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Last Updated on July 25, 2023 by Madison Krigbaum
My year living in Roatan brought lifelong friends, a new disdain for store-bought tortillas and a killer tan. It also opened my eyes to a whole new world alive underwater on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. After my PADI Open Water course with Sun Divers Roatan Dive Center, I fell head over heels in love with scuba diving.
The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere – spanning 700 miles from the Yucatan Peninsula to the Honduran Bay Islands. And, although there are tons of exciting things to do in Roatan, scuba diving takes the cake as the #1 driver of tourism in the region.
Whether you’re already an avid scuba diver, or you’re just thinking about “dipping your toe in” (pun intended 😜), you’ll want to choose a Roatan dive center you can trust. This means choosing a top-rated PADI 5-Star dive center that…
- Follows proper safety protocols
- Is knowledgeable about the local dive sites
- Only rents out top-of-the-line equipment
- Keeps sustainability top-of-mind
- Gives back to the local community
- Offers you incredible memories to last a lifetime
And it doesn’t hurt that they’re located across the street from one of my favorite restaurants in Roatan for baleadas, Yahongreh! I started diving with Sun Divers Roatan Dive Center during my first month in Roatan…and never looked back! Keep reading for my experience with my Open Water and Advanced PADI courses, fun diving, night diving and more about Sun Divers Roatan.
Meet the Owners of Sun Divers: Natalie & Shannon!
Since their early days of dating, Natalie and Shannon had a dream of leaving the corporate world and running an eco-dive center to pursue their three passions: the diving community, marine conservation and the Latin Caribbean culture.
When the Coronavirus pandemic hit, they decided to turn their dreams into action. They packed up their home in Colorado and moved from the Rockies to Roatan, Honduras – where they purchased Sun Divers dive shop, smack dab in the middle of West End. They have been featured in major publications like The New York Times and Forbes, and are taking huge strides to give back to the local community and the marine ecosystem. Read their story below!
The Story Behind Sun Divers Roatan Dive Center:
“Shannon grew up diving off of the coast in Florida and always maintained a role as a scuba diving instructor even while he pursued his professional career in media & events. He always had a dream of owning his own dive center on an island, and shared that with me on one of our first dates. I hadn’t dived yet, but was in love with the ocean and grew up on the beaches of SoCal. Once I took my first breath underwater, I was completely hooked and began to share his dream.
Over the course of almost a decade, life and careers continued to progress, but “the dream” was always a topic of conversation. I think, like many people, I felt the toll of burnout culture and was tired of working so hard for other people’s visions. So, we finally decided to stop just talking and to start acting– even having “dream planning” dates and using vacations as site visits for where our future home and business might be.
Roatan was last on the list and I guess you can say we saved the best for last!
In addition to the epic diving, Roatan was our top choice because of its vibrant mix of cultures, close-knit community and abundance of natural beauty without an immense amount of commercial development.”
Giving Back to the Roatan Community
Since taking over the Roatan dive center in January of 2021, Natalie and Shannon have transformed Sun Divers into more than just a dive shop. Under their ownership, Sun Divers has become a community pillar of adventure, philanthropy and marine conservation.
Take a look below at some of the cool projects they’re involved in. Besides offering amazing diving of course!
🎗️ Sun Divers’ latest Accomplishments in Philanthropy and Sustainability:
- Proud sponsor of the Roatan Marine Park – Natalie was just elected to their Board of Directors
- Hosting coral spawning monitoring dives (which their customers were able to volunteer for)
- Donating the use of their boats, tanks and captain’s time to the Roatan Marine Park’s conservation dives (CoralMania and Coral Spawning Monitoring)
- Connecting Roatan locals to scuba diving and professional pathways through their ROA GIRLS DIVE Scholarship program (in partnership with the Roatan Peer Health Exchange). They are on their way to certifying 14 local girls in Spring of 2023!
- Providing scuba certification pro-bono for staff of the Bay Islands Conservation Association (BICA)
- Proud winner of the the Golden Buoy thanks to the success of their 6th Annual Golf Tournament benefiting the SOL Foundation
“While we’re proud of chasing down our dreams of island living and being our own bosses, the real reward comes when we look at the community of divers we’ve nurtured, the team we’ve built and the small, but meaningful waves of impact we’ve been able to make on Roatan.” – Natalie
PADI Courses with Sun Divers Dive Shop
Before moving to Roatan I didn’t have much interest in scuba diving. I had always loved the ocean, but scuba diving was never something I was dying to get involved in.
However, I knew I couldn’t move to a diving destination without trying scuba out for myself. I booked a Discover Scuba Diving experience with Sun Divers Roatan Dive Center…and the rest was history! I earned my Open Water Diver certification and, a year later, finished my PADI Advanced certification – solidifying my love of Roatan scuba diving.
If you’re itching to start scuba diving in Roatan, but have yet to earn your PADI Open Water certification, Sun Divers is the perfect Roatan dive center to learn how to scuba Roatan in a safe, social and welcoming environment. They offer the following courses at their West End PADI dive location…
📚 Which Sun Divers PADI DIve Course is Right for You?
- Discover Scuba Diving: Perfect for those curious about scuba diving who want to give it a try before committing to the Open Water certification.
- Open Water 1: Upgrade your Discover Scuba Diving course to Open Water 1 to gain credit towards your Open Water certification.
- Open Water Diver: Get your PADI in Honduras diving Roatan with the Open Water Diver Course. Afterwards, you’ll be certified to dive to 60 feet.
- Advanced Open Water: Fine-tune your diving skills with the Sun Divers Advanced Open Water Course. Deep Diving and Underwater Navigation Adventure are required, but you can select the last three skills. Choose between Peak Performance Buoyancy, Night Diver, Underwater Photography, Drift Diver and Fish Identification.
- PADI Rescue Diver: Perfect for Advanced Divers who want to learn more about preventing and handling diving-related emergencies.
- Emergency First Response: This course uses role playing scenarios to provide care in a medical emergency until professionals arrive on the scene. You must complete the PADI Rescue Diver course before EFR.
- Divemaster Internship: Looking to turn your passion for scuba diving into a career? This multi-week course will cover theory, skills, standards and safety protocols on your way to becoming a PADI Pro.
The Sun Divers Fun Diving Experience
Once you’ve completed the necessary certifications, it’s time for the fun part! Have you ever wondered why diving in Roatan Honduras is so popular? It’s because the diving is 👏🏼 just 👏🏼 that 👏🏼 good.
Roatan divers are rewarded with crystal-clear visibility (most days), flourishing coral reefs, warm waters and countless exciting marine sightings – like sea turtles, moray eels, nurse sharks, eagle rays, seahorses and more. In the world of Roatan diving, 2023 has been a lucky year. Earlier in March, the Roatan dive shops were graced with pilot whales, a pod of dolphins in Half Moon Bay and even a whale shark in the shallow waters of Sandy Bay!
During my time on the island, I took full advantage of fun diving with Sun Divers Roatan Dive Center. Not sure what to expect? Keep reading for a full recap of exactly what a day of scuba diving Roatan looks like.
Before the Dive
The morning 2-tank dives at Sun Divers start around 8:15AM. If you’ve never been diving with Sun Divers Roatan, they’ll ask you to swing by the shop the day before to get your equipment needs squared away. They’ll also give you a quick tour of the dive center’s amenities.
Once you’re geared up and ready to go, it’s time to head out to one of Sun Divers’ trusty dive boats. You’ll either board the Mama Lili (pictured below) or the Katie Bell. Both boats are customized for comfort and speed!
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Mention this blog post when you book your dives with Sun Divers and receive FREE rental gear with your booking!
During the Dive – The Best Roatan Dive Sites
During my most recent adventure with Sun Divers Roatan Dive Center, we visited Mandy’s Eel Garden, Lighthouse and Hole in the Wall. Patrick Stash – known as a great sea turtle spotting site – was also on the agenda for that day. However, due to an unfortunate sunscreen + salt water-in-the-eyes incident, I had to sit that one out.
💡 Pro Tip:
Do not put sunscreen on your eyelids before scuba diving. You will immediately regret it and will probably have to spend the afternoon flushing out your eyes instead of diving. Be sure any sunscreen you use before a dive is mineral based and reef-safe!
Roatan is filled with amazing dive sites! Whether you’re a brand new Open Water Diver looking for a shallow dive with crystal-clear water and lots of turtles, or you’re a seasoned veteran on your 100th dive looking to dive some of Roatan’s deepest wrecks – the Sun Divers pros are guaranteed to recommend the best Roatan dive sites for you. Below you’ll find some of the best dive sites in Roatan – organized by the dive type and required skill level.
Wall Dives in R0atan:
With depths ranging from 20-100 feet, these wall dives are accessible for divers of all levels.
- West End Wall, Cemetery Wall, Divemaster’s Choice to Dixies, Mandy’s Eel Garden
Drift Dives in Roatan:
Since Roatan is blessed with moderate currents and calm surface conditions, drift dives are available for beginner divers as well as advanced divers.
- Pablo’s Place, Texas, Lighthouse, Divemaster’s Choice, Fish Den
Canyons and Swim Thrus in Roatan:
Roatan’s dive sites are filled with exciting challenges like overhangs, cracks, canyons, deep channels and ravines for divers to swim through. However, be conscious that swim throughs require excellent buoyancy control. If you’re new to scuba diving, don’t attempt to swim through small cracks or narrow canyons. It’s very possible that you might hit and damage the reef.
- Hole in the Wall, Blue Channel, Canyon Reef, Spooky Channel, Bears Den
Macro Dives in Roatan:
Although everyone loves spotting the big stuff – turtles, sharks, rays, etc. – some of the most fascinating creatures on the reef are harder to spot. These dive sites are the place to go slow and pick apart the reef with sharp eyes. You might be lucky enough to spot a nudibranch, seahorse or cleaner shrimps.
- Blue Channel, Butcher’s Bank, Mandy’s Eel Garden
Wreck Dives in Roatan:
Diving El Aguila (The Eagle) shipwreck in Roatan was one of my favorite diving experiences to date. Located off the coast of Sandy Bay, this wreck sits at a depth of 110 feet – meaning it’s only accessible to Advanced Scuba Divers. I saw my first (and only) seahorse here!
- El Aguila, The Odyssey, Prince Albert, Mr. Bud
Unique Dive Experiences Offered by Sun Divers Roatan
Besides the usual morning 2-tank dives and afternoon 1-tank dives, Sun Divers offers plenty of unique dive experiences in Roatan. If weather permits, consider embarking on a land and sea tour to Cayos Cochinos. This day trip includes two dives, a traditional lunch in the Garifuna Fishing Village and the Cayos park fees. If you’re lucky, you might see dolphins on the way! 🐬
Sun Divers also offers a shark dive, a Seamounts day trip 18 miles off the coast of Roatan and a Southside trip to Mary’s Place to dive a deep extended crack that was formed by volcanic activity. They can also accommodate divers coming from the cruise ships and are happy to work within your port schedule.
Francesca DeWeerdt: Sun Divers Underwater Videographer
To capture the beauty of Roatan Honduras diving, many dive shops in Roatan hire professional underwater photographers. However, Sun Divers Roatan Dive Center is the only dive center to offer a professional videographer – and her talent is obvious. Just check out the Sun Divers Instagram page.
Diving with Francesca DeWeerdt and witnessing her film Roatan’s underwater world was a new and exciting experience for me. Although I’ve been on almost 40 dives in three different countries, I’ve only ever been accompanied by GoPros which, let’s be honest, at 60 feet don’t really cut it. Francesca is the mastermind behind all of the videos you see embedded in this blog post!
“Hi! My name is Francesca and I am an underwater videographer, specializing in capturing ocean wildlife and scuba divers. Currently living in Roatan, Honduras I feel lucky to get to capture all the epic life in the worlds second largest barrier reef every day. I love being able to go out with scuba divers and capture them experiencing the amazing dives here. Come dive with me at Sun Divers!” – Francesca
👩🏽 See More from FRANCESCA!
Book your Dives with Sun Divers Roatan Dive Center
While I lived on the island, I experienced diving with some of the best dive shops in Roatan. If you’re looking for a dive shop that’s 100% trustworthy, prioritizes safety protocols and is able to help you create underwater memories to last a lifetime – I can’t recommend Sun Divers highly enough.
Sun Divers is located in the middle of West End, past the Coconut Tree Divers intersection and next to everyone’s favorite beach bar – Sundowners. If you have any questions regarding dive sites, schedules, special accommodations and more – get in touch with Natalie and Shannon via the contact page on their website or send an email to [email protected].
Ready to book your next dives with Sun Divers Island Diving Center in Roatan? Click the button below!
🤿 Exclusive Offer for Madison’s Footsteps Readers!
Mention this blog post when you book your dives with Sun Divers and receive FREE rental gear with your booking!
Scuba Diving in Roatan FAQS:
A: Roatan is a great place to scuba dive because it’s one of the most beautiful stretches of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. Roatan diving prices and Roatan scuba diving packages are also much less expensive than other islands in the Caribbean. Many Roatan dive centers offer “Dive & Stay” packages that allow divers to bundle-and-save during their dive vacation.
A: So why do people enjoy scuba diving? Most people find scuba diving interesting because of the wide variety of marine life you’re able to observe in their natural habitat. Although you can observe the marine ecosystem while snorkeling, it’s not the same as when you’re able to dive down to depths of 30-130 feet. At these depths, you’re able to discover marine life like you’ve never seen it before.
Additionally, scuba diving gives you a feeling of weightlessness. Many people find the sensation of swimming deeply underwater calming. It provides a welcome escape into an underwater world.
A: Scuba diving is considered safe for recreational divers at any depth up to 130 feet (the recreational depth limit) as long as divers have the proper training, are following safety protocols (including pre-dive safety checks) and are using appropriate equipment.
Divers experience the greatest change in atmospheric pressure between sea level and 33 feet, which means extra focus should be given on the descent and ascent in this depth range. When descending, be sure to equalize early and often to reduce the risk of pressure-related injuries. When ascending, be sure to manage your ascent rate (no faster than 60 feet per minute) and do a 3-minute safety stop at 15 feet.
A: Most dive shops in Roatan Honduras do not recommend diving with a cold. It can put a diver at risk for a reverse squeeze, which can cause sinus barotrauma. Some people will recommend taking a decongestant before diving. However, this can be a risky move as decongestants can wear off during the dive.
A: If you can’t pop your ears on the surface, it’s usually a good indicator that you will not be able to equalize when descending on a dive. To be safe, you should consider getting your ears checked before diving.
A: If you are a bad swimmer or afraid of the ocean, you might find scuba diving scary. Since it is considered an extreme sport, it’s not irrational to be afraid of marine life (sharks being the prime example), accidents or lack of control.
It’s completely normal to be a bit nervous before your first scuba dive. However, it’s important to learn and follow all safety procedures, dive with a reputable dive shop and remember that marine animals are much more afraid of you than you are of them. If you follow the rules, scuba diving is completely safe!
Like everything else, practice makes perfect. Practice working with your equipment in the pool before making your way to the ocean. Voice all of your safety concerns/questions to your scuba instructor before your first dive. If scuba diving is on your bucket list, don’t let your fear stop you from experiencing one of life’s most amazing adventures.
A: Scuba diving at night is not only safe, it’s incredibly exciting! When you embark on a night dive with Sun Divers, you’ll have the opportunity to observe marine life that is usually tucked away during the day. Common sightings on night dives are crabs, lobsters, octopus, squid and free-swimming moray eels.
Roatan is also one of the only places you can observe the bioluminescent phenomenon known as the String of Pearls. If you’ve never experienced a night dive before, Sun Divers will take you on what is called a “Night Adventure Dive.” Before the dive, you’ll be trained on proper night diving skills and the dive will count towards your PADI Advanced Open Water Diver and/or Night Diver Specialty certification.
A: Depending on where you are, scuba diving can be a very expensive sport. However, dive shops in Roatan are extremely affordable compared to the rest of the Caribbean. Most PADI dive shops in Roatan Honduras charge $30-40 per dive, but you can save money when you purchase a diving package.
It can be expensive to buy your own scuba gear. However, if you’re a recreational diver only, there’s really no need. You can easily rent gear from all dive centers in Roatan, including wetsuits, BCD, fins, masks and even dive computers and GoPros.
A: There are many ways to turn your love for scuba diving into a career! The most obvious career path is to become a dive instructor or a divemaster guide. You could also consider going into underwater photography or videography, scientific research, ocean conservation or public safety diving.
If you enjoyed this blog post about my experience diving with Sun Divers Island Diving Center in Roatan, you may enjoy the related posts below…