Location: French Harbour, Roatan, Honduras
Overall: CoCo View is a resort that primarily caters to scuba divers. It is a small community of bungalows, cabanas and buildings on a secluded peninsula and not a traditional luxury resort with fancy restaurants and clubs. CoCo View has a very tropical feel, with flocks of Hummingbirds darting around, palm trees and other lush tropical greenery everywhere, and no cars at all. All of the bungalows and cabanas are directly on the water. Diving is sensational, with two walls and a wreck right off the resort beach (see map) and dozens of coral reef/wall dive sites reachable via dive boat within minutes.
Getting there: Getting to Roatan is fairly easy. It may be a peninsula off an island off mainland Honduras, but it's just a two and a half hour flight from Houston to Roatan island. And not in a small turboprop, but in a full-size plane.
Arrival/customs: On your flight you fill out customs documents. Upon arrival, depending on the crowd it can take a bit to make it past the immigration officials. If your luggage is marked with one of the hot pink CoCo View tags that you receive with your package, CoCo View staff will gather it together. Once through immigration, you also go through customs carry-on check, which is very fast. A CoCo View staff person meets and greets you and shows you to the airconditioned CoCo View bus.
When you leave, you're generally dropped off with plenty of time to spare. Depending on the time of day, you may have to wait quite a bit for the Continental staff to show up. You can use the time to pay the somewhat obnoxious exit tax (US$38 as of the end of 2012) and also get your paper work done with immigrations. That way you can get right to carry-on check after you get your luggage checked in. We've generally been lucky, but some folks get searched and checked pretty carefully.
Getting to the resort: The ride from the airport to CoCo View is about 20 minutes in the CoCo View bus. You see a colorful mix of American-style shopping strips, more modest local stores, corrugated steel covered huts, and driveways to mansion and resorts. Ask the driver to stop at a supermarket if you want to pick up snacks and such.
The ride ends at a large boathouse from where we're ferried to the actual resort, just a short way away across a still mangrove-rimmed lagoon, and yet so far from civilization. Once at the resort, you get a brief introduction from a staff person who also hands out forms and the usual disclaimers and waivers to sign.
General: CoCo View is a "self-contained" resort. It is secluded and totally secure, and unless you schedule a trip via boat and van/taxi, you do not leave the resort. I am not the partying type and was quite content with staying at the resort, especially since the clubhouse is a very cozy hangout and I was usually busy uploading my underwater pictures and just generally being too pooped from diving. The resort does organize a couple of BBQUEs and events every week, and so you never get bored. Below you can see some of the guestroom bungalows and cabanas on water. Yes, they have incredible sunsets.
Room: There are different styles of rooms at CoCo View, with a total of 26 generously sized guest rooms in all. Some experienced CoCo View guests recommend getting a room upstairs in one of the oceanfront concrete structures because they are cooler during the hottest months. We stayed at Cabana 2, one of four units in an all-wood cabana structure sitting on stilts on the water. The room was large, had two comfortable beds (a queen and a double), several fans, and plenty of US-type 110 Volt electrical outlets. There are plenty of lights. Water pressure was good and there was plenty of hot water. Contrary to an old rumor, the water in the CoCo View showers is NOT saltwater. Each room has a 5-gallon jug of filtered water for drinking or whatever else you want to use it for (the resort says the tap water is fine, but the implication is not to use it for drinking). There were enough towels (don't use them as beach towels; those you rent for US$5/week, with unlimited replacements.). There was no hair dryer, and there aren't the usual elaborate little toiletry kits, so bring your own shampoo. Our room did have a bottle of liquid soap, but I am not sure that was standard. The room had a coffee maker which I used every day. Try the local coffee instead of Maxwell House! A nice size covered balcony faces the sea; a great place to enjoy a starry night in the comfortable hammock.
The window air conditioner in our room was noisy but worked quite well. That was a blessing during our summer stays (July/August); on our winter trips (December) it rarely got too hot.
Clubhouse/Dining Room: The Clubhouse building serves as dining room, bar, hangout and, upstairs, conference/class room and hangout with a large flatscreen TV. It's a tropical looking rustic all-wooden structure that also has a ping-pong and dancing area, games, as well as a library/computer area. The Clubhouse used to be the focal point of the resort, but ever since WiFi became available in most guest rooms, it's become a lot quieter in there and at the bar.
Food: Full packages include breakfast, lunch and dinner. All meals are buffet-style. There is always a good diversity so that there is something for everyone. Food quality and taste are good, though down from earlier standards on our last visit December 2011. There is no soda machine, but you can help yourself to unlimited lemonade, water, coffee and ice tea (and lots of ice). If you want soda or beer with dinner, get it at the bar (Beer US$4, sodas US$2 -- prices have been going up). Make sure you get there on time or else the staff may have already closed the buffet.
Bar: The tropical-style bar is part of the diningroom/clubhouse. Beer, wine and alcoholic drinks are around three dollars (with the exception of the CoCoView special resort drink, the US$8 Monkey LaLa). Sodas are a buck and they all come in old-fashioned glass bottles, including old-style Coca Cola bottles. There's Fanta, Coca Cola and Coca Cola Light (different from Diet Coke), as well as "Tropical" grape and other sodas. The bar runs a tab. No bar tips as those are included in the summary tip paid at the end (see below).
Dive boats: CoCo View has a fleet of four or five sturdy dive boats. You sit along the sides, your tanks behind you, with a cubby below the seat. There is an area to soak cameras. Entry into the water is either at the back of the boat or on either side. To get back in, you either use the ladder at the back or re-enter through a shaft in the bottom of the boat. The boat has cold water and our crew usually offered sliced fresh pineapple. After the morning and afternoon dive to designated dize sites, the boats will drop you off at dive sites close to shore (usually Newman's Wall in the morning, CoCo View Wall in the afternoons). You can ask them to drop you off where you want to go.
Air: You get your own tanks or staff will automatically bring them to your locker. The boat crew will put your BC/tank on the boat for you (unless you signal not to with a wooden token). Air is included in the price of the dive package. If you want Nitrox, it's US$8 per tank or US$125 per week. Nitrox tanks must be checked for Oxygen percentage by divers, with the information entered into a logbook that's on the table in each boat's locker area. Each locker area has an oxygen sensor (ours was inaccurate). Nitrox divers are also responsible for putting a sticker with Nitrox info on their tanks. You can leave your dive gear in a locker/gearing-up area on the dock.
Weights: The resort has lead weights that you check out when you get there. You determine how much you need. There are plenty and they are available in pound increments.
Diving: CoCo View offers a nearly unbeatable combination of reef and wall diving. The location of the resort is unique. There are two walls (the CoCo View Wall and the Newman Wall) within reach. CoCo View Wall is within 140 yards from beach entry right in front of the CoCo View clubhouse where the water is almost always totally calm. It's shallow, too, and you can walk out to a small platform. From there it's between four and ten feet deep until the sandy bottom descends into a deeper channel between the two walls. The wreck of the Prince Albert, a 140 foot long hulking former tanker, lies in maybe 65 feet of water and so do the remnants of a DC3 airplane. Where else can you go dive a major wreck right from the beach?
The CoCo View dive schedule consist of two boat trips every day. The boats usually leave at 8:30AM for a dive site that's anywhere from five minutes to half an hour away. You never go too far from the shore as the reefs and walls are close. Each dive boat has a captain and a dive master. The dive master explains each dive, points out interesting things during the dive, and makes sure no one gets lost. Dives are usually an hour. For the second dive of a boat trip, the captain will drop you off at one of the walls close to the resort, or over the wreck. In the afternoons, the boat leaves at 2:00PM, again doing one dive site and a drop-off dive. Most dives consist of a drop off on the reef at depths between 25 and 45 feet and then excursions along walls that can drop down from dozens to many hundreds of feet. Visibility varies from very good to a bit murky, and it can change very quickly depending on where you go. Along the walls it is usually good to excellent, and on the reefs as well. In the channel between the two walls, where the wreck of the Prince Albert lays, visibility changes almost on an hourly basis. Most often, CoCo View sites have between 60 and 80 feet visibility.
For beach night dives, the protocol at CoCo View is that a flashing strobe must be attached high above the bottom on the "front yard" buoy mooring chain. The first diver who goes out must take the strobe and attach it. Each subsequent diver signs for and takes a numbered tag that must be clipped onto the chain. That way everyone knows divers are out there. Upon return, the last diver retrieves the strobe and brings it back in.
Shark dive: You can sign up for a shark dive organized by a couple of Italian divemasters who run Waihuka Diving Adventures. The dive site they boat their daring customers to is called "Cara a Cara" -- Spanish for Face-to-Face. You go down a line to about 70 feet where you stand or sit against a cliff. Shark feed operations use chum buckets full of stuff that sharks like and the local sharks know the routine. Once the dinner bell is rung, Caribbean Reef Sharks appear in a hurry and do get into the feeding frenzy you see in TV documentaries. However, they have no interest whatsoever in the divers, just the food in the chum bucket. Divers are allowed to circle around the whole scene. Once the chum is gone, the sharks leave. The whole thing is recorded on video and participants can buy a DVD.
Fish and other sea life: This is diving in Caribbean waters on a shallow reef system and along walls that can drop down anywhere from a few dozen feet to the next ledge or several hundred feet. It is a macro photographer's dream. You will see a lot of small fish -- jaw fish, damsels, butterfly fish, chromis or hamlets. Somewhat larger are the angel fish, parrot fish, groupers and many more. You may also encounter the occasional octopus, sea horse, barracuda, scorpion fish and spiny lobster. There are schools of spade fish, jacks and sometimes, right off CoCo View resort by the wreck, squid. We didn't see too many pelagics, though it always pays to keep your eyes open when you're swimming along a wall and peruse the open ocean. The squid below were part of a school that endlessly circled around in the channel by the wreck of the Prince Albert (photo taken with a SeaLife DC800)
Dolphins and other extra activities: You can book a trip to go see dolphins (dive, snorkel, do an encounter), zip-line through the tropical forest, take an island tour, get on a seaplane flight, or go shopping. We didn't do any of this (this time) -- too busy diving.
Electricity: CoCo View gets its electricity from the island's grid and has backup generators. We were warned that electricity frequently goes out, but we never had a problem. I was told that the electricity had gone out one night for two or three hours, but I slept through it. Else, no brownouts or glitches of any kind.
- The Dockside Dive Shop is a PADI 5-star facility. It has a good variety of whatever one might need. The shop contains an independently run area for photography and video where you can get supplies, rent equipment, and sign up for classes. The shop runs a tab for your room. The tab must be paid the day you depart, separately from the bill.
- There is a weight/exercise room that has the best air conditioning in all of the resort. If you ever get hot, go to the exercise room to cool off.
- An American-style soda machine would be great, but there isn't one anywhere.
- The Hitchin Post is a small snack shop midway between the resort and the Playa Miguel beach houses that has all sorts of snacks as well as ice cream and munchies.
- CoCo View has a small, centrally located shop adjacent to the office. It has a little bit of everything, from snacks and drinks (including some alcohol) to a nice cross section of mementos and souvenirs of all kinds. Some represent the arts of the islands and the prices are often lower than what one would pay from one of the visiting vendors.
Office: The office is centrally located and a good place to stop by because it has great air-conditioning. It's very informal and they have answers for everything and also advice. Everyone speaks English.
Computers/Internet: The resort has a number of wireless Access Points for guest internet access. A public access computer is located in the dining room. Coverage of the access points is now far enough to reach many guest rooms, but internet access is still quite slow and often sporadic. Sometimes it works well, other times it's unavailable for hours.
Cellphones: US cellphones don't work. There is an island cellphone system, but I wasn't able to figure out what it supports. Email, therefore, is via web within the proximity of the wireless Access Point.
BBQs: The resort generally has at least one lunch and one dinner BBQ-style on a small island at the tip of the CoCoView resort peninsula. It's connected via walkways over water. There is a bar structure and seating under trees.
Security: The resort is secluded and can only be reach via boat. There is good lighting and security patrols the resort at night. It is, and feels, safe at all times. Each room has a small wooden lockbox for valuables. Rooms have old-style keys that you can either take with you on the boat or drop off at the office. We sometimes left the key in our open locker at the dock, and often we simply left the room unlocked (yes, it feels that secure).
Vendors: Most days one or more vendors come to CoCoView and exhibit their arts and crafts in the area outside the dining room/clubhouse. Most of it is jewelry and smaller items made by local artisans including black coral items, decorated and painted wooden boxes, embroidery, etc. Most speak passable English. Payment is in dollars and some accept credit cards. Prices are generally reasonable, but it pays to negotiate a deal. Keep a degree of skepticism so as not to overpay.
Cost: Anytime you go an a week's worth of vacation it adds up but I feel the trip was well worth it. In 2008, staying at Cabana C2 from Saturday to Saturday cost US$1,900 plus US$300 hotel tax for the two of us, or about US$1,100 per person. That included the very cool cabana room, all meals (including a barbeque and picnic), all diving including air. For us, airfare from Sacramento on Continental added about US$750 per person. We used Nitrox, so that cost US$120 extra per person. And then there were US$300 in tips, the bar tab, and the money we spent in the dive shop. In December 2011, the same cabana C2 cost US$1,100/person per week plus hotel tax. In December 2012, cabana C6 cost US$1,200/person per week plus (the rather high Honduran) hotel tax.
Tips: The resort recommends a 10-15% tip based on guests' cost of staying at CoCoView. So if the room/meals/diving total is US$2,000, the suggested tip is about US$200-300. You can pick up envelopes in the office for tips. There are envelopes marked "general" and "special." They are unmarked. No one sees how much of a tip you leave or who it is from. The money in the "general" envelope is being divided among all staff except the dive master and the boat captain. Those you tip separately. Carol suggested US$10 per day each for the captain and the dive master. Tips are usually paid in bills, but you can also charge gratuities.
Bottom Line: CoCo View is a unique diver's resort on the Honduran island of Roatan with 26 guest rooms in cabanas, bungalows (on the water) and beachside buildings. It is secluded and rustic, and has just the right combination of modern amenities and tropical charm. It has its own dive shop, five comfortable dive boats, store, and recreational facilities, but no conventional restaurants or clubs. Shore diving includes two walls and a large wreck, and there are dozens of coral reef/wall dive sites reachable within minutes via dive boat. Staff is friendly and competent, and the buffet-style food is good and plentiful. CoCo View boasts a very high number of returning guests, and we can see why.