Review of Paya Bay Clothing Optional Resort in Roatan, Honduras
This month Jordan and I made our winter escape to a clothing-optional resort in Roatan called Paya Bay. Roatan is a small island on the Caribbean Sea in Central America. It’s part of Honduras, with about 42 miles of water separating it from the main land (a 60 – 90 minute ferry ride away).
Roatan does have its own small airport that makes it easy to get to, though not every U.S. airport has direct flights. To and from New York, we had a short layover in Atlanta, Georgia. It was also a much longer and more expensive flight to go on any day but Saturday, so we ended up making it a full week long getaway.
I’d had my eye on Paya Bay since 2013. I don’t remember where I’d first heard about it, but the resort just looked beautiful, so I bookmarked it. This winter we contacted them and almost didn’t go because they were slow to respond (busy holiday times cited as the reason). But we got our room and booked the trip!
The airport is on the western side of the island while Pay Bay is out east. The west side is where cruise ships dock and where most of the tourists congregate. We didn’t see it ourselves, but we heard there is a shopping area, bars and restaurants like at any other Caribbean port city.
There are also many dive shops on the west end, as well as throughout the island. Roatan is a popular destination for scuba divers and known for its impressive coral reef (it has the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world – Mesoamerican Barrier Reef).
Paya Bay is about a 45 minute drive from the airport. The resort sent a driver to pick us up ($35 – not bad). There is one main road going through the island and it’s smooth up until the last leg of the trip… For those last 20 minutes, you’re on an unpaved road with lots of potholes and a few speed bumps (and a few cows!).
Upon arrival we were greeted at the front desk with two cold glasses of fresh juice. The reception is located within the restaurant. We checked in and were led to our room, just a short walk away.
We had a cliffside room and balcony overlooking the sea, with the constant sound of waves crashing 10 or 15 feet below. There was a queen size bed, A/C, a small refrigerator, big screen TV (didn’t use it once), table and chairs. A narrow closet gave us room to store our bags and hang up clothing (yeah we needed that, too).
On top of the fridge was a tray holding a coffee pot, hot water maker, tea bags and coffee. Tea and coffee was always available in the restaurant, so we never used it. The fridge had bottled water (gratis), but be eco-friendly and bring reusable water bottles! They’re easy to refill at the restaurant water fountain.
The room was lovely, and I thought we had it really good until I saw a “Hilltop” room. These are more spacious and a little more luxurious with lots of natural light, a king-size bed and open shower stall. I still liked sitting right above the sea in our little cliff room though.
While they differed in appearance, we confirmed that all showers put out zero water pressure at times. This didn’t bother me much, but Jordan found it a bit annoying.
I was impressed that they not only had WiFi, but had a couple different hot-spots on the grounds. It worked well everywhere except in my own room. There I had issues like every time I opened the Instagram app, it would log me out (maybe it was trying to tell me to quit the evil Instagram). We had a solid connection at the restaurant and beach-side bar. And the bar hotspot meant we even had WiFi on the beach itself.
Here’s the deal with being naked: Starting about 4 years ago, Paya Bay decided to become a naturist / clothing-optional place. The resort is owned and operated by a whole family of islanders, and we understand it was one of the sons who wanted to make it naturist. So they designate chunks of the calendar as “naturist” weeks. This is when most of the resort is clothing-optional, and they’ll offer naked yoga and a (potentially) naked snorkeling trip. Otherwise the theme of the week might be “romance” or “mystical,” which is especially for yogis. But naturists are also welcome during a “mystical” week.
The only places where we couldn’t be naked were the restaurant and entire beachfront leading into the resort. The latter wasn’t an issue, as we had plenty of beach further in. As for the restaurant, it was a little annoying to have to get dressed for meals (even in just a sarong). Plus, there’s outdoor seating right next to the water with a steady sea breeze, sunny areas and hammocks. That’s when it seems even more pointless to be clothed at all.
We gathered that the reason for this is they like to cater to day guests who may not be naturists or comfortable with a clothing-optional setting.
We would concur with other naturist guest reviewers that it’d be grand if they would also serve food at the bar on the nude beach.
For food options, you can do all-inclusive or “bed-and-breakfast.” We chose B&B and paid for lunch / dinners separately, and we were happy with this. At breakfast we had a nice buffet, and they changed it up a little bit every morning.
There was always fresh fruit (watermelon, pineapple, papaya, cantaloupe), cereals (dry or oatmeal), eggs / omelet station, and toast or bagels. I especially liked the mango jam for toast. Then there was a hot tray that changed daily. Over the course of our mornings there, they had French toast, island cakes, pancakes, bacon, ham, latkes (potato pancakes) and more.
On the drinks table there was coffee, an array of teas, and one type of fresh juice (watermelon, pineapple, orange, etc).
Lunch and dinner were A la carte, same carte for both. The entree prices ranged from $8 to $18 or so. There were sandwiches, burgers, pasta, chicken, and fish dinners. I ate only vegetarian and while it was good, I wish there’d been more than 4 or 5 options. For brevity, my food grades: homemade veggie burger: A+, fries: B+, hummas pita: B-, pasta primavera: A- .
Most nights there was a dinner special, usually seafood (like lobster) or meat. For desserts, we tried the key lime pie (B+) and cheesecake (A+).
At our first meal, a friendly black iguana (who we named Buddy) about the length of a shoe box showed up on the deck. We fed him a french fry (I know that can’t be good for them), which he gobbled up. We thought we’d see him again, but from then on, we only saw much smaller iguanas and reptiles on Paya Bay land.
But on to more important matters – the beach! The main one was called Bliss Beach. At the top of the steps going down to the beach was a sign proudly read: “Naturist Week” / “swimsuits are optional.” It had a wide stretch of sand with lounge chairs, umbrellas, and little open-air huts with thatched roofs. It was stormy during our first full day there, but in 80 degree weather, sitting in a hut on the beach watching the rain pour down for 20 minutes, I couldn’t complain.
It was around 80 degrees every day, and rain showers never lasted very long. The water temperature matched the air at 80 degrees – warmer than Gunnison Beach in the summer, that’s for sure!
At Bliss, the sea bottom was all white sand, at least until you swam further out. On one side of the beach, built into the cliff, was a cold freshwater pool. It felt good to rinse off the salt water in there after a swim.
Perched above the pool was their outdoor bar, The Black Iguana. There you could order boozy drinks or regular beverages.
Just a short walk across the trail would bring you to Buccaneer Beach. Here it was quieter, with less wind and smaller waves. But less wind also meant more bugs. Roatan beaches have little insects called “sandflies” or “noseeums.” Repellant is a must because they do bite and leave itchy, splotchy red marks. Though Jordan got a lot of bites, he didn’t have much trouble with itchiness.
I brought a homemade bug spray (witch hazel + water + a few essential oils), and it mostly worked. They discourage DEET sprays because it’s harmful to marine life.
Aside from the two beaches, there are nature trails and many little nooks and crannies along the water where you can sit or lounge in privacy. I loved walking and exploring the trails and hideouts, which are marked with hand-painted signs. Some trails have rocky portions, so I’d recommend bringing heavy sandals or sneakers.
It was nice to have so much space, and sometimes we were the only people on the beaches. The resort occupancy is very small, so I suppose this is normal. This wasn’t one of those resorts with a party / bar scene at night. If parties, drinking and noise are more your speed, this is probably not the resort for you. Though they do offer an excursion to go bar-hopping on the west end for an evening.
Paya Bay gives you a menu of available activities and excursions with all the pricing. You can arrange it all upon arrival. Transportation can be included or you can rent a car from them ($55-$85 / day).
Snorkeling is possible right off the beach, and Paya Bay has equipment if you don’t bring your own. We didn’t snorkel there, but opted to take the famous boat trip to Pidgeon Cay – twice. You need a minimum of 4 people to do the trip, and we went with one other couple – very nice people from the Midwest.
One of the owner’s sons, Thomas, took us out. On our first trip, the boat broke down! So we snorkeled elsewhere and then got towed back to Paya Bay via their big boat.
On Friday, we tried making the trip again, and made it to the cay. A cay (or “key”) is a small island built on top of a coral reef. Pigeon Cay is a tiny island about an hour away by boat. Our travel buddies (who were on their 4th or 5th trip to Paya Bay) told us its clothing-optional status was sort of contingent upon other visitors. If a family cruise ship docked nearby, they were known to request the use of swimsuits.
We arrived in the morning, and had the island all to ourselves, so bathing suits were packed away. The snorkeling there was amazing. We had to deal with particularly strong currents, but pushed through it and saw a lot of beautiful fish and critters. Some other tourists arrived, but the island was big enough for all of us. There was a little staring and pointing, but no one complained (at least not to our faces ;).
We ate lunch (included in the $80pp excursion), made friends with a little iguana, relaxed and headed back to Paya in the afternoon.
Another day trip we did was to Arch’s Iguana Farm, a sanctuary of sorts for this endangered species (people eat them). Arch has a couple hundred iguanas (if not more), and you can pet them and even feed them leaves. They’re really pretty cool. There are also turtles and a few monkeys in big cages.
Since we had rented a car, on our way back, we stopped at Marble Hill Farms and did the jam tasting. An old lady makes a big variety of homemade jams, using only the fruits and plants from the island. They’re all pretty good, and you can only buy them there (no online store). We bought hibiscus, island plum and Jamaica flower jams.
On another day we did the hike up Mount Picacho with our guide Ramone. He was delightful and generously answered all our questions about Roatan. The hike wasn’t long, though it does get pretty steep at one point.
It’s the island’s highest peak, and you get a great view at the top. (FYI they say to bring hiking boots, but we did fine with good sneakers. You need long pants and wouldn’t want to hike naked because the grasses will scratch you.)
Then we couldn’t leave the island without scuba diving. Jordan is a licensed and avid diver, and I just keep taking Discover Scuba course over and over again (I swear I’m gonna work on my license this year!). We went to Tropical Island Divers, the closest dive shop to Paya Bay. Jordan did a 90 foot dive on his own and then we did a 40 foot dive together. The reefs, coral, rock formations, fish, it was all a stunning sight.
Other activity offerings that we didn’t do are the sunset boat cruise, swimming with dolphins, horseback riding on the beach, kayaking, ziplining, tour of the mangrove canals, and more.
The yoga classes ($15ea) were all “gentle” yoga, and I never did get to try it. They seemed to take place at a different time each day, and they didn’t give out or post the schedule, so that was a drawback. Their “energy center” outdoor yoga pavilion is amazing, though.
On our last day, I was not at all thrilled about leaving. To go from Caribbean Sea paradise back to snowy, chilly New York? We resisted the temptation to cancel our flights and headed back into winterland. I would definitely go back to Paya Bay again. It was one of the best c/o resorts we’ve ever been to!
See more photos in the slideshow below:
Learn more about Paya Bay Resort at http://www.payabay.com/.
Caribbean Clothing Optional Nudist Resort Roatan Paya Bay was published by – Young Naturists and Nudists America