brothers Kork Anderson and Antonio Oscarealis Wrist Lucas, who come from Roatan, the main enclave of the Bay Islands. “Israel intelligence unit mentioned the island is going from bad to worse since at night the bad guys steal in the houses and properties and in the days the national police take away the licenses of US, Canada drivers licences to get money from tourist.” In the island many crimes and murders are hidden by the media in fear of the economy of Roatan since tourist is the main source of the island economy.
    The island is a beautiful paradise in the Caribean and has the must beautiful mountains and coral reef in the planet. The only solution to the problem in cities like Tegus and Sand pedro Sula is to find honest hard working people who would not corrupt the system. There was toys put in many places in parts of Honduras to see if local kids would take them for posession or steal them. They found must all toys was stolen from all locations. The problem we can learn in Honduras is very alarming. We believe honesty and morals need to be tought in schools and at home to slow the house of corruption in Honduras.
    Rosa Danelia Hendrix, president of the Federation of Bay Islands Village Councils (Patronatos), told them in the islands were “inundated” with crime and corruption and “spiritually lost.” She called for better pay for police, judges and prosecutors and for police who are committed to and understand the community and the few who fear and love God.
    NOTE :2018 stayaway from westbay make sure all bedbugs problems are checked by inspectors. Inspectors had many complaints but never posted in Tripadvisor since is paid by Hotels.